To be precise, it’s his Super PAC, Right to Rise, that’s responsible for this. One of the criticisms of Jeb after he feebly attacked Rubio for his Senate absences was that he was forced to hit Rubio on a minor liability because he wasn’t well positioned to hit him on a major one. After all, how could Jeb Bush, who (in)famously described border-hopping as an “act of love” and who so identifies with Hispanic Americans that he once erroneously described himself as one on a voter registration form, possibly go after Rubio for his Gang of Eight work? Poor Jeb would have no choice but to try to catch him in New Hampshire by firing around the bullseye with Rubio rather than directly at it. But now the big vote’s less than a month away and Bush is gasping for air, crowded out by not just Rubio but Chris Christie and John Kasich. And so, at long last, a desperate Team Bush reaches its inevitable conclusion. Jeb Bush, amnesty scold.
How’d Jeb feel about the Gang of Eight bill at the time, by the way? Per Twitter pal JimmyPrinceton, he was a big fan:
“I’m actually very pleased with the ‘Gang of Eight,’” he told attendees at an event hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, shortly after he spoke with Republican leaders in the House.
To overcome opposition, Republican leaders should “change the conversation to how do we restore our greatness as a nation by sustained economic growth,” said Bush, who served two terms as governor of Florida.
“Unless you can tell me that every one of our kids and grandkids will have four, five kids — if you can promise me that … there is no way … that we can grow over a sustained period of time,” he said.
Wait, wait, wait a second, though. Is this ad really about scolding Rubio for supporting amnesty? Not at all, says Right to Rise chief Mike Murphy. It’s about scolding Rubio for being a flip-flopper on immigration. “Jeb Bush is a leader,” says Murphy. “You know where he stands.” Laying aside the fact that it’s not clear why conservatives should prefer someone who’s resolutely pro-amnesty to someone who tacks right under political pressure (wouldn’t the flip-flopper be easier for border hawks to influence as president?), it’s simply not true that Jeb has been a model of consistency on immigration. Follow the timeline:
• Early in his political life, Bush expressed a hard-line, deportation-driven opinion and made no mention of granting citizenship or legal status to illegal immigrants.
• Sometime between 2009 and 2012, he “flipped” to being in favor of a path to citizenship. He supported federal legislation in 2007 that allowed children of illegal immigrants to become citizens, and wrote frequently that Republicans should adopt a more welcoming approach. In June 2012, he clearly articulated support for a pathway to citizenship.
• His “flop” came this month [March 2013] with the release of his book, in which he explicitly opposed citizenship, calling it an “undeserving reward” for people who came here illegally.
• That was followed by a quick “flip” back to support of either citizenship or permanent legal status in the heat of television interviews.
The flips towards broader enforcement came when Jeb anticipated facing Republican voters, first during his run for governor of Florida and later in 2013 when he started eyeing a presidential run. The flops towards leniency for illegals came when he was either out of office and had nothing to lose or when he came under media pressure for changing his prior stance. You trust a guy like that to take a firm, coherent stand against amnesty as president, don’t you? (If not, do you at least trust him more than Rubio? Maybe you should!)
They’re spending $3 million to put this ad on the air, by the way — in Iowa, where Jeb isn’t even competitive, purely to weaken Rubio on the theory that he’ll be easier to beat in New Hampshire if he’s been humiliated in the caucuses. Or maybe it’s not about softening Rubio up so he’s easier to beat anymore; maybe it’s a pure matter of burning Jeb’s center-right rivals down in the spiteful hope that if Bush can’t have the nomination, no one else from his lane will either. Exit question: Given his track record, should Marco Rubio be attacking Ted Cruz for inconsistency on immigration? Because that’s happening too now.