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George W. Bush: Today's Republicans are 'isolationist, protectionist, and ... nativist'

 Former President George W. Bush on Tuesday characterized the Republican Party of 2021 as a "nativist" party, saying that's not his "vision" for what Republicans should stand for.

"I would describe it as isolationist, protectionist, and to a certain extent nativist," Bush said during an interview with Hoda Kotb on NBC's "Today" in response to a question about today's GOP.

"That's not exactly my vision, but you know what, I'm just an old guy they put out to pasture," he added. "Just a simple painter."

The former president is currently on tour promoting his new book, "Out of Many, One," a collection of paintings by him that feature immigrants to the United States with text sharing their stories. In a Washington Post op-ed published Friday, Bush wrote that the purpose of his book is "to share some portraits of immigrants, each with a remarkable story I try to tell, and to humanize the debate on immigration and reform."

"The system really needs to be reformed and fixed," Bush told Kotb after explaining how migrants are coming to the U.S. border in search of a better life away from natural disasters, poverty, violence, and criminal tyranny in Central America.

"Two things I think will help alleviate that: One is an asylum process that is more robust — in other words, the border is being overwhelmed right now and there needs to be more judges and more courts so people can have a fair hearing," he said. "Secondly, we need to change the work visas. There's a lot of jobs that are empty and there's a lot of jobs that need to be filled and yet there are people willing to work hard to do so."

Bush lamented that both Republicans and Democrats think they can score political points against the other side on the immigration issue, which prevents actual reforms from becoming law.

"It's an easy issue to frighten some of the electorate and I'm trying to have a different kind of voice," Bush said.

Asked by Kotb if a "hypothetical" candidate who is "pro-immigration," supports amnesty with citizenship for illegal aliens, supports DACA, "reasonable" gun control, and increased funding for public schools could win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, Bush said, "Sure, yeah."

"I think if the emphasis is integrity, and decency, and trying to work to get problems solved, I think that person has a shot," he said.

"By the way, 'pro-immigration' isn't the right way to put it," Bush added. "I think border enforcement with a compassionate touch is how I would put it. 'Pro-immigration' basically means let's just open up the borders, and nobody's really for that. And you can't have a country that has open borders."

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