Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has delighted the establishment media with his comments about Ronald Reagan and the modern Republican Party. 

The son and brother of Presidents Bush and Bush claims The Gipper "would have a hard time" in a contemporary GOP that is hamstrung by "an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement." According to Bush, Reagan "would be criticized for doing the things that he did." 

While this kind of skylarking should always be viewed with suspicion, Bush is accurate in saying presumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's immigration stance is far more punitive than Reagan's was. According to his own literature, Romney mildly supports skilled-worker immigration and not much else. Romney's plan: 

  • Raise visa caps for highly skilled workers
  • Grant permanent residency to eligible graduates with advanced degrees in math, science, and engineering
  • Secure The Border
  • Turn Off The Magnets
  • Enforce The Law
  • Oppose Amnesty

In a 1980 debate, Dutch is very far from this law and order view. In clear agreement with the "sensitive" policy and looser work rules favored by George H.W. Bush, his last primary opponent (who would soon become his running mate and vice president), Reagan says he wants to "open the border both ways." 

Of course all Bushes are socialists in their hearts, and Jeb's support for a "bipartisan" budget deal (for balance he accuses Democrats of giving short shrift to Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to balance the budget in 51 years) drew a well-deserved rebuke from Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist: 

“That’s foolish,” Norquist told TPM in an interview. “It’s stup—it’s bizarre.”

Norquist, a prominent critic of the senior President Bush but a frequent ally of the second President Bush, seemed less than impressed by Jeb Bush.

“There’s a guy who watched his father throw away his presidency on a 2:1 [ratio of spending cuts to tax increases] promise,” Norquist said. “And he thinks he’s sophisticated by saying that he’d take a 10:1 promise. He doesn’t understand — he’s just agreed to walk down the same alley his dad did with the same gang. And he thinks he’s smart. You walk down that alley, you don’t come out. You certainly don’t come out with 2:1 or 10:1.”

This is the part that the media love. It's a favorite refrain of the left that Reagan wouldn't be rightwing enough for today's Republican extremists. 

But the idea that immigration divides along left/right presumes there is only a two-dimensional continuum in political thought. On immigration, Reagan was more liberal than today's Republicans (and every era's labor unions) because he was more libertarian on freedom of contract and the right to work. Interestingly, in 1980 it was George Bush who made this point more clearly.