Sorry, Jeb Bush Didn’t Say Reagan Couldn’t Get Elected

The BuzzFeed Website carried an article on Monday based on an interview with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in which he said that his father, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan would have a difficult time getting nominated by today's “ultra-conservative” Republican Party in a “hyper-partisan moment.”

The only problem is that Bush never used the words “ultra-conservative” or “hyper-partisan”in the interview (at least not in any of the text provided).. Those words were added by the unidentified “BuzzFeed Staff” who wrote the article.

Bush is quoted in the second paragraph as saying:

Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would 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, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground," Bush said, adding that he views the hyper-partisan moment as "temporary."

"Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time, they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support," he said. Reagan "would be criticized for doing the things that he did."

However, “being criticized” is a long way from having “no place” in the GOP.

Nevertheless, Bush unwisely cited the budget deal his father made with Congressional Democrats as having “bipartisan support, at least for a while,.” until the 1992 election, when the same Democrats he cut the deal with accused Bush of breaking his pledge of “read my lips, no new taxes” and led to his father serving only one term in the White House.

Turning his attention to this year's presidential election, Bush said that GOP candidate Mitt Romney's move to channel Republicans' anger over immigration during the primary has put him "in somewhat of a box" in the general election.

He suggested that Romney continue to campaign in Hispanic communities and recast immigration as an economic issue, with a focus on the problem of education for illegal aliens.

"I do feel a little out of step with my party on this," he noted.

However, Bush had praise for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for proposing a budget and had disdain for Democrats for refusing to support it by using “talking points rather than engagement.”

And while the former Florida governor called the present partisan climate "disturbing” and “a different environment left and right,” he blamed President Obama for much of the conflict.

"His first year could have been a year of enormous accomplishment had he focused on things where there was more common ground," Bush said, arguing that Obama had made a "purely political calculation" to run a sharply partisan administration.

Later that day, Matt K. Lewis of the Daily Caller turned the focus of the interview on its head by asking: “Could liberal icons such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt or John Fitzgerald Kennedy get through a Democratic primary today?

“I very much doubt it,” Lewis said before noting that “the political climate is very different than in 1980.”

You could argue that conservatives are standing on the shoulders of Reagan — and that we are still in many ways living in the age of Reagan. He built the foundation. But Reagan had different experiences (he grew up an FDR Democrat) and faced different challenges. Times change.

Lewis concludes his article by asking an intriguing question: ”Could Obama have won the Democratic nomination in 1980?”

Randy Hall
Randy Hall