The Lowe Down

Category: 2010 Campaign (44)

Chan Lowe: Rick Perry waits in the wings


Remember Fred Thompson? He was one of the conservatives’ great hopes, too. He had swagger. He also boasted impeccable credentials, having played a Manhattan district attorney on Law & Order for several years. As it turned out, once he was on the stump he didn’t have much gravitas. His bid lasted about 48 hours before fizzling out. Just the other night, I saw him selling reverse mortgages in a TV ad. Guess he has enough gravitas for that.

Now, I ain’t sayin’ Rick Perry is as much of a lightweight as ol’ Fred, but when someone poised to make the plunge is surrounded by that much buzz, it’s hard for any mere mortal to live up to the hype. Maybe Perry isn’t a mere mortal. Maybe he really is God’s candidate, just like he believes himself to be.

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Chan Lowe: No tea for Marco Rubio, thank you


Marco Rubio’s no fool. Florida’s freshman senator was a familiar face in state politics, and a leader in the legislature, long before the Tea Party reared its tri-corned head on the national scene.

His fiscal conservatism was a natural attraction for the Tea Party, and when they decided to adopt him as their poster boy, he was more than delighted to surf the wave that would drive newly-converted moderate Charlie Crist out of the Republican primary race and then go on to swamp him when he tried to run as an Independent With Name Recognition.

Now that Sen. Rubio is happily settling into the cushions of his senate office chair, he has decided (as they all do) that it’s a pretty cushy gig and he’d like to stay on for a few terms. This is why it should be no surprise that when certain senate Tea Partiers called their first caucus meeting, Rubio conspicuously included himself out.

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Chan Lowe: Hypocrisy in the Tea Party


It’s heartwarming to see that, even though the new House majority is supposed to be heralding a return to America’s philosophical roots as the Founding Fathers intended, good old-fashioned hypocrisy hasn’t gone out of vogue.

The Tea Party representatives appear to have found their places in the Washington minuet without too much trouble, hiring lobbyists to run their staffs and staging campaign debt retirement functions at fancy venues where checks are written and ears are bent.

The question, “Will they change Washington or will Washington change them?” was answered even before the swearing-in.

I’m sure the lobbyists/chiefs of staff, hired because “they know the ways of government,” view their naïve new bosses as rough clay waiting to be sculpted in their expert hands.

There are news stories that rank-and-file Tea Partiers out in the boondocks plan to keep up the heat on their new champions, to make sure they continue to uphold the principles they campaigned on. They’re going to call, email, even drop by for a visit.

Here’s some advice for them: Don’t waste your time. All those Mr. Smiths you just sent to Washington may not realize it yet, and you may not realize it either, but they stopped representing you the moment they arrived on the banks of the Potomac.

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Chan Lowe: Advice for Allen West


Congratulations to Allen West for clobbering incumbent Democrat Ron Klein in the Florida Dist. 22 Congressional race last week.

It already sounds like Col. West is going to hit establishment Washington like a sledgehammer, having made his first order of organizational business the appointment of a local conservative radio talk show host as his chief of staff.

Col. West might be wise to remember that while he is on his libertarian crusade to change the way Washington works, the people of his district are more concerned with bread-and-butter issues than with Taking Their Country Back.

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Chan Lowe: Post-election reality check


My favorite period of any election cycle is the first few days after the polls have closed and the outcome is decided, when the party that won drops the façade and begins carefully recalibrating its campaign rhetoric to reflect reality.

This is when we find out how they really plan to use their newfound “mandate,” and what they admit that they can’t possibly do and never really thought they could but didn’t want to tell us until it was too late to take our votes back.

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Chan Lowe: Welcome, Governor-elect Rick Scott


The election’s over, and Rick Scott bought it fair and square. The people have spoken, and now it’s time for the people to find out whom they voted for.

Gradually, and in the fullness of time, Governor-elect Scott’s actions will reveal insights into his true nature. So far, he has done a pretty good job of veiling his character, but from now on, he will be under a microscope.

