Rove to Jeb Bush: Maybe tone it down with the "illegal immigration is an 'act of love'" bit

The clip comes from Politico but the translation comes from Mark Krikorian:

The weirdest thing to me about Jeb’s “act of love” comment is that, as recently as last year, he was positioning himself as some sort of hardliner on the citizenship issue. Remember? No citizenship for illegals, he said; permanent residency is fine but to grant them full citizen privileges would offend the rule of law. Fast-forward a year and now lawbreaking is an act of love, something a compassionate nation surely wouldn’t punish with perpetual second-class status. I don’t know how he reconciles that.

Maybe it’s as simple as him reacting to Rubio’s political position in both cases. A year ago, Rubio was getting hammered by the right for backing the Gang of Eight bill. Jeb may have concluded that there was room to his right in the 2016 primaries by running as a “no citizenship” candidate. A year later, Rubio’s all but abandoned the Gang of Eight bill as being too weak and has tacked back to the right via foreign policy and ObamaCare. Change of plans for Jeb, then: Now there’s room to Rubio’s left in the field. That’s where “act of love” came from, I guess, as a signal to the centrists — especially rich, business-minded, amnesty-supporting centrists who are trying to settle on a champion — that Bush would stand up to the righty candidates who’ll be left fighting over the anti-amnesty vote. But even so, “act of love” is such an odd and needlessly provocative way of putting things. I think Rove’s consternation here is legit. He wants a pro-amnesty candidate but he doesn’t want one who’s going to dare conservatives to knock him down the way Perry unwittingly did with his remark in 2011 about in-state tuition for illegals being a simple matter of “having a heart.” Like Krikorian said yesterday, if border-hopping is an act of love, border enforcement is necessarily a form of hate. Is that the message that’s going to win this guy the Republican nomination?

Could be that Mickey Kaus is right that this is just a clever ploy by Jeb to help his protege Rubio. The squishier Bush gets on amnesty, the easier it is for Rubio to attack him as a RINO, which helps Rubio rebuild conservative cred. Or maybe Jeb secretly agrees with me and WaPo that the entire Republican field reeks on immigration and therefore he might as well start pandering to the donor class and to Latino voters now. After all, who’s going to attack him harshly for the “act of love” comment? Cruz? Jeb doesn’t really need to worry about Cruz; by the time the race is down to the two of them, Bushworld will be tearing Cruz limb from limb with ads about how he’s a radical and borderline anarchist. Jeb needs to win the center first and realistically no centrist candidate is going to go to the mat on the “act of love” soundbite for fear of alienating Latinos. The question is, is that sort of rhetoric so squishy that even centrist voters will start looking at each other sideways over it? That’s what Rove’s worried about, I think.

And yeah, I do think he’ll run. Steve Hayes is right: A guy who’s already thinking about his soundbites being caught on tape is a guy who’s thinking very seriously of jumping in.