The Last Word | March 05, 2013
>>> so you're jeb bush . and of course, it's time for you to run for president. and you have a few recent models to look at like, for example, the last two republicans to actually win presidential elections , who happen to be your father and your brother. and instead, the model you choose is the romney flip-flopping model. jeb bush is now on the virtual campaign trail, which at this stage, always begins with a book tour that gives the candidate an excuse to travel around the country, talking politics on tv. usually these books are general and very vague. jeb bush foolishly chose to go in a very different direction. his book is targeted and specific, entitled, " immigration
wars: forging an american solution." the trouble for jeb bush , who like all politicians, didn't actually write the book himself, is that he and the writing team that produced the book had to forge an american solution to immigration before the election in which the republican position on immigration got wiped out at the polls. 71% of the latino vote voted against the republican candidate for president. and starting the day after the election in a political phenomenon that has apparently escaped jeb bush 's attention, the republican party started flipping fast on immigration . sean hannity and many others were suddenly open to creating a path to citizenship for undocumented residents. and then, then jeb bush 's book comes out this week, saying, it is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences, in this case, that those who violated the laws can remain, but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship. here is jeb bush , on the first stop on his book tour yesterday, on the "today" show.
>> when it comes to a path to citizenship, all right, you fall short of that. you want legal residency , but -- and you want people to admit they've committ ted a crime by coming here illegally to pay back taxes and pay some fines, but not offer them a path to citizenship. if they do all the things you've asked of them, why not grant that right to become an american?
>> because this proposal is a proposal that looks forward. and if we want to create an immigration policy that's going to work, we can't continue to make illegal immigration an easier path than legal immigration .
>> that was a pretty big flip-flop from what jeb bush had to say just nine months ago.
>> either a path to citizenship, which i would support, and that does put me, probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives, or a path to legalization. a path to residency, of some kind.
>> jeb bush quickly got tangled up by the media in yesterday's flip-flop, and began to flip back toward his original position . this morning, on this network, on " morning joe ," he was saying this.
>> so, going forward, we broke this last year, going forward, if there is a difference, if you can craft that in law, where you can have a path to citizenship, where there isn't an incentive for people to come illegally, i'm for it.
>> so, jeb bush was for it before he was against it, and now he is kind of, sort of, for it again.
>> so, i have is supported both, both a pass to legalization or a path to citizenship.
>> and tonight, the one person in america for whom all of that makes perfect sense is, of course, mitt romney . joining me now, msnbc political analyst , steve schmidt, who served as senior adviser to john mccain 's 2008 presidential campaign , and nia-malika henderson of "the washington post ." steve , this is a rough way to start the book tour, with the flip-flopping. you'd think that jeb bush was up to speed on this issue.
>> look, even the best quarterbacks throw an occasional interception, no doubt.
>> on the first play of the game.
>> even the first play of the game. look, jeb bush has been a longtime proponent of immigration reform . he's been a voice of reason on this issue in the republican party . he's an important voice in the republican party on this issue. and i think he took a momentary detour, but is back to the right place, which is that once people who are here illegally become regularized, get their green cards , if they choose, after they wait the period of time that you need to wait, the number of years once you have a green card and they go through the citizenship process, that they have an ability to become citizens like anyone else who has a green card .
>> nia, he explained the flip-flop, basically, by saying, well, you know, we wrote this last year. and as we all know in book publishing , the book gets locked in print a few months before it comes out. so there he was, stuck with, you know, october's republican thinking on immigration .
>> that's right. and it was a vastly different position that he outlined there. it wasn't just a momentary detour, it's a book-long detour and very different from the path that his brother staked out and the position that he staked out as well. this is surprising. i really don't get it. maybe he's running for president. i don't think there's a huge outcry in the republican party , certainly, among the grassroots for him to get in a race. he obviously sat on the sidelines in 2008 , and 2012 . and the party has moved beyond where he was. he once, i think, was the face of the moderate republican party. he speaks spanish and had great relations, i think, with latinos in florida and certainly was a good governor down there. but he just looks like an outsider now. he's been out of office for six years. i don't know how he's going to stay relevant over these next four years and mount a credible campaign for the white house , when he is very much an outsider in terms of this conversation that's going on. rubio, of course, was his protege, but it now looks like the student has surpassed the teacher.
>> harry reid had something, i think, that's politically fascinating to say about this. let's listen to this.
>> let's wait for a few minutes and see how jeb bush changes his mind, again. his opinion on immigration is not evolving, it's devolving. he keeps going backwards. i think he's, frankly, made a fool of himself the last 24 hours . frankly, on this issue, i don't think jeb bush is a florida leader. i think marco rubio is. bush has been elected to nothing, lately. rubio is the leader on immigration . and he wants to have an immigration bill . i appreciate that.
>> steve , that is a wonderful senate moment. there is senator reid, saying, ignore that other guy from florida , who, by the way, is marco rubio 's big problem in running for president, if jeb bush runs. ignore that other guy from florida . pay attention my fellow senator, marco rubio . it also gives reid the opportunity to help coax along, actually getting something done on the issue in the senate.
>> yeah. he gave him some tough medicine. and look, i think that when you examine this issue, that for the republicans, unless we are able to secure the border, unless we're able to deal with that, finally, once and for all, it's not possible to get a bill done, certainly on the democratic side. if you don't have a pathway to citizenship, it's not possible to get a compromise done. so, it's just a nonstarter, as a policy proposal and so, i think that when you look at sequestration and all the dysfunction that's going on in government right now, this is one issue where there's a legitimate chance to get a deal done. the president's engaged on it, republicans are engaged on it, senate democrats are engaged on it, and there's a great chance that we can finally make really big progress in getting this important issue dealt with in this country.
>> nia, senator lindsey graham said that what jeb bush did, quote, undercuts what we're trying to do. and i find something fascinating about the -- and it happens in both parties, where there's this great candidate who has not chosen to run and then suddenly makes the move. and turns out to just stumble right out of the gate. we saw it with rick perry , who was supposed to come in and take over that presidential campaign . and here is jeb bush 's first steps on the pre- presidential campaign , the book tour thing, and he stumbles on day one, on an issue that he was supposed to be an expert on.
>> that's right. i mean, he is rusty. i think that much is clear. and i think one of the problems that he would have going into 2016 is he wouldn't have a platform. it wouldn't be like chris christie , where he's governing a state. it wouldn't be like marco rubio , where he's going to be involved in all of the tough issues of the day, be it immigration , sequestration, the budget, gun control. he's got to figure out to make himself relevant going forward. and i think we've already seen, it's going to be tough for him to do that. and i've talked to republicans. and some republicans think that he has sort of, you know, let the moment go by and that he doesn't have a very long shelf life in terms of his viability in running for the nomination in 2016 . people compare him to clinton. but i don't want see anyone in the republican party who's really clambering for the return of a bush, quite frankly . and so i think he's going to have a tough time, as we've already seen that he's had one.
>> steve schmitt and nia-malika henderson, thank both for joining me tonight.