He has told us that as chief executive of Columbia/HCA, he knew nothing of the practices of the company he headed that culminated in its paying one of the largest fines ever for defrauding Medicare. As I’ve said before, he’s either rewriting history or he was an incredibly incompetent chief executive…take your pick. Whichever you believe, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for running a sprawling organism like state government.

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Chan Lowe: Republican victory


Reduce the deficit! Halt runaway spending! Starve the beast! Shrink government! It’s time to take our country back!

All lovely-sounding slogans, designed to snag votes. Something that House Speaker-elect Boehner and the rest of the Republican establishment know, however, is that actually making good on the exhortations is a much tougher proposition than shouting them out from the cheap seats.

We have learned from this election that in these times of extreme hardship, the American people are nothing if not impatient. It doesn’t matter who got us into the mess, it only matters that two years have passed since the last election and things aren’t getting better.

The Republicans and their Tea Party wing did an admirable job of getting themselves elected without having to delve into specifics. Let’s face it, there are two ways to reduce the deficit: raising revenue and lowering expenditures.

Since a Republican House will never raise taxes, that leaves cutting programs (the part they avoided talking about during the campaign). The military and national security are off the table, they tell us, so that leaves…

Social Security? Can’t cut people already getting it, or even people who are old enough to smell it. They’ve all paid into the system already. Young people? How can you expect them to keep paying in if you welsh on their future benefits?

Medicare? “Huh, whassat? We’re gonna have to start paying for Grandma’s dialysis? NO WAY, BOZO!”

And--finally--earmarks, which amount to almost nothing compared to the rest of the budget, anyway. “You mean we ain’t gonna get that civic center (or fairgrounds, or underpass, or highway spur) our congressman promised us after all?!!? We’re votin’ Democrat next time!”

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker…and our condolences.

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Chan Lowe: Political attack ads


Some of the races around the country are predicted to be so close that there’s a good chance we’ll be treated to some post-season recount ugliness.

Here in Florida, for example, we’re anticipating a cliffhanger between the two gubernatorial candidates, Alex Sink and Rick Scott.

When it comes to recount strategy, Floridians have fond memories of Bush v. Gore, when the Republicans showed us that prevailing in a recount is not just a battle of numbers, but of winning hearts and minds through a strategy of shaping the argument and creating the perception of inevitability.

Back in 2000, Poppy Bush called in the family consigliere, James Baker, to arrive in Tallahassee to mastermind the post-campaign campaign, which he did with his usual efficiency. It seemed as though he had his legal and public relations machinery up and smoothly running before the Gore campaign could even figure out where to find Tallahassee on a map. His operation didn’t come cheap.

There’s no reason to believe that, after blowing so much of his own money already, Scott won’t be delighted to finance a protracted post-election battle out of his own pocket if he comes up a vote or two short.

Which makes one wonder why he would spend $73 million to buy a job whose salary is only in the low six figures in the first place. Maybe $73 million doesn’t mean as much to the fabulously wealthy as it does to you and me, particularly when it comes to running a vanity campaign.

If that’s so, why do the über-wealthy fight tooth and nail to hang onto their piece of the Bush tax cuts? Whether they keep it or not isn’t going to affect what brand of champagne they order to wash down their next meal.

I’m getting off topic. Nevertheless, it bears some thought.

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Chan Lowe: Dems kneecap Kendrick Meek


Lest Florida manage to make it through an entire election cycle without some unique distinction, we have Bill Clinton’s eleventh-hour effort to talk Kendrick Meek into abandoning his senate candidacy to ensure that our state once again makes national news.

This goes beyond cynical. Political parties exist to enable the election of candidates who espouse the principles for which they stand. Using this criterion, there is no more faithful Democrat in the U.S. Senate race, from any state, than Kendrick Meek. Besides, he's been laying the groundwork for his candidacy for years, traveling the length and breadth of Florida and giving it his all.

Now comes Meek’s old friend and mentor Bill Clinton, taking him aside and recommending that he quit because he doesn’t have enough money to win.

