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Monday, October 24, 2016

Rick Scott. Charlie Crist.

Nineteen million souls in the state of Florida, and this is the best we can do? You could toss a mullet net over any park bench between Key West and Pensacola and drag in two people who’d be more inspiring.

Watching Scott’s cringeworthy performance in the TV debates made it all the more astonishing that he ever got elected governor, even with $75 million of his own dough.

He’s spent the last three and a half years refusing to answer reporters’ questions, and it’s clear why. Rarely will you find a politician who is so uncomfortable — make that miserable — in front of a camera or a microphone. Scott’s gecko death stare and toneless responses give the impression of a reluctant witness under oath, a role he infamously experienced in the Columbia/HCA fraud probe.

The second debate didn’t help. PR-wise, you cannot overstate the stupidity of refusing to come on stage for seven minutes, just because your opponent brought a portable fan. Scott behaved like a petulant boob, and once again provided a wacky Florida punchline for comics coast to coast.

On the other side stands Charlie Crist, who — by leaving the governor’s office after one term to run for U.S. Senate — gave us Rick Scott. Thanks a bunch.

Now, after morphing from Republican to Independent to Democrat, Crist wants his old job back. He has unapologetically reversed himself on big issues such as abortion, gay marriage and the Cuban trade embargo. This was done to better jibe with the Democrats’ position, and also public-opinion polls.

What Crist truly believes is anybody’s guess. Unlike Scott, he seemed to enjoy the debates, but then he has always enjoyed having cameras pointed in his direction.

As of this writing, the governor’s race is polling dead even. Numbed by all the attack ads, disheartened by lackluster choices, lots of people are in a mood not to vote.

Bad idea.

Obviously this election isn’t about picking the best and the brightest. It’s about picking the candidate who is the least dangerous to Florida’s quality of life. Scott won’t accept the concept that, unlike the job of a corporate CEO, the job of governor is supposed to be conducted in the open. He remains at ease only behind closed doors, which is how he runs his administration.

He flies around in his private jet, sharing only chosen parts of his weekly schedule with the public he was elected to serve. His allegiance is strictly to business, which is the world he comes from.

Initially he opposed the prescription-monitoring data base that ultimately shut down many of the state’s pill mills. The governor called the computerized tracking system “an invasion of privacy,” which is exactly what the crooked pill-peddlers were saying.

During his last campaign he berated his Republican primary rival for being “bought” with donations from Big Sugar. This time around, Scott has taken more than $700,000 from the sugar companies and, as a guest of U.S. Sugar, flew to the King Ranch in Texas for a secret hunting trip.

On environmental issues, Scott pretends to be a friend of the Everglades while packing water-management boards with shills for polluting industries. He has defanged and demoralized the state Department of Environmental Protection, which now does so little to protect our air and water that it might as well be renamed the Department of Environmental Permissiveness.

And the governor was totally on board when Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi despicably joined efforts to block a court-ordered cleanup of Chesapeake Bay, because developers and agricultural interests here feared it would set a precedent for stricter pollution rules.

With such a record, it’s no wonder Scott’s re-election campaign is focused elsewhere. However, his claim of singlehandedly of bringing 650,000 new jobs to the state is sheer fantasy. Most of those added jobs are the result of a rebounding national economy, and they would have come back to Florida if Pee-wee Herman were governor.

An investigation last December by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times revealed the chasm between Scott’s words and reality. He promised $266 million in tax breaks to attract 45,258 new jobs, yet only about 4 percent of those jobs had materialized.

Meanwhile, between January 2011 and November 2013, there were 49,163 layoffs statewide at companies with more than 100 employees. Today Scott crows about Florida’s unemployment rate, which at 6.1 percent is actually higher than the current U.S. unemployment figure of 5.9 percent.

So enough fiction about job creation.

For voters, the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election boils down to one question: Who’s the least slippery, and the least secretive? Philosophically Crist might be all over the map, but he’s not a sneak. He loves the public eye too much to slink from it.

For better or for worse, we’d always know where Charlie was, and what he was doing. In these sorry times, that counts as a selling point.

We could use a governor who leaves a trail.

Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132.

