Disgrace is the only word apt to describe Governor Charlie Crist these days. After being passed up as John McCain’s VP choice, perhaps the apex of his political success, Crist decided to abandon running for reelection for the governorship of Florida, a position he would likely have won easily. Instead, Crist continued a lifelong power-grab, running for the US Senate seat vacated by retired Senator Mel Martinez. However, the governor’s smooth ride to Washington and short-list for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination was abruptly sidelined by the insurgent Marco Rubio. Crist’s initial popularity and portrayal as a moderate Republican, willing to buck the party establishment has evaporated into a representation as a conviction-less, policy-lite, flip-flopper. Now, rumors that Governor Crist will leave the party Arlen Specter/Joe Lieberman-esque, and run as an independent in the upcoming Senate elections only solidify his reputation as a complete pol with no regard for loyalty.
Governor Crist will undoubtedly point to his infamous “hug” with President Obama, backin early 2009, when the President was campaigning for his massive stimulus program. Then, Crist was seen as a pragmatic Republican, willing to compromise and work with the popular President. Crist will say that the Charlie Crist’s winning smile Republican Party as moved too far to his right leaving him no choice but to run on his own mantle. In some ways this does look plausible, as Marco Rubio has shot up the top ranks of the Republican Party from obscurity, buoyed by support from the fledgling Tea Party movement and early endorsements from conservative leaders like Mike Huckabee and Jim DeMint. Yet, Crist’s cataclysmic fall in popularity among conservatives in Florida is far more a demonstration of his failure to demonstrate solid convictions, than crazy extremist right-wingers. Recently, perhaps in preparation for his independent bid, Crist vetoed a Republican-backed education reform bill that would have removed the system of tenure for Florida public school teachers and instituted performance based salaries. Such a bill had been the brainchild of former Governor Jeb Bush, and subject to countless compromises, and the veto clearly demonstrated again political expediency over conviction.
Fortunately for Floridians, a Crist independent run would probably only further damage his reputation. The country needs genuine leadership to tackle the issues of a growing budget deficit, runaway entitlement spending and vast socioeconomic divide. From what we have seen from Charlie Crist, he may shine well in the spotlight, but when it comes putting the people of Florida first, he has failed.
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