Down to single-digit approval ratings in his last days in office, US President George W. Bush is warning the Republican Party not to become "anti-immigrant" as it regroups from defeat and retools its leadership.
"It's very important for our party not to narrow its focus, not to become so inward looking that we drive people away from a philosophy that is compassionate and decent," the departing president said in an interview broadcast Sunday, nine days before his term ends. "My call for our party is to be open-minded."
After Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006, the party took another thumping in November, when Barack Obama won the presidency and Democrats expanded their control of the House and Senate. Bush was not on the ballot either time, but both elections were seen at least partly as a repudiation of him.
"Obviously, we got whipped in 2008," Bush said.
Republican leaders are re-examining both their message and their messengers. Bush said the party need not change its basic tenets such low taxes and a strong defense. But he warned that there should not be any "litmus tests as to whether or not you can be a Republican."