Friday, November 6, 2009

On Second Thought--About Charlie Crist

In a comment I made on a recent post, I was a bit more generous to current Florida Governor Charlie Crist than I should have been. In the back of my mind, I seemed to remember some things from the past that should have guided me toward a less generous rating of "conservative" for the governor. So I started doing some background research, and am revising my position. It doesn't necessarily negate my position that once the primaries are over, the Florida Republicans should rally around the candidate, but at least I owe it to our readers to be a bit more exacting about Crist himself.

At this point, I must put him to the left-end of moderate, although I would still not go so far as to call him a RINO. Crist is in an early donnybrook for the Florida Republican nomination for Senator in 2010. At first a very popular governor among all stripes in the Republican Party, his image has taken some serious tarnishing recently. His biggest problem at this point is his major conservative opponent, Marco Rubio (pictured).

Crist's initial popularity had kept his favorable ratings in the mid to high sixties throughout the early phases of his term in office. But a recent poll taken by the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times/Bay News shows Crist's current favorable rating at just about 42%, while his fair to poor ratings total 51%. That is a bad sign for a potential Senatorial candidate who would partially count on his popularity as governor to propel him into the Senate.

His biggest and most obvious mistake (which I mentioned in that earlier comment) was his enthusiasm for Obama's stimulus package. Several Florida newspapers described his support for the stimulus to be "giddy." He described the package in glowing terms which more befit a Democrat who doesn't know how money works. For instance: "I think it's fantastic. Are you kidding me? We don't have to raise taxes. We might be able to cut property taxes some more. We have more money for education, so we can increase per-student spending. We can spend more money on our roads and infrastructures. We can provide health care for our people. I mean it's remarkable."

That statement shows that Crist very likely has no understanding how money is made, that it doesn't arrive from heaven even if the messiah says so, and that "free" money from Washington always turns out to be hideously expensive, in multiple ways. He genuinely seems to believe the utterly ridiculous reports coming out of the Obama administration about how many jobs the stimulus has created or "saved." Even as I'm writing this article, bigger and deeper holes are showing up in the administration's phony calculations.

And if that isn't bad enough, Crist has hung his hat on the idea that the stimulus slush funds will pay for about 12% of Florida's annual budget. The small problem is that he's built it into his own thinking about the Florida budget without realizing (or at least admitting) that the funds are non-recurring, and can change with the wind (and the actions of the best suck-ups). And in following his beliefs, he has presented himself to the Florida voters in political ads as a self-described fiscal conservative. If that's conservative, I'd hate to see a liberal.

Forbes Magazine went out if its way to criticize Crist's naivete. "Relying on short-term manna from Washington to take care of recurring expenses is remarkably similar to what that Italian guy, Ponzi, got into so much trouble over." Conservative columnist Geroge Will calls Crist a "populist chameleon." Most conservative commentators have pointed out that Crist seems to have an inordinate affection for the president. And recent ads air "the embrace" that Crist laid on Obama during a visit to Florida. It was close to soft gay porn. At an Obama appearance at Ft. Myers, Crist was on the podium with him to extol the stimulus package. The crowd heard the speaker's chant of "Yes, we can. Yes, we can." Only the chant was led by Crist, not Obama.

Crist took so much heat for his coziness with Obama, the he has now felt it politically necessary to avoid any connection with him at all. Obama has made a couple of more recent trips to Florida, and the governor was AWOL. That may also be in part attributable to the fact that their poll numbers are beginning to look amazingly similar. Last week, Obama paid another visit to Florida, and when asked about it, Crist actually told reporters that he didn't know the president was in the state--for two days. "Where was he" asked Crist. The reporters looked suspicious at best. So Crist backed up and said he actually knew Obama was in the state, but he didn't know what the president's specific itinerary was. That produced some rather loud laughter among the reporters.

Crist also recently avoided an Obama visit to the opening of a solar energy plant in Arcadia, which Crist had also enthusiastically supported. And in keeping the spirit of Obama hope and change, he had supported the crippling proposal that by using "renewable resources" the state should require that Florida utilities produce 20% of their electricity using those resources, soon. Now he's backing away from the proposal, seemingly not out of genuine conviction, but because he sensed that the euphoric wind of government control of everything was quickly becoming extremely unpopular.

