In his speech to the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist said he didn't leave the GOP, the GOP left him.
He then evoked two Republican icons to drive home his point.
"Half a century ago, Ronald Reagan, the man whose optimism was inspiring to me to enter politics, he famously said at one time that he did not leave the Democratic Party; but the party left him," Crist said. "Listen, I can relate. I didn't leave the Republican Party; it left me. Then again, my friend Jeb Bush recently noted Reagan himself would have been too moderate, too reasonable for today's GOP."
Did Crist characterize Bush's comments accurately?
Bush made his comments on June 11 to national reporters and editors at a roundtable discussion hosted by Bloomberg View in Manhattan.
Bush had already earned a reputation for being a respected member of the GOP who was willing to stray from the party line on immigration and raise taxes to reduce the deficit.
At the breakfast, he called the current political environment "disturbing" and unsuitable for compromise thanks to both parties. He talked about the governing styles of his father, George H.W. Bush, and Reagan.
According to the Bloomberg report, he said, "They got a lot of things done with bipartisan support, but right now it's just difficult to imagine.
"Context changes; history changes. Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, similar to my dad, they would have a hard time if you define the Republican Party — and I don't — as having an orthodoxy that doesn't allow for disagreement," he said. "We're in a political system in general that is in a very different place right now."
The quote was picked up by many news outlets and shorthanded much the same way Crist did in his speech at the DNC.
BuzzFeed: Jeb Bush: No Place For Father, Reagan In Today's GOP
Rachel Maddow's blog: Jeb Bush: Reagan would have struggled with today's GOP
Bush was displeased with the tone of the coverage. He took to his Twitter account the next day and punched out the following four tweets in effort to clarify his remarks:
Am reminded today why I rarely read headlines. #ContextIsImportant
The point I was making yesterday is this: The political system today is hyperpartisan. Both sides are at fault.
My dad & Reagan sacrificed political points for good public policy.
Past 4 years, Democrats have held leadership roles w/opportunities to reach across political aisle. For sake of politics, they haven't.
Then Bush gave an email interview to the Associated Press, stressing that he meant both parties are overly partisan.
Crist's speech misinterpreted — as many news organizations did — what Bush meant, said Jaryn Emhof, a Bush spokeswoman. She held up the AP's next-day story as an example of "one of the few who got it right."
We think it's clear Bush said the partisan divide would make it difficult for Reagan to govern the way he did (i.e., Republicans might have been mad at him for working with Democrats, and Democrats might be unwilling to work with him because he's a Republican.) What's murky is whether Bush said — or suggested — Reagan would be "too moderate" and "too reasonable for today's GOP."
We do know that Bush has since distanced himself from the suggestion that Reagan could not survive in today's Republican Party.
In this case, we think it's fair to dock Crist points for cherry-picking one interpretation of Bush's statement and for failing to factor in Bush's subsequent remarks. On balance, we rate this statement Half True.
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