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or, please do pay attention to the man behind the curtain.... Charlie Crist as Dorothy.  I don't profess to know whether Charlie prefers Ruby slippers around the house, but there is no doubt that both of these guys are trying frantically to squeeze into Cinderella's size 5 pumps right now in their quest to rule Emerald City, aka 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  

There is backroom politics and then there is Florida; there is much more going on than meets than eye.  Charlie Crist, inadvertently or not, is doing his level best to expose much of the goings-on... a simple reading of the tea leaves leads to some extremely interesting observations and deductions.  Get your popcorn ready.

I write this diary with the goal of getting you to pay attention, because Jeb Bush is going to run against Barack Obama in 2012 (and could very well win) if we don't keep our eye on the ball and if we don't fight him every step of the way.  Many comments are expected below that it's too soon for another Bush to be in the White House and I agree... but somehow Dubya managed to get himself elected and he's the dumber one of the brothers.

We need to hold the beach.

There's a very good reason I've linked Charlie Crist into the equation right now, and all interested eyes are on Charlie this week as he faces the biggest election deadline of his political life.  It's been well documented that, as things stand today, he most likely cannot beat Marco Rubio in the Republican primary for the US Senate seat currently held by George LeMieux; Crist's former Chief of Staff.   That could change if Rubio is found to have more culpability in the widening financial scandal that is engulfing the Florida Republican Party offices...

The ousted party chairman (Jim Greer, appointed by Crist) charged nearly $500,000 to his American Express card to eat well and live well: spa treatments, flowers, flights, fine hotels and pricey restaurants. In a month ending in March 2008, he dropped $41,421.31 in Las Vegas, Washington and Beverly Hills, according to billing statements obtained Wednesday by the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald.

Rubio has been accused of misspending campaign funds, using some for personal expenses, he's repaid some amounts for things such as miscategorized airplane tickets, so his tactics might seem peculiar:

A day ago, Marco Rubio demanded the release all Jim Greer's GOP credit card statements during his time as chairman of the state party.

"I would ask you to strongly consider releasing all AMEX statements from Jim Greer's time as chairman to the RPOF Executive Committee," stated Rubio's letter, which tried to link Greer to Charlie Crist, his GOP primary opponent.

But it's interesting to note that Rubio won't release all his credit card statements. The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times obtained a portion of his statements during his tenure as House Speaker but the records didn't date back to when he first received his party credit card.

So how does Rubio's campaign explain the seemingly hypocritical stance? They couldn't.

Because of Greer, Charlie Crist is connected to the scandal as well.... so turning his back on the Republican Party may be politically expedient in more ways than one...

For more than a year, GOP activists and donors had been complaining about lavish spending and financial mismanagement by Greer, the state party chairman Crist had plucked from obscurity and who became one of his closest friends and advisors. Crist infuriated many grass-roots activists by standing firmly behind the chairman, even as top money raisers threatened to stop helping the party if Greer controlled the money.
``He said to me, `You have no proof! You have no proof!' '' longtime money raiser Al Hoffman recounted of one heated conversation with Crist. ``I said, `Get your a-- over to headquarters and sit down with the chairman of the audit committee!' He said, `I'll take it under advisement' and never did anything.''
Greer now faces a criminal investigation and his chief benefactor is losing a fight for his political survival. By many estimates his only hope at winning is to turn his back on the party he grew up in and run a long-shot campaign as an unaffiliated candidate.

Regarding LeMieux, Crist must be kicking himself for deciding, pre-Rubio's ascension, of not nominating himself as US Senator to replace Mel Martinez instead of his pal... that pal in recent days has been mum about whether he would choose party over pal if forced into a choice, should Crist decide to abandon the Republican party altogether and run as an independent.

Meanwhile, Crist had another dramatic decision to make in August: who to fill out the unexpired Senate term of Mel Martinez. In a series of high-profile interviews, Crist summoned GOP icons such as U.S. Rep. Bill Young, former Reps. Clay Shaw and Lou Frey, former Attorney General Jim Smith, and state Sen. Dan Webster to join him before the TV cameras.
Then he picked George LeMieux, his former campaign manager and chief of staff.
``That made no one happy and it angered a number of well-respected candidates because of the way it was handled,'' said Republican strategist J.M. ``Mac'' Stipanovich of Tallahassee. ``There's a general perception that George LeMieux was a poor choice and one made perhaps out of weakness. . .


...Charlie appointing himself was move that would have brought much flack then but would likely  have avoided the current mess altogether and allowed him to run as the incumbent...and put him closer to the White House run he desires... for Crist has never been satisfied with what he has...

Then came Crist's announcement in May that he would run for U.S. Senate rather than a second term as governor. He looked like a shoo-in then, but across Florida old friends and supporters shook their heads.