Photo: Gov. Rick Scott, right, and Charlie Crist face off in the second of three Florida gubernatorial debates, on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, at Broward College in Davie, Fla. (Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel/MCT)

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  • Dominick Vila

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott is, by far, one of the most corrupt Governors in the country. He should be serving time in jail for his MEDICARE fraud case. Instead, he was elected Governor, and he is likely to be re-elected, not because of his record, but because a large segment of the population is not concerned about what he did before he became governor, because of an effective political campaign, and because he is, cynically, taking advantage of the effects of the Great Recession and the economic recovery to score political points.

    • FT66

      Well stated. You know better your people there than we do.

    • highpckts

      I hear ya! The lesser of 2 evils!!

    • Mikey7a

      In the past, the Cuban faction that has deep roots in South Fl. has voted Republican, otherwise, simply by sheer numbers, the area South of Tampa would carry the whole State. I am hoping that The Cuban People, now see that The Republican Party has been using their conservative Catholicism, to steal The Governor’s Chair. If I am right, there won’t be enough uneducated, Redneck, fools up here where I live, to keep Scott in Office. It will be the Latin Voters who carry the day!

      • Dominick Vila

        The results of the last election indicate that Republicans can no longer count on the Cuban-American vote in South Florida to carry the state. Over 40% of Cuban-Americans voted for President Obama in 2012. This change, coupled with solid Democratic support by Jewish-Americans in South Florida offset the overwhelming Republican vote in North Florida, from Jacksonville to the Panhandle.
        Hopefully the same will happen this time.

  • underledge

    These two are the very best Florida can produce. Citizens should be sooooo proud! ! !

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    The idea by the Republican party was to control states by insuring that only GOP governors got elected. That was crucial to their back room agenda of their plan for partisan prosperity.

    If anyone is fooled by the idea that controlling the House, the Senate and insuring each state has a 100% GOP governor isn’t their fantasy, think again.

    One tiny but enormous little part of that equation is something ..or someone..the GOP bulls don’t think is all that important…voters.

    So, they get their billionaire right wing media titans to print lies, distortions of truth and outright libel and slander. What’s it all for? GOP domination.

    Now, I ask you. Let’s assume in Bizarro World, the GOP could dominate the government, Big Business, Education and every American life. Would you be better off under total GOP dominance? Or would we all, like that North Korean nut job has done, turn a nation into lobotomized robots? Think in the ridiculous in the extreme to get a clearer picture of precisely what the GOP is after. Kim Jung Un is their template.

    • Louis Allen

      Eleanore: “If anyone is fooled by the idea that controlling the House, the Senate and insuring each state has a 100% GOP governor isn’t their fantasy, think again.” Whattt??!!! You can’t be serious ! Isn’t that PRECISELY the “dream” of the Democrats as well ??!!
      And then: “One tiny but enormous little part of that equation is something ..or someone..the GOP bulls don’t think is all
      that important…voters.” Eleanore, do you think for a moment that this is an intelligent thought? LOL !!!
      P.S. – Ellie, you are so biased, my dear, that you don’t watch what you say and you just blurt it out. Next time think a little bit; I am sure you can come up with some pretty good arguments if you try hard ….

      • jmprint

        Louis Allen the Democrats don’t need 100% democrats, they just need a few functional GOP’s, ones that don’t have the agenda of making sure the BLACK President works hard to accomplish little, and no, the voter is not important to the GOP, that’s why they gerrymander, they are against education, protecting people’s right to vote, make choice, or health, so they don’t have to care. And Louis obviously you don’t read very much, because true facts are constantly being posted, you choose to ignore facts. And do you think your rebuttal makes you look intelligent. It doesn’t! HA Ha we can all laugh.

        • Louis Allen

          jm: “…. because true facts are constantly being posted, you choose to ignore facts.” posted by …??
          by Mother Jones, by The National Memo, by Killary, by Nancy Pelosi, by Joe The Clown Biden??
          And then you claim that it is I who doesn’t look intelligent. You are funny, jmprint, a dummy, but funny.

          • jmprint

            blah, blah, blah – no substance.

          • Louis Allen

            jmprint: “No substance.” I know, I know. I noticed a few posts ago.
            But it’s ok, you can acquire some; don’t worry too much about that.

  • FT66

    It is Florida, Florida, Florida, Florida. Is anyone surprised?

