George Bush to Republicans: Sorry for that "nativist" remark

Oops. Apparently taken aback by criticism of his appearance earlier this week on Today, George Bush tried to make amends in this print interview with People Magazine. He didn’t mean to imply that the entire Republican Party was “isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist.” Bush says he should have specified that he was talking only about “their loudest voices.”


Presumably, that would include its party leader, however:

Days after George W. Bush called Trump-era Republicans “isolationist” and “protectionist” and not “my vision” of the party, the former president walked back some of that criticism in an interview with PEOPLE for next week’s issue. …

In an appearance on the Today show earlier this week, he said of the Republican Party: “I would describe it as isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist.”

He clarified those comments to PEOPLE, saying, “Really what I should have said — there’s loud voices who are isolationists, protectionists and nativists, something, by the way, I talked about when I was president.”

“My concerns [are] about those -isms,” he continued, “but I painted with too broad a brush … because by saying what I said, it excluded a lot of Republicans who believe we can fix the problem.”

It’s true that he complained about them as president, and other party leaders largely followed his leadership on immigration reform. Unfortunately that went nowhere as Democrats dug in their heels on open-borders policies, the kind Bush lamented and challenged on Today as well. However, that failure to find a negotiated settlement of the issue has raised up the hardliners in the GOP and put Donald Trump in position to set the leadership tone by seizing on the lack of border security.


The people who emerged as leaders aren’t going to find Bush’s idea of a “fix” any more tasty than his earlier remarks either:

The “fix” can begin, Bush said, with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy that allows migrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to be granted a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to become eligible for a work permit.

That’s one of the more obvious parts of a comprehensive settlement, but it’s also not like Republicans haven’t tried to make it part of a bargain either. Trump himself supported statutory support for DACA in exchange for full funding of the wall, but Nancy Pelosi refused to consider it. Bush’s idea of giving it away up front leaves the GOP not closer to their own immigration goals but with one less bargaining position.

Bush himself points out that problem, albeit obliquely:

“The truth of the matter is: a wall won’t work unless there’s comprehensive reform, like work visas, asylum system fixed and border patrol agents focused on their job,” Bush says. “And so there needs to be an all-the-above approach to securing the border and we’ll see.”


That’s true, but the rest of it won’t work without effective barriers either, which is why Republicans — including Trump — wanted to trade that for DACA, either straight up or as part of comprehensive reform. DACA is one of the least objectionable parts of normalization, but until Democrats engage on border security, Republicans won’t engage on normalization. Joe Biden’s immigration reform bill doesn’t even address those priorities for the GOP. Maybe Bush should have a chat with Biden before suggesting that the Republican strategy should be capitulation.

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David Strom 12:30 PM | April 23, 2024