Coincidentally enough, Florida is the state with both the highest rate of identity theft, and with a governor suffering through the most prolonged identity crisis in recent political history.
Charlie Crist’s "Man In The Mirror" confusion was in full view during the 2010 State of the State speech, when he launched his third 180-degree turn since becoming governor in 2006 - this time trying desperately to swing back towards what was a winning identity for him back then.
That Crist was posing as a Republican centrist eager to appeal to moderates of all affiliations. He was going to help protect the environment, help Floridians with housing and health care, things that sounded downright...Democratic. But of course, he didn’t help with any of that, focusing instead on building his campaign war chest and appeasing the entrenched special interests that dominate Florida's economic and political landscapes.
As Rubio gained traction, catching the Tea Party wave early on and riding it to this day, the once proudly "moderate" Crist made another 180-degree turn and played the fool for months, pandering to the extreme right, claiming to be a red-blooded government-hater, just like them.
But he kept getting caught in the shadow of his own prior, more moderate political persona, gaining no ground with the extremists in his party. And while he fiddled away for conservative votes, Rome was burning. From unemployment to budget deficits to housing to health care to education - Florida’s big, intractable problems not only went unsolved, they went unattended to by the man in charge. Even the moderates in his party smelled the smoke, and ran. Crist’s campaign was in free fall.
That takes us up to Charlie’s Plan C, on full view in the State of the State speech. In light of last year’s run to the Right, this latest identity bait & switch is almost unbearable. Rarely if ever has a governor accomplished so little yet laid claim to so much, at a time of such crisis in his state - while simultaneously campaigning for the escape hatch of a better, easier job in Washington.
This latest Crist appears to be an amalgam of the 2006 moderate panderer and the 2009 conservative panderer, peppered with heavy doses of "non-partisan" pretense and poetic nonsense. Here are some choice examples from the State of the State speech.
"To bring the ship of our Florida safely back to harbor requires action, not rhetoric. It requires knowledge, not conjecture. And it requires composure under pressure..."
Uh huh, like when still stuck in Tea Party suck-up mode, Crist panicked and said he didn’t endorse the Obama Economic Stimulus package, when in fact he of course embraced both the stimulus package, and President Obama.
"Three years ago, Florida had an estimated 3.8 million residents living without health insurance. I proposed a market-based option of health insurance, called Cover Florida, for these Floridians."
Sure, and three years later Florida has, hmm, about 3.8 million residents still living without health insurance. The Cover Florida Plan is a miserable failure, insuring only about 5,000 people, and in danger of collapse.
"This year, more than others, our achievements will be measured - not by the passion of our rhetoric - but by our ability to be problem solvers..."
Right. So while our President spent a tireless, torturous year and enormous political capital trying in all sincerity to solve the problems facing our millions of uninsured citizens, Crist crowed to a crowd in Orlando that those efforts were "cockamamie".
But that was last year. This year’s Crist identity is trying to rise above such rhetoric and ideology - Rubio, Rubio, Rubio, Rubio - did anybody hear Charlie mention Marco in this speech? No matter, for what's important is that Charlie is above ideology now. Of course, if you go to his website, right there on the home page is the prominent box labeled, in caps, "THE CHARLIE CRIST CONSERVATIVE RECORD". Hmmm. Could you restate your message about ideology, Charlie?
"This is what I mean by sticking to our core principles and not elevating ideology over real solutions. My core principle is to not raise taxes."
Got to give it to Crist on that one. In the midst of our financial crisis, Crist proposed lowering corporate taxes by a full percentage point, at a cost of 65 million a year in state income. He does nothing about closing a huge real estate documentary stamp tax loophole that’s a boon to wealthy developers. He does nothing to remove the exemption of Limited Liability Companies and Subchapter S corporations from Corporate Income taxes, as recommended by the Florida Center for Fiscal & Economic Policy in its February 2009 report - a gaping loophole that costs Florida over half a billion dollars a year in lost income from business owners seeking tax shelters. Way to demonstrate core, anti-tax principles, Charlie.
Time for only one more current "core principle"...how about, a commitment to environmental protection?
"After slow progress for decades, my administration hit the fast-forward button on a plan to save the Everglades. The vision of a River of Grass that once again flows from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay is on the horizon."
Well, you may have seen the exhaustive investigative article in the New York Times blowing the lid off that disgracefully disingenuous statement within days of its utterance. Enough said.
Enough said, indeed. I could go on and on, but I’ll leave that to Charlie Crist...whoever the hell he really is. While Marco Rubio may be (is) a manipulative extremist pandering to and cleverly exploiting the frustrations and fears of many good, but stressed out people, at least he knows who and what he is and sticks with it. And so he's cleaning the table with Crist in the latest polls.
But if you are a hard-working, perhaps struggling Floridian of solid character, looking for a public servant of equal character, someone with genuine integrity and sincerity, someone who has worked hard at working class jobs before entering politics, someone who won’t switch their sales pitch depending on which way the political winds are blowing, someone truly dedicated to improving the lot of Florida’s working families - then you'd better run like hell away from both Crist and Rubio.
And that's regardless of what you think about taxes, or health reform, or Obama, or abortion, or gay marriage, or any other issue they try to use to push your emotional buttons and get you to cast your vote for what is - under the surface of those issues so carefully chosen to distract and divide - nothing more than corporate, special interest protectionism, masquerading as public service.
We can do better. We deserve better.
If you are a hard-working person of strong character, and you want the same in your next Senator - you need to take Charlie Crist's advice about one thing. Put aside ideology and the rhetoric of distraction and division - and take a long, hard look at Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek, Democratic candidate for the United States Senate.