Op-Ed

The Rick and Charlie show

MCT

The Rick and Charlie show. Or the Charlie and Rick Show, if you prefer. Whoever gets top billing — and that’s a dubious honor — it’s almost over. Ovah! And not a moment too soon.

We want our TVs back — without the non-stop, mind-numbing political ads. We want the robo calls to stop. We want our email free of candidates begging for money and our snail mail free of political flyers. Most of all, we want some relief from the unceasing personal attacks by one candidate or the other. Gov. Scott, especially, seems incapable of speaking about any issue without beginning with a scathing put-down of “Charlie.”

Charlie’s references to “Rick,” while less frequent, are scarcely better. Both spit out the other’s first name like an epithet. It's gone well beyond dislike, they’re into contempt.

It seems inconceivable that any voter hasn’t yet made up his or her mind, but the polls say there are some. If you’re among the undecideds, here are some reminders about how deeply different these guys are.

Scott was born poor and became immensely wealthy. Crist was born into a well-to-do family (his father’s a doctor who still practices in his 80s) and has always lived comfortably. He doesn't care much about money. Scott cares a lot. He’s put his extensive holdings in a blind trust that appears to have one eye open. Scott sounds angry when he talks about Crist’s lucky affluence and somewhat shrill when he recounts his own family’s financial struggles. Ironically, it appears most poor folks don’t relate to Scott, but feel right at home with Crist.

Charlie has the common touch and is perfectly at ease throwing an arm around the shoulder of a working guy he’s just met or hugging the man’s wife. Those same people have trouble warming up to Scott, whose social skills are limited. Scott regularly tells them Charlie only pretends to care about them and that he truly does — except when it comes to pay. Scott says the idea of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour makes him “cringe.” Charlie’s all for it. Of course, as his critics like to say, Charlie’s never signed the front of a paycheck, only the back.

Scott is all business. Really, that’s it, his entire focus. It’s Florida, Inc., Rick Scott chairman and CEO. Encouraging companies to relocate to Florida or stay here and hire takes up much of his time. He vows to create the “best business atmosphere in the county” by providing tax incentives and cutting government regulations. But he’s cut more than just regulations. He dismantled the state agency that managed growth, castrated the state Dept. of Environmental Regulation and defunded the state water management districts. His recent appointment to the state Public Service Commission was disastrous.

Cozying up to the state’s business community has never been a priority for Crist, although he did take some foreign trade junkets — including one to the U.K. that set records for extravagant spending. Charlie likes to travel first class. But so does Scott in his private jet, technically owned by his wife, and flown at their expense. Unlike previous governors, however, Scott refuses to make his flight plans public or reveal who travels with him. Transparent he is not. He is suing to stop Google from making public his private email account where it looks like he has transacted state business. He says he hasn’t.

What does Charlie Crist care about? First, about himself and ever advancing to higher office. Don’t forget that he's running to return to the job he could have easily kept had it not been for his o’erweening ambition to be a U.S. senator in 2010. That’s when he was a Republican, after which he became an independent, then a Democrat. Consistency, thy name is not Charlie. Except when it comes to his populist philosophy. He has consistently embraced a populist ethos.

Unfortunately, he has also embraced a number of people in politics who’ve subsequently gone to prison: Scott Rothstein, the Ponzi schemer; Jim Greer, who Charlie anointed as chairman of the state Republican Party; Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, the Hollywood ophthalmologist who bragged that he could pull Charlie’s strings.

More examples of who both men are and how they operate are beside the point. And we haven’t even mentioned Columbia/HCA, the hospital chain Scott built into one of the largest in the nation and which prospered in part because it systematically overbilled Medicare. Scott says he “takes responsibility” for what happened. But he accepts none of the blame. Charlie lamely says he didn't have a crystal ball to foresee the criminal problems some of his buddies would have.

So there you are. It’s a heck of a choice. A mechanistic businessman who cares not a whit about social justice or a charming chameleon who’s a career politician. Good luck to them. And us.

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