George W. Bush actually says something intelligent, denounces ‘nativism’

Former President George W. Bush is almost universally perceived as a bit of a dummy. He’s also – perhaps unfairly – seen as a rabid right-winger, when he is in fact to the left of the current republican centre of gravity on many issues… not least of which is immigration. Bush tried to pass a major immigration reform package back in 2007 – in the end, 53 senators voted against it, putting Bush to the right of moderate republican Susan Collins and centrist democrat Evan Bayh.

Bush took to the airwaves again a little over a week ago – I’m only coming across this now because it featured on the Huffington Post today, after running on the Fox News website yesterday – to denounce the demonisation of immigrants and foreigners in America:

Bush said that he had faith a “rational immigration policy” would eventually be passed, but not for a while. The reason he believed this, he said, was because the nation as growing increasingly resistant to outside influences.

“What’s interesting about our country, if you study history, is that there are some ‘isms’ that occasionally pop up. One is isolationism and its evil twin protectionism and its evil triplet nativism. So if you study the ’20s, for example, there was an American-first policy that said, ‘Who cares what happens in Europe?'” Bush said. “And there was an immigration policy that I think during this period argued we had too many Jews and too many Italians, therefore we should have no immigrants. And my point is that we’ve been through this kind of period of isolationism, protectionism and nativism. I’m a little concerned that we may be going through the same period. I hope that these ‘isms’ pass.”

Link to an excerpt of his interview at Southern Methodist University here:

Of course, all ex-presidents try to rehabilitate their image by appearing more ‘moderate’ and ‘sensible’ than they were in office. We must never forget just how awful and incompetent a president Bush was, and how much he damaged his country’s image on the world stage. But on immigration, he wasn’t wrong back in ’07, and he’s not wrong now – and if John McCain had courted the Latino vote in 2008 the way Bush had in 2000 and 2004, he might just have won, or at least made it a closer contest.

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