Bush’s Courage in the Eleventh Hour

Fellow bloggers Peter Fenn and Karen Hanretty, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, have both weighed in this week against President Bush’s decision to criticize immigration reform opponents on the right. I agree that at 28 percent approval it is foolish to blast conservative Republicans who are his only remaining friends, but it’s easy to see why he did.

Bush, who yesterday reversed course and proposed talks on global warming, is showing political courage in his eleventh hour. After making political decisions for years — some very popular and many, many of them politically practical — he is trying to find some guts. We all believe he supports immigration reform on principle but now we know he wants it so much he is willing to throw his own conservative base overboard. Foolish or not, that’s gutsy.

Yesterday Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), head of the Republican National Committee, appeared on the Tucker show on MSNBC to defend the bill but found himself defending Bush’s comments. Martinez, a mild-mannered man to be sure, tried to hide his exasperation when answering Tucker, saying Bush felt “passionately” about the issue. What Martinez didn’t say is that in addition to solving the immigration problem, he and his boss in the White House are doing what’s best for the Republican Party. Bush may have screwed things up badly for the GOP in recent years but he knows if Hispanics turn against Republicans they will never be allowed to govern. And it is precisely what Jeb Bush and Ken Mehlman were alluding to in their Wall Street Journal op-ed when they were citing statistics about salsa.

This courageous moment may not last, but it could bring many surprises. Just ask Al Gore and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — sometimes hitting bottom brings out the best in people. At the very least it can give you lots of guts.

More in Presidential Campaign

Does Jeb Bush have a Mitt Romney problem?

Read more »