Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Remember when Jeb Bush was a sensible, relatively moderate establishment Republican?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In what is perhaps a sign of the Republicans' times, Jeb Bush has flip-flopped on one of his signature issues, immigration, arguing now that undocumented immigrants should not be granted a pathway to citizenship:

Bush, a Spanish-speaker who's wife is Mexican-born, has long-been viewed as one of the more liberal-minded GOP leaders when in comes to immigration policy, warning Republicans for years that they oppose significant reform at their own political peril.

But in a Monday interview with NBC's "Today," Bush advocated for a system in which the millions of immigrants living in the country illegally be given the option of attaining permanent residency, but not eventual citizenship.

It's a stunning reversal, in a way, but not really. He still isn't a right-wing hardliner on immigration, and he also said that he's "optimistic that there could be a consensus about going forward on immigration," but he's also eyeing 2016 and no doubt trying to straddle the line between the somewhat moderate (but still rabidly conservative) establishment on one side of the party and the grassroots, Tea Party radical right on the other, the party mainstream shifting from the former to the latter in recent years.

In other words, he wants to have it both ways, maintaining some reasonableness on a hot-button issue while also tossing some red meat to the right. (He was straddling similarly on fiscal policy, talking out of both sides of his mouth by saying that there shouldn't be tax increases right now but not ruling out revenue increases either.)

Put another way, he's lining himself up to be a better Romney for 2016, the candidate with bipartisan and GOP establishment credibility who can also appeal, far more genuinely than Romney did, to the right-wing base -- the bridge, in other words, between the party's warring tribes.

Will it work (assuming he runs)? It could, particularly if Rubio and the other big names flame out and the party looks for experience and unity. And no doubt he'd be able to hold together his credibility and popularity much better than Romney did

But flipping and flopping like this, even a few years out, could still end up coming back to bite him.

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  • I'm surprised at you Michael: there is no such thing as a reasonable Republican!

    Romney tried to do that same thing: appeal to both "sides" of the Republican Party: the unreasonable and the crazy. The problem is that as time goes on, the crazy will require more and more. And once you start down that road there is no going back.

    The sad thing is that if the economy had tanked last year, Romney would have won. And Bush can too. What a thought: a third Bush!

    By Anonymous Frank Moraes, at 11:34 AM  

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