14TH AMENDMENT REPEAL PUSH CAUSES GOP RIFTS…. Just over the last few weeks, the notion of repealing part of the 14th Amendment — or, at a minimum, holding congressional hearings to discuss a partial repeal of the amendment — has been endorsed by the Senate Republican leadership, House Republican leadership, and several likely 2012 GOP presidential candidates, among others.

Several former Bush administration officials, who, for all of their faults, weren’t necessarily wrong about immigration policy, believe their party is making a big mistake.

[I]n recent days, former aides to both Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush, who pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, have condemned the calls by top Republicans to end birthright citizenship.

Cesar Conda, who served as domestic policy adviser to Cheney, has called such proposals “offensive.” Mark McKinnon, who served as media adviser in Bush’s two presidential campaigns, said Republicans risk losing their “rightful claim” to the 14th Amendment if they continue to “demagogue” the issue.

“The 14th Amendment is a great legacy of the Republican party. It is a shame and an embarrassment that the GOP now wants to amend it for starkly political reasons,” McKinnon told POLITICO. “Initially Republicans rallied around the amendment to welcome more citizens to this country. Now it is being used to drive people away.”

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, Bush’s former chief speechwriter, added on ABC over the weekend, “That is the wisdom of the authors of the 14th Amendment: They essentially wanted to take this very difficult issue — citizenship — outside of the political realm. They wanted to take an objective standard, birth, instead of a subjective standard, which is the majorities at the time. I think that’s a much better way to deal with an issue like this.”

I happen to agree, but Republican officials and candidates are clearly in a very different place right now. This once-nutty idea — repealing part of the 14th Amendment — has gone from fringe nonsense to a widely accepted party principle in record time.

Indeed, a week ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went so far as to say he doesn’t think “anybody” is “comfortable with” the notion of birthright citizenship. It was a striking argument — as far as the Senate’s top Republican is concerned, the law of the land for the last 142 years, written into constitutional stone, has gone from being universally accepted to universally reviled.

I’m glad former Bush/Cheney aides are willing to call out their GOP brethren on this. In fact, I wish the “loyal Bushies,” as they were called by some of their own, would step up even more often to note when their party launches these ridiculous crusades. For example, the Bush White House wouldn’t have gone for the Cordoba House hysterics, either.

But the fact that these rifts are occurring at all serves as an interesting reminder — as disturbing as Republican politics was during the Bush era, it’s clear that the GOP’s excesses have gotten considerably worse since.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.