Charlie Crist has the distinguished honor of being nominated by the extreme right wing Club for Growth as a nominee for the first “Comrade of the Month” honor. Pat Toomey’s group which is trying to obviously rekindle memories of the House Un-American Activities Committee has singled out one Republican nationally. Toomey’s group which was previously led by the wonkish market oriented Stephen Moore may in fact be helping Crist by positioning him as a moderate in the eyes of Florida voters.
This will certainly make the Democrats who have spent two plus years cozening up to the Governor more comfortable: Crist is obviously perceived as a moderate in certain GOP circles. However given Crist’s ability to change political positions and ideology on a dime, the Democrats should not take solace in this perception. Charlie Crist is no moderate, but in fact a partisan Republican.
Two years ago, when the Governor railed against the Insurance Industry, he cleverly coaxed Democrats to buy into his government run proposal. If and when the next Insurance crisis hits the state of Florida, Democrats perpetually in the Legislative minority will share equal blame with the Governor for the inevitable problems.
For whatever reason, Democrats seem less willing to oppose and more likely to be talked into tokenism and back slapping in the capitol. The Democrats would be better served by not showing up for Legislative Session rather than cutting deals that inoculate the GOP Governor and Legislative majority. Obviously nobody would defend simply not showing up in Tallahassee, but the point is constantly cutting deals should be viewed the same way.
To doubt Charlie Crist is a partisan Republican is foolhardy. In 1995 he held up Governor Chiles most critical appointments until the final day of session for strictly political reasons. The same year he initiated a Senate investigation of campaign calls made by the Chiles campaign. In the long history of political campaigns, dirty tricks have been conducted over and over again. Jeb Bush accused Lawton Chiles of being soft on crime exploiting the family of a murder victim in a TV ad.
But it was Chiles that was accused of dirty tricks in a politically motivated investigation which cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. In 1996, he helped lead the Republican opposition to Governor Chiles landmark lawsuit against the Tobacco Industry and then a year later, Crist conducted another partisan witch hunt, this time against the attorney’s who bravely represented the state in the Tobacco Lawsuit. By 1997, Crist was firmly viewed within the halls of the Legislature as a show horse and a partisan.
The following year he supported Kendrick Meek’s bill to give Wilbert Pitts and Freddie Lee compensation for their incarceration in the 1960s and 1970s. Crist was wisely seen in photos with these innocent victims for future use in trying to win African-American support statewide. As a mere coincidence, Crist’s Democratic opponent eight years later has voted against a similar bill two years earlier when he was still in the Legislature. Pitts and Lee were good men who fell victim to raw racism in the Jeffersonian spirited Panhandle of the 1960s. But Crist never felt true sympathy for them: he was merely exploiting their plight for political gain.
When he ran for the US Senate in 1998, Crist accused Bob Graham, a political moderate who put the concerns of the state of Florida over any partisanship or ideology of being a left winger and ran a negative campaign. In 2000 he ran an ad against George Sheldon focusing on a D.U.I. Sheldon had received 25 years earlier. The Ad was pulled after the Governor and Attorney General intervened, but the lesson was clear: Crist will play to win at any cost.
In 2002 Crist’s campaign slimmed Democratic nominee Buddy Dyer repeatedly in the Attorney General’s race. Dyer’s positive legislative record was dissected in a way the Democrats never did to Crist in any of his four statewide races.
Free Market forces have let Florida and the nation down. This cannot be questioned. But the Democrats over eagerness to help “bail out” Republicans for their economic irresponsibility and mistakes is politically naïve.
The Democrats are protecting Charlie Crist, plain and simple. His failures will be tossed aside as he blames liberals and Democrats for backing him into a corner. The Legislators and Democratic elected officials who think they can work with Governor Crist for mutual benefit of the state don’t know the Charlie Crist many Floridians remember: a petty partisan who’ll say or do anything to get elected.