"He got elected education commissioner and spent the entire time running for attorney general. He got to be attorney general and spent the entire time running for governor. When he got to be governor, he spent the first two years running for vice president and the last two running for the United States Senate,'' said (Tom) Slade, the former state GOP chairman.

Who wants to bet that were Charlie Crist elected to the US Senate in 2010 that his name wouldn't be in the Presidential primaries 2011?  

One person who doesn't want that possibility to exist is Jeb Bush.

When Charlie Crist succeeded Jeb! he was a self proclaimed  "Jeb Bush Republican"....but that title didn't last very long at all....

He revoked nearly 300 appointments by predecessor Jeb Bush, hailed Al Gore and teachers union leaders, and embraced Democrats' calls to mandate paper trails for voting machines.

Crist wrapped himself in the glow of postpartisanship. After the drubbing Republicans took in 2006, Crist became the national model for successful Republicans, the ultimate bipartisan consensus-seeker.

"He ran for governor and was nominated and elected as a conservative,'' said Republican strategist Roger Stone of Miami, a former Crist supporter. "After he was elected he went on an ego trip and began to believe he was more popular and more important than his party and his principles. It was all about Charlie — the cult of Charlie."

The man who used to call himself a "Jeb Bush Republican" was thrilled when Democratic lawmakers called him one of the best Democratic governors Florida had ever had. He proudly showed off the note from former President Bill Clinton congratulating him for easing restrictions on ex-felons regaining their civil rights.

Restless in Tallahassee, Crist actively sought the nod from John McCain in 2008 before McCain chose Palin.  Despite losing out on the prize, Crist's ego was unchecked and it became too big for Tallahassee...there were bigger fish to fry.  It's common knowledge that he chose his pal LeMieux to be keep the seat warm in Washington, LeMieux accepting the appointment with the tacit agreement that he would not get in Charlie's way when Crist announced he would not run for re-election but would seek the Senate seat on his own.  At that point his polling was relatively high and Rubio was nowhere on the scene.  

Enter Jeb.

Although he has not yet publically endorsed Marco Rubio, the rest of his family has previously, most notably, his sons, who have thrown fundraisers for Rubio.  Despite being out of office for 3 years, Jeb has enjoyed his most successful year ever in Tallahassee while coaching his loyal legislative leaders from the sidelines.

From a Sun-Sentinel column today:

Jeb Bush is still Florida's governor, in his mind — and in fact. Now, more than ever, he believes that he knows what's best for you and me. And now, more than ever, when he says jump, too many state legislators still ask, "How high?" These days, Jeb is pursuing at least a three-pronged strategy to remake the state in his image.

Jeb Strategy 1: Continuing to push his failed education agenda.... Jeb's been strong-arming members of the Legislature about how to improve education. State Sen. John Thrasher, a former board member of Jeb's Foundation for Florida's Future, was his errand boy, introducing Senate Bill 6, the much-maligned merit-pay initiative that would have tied teachers' salaries to student achievement. The lapdogs in the Legislature did his bidding. But the public barked in such vast numbers, that Gov. Crist vetoed the measure.

Jeb Strategy 2: Rewriting the Florida Constitution to suit him. ... for example.... livid that Floridians had the audacity to pass a constitutional amendment reducing the size of public-school classes that he didn't want, Jeb's behind the push to overturn it again this year.

Jeb Strategy 3: Making Marco Rubio U.S. Senator. The Bush Dynasty has anointed right-winger Rubio, after Charlie Crist bucked Jeb too many times, especially on constitutional issues. Jeb's been publicly mum, but his sons, with no credential but their name, have blessed Rubio.

The Strategy is paying off handsomely, due to the gerrymandered Legislative Republican margins in a state where Dem's outnumber the Repubs...

...rarely does Bush and his foundation enjoy as much legislative success as they have this year.
Among the measures that have cleared the Legislature or seem likely to:
_ A new constitutional amendment to ease the caps on class sizes. Bush vigorously opposed the original amendment, which was approved in 2002 and will be watered down if voters ratify the new measure this fall.
_ An expansion of school voucher programs, which were started under Bush and form a centerpiece of his educational reforms.
_ A cut in the corporate income tax rate, from 5.5 percent to 4.5 percent, for the first $1 million in taxable income, satisfying a key tenet of Bush's bedrock conservative philosophy.
_ An overhaul of the state's Medicaid system that substantially widens a largely privatized managed-care pilot program started five years ago by Bush.
_ Conditional authority for property insurance companies to boost premiums without government approval. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Bush said undercapitalized insurance companies need rate increases, and he urged Crist to sign the measure.
_ And the transformation of teacher pay and tenure standards. Coincidentally or not, it punishes the state teachers union, an enduring Bush foe.

on the teacher pay and tenure bill in particular, Bush  

exerted influence through his Tallahassee-based educational foundation and, from a distance, by remote control.
Bush recorded "robo-calls" and sent batch e-mails seeking to build public support for the teacher pay bill. He also expressed support for it during a nationally broadcast radio program.
"Teacher performance would be measured on student learning, which is apparently a radical idea," Bush said during the radio program, hosted by Bill Bennett, an education secretary under President Ronald Reagan. "It's not radical at all. I think it's commonsensical."

