Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said that the comments recently made by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
on illegal immigration being an "act of love" reflect former President Ronald Reagan's own view.
"What people want you to do: Tell the truth," Barbour said, speaking on a panel at the LBJ Presidential Civil Rights Summit on Tuesday, Politico
reported. "And if Jeb feels that way about it — it sort of reminds me of my boss, Ronald Reagan."
Barbour, who worked as an aide to Reagan, said it reminds him of what the 40th president used to call the "gates test."
"Ronald Reagan used to say, 'When the 'blame America first' crowd gets out of hand, then you need to apply the gates test,'" Barbour said.
When he asked Reagan about the "gates test," Reagan explained: "'Drop all the gates everywhere in the world, and see which way people run. They run to America.'"
Barbour said, "That's what Jeb is saying to me, that this is the place, for good reason. And we ought to be proud of it, that when you apply the gates test, that people want to come here.
"That message has the benefit of being true," Barbour said. "Whether everyone will take the same tack, that's neither here nor there. But it's very similar to what Ronald Reagan thought."
The Mississippi Republican said he appreciated Bush's honesty, who is a likely candidate for president in 2016, and that it was a "tragic mistake" for former presidential candidate Mitt Romney to change his position on immigration during the 2012 primary.
"I thought it was interesting in the 2012 campaign. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich were very moderate, open — closer to what I considered my views — and it was Mitt Romney who was viewed at the beginning as the least conservative candidate that saw fit to get over to the right of them, if you want to describe it that way," Barbour said.
"I think it hurt him terribly in the election. I just think it was a very bad strategic mistake," he added.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who was on the same panel, said Bush's position will become the norm for Republicans in the 2016 presidential race.
"You're going to have more Republicans than not that are closer to the Jeb Bush position and somebody with that view who gets into the general election and makes it a more competitive general election against the Democrats," Castro predicted.
Bush has been widely criticized for his comments on illegal immigration.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
said that in the Lone Star State, many people die trying to cross the border, and that the current immigration system is "not a humane system."
Political analyst Dick Morris
said Bush's comments were either politically shrewd or political suicide.
"It was a calculated statement that will probably make it harder for him to run for president in 2016," Morris said. "The comment will be very difficult for him to overcome."
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