WASHINGTON — At every opportunity, President Bush has said -- emphatically -- that the legislation he favors to overhaul the nation's immigration laws does not provide amnesty to those in the United States illegally.
On Tuesday morning, he said it did, and his comment prompted a rare acknowledgment from the White House that the president had made a mistake.
Speaking to government officials and others in an auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House, Bush said: "You know, I've heard all the rhetoric -- you've heard it too -- about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you've got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that."
What? It provides amnesty? That's what critics of the bill have been saying all along.
His words -- never mind that they were an obvious mistake -- began lighting up the blogosphere just as the Senate was about to vote on moving ahead with the immigration legislation. As soon as it became clear his errant language was making news, the White House press office moved to tamp down the mini-furor.