...and then Charlie comes along with his veto power on the Teacher tenure bill.   How pissed off is Jeb now?

Dubya rode off into the sunset when his successor was inaugurated, satisfied with his lot in life and happily retired to chop wood and munch pretzels, perhaps with a beer even.  Jeb, not so much.  Jealous of his younger brother still, the man is haunted, driven and fixated on the prize that eluded him when Lawton Chiles threw a log in front of the Bush Express and derailed his earlier plan.  

Now Jeb's got a new plan, and it's really up to us to honor the legacy of Chiles and work that much harder to derail a much stronger and faster Bush engine.    Don't think Jeb's got the cojones to run so soon after his brother left such a bad taste for Bush in the mouths of the citizenry of the Republic?  Read on...

It's looking highly likely that the 2012 Republican presidential nominee will be a retread.

With Gov. Mark Sanford at wit's end, and Sen. John Ensign joining Sanford at adultery camp, and Gov. Jon Huntsman going to China, and Gov. Bobby Jindal flopping in his first big national TV appearance, and Gov. Mitch Daniels saying he doesn't want to be president, and Gov. Sarah Palin running such an undisciplined operation up there in Alaska, the prospect for fresh blood is thinning.

We got some old party leaders from down South—Gov. Haley Barbour and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich—and a couple of former governors who couldn't beat John McCain last time out—Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

And then there is Jeb.

Others have noticed Jeb's coming out lately...

When Jeb Bush left office four years ago, his public appearances were as scarce as bi-partisan man hugs.

He didn't want to upstage his successor in the governor's mansion nor his brother in the White House. Instead, he quietly cashed in by joining corporate boards and an elite speakers bureau, penned policy essays and gave infrequent interviews to conservative media.

But in recent months, as the Republican Party of Florida has grappled with a leadership vacuum, Bush's political profile has grown as fast as the national deficit.

He headlined a fundraiser for Bill McCollum's gubernatorial campaign, starred in a YouTube video touting Jeff Atwater's campaign for state chief financial officer and helped install state Sen. John Thrasher as the state party's heir apparent -- all the while looming on the sidelines of the fierce Republican Senate primary between Gov. Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio.

Soon after came a much noticed appearance on the Today Show with Matt Lauer.

``My wife called me immediately and said he looked presidential,'' said Thrasher, who as the former House speaker helped Bush lay down his agenda. ``I said, `Who knows? We'll see.' I'm ready to go to Iowa any time he's ready.''

This week, Jeb went to California to raise funds for Meg Whitman.  Tomorrow night, he's featured in a live debate with James Carville about partisanship in America.  

Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and brother of President George W. Bush, and James Carville, former presidential adviser and political consultant, will discuss the partisan divide as part of the Panetta Institute 2010 Lecture Series on Monday.

The 7 p.m. event will be broadcast live on Community Television, Comcast Channel 26 in Santa Cruz and Charter Channel 72 in Capitola and Watsonville. Radio station KAZU, 90.3 FM, will also air the live lecture. "Recent polls found that less than 20 percent of Americans approve of the job that Congress is doing," said Sylvia Panetta in a statement. "They are frustrated by the atmosphere of partisan bickering and divisiveness. ... Is Washington broken? And if so, how can we fix it?"


Sounds like the perfect place for some soundbites from another Bush who wants to be President.  (Let's hope that Jeb, married into an Hispanic family, is asked about the latest Arizona nonsense and whether or not he supports such efforts...)

There's also this:  

Former Florida state Sen. Daniel Webster plans to jump into the race against first-term Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson Thursday, according to several Florida Republicans familiar with his thinking, landing the GOP a popular conservative candidate and reshaping the primary field.
Webster is a widely respected former legislator whose low-key, conciliatory demeanor has won him friends on both sides of the aisle and would present a clear stylistic contrast with the bombastic Grayson. His wife sent out an email last night asking supporters to attend a press event at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, for a political announcement about the race in Grayson’s district

.. that came out of the blue, but this didn't:  

Webster will also be receiving the endorsement of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a source close to the former governor confirmed, a move that will lend Webster instant credibility and momentum in the Republican nomination battle. Webster worked closely with Bush when he served as Speaker of the Florida House.

  Can't see any Bush string pulling going on there, can we?  Even the two Republicans already in the crowed race were awed....

Originally posted to route66 on Sun Apr 25, 2010 at 03:34 PM PDT.

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