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Jeb Bush Defends Immigration Flip-Flop, Stays Mum On 2016 Run

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WASHINGTON -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) made the rounds on nearly all of this week's Sunday morning talk shows as he defended his apparent flip-flop on his position on a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Bush, who is pitching his new book, "Immigration Wars," was a guest on five shows: NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week," CBS' "Face the Nation," "Fox News Sunday" and CNN's "State of the Union." On at least two of those shows, he was pressed on the fact that he states in his book that undocumented immigrants should not be eligible for a path to citizenship and that the issue should not be part of comprehensive immigration reform. Bush stunned many observers with that position, particularly since he has previously backed a pathway to citizenship.

"Well first of all, I haven't changed," Bush said on "Face the Nation." "The book was written to try to create a blueprint for conservatives that were reluctant to embrace comprehensive reform, to give them perhaps a set of views that they could embrace. I support a path to legalization or citizenship so long as the path for people that have been waiting patiently is easier and costs less -- the legal entrance to our country -- than illegal entrance."

Bush emphasized that his book was written last year, at a time when the immigration debate "was dramatically different" and when many people may have believed in comprehensive immigration reform but were not publicly supportive of it.

"I'm encouraged to see that that's not the case now," Bush said. "People are moving in the direction of comprehensive reform."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is one of the key Republicans working on immigration reform legislation, has been one of the toughest critics of Bush's call to leave a pathway to citizenship out of comprehensive reform. He charged Bush with undercutting the work that lawmakers are trying to do on an already contentious issue. Bush said that is all sorted out now.

"So, Senator Graham didn't have access to the book, because this information was given to him the day before it was published," Bush said. "When he had a chance to review the book and when I talked to him, he said we're on the same page."

As for the prospects of Congress passing immigration reform legislation, Bush said on "This Week" that he is "very encouraged" by the bipartisan work underway. He pointed to the fact that the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce have even agreed to some of the same core principles of reform. Still, he highlighted where some of the biggest obstacles may be.

"There are some big sticking points about how do you deal with -- making sure that there's enough -- seasonal workers, temporary worker programs that have been quite successful in the past. There's a lot of people on the left that oppose that, but there's perhaps a way to make this economically driven," he said.

As for a potential presidential run in 2016, Bush said he's not thinking about that right now.

"My big decision was to force myself not to think about it until it's time, the proper time to think about it, which is out into the future," Bush said on "Face the Nation."

"We just had an election, four years is a long way from now, and I think it’s better to stay focused on the things that I'm doing now."

Still, Bush dismissed the idea that he would be hampered by "Bush baggage" -- or the idea that he could be dragged down by the unpopularity of his brother, George W. Bush -- if he chose to run.

"I love my brother and I'm proud of his accomplishments and I love my dad and I'm proud to be a Bush," he said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

"If I run for president, it is not because of something in my DNA that compels me to do it. It woud be the right thing to do for my family, that the conditions are right and I have something to offer. And if I don't run, I have a blessed life."

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