  • jointerjohn

    I’m beginning to think the GOP plan is to stink up political office holding so bad that honest people will no longer even want to run against them. In my own portion of the Midwest this is already happening. The best people, who used to proudly run for local and state offices, no longer want anything to do with it. I served four terms on my City Council and five terms on my County Board. Worked alongside good honest republicans and democrats. The candidates that the republican party now puts forward are nothing like that.

  • ExRadioGuy15

    From my Facebook note, “Why False Equivalency is dangerous”:

    As many of you know, I’m a Non-Affiliated voter. I haven’t belonged to a political party since 1990. From then until 2007, I was an Independent. But, My state, Oregon, began recognizing the Independent Party in 2007. At that point, the state reclassified all Independents as “Non-Affiliated voters” (NAVs) and anyone who wished to become a member of the Indie Party had to refile their affiliation. I refuse to do that, and, as it has turned out, I was completely correct in doing/not doing that.

    The reason I was correct in staying a “NAV” is that the “minor parties” (Independent, Progressive, Libertarian, Green, Constitution, etc.) all engage in False Equivalency to try and siphon off voters from the Democratic and Republican Parties. Their ridiculous argument goes something like this: “both the GOP and Demos are the ‘same side of the coin'”. Libertarians and GOP Progressives/Moderates are the people most likely to employ False Equivalency.

    GOP Progressives and Moderates employ False Equivalency for two reasons: first and foremost, to make themselves feel better about the fact that their party is Fascist, corrupt, hypercritical, bigoted, greedy, elitist, insane, etc. Second, they employ it to justify continuing to vote Republican.

    There are huge differences between the two major parties in this country. If they were TRULY the same, I’d consider joining the Indie Party.

    The biggest difference between the Demos and GOP is one of ideology. You have to understand something: in 1920, the GOP began a Fascist “gaslighting” propaganda campaign to fool the newly-minted voters of the time, women, to vote for them. The propaganda they spewed was that they supported Prohibition (the “Drys”), even though, during it, there were more Republicans at the “speakeasies” drinking alcohol than the Democrats. But, because women had been advocating for Prohibition for more than a century before it became a reality, the Fascist GOP made the correct calculation that joining the “Dry” side of Prohibition would net them millions of voters. The propaganda worked like a charm. The GOP ruled politics in the Roaring Twenties. However, the propaganda ended up falling on deaf ears after the GOP-caused Wall Street Crash of 1929. The GOP’s Fascist financial policies caused that crash and the resulting Great Depression. That woke up all of the GOP Progressives and Moderates to the Fascism, corruption and greed of the GOP. So, the GOP believes in Fascism but uses propaganda to try and deflect that fact. Fascist propaganda does one thing if it’s successful: it convinces people that the truth are lies and that lies are the truth. That’s exactly what the GOP want you to think. The GOP claim that the Democrats are “Socialists”. Ask anyone in the Socialist Party whether the Demos are Socialists and they’ll laugh at you. This is where the GOP employ that Fascist propaganda…claim that Socialism is Fascism. It’s not. I could go into a long dissertation about the differences between the two, but I did that in another note I wrote last year.

    The next-biggest difference between the two major parties is their makeup. While the Democrats are mostly poor, middle-class or upper middle-class people, the Republicans are dominated by the wealthy. The demographics of both parties tell of striking differences: there are many more women and minorities in the Democratic Party than the GOP. More than 90% of this country’s wealthy white men are Republicans. Look at the members of each party, the politicians: there are many more women and minorities in the Democratic Party. Like the party’s voters, the GOP politicians are overwhelmingly rich, old white Conservative men. If both parties were the same, there wouldn’t be those delineations.

    When you look at the campaign contributions of each party, the differences are stark, as well. The GOP have fewer people donating to their candidates but, because they’re mostly wealthy people, the GOP rake in the big bucks. And, the GOP’s financial policies help that. Across-the-board tax cuts favor the wealthy and big corporations…that’s why the GOP help them….they know that the big money comes from those wealthy and big corporate donors. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has a significantly higher number of people donating, but, because they’re not as wealthy as most GOP donors, the two parties end up getting a similar amount of money donated to their party and its members. The best example of this are the Koch brothers. If both parties were TRULY the same, the Koch brothers would not be spending millions of dollars to get Republicans elected. They’d simply sit back and wait to see who wins and expect the winners to do their bidding. The GOP do their bidding; the Demos do not.

