Politics & Policy

George W. Bush Laments Modern GOP’s ‘Nativist’ Tendencies

Former President George W. Bush arrives before the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2021. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

Former President George W. Bush said recently that he would describe the Republican party today as “isolationist, protectionist and — to a certain extent — nativist.”

Bush’s comments came during an interview on NBC’s Today after co-anchor Hoda Kotb asked how he would describe today’s GOP.

Asked if he is disappointed with the Republican party he described, the 43rd president said it is “not exactly my vision, but I’m just an old guy they put out to pasture.”

Kotb then asked if he believes a hypothetical Republican candidate who is “pro-immigration, pro- a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, pro-DACA, pro-reasonable gun control, pro-education funding for public schools” would “have a shot in 2024.”

Sure I think so,” Bush responded. “I think that it depends upon the emphasis. I think if the emphasis is integrity and decency and trying to work to get problems solved I think the proper person has a shot, yeah.”

He added: “By the way, I think pro-immigration isn’t the right way to put it. I think border enforcement with a compassionate touch, that’s how I would put it because pro-immigration basically means let’s just open up the borders and nobody’s really for that and you can’t have a country that has open borders.”

The comments come as Bush has begun promoting his new book, Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants. The former president says the mission of his book, which features portraits of American immigrants, is to help change Congress’ outlook on the country’s immigration policy. 

“Please put aside all the harsh rhetoric about immigration,” Bush said, addressing Congress in an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday. “Please put aside trying to score political points on either side.”

He said he hopes to usher in a more “respectful tone” on Capitol Hill.

Bush, a Republican who served as president from 2001 to 2009, has supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants given they pass a background check and pay any back taxes.

In an interview with CBS’ Norah O’Donnell he said that the lack of substantial immigration reform was one of the greatest disappointments of his time in office.

In his interview with Today, he suggested the system “really needs to be reformed and fixed,” adding that two things would help alleviate the crisis at the border: more judges and courts to process asylum cases and work visa reform.

“There’s a lot of jobs that need to be filled and yet there are people willing to work hard to do so,” he said.

He added that he believes some Republicans are not listening to his ideas on immigration “because you can score political points with the issue.”

“It’s a beautiful country we have and yet it’s not beautiful when we condemn and call people names and scare people about immigration,” he said. “It’s an easy issue to frighten some of the electorate and I’m trying to have a different kind of voice.” 

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