Maddow: GOP and talk radio were 'elated' to fight George W. Bush on immigration, too
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Nov. 20, 2014 [MSNBC]

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow pointed out on Thursday that Republicans' staunch opposition to comprehensive immigration reform did not begin during President Barack Obama's administration.

"Not that long ago it was President [George W.] Bush pushing for immigration reform and [Sen.] Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL) and Rush Limbaugh beating him so he would not get it," Maddow said.

Maddow showed footage of a 2006 address Bush gave promoting a "middle ground" in immigration policy, which in turn led to a 2007 bill that he hoped to push through Congress. But the bill failed in the Senate despite generating bipartisan support, with 33 Republicans voting it down.

At the time, Maddow said, critics of Bush's policy were "elated" to see it fail. Sessions openly credited conservative talk radio as being "a big factor" in the opposition, saying proponents wanted to rush the bill through "before Rush Limbaugh could tell the American people what was in it."

"A Democratic senator by the name of Barack Obama voted for that Bush bill, by the way," Maddow said on Thursday. "But not enough Republicans did, even though the Bush White House wrote the bill."

The Bush administration subsequently moved unilaterally to implement immigration reforms, Maddow explained, despite losing so decisively.

Nicolle Wallace, who worked as Bush's communication director, did not dispute Maddow's argument that talk radio helped spur the bill's demise.

"Talk radio's power isn't derived in a booth," Wallace explained. "Talk radio's power is because of the millions of people that listen are convinced of the argument. So there are a lot of people who are still either unconvinced that this is [a] problem."

At the same time, Wallace also said she disagreed with the increased opposition to immigration reform within the GOP.

"The Republican Party should not be offended by an attempt to keep families together," she told Maddow. "These are nuclear families -- these are moms and dads of American-born kids. We can not stake out a position where we're against keeping nuclear families together."

Watch the discussion, as aired on Thursday on MSNBC, below.