In perhaps his harshest criticism yet of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Jeb Bush sharply chastised his successor, saying he had committed an “unforgivable” act by supporting President Barack Obama’s massive stimulus package.
In an exclusive Newsmax interview, Bush praised Crist as a “talented guy” and “about the nicest guy I’ve ever met in politics.” But he took Crist to task for enthusiastically backing what Bush called “a massive spending bill that is not related to stimulus. It is related to trying to carry out a liberal agenda.”
Crist is running for the U.S. Senate, and is squaring off against former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary.
See Jeb Bush's Comments on Charlie Crist in Newsmax.TV's Video Interview below
So far Bush has remained neutral in the race, but he told Newsmax he “might” decide to endorse one of the GOP candidates. Already his son Jeb Jr. is backing Rubio and helping to raise money for his campaign.
Rubio has also sharply criticized Crist for backing the stimulus bill, which was widely unpopular with conservatives. And in a move that has come back to haunt him, Crist was photographed at a February 2009 pep rally in Ft. Myers, Fla., embracing Obama as the two voiced support for the bill — an event that Rubio’s campaign has called “The Hug.”
In a recent Newsmax interview, Crist defended his support of the $787 billion stimulus bill, saying it kept Florida from falling into an “economic abyss” and saved the jobs of 87,000 police, firefighters and other public employees, plus 20,000 teachers.
He also pointed out that every Republican governor joined with him in either supporting the stimulus bill or accepting the emergency funds it provided.
Asked about Crist and the stimulus bill, Bush said: “There’s one thing that he has done that I just find unforgivable. He is the only statewide political leader, that I‘m aware of, that embraced the stimulus package when Republicans were fighting to suggest an alternative.
“He did it the day before the vote. It was a mistake.”
In a recent interview with Newsmax, Crist said he had no regrets backing the stimulus plan, which he said staved off financial catastrophe for states like Florida, which faced the prospect of laying off thousands of police, firefighters and teachers.
Crist noted that every Republican governor took the stimulus funds and that he has strongly opposed Obama’s tax and spending policies since then. [Flashback
: See “Crist: I’m a True Blue Reagan Conservative
Newsmax.TV’s Ashley Martella asked Bush to comment on Crist’s defense. Bush responded:
“When businesses go through hard times, through down markets, what do they do is they challenge every basic assumption of how they operate. They innovate. They create disruption for a while that leads them to even greater heights when the economy turns around. The great innovations in American life have come through downturns in our economy, not when things are good.
“To say that taking money that is created by the debt that will be imposed on our grandchildren to save teachers’ jobs was important, to give the president a huge victory, to expand government to far bigger than we can afford — I think the governor got that one wrong.”
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