Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has been called many things: a turncoat, a phony, an opportunist and more. But now that the one-time Republican Crist is campaigning to become the Sunshine State's chief executive — this time as a Democrat — it looks like he's trying to add a new title to his résumé: partisan bomb-thrower.
That, at least, is the impression one gets after reading of the usually mild-mannered Crist's recent comments on his successor and rival, incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Scott.
Rather than describe Scott as a good man who just happens to be wrong on the issues (a favorite line of campaigning politicians who worry about scaring off Independents and weak partisans with sharp-edged rhetoric) Crist has opted instead to take a slash-and-burn approach, describing Scott as a dishonest operator who is beholden to those on the ideological fringe.
"Governor Scott has led like this: embrace the ideological fringe, take care of his friends, bully his opponents, hide from the public and the press, and run from tough issues," Crist said of his likely future opponent while at an event held by the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, a bipartisan group that counts many of Florida's more powerful residents as members.
"It shouldn't come as a surprise," he continued. "He's already run ads that independent fact-checkers are calling misleading and false. But what does Rick Scott do? He keeps on running them because the truth means little to Rick Scott."
Citing the legal troubles Scott got into during his tenure as CEO of Columbia/HCA, Crist also said Scott made "hundreds of millions of dollars of money" because "[he] stole from poor, sick people." When Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA, the company was found guilty of inflating Medicare bills and was forced to pay nearly $2 billion in fines.
Crist went on to lambaste Scott for his economic policies, which he described as, "flying around in [his] your private plane and holding press conferences and giving away taxpayer money to [his] buddies," as well as his education policies. Scott "cares so little" about education, Crist said, "that he didn't even come to his own education summit — though he did find the time to go to the Tea Party conventions that same week."
More from the Sun-Sentinel (via HuffPo):
Besides the tone, Crist's speech was unusual in that he put on his glasses and read a prepared text for the first two-thirds of the 23-minute speech. It's only the second time since Crist announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor on Nov. 4 that he's read his remarks, something he said later he did because he had a lot to say about Scott and wanted to make sure he got it all correct.
Another unusual feature: The Scott campaign dispatched Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera to sit in the audience so he'd be on hand to offer an immediate rebuttal to reporters.
Lopez-Cantera said he was there because people "deserve to hear the truth.
"His entire speech was attacking and insulting Governor Scott, peppered with platitudes about how great things would be if he was governor," Lopez-Cantera said. "Most of his speech was divisive attacks. And a lot of the things he said just aren't true."