Laura Bush Has Concerns About Arizona Immigration Law29 May 2010
During her husband’s presidency, former First Lady Laura Bush mostly kept her distance from the sound and fury of the political arena, apparently preferring to stay above the fray and concentrate on special projects like literacy promotion. In those days, Mrs. Bush kept her own counsel, knowing full well that anything she said could be used against her – and her husband’s administration – in the court of public opinion.
With her husband safely retired and hors de combat, Laura Bush can feel (a bit) freer to say what’s on her mind. In a recent interview on Fox News Sunday, Mrs. Bush told host Chris Wallace that she has her concerns about the new Arizona immigration law. (See Transcript: Laura Bush on ‘FNS’ – Fox News Sunday, with Chris Wallace; thanks to Darragh Worland, who reported this on tonic.com, 18.May.2010.)
WALLACE: In 2004, and you talk in the book, you talked to your husband about not making gay marriage a big issue in the reelection campaign. Why?
BUSH: Well, because I think what happens on big social issues on that is the debate ends up denigrating a certain group of people. And I think that’s also what’s happening on the immigration debate, another hot-button issue, where instead of having it be a debate of what the laws are, it ends up making a group of people feel like they’re the target of the debate.
WALLACE: Well, I have to ask you, since you brought it up, are you unhappy with the Arizona law?
BUSH: Well, not necessarily. I mean, I think we have to have the immigration laws. And you know, that’s a really important part of it. It’s just that the debate about the immigration laws, about Arizona’s law, end up targeting someone – a group of people.
WALLACE: Do you worry that it…
BUSH: And it’s – this is not new in American history. There have been many groups of immigrants who’ve been targeted over all of our history – the Irish, for instance, when a lot of Irish immigrants, including my family, came to the United States – other times – and it’s just that it’s a trait of nativism that shows up in American – in American history in a lot of different ways.
Laura Bush puts her finger on an inconvenient truth: the Arizona law, like much of the immigration reform debate, has become more of an exercise in scapegoating than a healthy exchange about public policy. The nativism she refers to – a red thread running through many of the more sordid chapters in our history – is not something to be proud of, not something we should aspire to carry forward. We should know better. Hats off to Mrs. Bush for calling us to account. Let’s hope her friends in the GOP are listening.