George W. Bush on Immigration: A Human Rorschach Test

PHOTO: President Barack Obama (L) listens as former President George W. Bush speaks during the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.

Tony Gutierrez-Pool/Getty Images

The Huffington Post's Jon Ward published a great long read on George W. Bush's post-presidency, based on a three-day bike ride with the ex-president and wounded veterans.

In it, Ward dubbed Bush's assertion that he does not "long for fame" as a "a classic Rorschach moment." Supporters and opponents of Bush could read the same exact quote and reach different conclusions about what it says about his character.

The same goes for Bush's statements on immigration reform.

He offered a word of advice to Republicans considering jumping on board with the broad effort to overhaul the nation's immigration laws: do it for the right reason.

"I think the atmosphere, unlike when I tried it, is better, maybe for the wrong reason," Bush said. "The right reason is it's important to reform a broken system. I'm not sure a right reason is that in so doing we win votes. I mean when you do the right thing, I think you win votes, as opposed to doing something that's the right thing to win votes. Maybe there's no difference there. It seems like there is to me though."

Conservative opponents of immigration reform -- who lambasted Bush in 2007 for championing the issue -- quickly seized on his comments.

"George W. Bush skeptical of current immigration push," reads the headline in the Washington Examiner.

Breitbart.com and you'll see essentially the same: "George W. Bush skeptical of Senate's immigration bill."

But Bush's additional comments, published in a separate piece on Friday, reveal that he backs the core underlying policies in the Senate bill, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He said that Congress should fix the immigration system since the current one is "inhumane" and has negative consequences for the economy.

"I mean we ought to be doing it. One, it's right. Two, because the system is broken," Bush said. "It's a system rife with corruption and the corruption being smugglers bringing individuals to do jobs Americans won't do. And it's, to me it's an inhumane system."

Bush also reiterated to Ward that he still believes in a pathway to citizenship.

"Yeah, yeah. That's what I proposed in '07. Yeah, I think there ought to be one," Bush said. "And I think there ought to be conditions."

So the former president's core beliefs on immigration haven't changed during the past six years. It's just that so much of what Bush -- and really any politician today -- says can mean different things in the eye of the beholder.

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Alt

Immigration Reform is a heated political issue that we view from all angles in the hope of getting politicians to address those impacted by the decisions they make.

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