We talked yesterday about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and his decision to drop his support for a pathway to citizenship in immigration reform, despite having pushed the opposite line for years. The Republican's shift has caused quite a stir, especially among reform proponents who now feel betrayed by a man they had considered a key ally.
But there's one group of folks who seem even more outraged: Mitt Romney's campaign team.
The revelations angered top advisors to Mitt Romney, who felt that Bush went out of his way to make statements during the campaign that undermined the former Republican presidential candidate's campaign by seeming to urge a softer approach to immigration. "Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?" said one advisor. "He spent all this time criticizing Romney and it turns out he has basically the same position. So he wants people to go back to their country and apply for citizenship? Well, that's self deportation. We got creamed for talking about that. And now Jeb is saying the same thing."
Romney aides have a point. Jeb Bush helped speak for the more moderate wing of the GOP throughout 2012, making the party's presidential nominee look more extreme. Now that the election has come and gone, Bush is suddenly making a hard-right shift, and if I worked for Romney, that'd probably annoy me, too.
As for why the Florida Republican now opposes the policy he used to support, one can only speculate about his motivations (Fox News' Sean Hannity talked to Bush last night, but failed to ask any questions about the shift). Perhaps this is about generating publicity to sell books; maybe it's about pandering to the right-wing Republican base in advance of the next presidential election. It may well be both.
But while I have not yet read Bush's new book, the Huffington Post reports that it's not only a radical departure from everything he said he believed, it's also surprisingly hard line.
"It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences -- in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship. To do otherwise would signal once again that people who circumvent the system can still obtain the full benefits of American citizenship."
If Jeb does have national ambitions, don't be surprised if we look back at this as his "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" moment. It may help sell some books, and it'll help him get some airtime, but this is a political loser for Bush -- anti-immigration Republicans still remember everything he used to believe and reform proponents are disgusted by his crude flip-flop.
Update: On msnbc this morning, Bush acknowledged he disagrees with parts of his own new book.