- - Sunday, April 19, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Only yesterday Jeb Bush was the Republican flavor of the week, the favorite of the Republican establishment, those wonderful folks who yearn for a nice man who oozes political propriety and respectability. Establishment Republicans — Rockefeller Republicans, they were once called — live in dread of frightening the horses.

They’re something like the young man sent off to college with his mother’s entreaty to remember his raising ringing in his ears: “Remember, son, what you have been taught, go to church, say your prayers, avoid worldly temptations, stay away from loose women, and pay no attention to those who mock you for your faith.”

The boy agreed, and when he returned for Christmas vacation he wore a wide smile on his face, and couldn’t wait to tell his mother his good news: “Mom, I learned how to cuss, gamble, get drunk, hang out with tarts and strumpets, and,” he said triumphantly, “nobody even knows I’m a Christian.”

Jeb Bush thinks he won’t have to abide jeers and taunts for conservative Republican principles, views and goals. Falling in with Barack Obama’s immigration politics hasn’t yet made him invulnerable to the contempt of the dominant media, but he’s the favorite Republican of “the vast left-wing media conspiracy.” The conspirators can destroy him later.

In the face of falling polling numbers among Republicans, he’s doubling down on what cooled the Republicans who will choose a nominee next summer in Cleveland. The establishment, with all its money and country-club respectability, has yet to get its head around the fact that it no longer chooses the party’s presidential nominees. Jeb is entitled to his changing convictions, but he can’t sell them to the party.

He told an audience Friday in New Hampshire that giving illegal aliens in the United States a pathway to “earned legal status” is a “rational, thoughtful” way to deal with the immigration crisis, which recalls his remark last year that illegal immigration is “an act of love.” It’s not at all clear what that means; he has waffled on the issue. He once told CNN that he supports “both a path to legalization or a path to citizenship — with the underlying principle being that there should be no incentive for people to come illegally at the expense of coming legally.” But his is precisely the incentive that will keep stream of illegals pouring across the border.

Like everyone else running, he professes a burning desire to close the border, to regulate immigration like every other nation in the world regulates its borders. But nobody any longer believes words meant to soothe and distract. Everyone knows that schemes to impose fines and collect unpaid taxes to get on a pathway is unrealistic. Penniless immigrants desperate for work have no money to pay either fines or pay back taxes. Proposing such a scheme is an act of cruelty.

A winning proposition for Mr. Bush and the others would be an ironclad determination to close the border first — to shut it tight before doing anything about a paving a pathway to either residence or citizenship. After the border is closed, and order restored, there can be discussions about what to do with the illegal aliens already here.

That’s a solution so simple than anyone can understand it.

A Bloomberg Poll reveals that 41 percent of prospective voters in the New Hampshire primary, the first in the nation next year, say that Jeb Bush’s fluctuating views on immigration are a “deal-killer.” Mr. Bush, an attractive candidate in many ways, has time and opportunity to further refine his convictions. He could call it an act of love for his campaign.

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