As far as Republican governors go, Charlie Crist appears to be a pretty good guy.
He comes across as fair, smart, even-handed and independent in his thinking, and he has even broken ranks with conservatives from time to time to do what he perceives to be the right thing.
And while he doesn’t support gay marriage or gay adoption, he has publicly supported gay civil unions, which, socially, pretty much puts him miles ahead of the majority of his Republican colleagues.
That said, sometimes good people do bad things.
He encouraged the Republican-controlled Florida legislature to pass a bill that would move Florida’s presidential primaries to January, a date that broke the rules set by both the Republican and Democratic National Committees.
Now he demands that the people of Florida not be disenfranchised as a result of that decision, making Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist is the hypocrite of the week.
As a result of the Florida legislature’s vote to move the date of the state’s primary up to January in an attempt to give Florida voters a greater role in choosing the president of the United States, both the RNC and the DNC imposed harsh sanctions on the delegates selected in the state’s primary.
While the RNC said it would seat only half of the delegates chosen in the Florida primary, the DNC took an even harsher line, saying that it would seat none.
Those were the rules, and Governor Crist and the Florida legislature were well aware of the potential implications of their bold move.
This week, Governor Crist made the rounds, appearing on CNN and other news outlets, making the case that the voters from Florida should have their voices heard at their respective conventions this summer.
“We want them all to be seated because democracy matters. … The people should be heard,” Crist told MSNBC.
Joining Crist in this chorus was Republican U.S. Representative Adam Putnam, who told CNN:
“It’s pretty ironic that here we are in 2008 and the Democratic Party is disenfranchising Florida voters.
“I’m just saying that they (voters) deserve to have their voices heard. Florida voters voted; Florida delegates have been selected; and I would hope they’d allow their voices to be heard.”
What is particularly interesting about all of this is that neither Governor Crist nor Representative Putnam acknowledges the role they played in creating this impasse.
While they both attack Howard Dean and the DNC, encouraging the Dems to seat Florida’s delegates because it’s “the right thing to do,” neither fundamentally admits that perhaps the right thing to do for the people of Florida was to not break the rules in the first place.
Adding more intrigue to this debacle is that Governor Crist, a McCain supporter and potential Vice-Presidential candidate, is throwing his weight behind the idea of having the results of the Democratic primary, which Hillary Clinton won by an astounding 17 points, stand.
Though he has said that he will support a do-over of the Democratic primary if the DNC can find a way to cover the estimated $25 (£12.4m) million cost, he has also consistently said that he feels such a move would be unnecessary.
“Well, ideally we want the votes that were already cast to be counted. That’s just the logical thing to do,” Crist told CNN on Thursday.
“On January 29 we had a record turnout for both Republicans and Democrats in Florida.
“The argument (we) are making is that the people of our respective states voted. They cast that precious right.
“They made their voice heard. And those delegates who represent them should be seated at both conventions.”"
Crist’s support for having the Florida Democratic primary votes stand is curious for several reasons.
First, while it has been widely speculated that Republicans feel they have a better chance of winning the White House in November if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, there have also been not so public rumblings that Republicans are secretly more fearful of a Barack Obama win in a general election in November than they are of a win by Clinton, despite the disdain they have for her.
So is this move by Crist, no matter how nobly stated, motivated more by politics than anything else? Perhaps.
Along those same lines, it almost feels as though Crist is having a bit of fun with Democrats who are still smarting over the 2000 election in Florida, where charges were made that not every vote counted.
Since the prospect of the DNC not recognising delegates from Florida first reared its head, Republican pundits have been salivating over the idea that the Democrats, of all people, might discount votes from the fourth largest state in the country.
This massive press assault by Republicans over the Democrats’ delegate conundrum in Florida will likely provide talking points for John McCain during the convention and throughout his campaign, which is perhaps another motivation for the attention that is suddenly being paid to Florida’s delegates.
Finally, and most interestingly, Florida State Senator Nan Rich told the Sun-Sentinel that one idea kicking around the Capitol is to force the national parties’ hands by passing legislation requiring each to recognise Florida’s delegates or see their presidential candidate kept off the November ballot.
Such a move would be devastating to Democrats.
Since John McCain is already the Republican nominee, it wouldn’t matter one wit for the Republicans to seat all of Florida’s delegates at the Republican National Convention, especially given that McCain won the state anyway.
For Democrats however, talk of the possibility, no matter how slight, that their candidate will not be on the November ballot in Florida, a pivotal swing state in any general election, is not the kind of threat any party leader should take lightly.
Losing Florida for the Democrats could automatically guarantee a win for John McCain.
So because he may actually be playing politics with his latest demand that Florida’s delegates be seated by the DNC and because he is actually responsible for triggering the chain of events that created the very state of affairs he now challenges so vocally, Governor Charlie Crist is the hypocrite of the week.
Duane Wells © 2008 GayWired; All Rights Reserved.