Former President George W. Bush is speaking out in a rare interview – and admitting to what he considers the biggest disappointment of his administration.
“I campaigned on immigration reform,” he told Norah O’Donnell in a CBS News interview airing on Sunday. “I made it abundantly clear to voters this is something I intended to do.”
But he didn’t.
When O’Donnell asked if it was one of his biggest disappointments, Bush didn’t even let her finish speaking.
“Yes, it really is,” he interjected.
Now, he said, much of the action since has been done unilaterally by presidents Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
“A lot of executive orders,” Bush said. “But all that means is that Congress isn’t doing its job.”
Bush made immigration reform a signature issue during the 2000 presidential campaign.
Billing himself as the “compassionate conservative” from a border state – and with Mexican-American family members – he vowed to bridge the partisan divide and get something done.
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Still, Bush is clearly disappointed he didn’t get the job done during his eight years in office and seems to be making up for lost time as he gets set to promote his new book, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants,” which features his oil paintings of immigrants as well as stories about them.
The images include a North Korean refugee, a NASA engineer from Nigeria and – in what is bound to strike an especially relevant note in today’s climate – an immigrant who crossed via the Rio Grande and is now a CEO in Dallas.
Bush has in the past indicated that he supports a pathway to citizenship for those who have come to the country illegally.
“I do believe there should be a path to citizenship,” he said last month at the South by Southwest festival. “[But] I think Congress is going to have to be mindful that those who are undocumented don’t get to jump ahead of the line of those who are documented and have played by the rules.”
That’s consistent with his position during his presidency, in which he opposed automatic citizenship and other forms of amnesty, calling them a “reward for lawbreaking,” and warning that amnesty “would only invite further lawbreaking.”
But he also opposed mass deportations, and said undocumented workers should go to the “back of the line” for citizenship, behind all who are going through the process legally.
He backed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act in 2007, which would have created that pathway to citizenship while also shoring up border protection.
However, the bill died in the Senate… and immigration has remained a heated campaign topic.
Speaking last month, Bush called to tone down the rhetoric and focus on both the problem and the solution.
“There needs to be an overhaul, which means that we need to get politics out of the system and get sober-minded people focusing on a) what’s best for our economy and b) what’s best for our country,” he said.
He tried and failed.
Now, the ball’s in President Joe Biden’s court – but with a sharply divided Congress including a split Senate, as well as a border crisis that the Biden administration is in no hurry to end, no one’s betting on big action anytime soon.
Bush, however, is hoping to change that.
He told O’Donnell that he’s planning to lobby members of his own party in hopes of finally doing today what he didn’t during his presidency… and that’s helping to lead the GOP into bipartisan action on immigration reform.
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is an outspoken conservative and a survival expert.