    False Equivalency is really dangerous. Don’t fall for the GOP’s Fascist gaslighting propaganda….

    I urge all GOP Progressives and Moderates to think about this. I also implore them to watch or record and watch an hour of floor debate in the US House and two hours of floor debate in the US Senate (because Senators can employ the old-school “talking filibuster”)….

    You will notice, very quickly, that the two parties take diametrically opposite tacks….while the Democrats largely tell the truth and facts plus employ logic, reason and common sense, the GOP do the exact opposite….Fascist “gaslighting” propaganda….BS…talking points…outright lies. I find now that I can’t watch more than five minutes of floor debate in the US House on CSPAN before I get so disgusted with the Fascist GOP propaganda and I have to change the channel. It’s that bad, GOP Progressives and Moderates. Remember that the GOP started that Fascist “gaslighting” propaganda campaign in 1920 to get women to vote for them, as women had finally received the right to vote. When you vote for the GOP, you suborn their Fascist ideology/activities and prove their leaders, the rich, old white male Cons, to be correct when those Cons call you “Useful Idiots”.

    • Allan Richardson

      There are two types of Republican voters: millionaires and suckers.

      • Louis Allen

        Allan: You are talking about the Dems: Soros/Buffet and Biden/Pelosi.

        • jmprint

          No he was talking about the Tea Party GOP Suckers or millionaires. Either way it’s all about greed.

          • Louis Allen

            No, jmprint, he wastalking about the Dems: Soros/Buffet and Biden/Pelosi.
            This should have been obvious to you, …. but apparently it wasn’t ….

  • Louis Allen

    Hiaasen: It’s “least worse” (not “least worst”), you dummy.

  • Allan Richardson

    I met Charlie Crist while taking a walk in St. Petersburg back when he was a staunch Republican (known as “Chain Gang Charlie” for pushing to reopen the chain gangs of old), but I found out he was not an UNREASONABLE Republican. He did not personally believe in the more extreme ideas which were in the air, but had not totally taken over the GOP. As a state legislator, he did not argue for, but for the sake of party unity SOMETIMES voted for, the more conservative bills. As governor, he came to understand that the punitive stance of keeping civil rights from being restored after serving one’s sentence was racist (and classist, since poor white people were also less likely to get restoration without “connections”), and set up a nearly automatic process to expedite restoration without having to have a PERSONAL interview with the governor. As soon as he left office, Rick Scott (who would not have been able to VOTE if they could have gotten the evidence to prove he was behind his company’s Medicare fraud) TOOK DOWN Crist’s procedures and, unless there was a rich guy or two who did not get reported in the media, refused to consider ANY restoration petitions.

    Crist is a decent fellow who had been raised as an old school (Eisenhower) Republican, ran for the legislature and governor as one of them, but increasingly found himself alone among people so far right that Reagan and Goldwater would have been called “liberals” by them. He lost the Republican primary for the Senate to Marco Rubio, an extreme right wing fanatic, which was why he ran as an independent, knowing that the Democrat would have no chance in the Tea Party wave. And although he had hoped that the governorship would go to the Democrat Alex Sink, since she was more competent, Scott prevailed because (a) voters who actually voted were Tea Party crazed and would not vote for ANY Democrat (or even independent), and (b) his money drowned out concern for his crooked past. So now, Crist is running in the only party which still has any modicum of common sense and ethical sense, that is, as a Democrat.

    • midway54

      Well said and most accurate. I was an Eisenhower moderate Republican. When Reagan and his gang showed up I registered as an Independent and have been one since then, but do lean progressive especially in light of the teabagger crazies and the redneck dupes who are reliable pawns of the plutocrats Scott and West and Rubio owe their election to the said crowd who are concentrated mostly north of I-4 in Florida, which region is an annex to Alabama and Mississippi especially, and all of us know what kind of crackpot mentalities dominate in those pathetic States as mirrored by the characters they send to Washington to serve the needs of the wealthiest in the Nation. Scott must go this time (West mercifully lasted one two year term and is at home at Fox) and the opportunistic hack Rubio needs to go in 2016.

  • Sand_Cat

    The question is: do the Florida [non-]voters deserve someone as bad as Scott? It would seem the answer is yes, much as I’d like to see him go down.