Jeb Bush's comment that he believes illegal immigrants come to the United States as "an act of love"
to support their families was either a shrewd political move or a public act of political suicide.
It's still too early to tell which, but regardless of how Bush hoped the remark made at a 25th anniversary celebration of the presidency of his father, George H.W. Bush, would be received, it was a calculated statement that will probably make it harder for him to run for president in 2016, Republican strategist Dick Morris told hosts J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman on Newsmax TV's "America's Forum."
"The comment will be very difficult for him to overcome," Morris said.
Former Rep. Allen West said the statement by the younger Bush, the former Florida governor, will alienate the Republican base, was disrespectful to legal citizens, and will make it hard for voters to see him as fit for being the nation's top law enforcer.
"It really does look disrespectful to the American people who are suffering under these economic conditions who are out of work, who are seeing their wages depressed, who are seeing their job opportunities being taken away by people who are here illegally. So where's the act of love for the American people?" West said. "Then furthermore, if you're seeking to be the leader of this country, you're going to take an oath to uphold this law and this Constitution, well, this is a constitutional republic, and the No. 1 thing is the sovereignty, and that means protecting the borders."
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Immigration reform remains stalled in Congress, and is unlikely to gain traction this year because of the midterm primaries going on now and the elections this fall. If and when an immigration reform bill is finally passed by Congress, West said it will have to include a commitment to enforcing the U.S.-Mexican border.
"The American people want to see the border secured first and foremost, and then you start to deal with the problem that you have internally," he said.
The Democratic and Republican Parties have conflicting, self-serving views of illegal immigrants that make it hard to reform immigration, Morris said.
"The Democratic Party wants them to vote but not work because of the unions," he said. "The Republican Party wants them to work but not vote because of agribusiness and employers and restaurant owners and all of that … [and] they don't flood the rolls with 11 million new likely Democratic votes."
Jeb Bush, a moderate Republican, has been the subject of widespread speculation that he will run for president in 2016, but hasn't declared yet. Morris said the weekend statement might suggest Bush is leaning toward not running – but it might not.
"This is the surest indication I've seen that Bush isn't running," Morris said. "On the other hand, if he is not running, why did he do the interview in the first place?"
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