Jeb Bush to National Review: ‘I Love You,’ But ‘You’re Wrong on Immigration.’

The likely presidential candidate did not equivocate at the conservative magazine’s summit on Thursday.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Detroit Economic Club February 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Bush, the son of former republican President George H.W. Bush and the brother of former republican President George W. Bush, is considering becoming a republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election.
National Journal
Emma Roller
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Emma Roller
April 30, 2015, 2:26 p.m.

In the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial field, Jeb Bush ap­pears more and more to be a mod­er­ate out­lier—not ne­ces­sar­ily be­cause he is chan­ging his views, but be­cause so many of his po­ten­tial com­pet­it­ors are ra­cing each oth­er to the right.

This dy­nam­ic was on full dis­play on Thursday, when the former Flor­ida gov­ernor spoke at a sum­mit hos­ted by Na­tion­al Re­view, where Sen. Marco Ru­bio, Gov. Bobby Jin­dal, and Gov. John Kasich will speak on Fri­day. In an in­ter­view with Rich Lowry, Bush held fast on his im­mig­ra­tion re­cord, and ar­gued that it is bet­ter to nar­row ac­cess to cit­izen­ship to spouses and chil­dren and “ex­pand based on need,” rather than cut­ting off that path­way com­pletely.

“That’s how you’re go­ing to grow your eco­nomy, is bring­ing young, as­pir­a­tion­al people in,” Bush said. “I think I’m right about this, and if we’re go­ing to grow eco­nom­ic­ally, then we bet­ter fig­ure out how to fix this quick.”

Bush said Pres­id­ent Obama wants to see re­form delayed, so he can con­tin­ue to use it as a cudgel against Re­pub­lic­ans.

(RE­LATED: Why Jeb Bush is Talk­ing About In­come In­equal­ity)

“He uses this as a wedge is­sue, and we al­ways lose,” Bush said. “We’re gonna turn people in­to Re­pub­lic­ans if we’re much more as­pir­a­tion­al in our mes­sage, and I think our tone has to be more in­clus­ive as well.”

“I love you and I love Na­tion­al Re­view,” he ad­ded. “I just think you’re wrong on im­mig­ra­tion, and you think I’m wrong.”

In­deed, the con­ser­vat­ive magazine has shown ample skep­ti­cism about Bush on his im­mig­ra­tion re­cord. One re­cent story was head­lined, “Is Jeb Bush Too En­thu­si­ast­ic about Im­mig­ra­tion?” An­oth­er re­cent story called in­to ques­tion Bush’s con­nec­tion to Amer­ic­an Ac­tion For­um, an out­side group push­ing for im­mig­ra­tion re­form.

In the in­ter­view, Lowry pushed back on Bush, say­ing that some would ar­gue bring­ing in more low-wage work­ers is an is­sue of sup­ply and de­mand that would dis­ad­vant­age Amer­ic­an job-seekers.

(RE­LATED: Is Im­mig­ra­tion A Pois­on Pill For Jeb Bush?)

“Who’s sug­gest­ing that?” Bush shot back. “That’s a false ar­gu­ment.”

There is a real fault line here between prom­in­ent con­ser­vat­ive thinkers and the es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans who want to be their pres­id­ent. To a less­er ex­tent, Ru­bio has felt the burn after put­ting forth his own im­mig­ra­tion re­form plan in 2013. Since then, he’s been much more wary of hint­ing at any kind of P-A-T-H-W-A-Y.

Bush, mean­while, con­tin­ues to forge ahead with what he’s be­lieved since at least 2009: that the gov­ern­ment should of­fer un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants liv­ing in the U.S. a path to cit­izen­ship. Back in 2012, Bush told a re­port­er that he sup­por­ted cit­izen­ship for the chil­dren of un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants, oth­er­wise known as Dream­ers.

“Hav­ing a solu­tion to the fact that we have all of these young people—many of whom are mak­ing great con­tri­bu­tions, don’t have a con­nec­tion to their par­ents’ former coun­try—yeah, of course I’m for it,” Bush said at the time. “But then again, I’m not run­ning for any­thing, and I can speak my mind.”

Now that he is (po­ten­tially) run­ning for something, Bush’s gamble is that he can con­tin­ue to speak his mind without get­ting a swift smack up­side the head.

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