Moreover, Crist has shown himself not to be the sunny good guy candidate who just wants the best for everyone. A website was recently set up to malign Marco Rubio called Rubio supporters quickly traced the site to a Crist supporter who claimed to have been out of town when this occurred, and didn't even know who Rubio is.

Rubio, on the other hand, continues to work hard on demonstrating his conservative bona fides. Crist is pro-gun and anti-abortion, and moderate on social issues. Rubio is conservative on every count. As Rubio has pointed out, "We don't need two Democratic parties. Conservatives don't need to apologize for or abandon their principles and beliefs in order to win elections." A recent Rasmussen poll shows that Rubio's brand of conservatism fits just fine with the Florida electorate in a general election. Crist is slightly ahead of the potential Democratic nominee, South Florida Congress Critter Kendrick Meek. But Rubio in the same matchup beats the Democrat by three points more than Crist.

Republicans in Florida are not going to miss the clear facts of the out-of-power party's victories in New Jersey and Virginia. Run an open and honest campaign as a conservative, address the moderates and independents with courage and respect, and keep the campaign consistent and true to its high principles. Rubio seems to fit that bill. After reviewing Crist's history, I'm not so sure of him. It seems likely that the Senate seat will go Republican in either case, so Floridians should continue to take a good hard look at the new kid on the block. Crist is rolling in campaign funds and Rubio runs short nearly every week. That should not be the final determinant. And if I'm right about Rubio, it's time for the big bucks folks to start helping him out. Crist cannot continue to pretend Rubio doesn't exist much longer.

A final note. It's strange how little things can cause someone to decide to re-evaluate an earlier, less carefully-reasoned position. That is exactly what happened to me. Late yesterday, Fox News showed a clip of an interview with Crist during which a reporter asked a genuine question about how conservative and tea partiers are calling Crist a non-conservative. Instead of bristling or responding with a serious answer, Crist laughed, raucously, for a long time. It was so inappropriate, and such an obvious attempt to demean anyone who would question his conservative credentials that for me, it had exactly the opposite affect from what he intended. At that point, I knew it was time to check Crist out. He ain't the conservative I had previously thought him to be. Sorry, Charlie, we want tunas that taste good.


StanH said...

I’ll do it Lawhawk, Crist is a RINO in convenient Conservative clothing. Just being a neighbor doesn’t make me an expert in Florida politics, but I am a customer of FL beaches, and have many family members having lived in FL, and still do. I’ll share one anecdote. When gas prices reached close to $5.00 a gallon Crist bravely stood in the way of drilling in the Gulf (30 miles off the coast). My wife, and I, with family, usually take two vacations a year to the Destin area a year, we cancelled both vacations, and informed the governors office as well as both FL. Senators why, we received letters, emails, etc. asking us to reconsider, to no avail. If Crist wins he will be a McCain lackey, I fear. Rubio needs a good look, and I think he’ll get one.

PS: Unemployment officially 10.2%! Well done Barry, thanks a pant load! The stimulus was nothing more than a government saving plan, that’s why Crist was so giddy.

Joel Farnham said...


While I don't think Crist is as far left as Scuzzy, I do think he is as close to RINO as could be determined. Remember that 80% Reagan spoke of? I would say he is about a 25%.

I expect more to be revealed in the coming months. With 10.2% unemployment, Florida Republicans will probably take a jaundiced look at Crist and his glad-hugging of Obama and remember NY23.

Tennessee Jed said...

Rubio would be my guy. I know all politicians see which way the wind blows to a certain extent, but it looks to me like Rubio is the more principled of the two, particularly since I am much more of a fiscal conservative than a social conservative.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, The more I've looked into Crist, the less I like. His lack of fiscal conservatism, which also apparently extends into raising a ton of "fees" and refusing to make any cuts in the state budget despite falling revenues, tells me that he doesn't truly think like a conservative. And the idea that he could rely on a one time federal gift to fund his budget (like Arnold in California) strikes me as fiscal insanity.

