Wash. Post editorial claimed Bush "responded weakly" to House immigration bill -- but he "applaud[ed]" it

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

A Washington Post editorial claimed that President Bush "responded weakly" when the House of Representatives passed its "draconian" immigration reform bill in December 2005, potentially costing him the "political strength now to resist it." The editorial suggested that Bush did not stand up to the House over the bill, which would institute criminal penalties for aiding illegal immigrants and mandate the construction of a fence along much of the Mexican border. But far from refusing to denounce the House's "draconian" bill, Bush in fact "applaud[ed] the House for passing a strong immigration bill."

In a May 16 editorial, The Washington Post's editorial board claimed that President Bush "responded weakly" when the House of Representatives passed its "draconian" immigration reform bill in December 2005, potentially costing him the "political strength now to resist it." The editorial suggested that Bush did not stand up to the House over the bill, which would institute criminal penalties for aiding illegal immigrants and mandate the construction of a fence along much of the Mexican border but includes no provisions for a guest-worker program or a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. On the contrary -- far from refusing to denounce the House's "draconian" bill, Bush in fact "applaud[ed] the House for passing a strong immigration bill" and touted the bill as "help[ing] us protect our borders and crack down on illegal entry into the United States."

Bush has now taken a position that is very different from the House bill -- endorsing, among other things, a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for a certain period of time. He appears not to have moved -- as the Post suggested -- from weakly to strongly denouncing the bill, but from praise for the bill to a position in marked contrast to it. But rather than pointing out Bush's apparent flip-flop, the Post editorial mischaracterized his earlier position, downplaying the extent to which he has changed his mind.

The Post's description of Bush's response echoed one made by an unnamed Republican strategist who was quoted in a separate analysis of Bush's May 15 address on immigration reform by staff writer Dan Balz:

A Republican strategist with close ties to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the president's problems, blamed Bush for not standing up forcefully to supporters of a House bill that would make felons of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country as well as anyone who tries to help them. "The president responded to that House bill rather passively," he said. "Leadership is standing up to demagoguery." This strategist said last night's speech was less about immigration than "about the total collapse of the president's numbers among conservatives."

From a May 16 Washington Post editorial:

Mr. Bush will have to push hard to achieve legislation closer to the Senate vision. He responded weakly when the House passed its draconian measure; he may not have the political strength now to resist it. But last night was a good start. "Our new immigrants are just what they've always been: people willing to risk everything for the dream of freedom," the president said. "We honor the heritage of all who come here, no matter where they come from, because we trust in our country's genius for making us all Americans, one nation under God." Well said; now the president will have to persuade his party to share in that trust.

From the text of President Bush's December 16 response to the House immigration bill:

BUSH: I applaud the House for passing a strong immigration reform bill. America is a nation built on the rule of law, and this bill will help us protect our borders and crack down on illegal entry into the United States. Securing our borders is essential to securing the homeland. I urge the Senate to take action on immigration reform so that I can sign a good bill into law.

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Immigration
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