In calling Jeb Bush's comments about illegal immigration a gaffe in my headline, I'm using the term in the way Michael Kinsley famously defined it. A gaffe, he said, is not when a politician tells a lie but when he tells the truth. It may be that the former Florida governor has alienated such a large segment of the Republican Party that he no longer has any hope of being nominated for president in 2016. But that doesn't refute what he said.
"Someone who comes to our country because they couldn't come legally, they come to our country because their families -- the dad who loved their children was worried that their children didn't have food on the table," Bush said. Making that decision, he said, was "an act of love."
It's true. People don't spend thousands of dollars, leave their homes and risk death because they want to destroy our way of life or shred the rule of law or reclaim Texas for Mexico. They do it because they yearn for opportunities not available at home.
We used to welcome people defecting to the United States to escape communist oppression. So why begrudge those who come here illegally to escape the oppression of poverty, violence and corruption?
Bush's statement was reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, who once discounted the issue as "the illegal alien fuss," favored a North American common market with minimal barriers to the movement of commerce and people across borders, and signed the 1986 amnesty for foreigners who came here without authorization.
So if Bush's view of the issue disqualifies him, then Reagan would be disqualified as well. It brings to mind the Gipper's remark: "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me." The Republican Party may have done the same thing.