I don't buy the idea that many bloggers do that he shouldn't have met with the teachers union or shouldn't have hugged Obama -- those things aren't policy and don't matter -- but his policies have been troubling.

I would prefer Rubio.

Writer X said...

Any guy that changes his position depending on where the wind blows should be looked at with suspicion. I don't care what party he's from. Crist is a disappointment. Like McCain, he's only a Republican when he needs something.

patti said...

wonder if he'll be laughing like that when he finds himself unemployed by the hands of conservatives....

Unknown said...

StanH: Thanks for the info. It's always good to hear from people who are closer to the scene.

California and Florida have been fighting over which was the vacation paradise for decades. Now they're both fighting over which one is fiscal hell. Both states have Republican governors, but right now California is winning the latter dubious honor. Crist is going to have to fight hard to put Florida as far in the hole as Schwarzenegger has done in California.

Unknown said...

Joel: If I was as irritated by that raucous cackle of Crist's, I can imagine what the conservatives in Florida are feeling. It was the strangest declaration of war in politics that I've heard in years. On a par with Carter hiding in the Rose Garden while faking bravery by saying "I'll kick his ass."

Unknown said...

Tennessee: From what I know of Rubio so far, he'd be my choice as well.

Unknown said...

Andrew: That's exactly what motivated me. He's good at putting on the conservative "face," and until I started delving into his real record, I thought there was a bit of hysteria involved in criticisms of him. I'm now convinced otherwise. See? You can teach an old hawk new tricks.

Unknown said...

WriterX: I expect some reasonable flexibility from any good politician. But this guy is so flexible that he's bent backwards at the waist with both head and feet touching the ground at the same time.

Unknown said...

Patti: He forgot that you can only fool all of the people some of the time.

AndrewPrice said...

You know what's always a sure sign of danger? When they suddenly change all their positions as elections draw near.

Remember Dede in NY? When I first heard about her, I checked out her website. She seemed to share all of my views. . . making me wonder what the problem was. Then I read some articles and discovered that these were all NEW views for her, and that she's actually voted the other way on every one of them. Imagine that.

Unknown said...

Andrew: You're so right about that. Most politicians try to move more to the center at election time, but Scuzzyfatso and now it seems, Crist, went a whole lot farther than that. Like you with Dede, I had judged Crist solely by his big boo-boo over the stimulus. Turns out, that was just the tip of the iceberg. He's go a lot of 'splaining to do.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--I think the best word to describe Crist is "smarmy." He doesn't want to be too negative about anything, and he wants to be everybody's favorite politician.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: That's a good summation of his public persona. Privately, I'm not so sure.

I should write articles like this more often. I've barely ever given even a thought to Crist, and out of the blue what shows up on my e-mail this morning? A "dear friend" solicitation from Crist to attend some event or other in Florida. I wouldn't show up in Sacramento for an event with Ahnuld, and now I'm supposed to hop on a plane for Florida? I'm sure Crist's was sent to his 4,500,000 closest friends.

Individualist said...

Christ is an unfortunate result of too many liberal Yankies moving into South Florida. There has always been an ironic friction between North and South Florida in that South Florida was more "Northern" in its outlook and North Florida more "Southern" politically speaking.

The Cuban majority is still there but the younger Cubans are now less in number. There is still I beleive a strong Republican presence in South Florida but it unfortunately has the more Rino like appeal of Northern states in some areas. I see this as a big struggle for the soul of the party down here and it is what allowed Al Gore to come so close to begin with.

My first qualms about Crist was when a women from a State chapter of some Gay organization was stating that she was not seeking to "out" Crist for being gay because although a Republican he had the correct opinions on issues important to the Alternative Lifestyle community which included issus outside of Gay marriage. (Whatever that means). This was directly after he was first elected governor. I heard it on local news, I don't remeber where.

I thought the whole conversation really strange especially since what should one's politics have to do with whether or not you would "out" them.

As a Floridian I want to thank you for this post LawhawkSF.

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