NBC Shows Sudden Respect for Bush: 'Strong Voice' to 'Pressure' GOP on Immigration

Speaking to Republican Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory expressed newfound respect for former President George W. Bush: "[He] is expected to speak out about immigration reform this coming week. He could be a very strong voice within the Republican Party after the Senate has passed immigration reform to put pressure on the House. How will you respond to that?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Introducing a report on Wednesday's Today about Bush's upcoming speech on the matter, news reader Natalie Morales touted him being "front and center today, weighing in on immigration reform." Correspondent Kelly O'Donnell noted: "And that's something the former president has strictly avoided for years, talking about a hot political issue. But immigration has always been important to him..."

Wrapping up the segment, O'Donnell parroted the Obama administration seizing on Bush getting involved in the debate: "And the Obama White House is pointing to President Bush's remarks today as an important step and they are also unveiling their own research about the economic benefits of immigration reform."

Back on Meet the Press, Gregory used Bush and a shootout between Rep. Labrador and New York Times columnist David Brooks on the program to hype GOP division on the issue: "[Bush is] going to put more pressure. I mean, here you have, you know, a Republican congressman, a conservative columnist arguing the merits of this. This is really a big debate within the Republican Party."

Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd agreed: "This is a total huge debate in the Republican Party."

On Wednesday's CBS This Morning, co-host Norah O'Donnell suggested "a civil war in the Republican Party" over immigration and predicted the GOP would be "in demographic death spiral unless they do something on immigration reform."


Here are excerpts of Gregory's remarks from the July 7 Meet the Press:

11:09AM ET

DAVID GREGORY [TO CONGRESSMAN RAUL LABRADOR]: Let me ask you about immigration. President Bush, former President Bush, is expected to speak out about immigration reform this coming week. He could be a very strong voice within the Republican Party after the Senate has passed immigration reform to put pressure on the House. How will you respond to that? And do you think we're going to get a bill, in the end, out of the House?

(...)

11:17AM ET

DAVID GREGORY: Chuck Todd, the pure politics of immigration. I've mentioned President Bush because he'll speak out about this, he's been reluctant to do so. He's going to put more pressure. I mean, here you have, you know, a Republican congressman, a conservative columnist arguing the merits of this. This is really a big debate within the Republican Party.

CHUCK TODD: This is a total huge debate in the Republican Party. And the question is, does President Bush's voice enhance the argument of sort of the business wing of the Republican Party, which is the ones that are pushing to get this done, and the pragmatic wing, who simply look at this issue with Hispanics and say, "Geez, let's just get this issue behind us"? Or does he make it worse? You know, how politically – you know, one of the reasons he's slowly gotten back into positive territory in his poll numbers is he's not gotten involved in politics. This is a step into politics.

(...)

Here is a full transcript of O'Donnell's July 10 report on Today:

7:07AM ET

NATALIE MORALES: Former President George W. Bush is front and center today, weighing in on immigration reform. It is the latest in a string of public appearances. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell joins us now from Dallas. Good morning, Kelly.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Immigration Reform; George W. Bush Hosting Naturalization Ceremony]

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Natalie. And that's something the former president has strictly avoided for years, talking about a hot political issue. But immigration has always been important to him, so here with the backdrop of his presidential library, he'll be dealing with it today and hosting a naturalization ceremony for soon-to-be new American citizens.

George W. Bush is on a roll of high-profile events. Appearing with President Obama in Africa, hands-on service projects with Mrs. Bush, and making rare comments about an issue like immigration.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, the reason to past immigration reform is not to bolster a Republican Party it's to fix a system that's broken.

O'DONNELL: Aides to the former president insist he is not injecting himself into Congress's current immigration debate. Been there. Done that.

BUSH [STATE OF THE UNION, JANUARY 23, 2007]: We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work.

O'DONNELL: Remember Bush tried but failed to get comprehensive reform, including a guest worker program. These days, opposing voices are keeping up with the political pressure. From conservative talk radio...

RUSH LIMBAUGH: It is so bad that Republicans who want amnesty can't even support it.

O'DONNELL: ...to frequent Capitol Hill demonstrations.

IMMIGRATION PROTESTORS: Education, not deportation!

O'DONNELL: Whether he intends to influence the debate or not, former President Bush's visibility could give cover to some Republicans.

BUSH: It's a very difficult bill to pass because there's a lot of moving parts and the legislative process is – can be ugly.

O'DONNELL: And the Obama White House is pointing to President Bush's remarks today as an important step and they are also unveiling their own research about the economic benefits of immigration reform. Natalie.

MORALES: Kelly O'Donnell in Dallas. Thanks so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC