Immigration is a minefield.
Jeb Bush stepped in it.
Bushs new book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, exploded on the political scene last week and left the former Florida governor uncharacteristically wobbly over how to legalize the status of the undocumented.
The controversy and perhaps the book itself summed up the politics of immigration: laden with political peril, nuance, seeming contradiction and complexity.
The book is also a point of departure for Bushs political aspirations. Hes neither ruling out nor in a White House bid in 2016.
That invites more political scrutiny than Bush says he realized.
If I made a mistake, I didnt assume that everything would be viewed through a political lens, Bush told The Miami Herald. In Washington, it seems, everybody assumes theres a political motivation to everything. And not understanding that, I accept responsibility for it.
Is it a big deal? No, he said. When youre governor, you have to deal with real big deals. This is not one of those.
But this is a big deal.
On Sunday, Bush appeared on every major news program, capping a cross-country schedule of interviews that began with an appearance on NBCs Today Show. He stopped at the Reagan National Library on Friday.
Authors of most books especially policy topics like immigration usually dont get that sort of wall-to-wall media exposure. If Bushs coauthor, lawyer Clint Bolick, wrote this alone, it probably wouldnt make the news.
But other authors arent scions of a political dynasty, former governors, the son and brother of former presidents, possible presidential candidates or fathers of possible future presidential candidates.
Bush said they wrote Immigration Wars last year to spur action.
By the time it was printed, however, the debate was well under way in Washington. There, Bush protégé and neighbor, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of West Miami, plays a leading role among a bipartisan group of eight senators hammering out an immigration bill.
Still, Immigration Wars is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the mind of one of the GOPs top idea men. Its roughly 250 pages move at a surprisingly quick pace.
Its also full of quirky stats: half of all apples are now grown in China; more Americans can name all Three Stooges than a single Supreme Court justice. Eye-opening figures: only 13 percent of the roughly 1 million legal immigrants in 2011 were admitted for work purposes. History: Ben Franklin penned an anti-immigrant pamphlet aimed at Germans who threatened to make the U.S. a colony of Aliens.
Like the immigration issue itself, the book will leave few people at either extreme the demagogues happy.
Bush tacks right in calling for a residency-path instead of a citizen-path bashed as more amnesty by conservatives. Yet he moves left in criticizing those obsessed with border security.
The book takes shots at nativists in the Republican Party and Republican Mitt Romneys tone-deaf campaign when it came to Hispanic outreach and immigration. The authors spare few opportunities to blast President Obama and unions. They refrain from criticism of either Bush presidency and praise Bushs education reforms.