Today’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC included a clip of a statement yesterday by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on immigration and followed it with a discussion of how it might affect his prospects in the 2016 Republican presidential primary race. Here are excerpts, beginning with one from Bush’s interview:
JEB BUSH: The way I look at this is-- someone who comes to our country because they couldn't come legally, they come to our country because their families – you know, a dad who loved their children -- was worried that their children didn't have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact. And they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's kind of, it's an act of love. It's an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid. But it shouldn't be, it shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families."
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I can guarantee you that there are a lot of voters whose eyes are welling up. And they're very moved and they're thinking, "Okay, this is a new Republican Party and Republicans have a chance to actually elect a very compassionate conservative." Unfortunately for Jeb, they're mainly liberals in Manhattan and Washington, D.C….
Scarborough went on to give a non-ironic take on Bush's comments, saying: "I understand a father's love for their child. But as I said, it's about fairness. A father in America whose daughter is in Pakistan and wants her here, loves his daughter every bit as much as somebody that gets here illegally by crossing the border. And if that's my gut reaction, chances are good that's the gut reaction of millions of Republican primary voters who don't hate but they look at it as an issue of fairness."
Chuck Todd cracked that he almost expected Bush to start singing in the voice of Jean Valjean, the protagonist in Les Miserables who stole bread to feed his sister's children.
CHUCK TODD: That's the whole point of Les Mis. In many ways it was a crime of trying to help your family….That is the evangelical message on immigration….which is: this is about family. This is about keeping families intact….I think that for a conservative audience, if you're Governor Bush that's the best shot you have of selling immigration, trying to neutralize it a little bit as a political hot potato. But we saw what happened in '07. We saw what happened, what Mitt Romney did to Rick Perry. …Of all the primary issues, of the various things that can trip up a Republican running for president, I think we've learned over the last two cycles that immigration is about as deadly of an issue as you can touch. It's close to being a third rail issue in Republican primary politics.
EUGENE ROBINSON: I think there's something useful here that Jeb Bush could be doing for the Republican Party, if not for his own presidential chances. I'm trying to imagine how this plays in Iowa for example, Iowa Republican caucus goers. And the answer is, it does not play well at all…..But if he continues talking like this maybe he creates some space for others. Maybe he creates some space for, say Marco Rubio's position, which until now looked like the far left of the Republican Party on immigration. And it was amnesty and it was horrible and he had ruined his whole political future. And now, you know, he looks much more conservative than Jeb Bush.