Never mind that the national Democratic Party machine shorted the Meek campaign from the beginning because it didn’t have faith in his viability; the real crime here is that Clinton comes at the behest of erstwhile Conservative Republican (now Moderate Wet Noodle) Charlie Crist, who uses as his rationale the threat that if Meek doesn’t bow out and throw his support to Charlie, it ensures a victory by the hated Marco Rubio.

So the national party is willing to throw one of its own to the wolves in order to protect its majority in the Senate.

Here’s why this little caper is not only cynical but naive: It presupposes that Charlie Crist, who is rumored to have secretly assured the Dems that he would caucus with them, can be trusted to keep his word if elected. Anyone familiar with Charlie’s history can safely assume that he will caucus with whichever party gives him the better deal in terms of committee chairmanships and access to power.

Kendrick was wise to turn Clinton down. Only he seems to know that the Democrats have nothing to lose in standing by their man.

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Chan Lowe: A Florida Halloween horror


I heard an interesting theory during our daily editorial board meeting this morning about why Rick Scott is doing so well in his race for governor against Alex Sink, despite the mountain of negative baggage the man carries around.

According to this theory, Charlie Crist is to blame. Evidently, when Charlie—way back during the primary season—forsook the Republican Party because he was losing to Marco Rubio in the polls, he so enraged the GOP rank and file for caving in to his own opportunism that they’re turning out in angry droves to vote for Rubio.

They’re going to teach the tanned turncoat a big fat lesson, and while they’re in the voting booth, full of venom, they’re going to vote Republican down the line, whether they’ve heard of Scott’s complicated past involving Medicare fraud or not…or whether they even care.

This is as plausible a scenario as any I’ve heard. It’s amazing that Scott has been able to get away with doing no editorial board interviews with any Florida newspaper, and refuses to comment on his past when asked, as if voters are being impertinent for wanting to know. His feet have never been held to the fire over his failure to provide tough, specific answers to the question of how he would balance the state’s budget.

He’s a pig in a poke. Nobody is saying that Alex Sink is any Lawton Chiles, but at least she has some experience in government. Are Floridians really ready to hold hands and jump off the cliff with this guy?

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Chan Lowe: The failed "invisible" border fence


If the idea of a high-tech “invisible” border fence was to keep furriners off the property on the cheap and to do so without prompting embarrassing comparisons to the Berlin Wall, it appears to have failed on both counts.

The fifty-three-mile-long boondoggle did, however, manage to funnel practically a billion dollars into the hands of contractors like the Boeing Corporation, so not everybody went away unhappy.

It seems the electronic surveillance equipment is unable to differentiate between trespassing aliens and ordinary ground clutter.

It makes one pine for an old-fashioned, inexpensive, low-tech solution—like the heart-stirring vision of Black Jack Pershing and George Patton galloping across the border at the head of a column of YOO-nited States Cavalry. You can bet your government-issue horse blanket they were able to differentiate between Pancho Villa’s band of desperadoes and ordinary ground clutter.

The romance of the American West aside, many of us would prefer a “real” fence along the entire border. The problem is that, while providing the visceral satisfaction of catching would-be border-violators in the act of scaling it like cockroaches trying to get out of a bathtub, it’s a budget-buster and doesn’t work all that much better than the “virtual” one, anyway.

Maybe the better solution would be to put into effect an incorruptible guest-worker ID program, and to place heavy penalties on businesses that employ illegals under the table.

In other words, eliminate the incentive.

Nah… “Fix the danged fence!” makes for a much better sound bite in campaign ads… right, Sen. McCain?

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Chan Lowe: Buying the midterm election


The American body politic⎯quiescent, even oblivious in normal times⎯is restless and fearful due to economic uncertainty. In its currently aroused state, it has become prey to cynical self-interested forces. When people are angry, they are easily led.

For example, if it is a tenet of faith of one particular group that climate change is a myth, it makes sense that shadowy petrochemical plutocrats, who have so much to lose from environmental regulation, would give behind-the-scenes financial support, through patriotic-sounding front organizations, to candidates who espouse a laissez-faire regulatory philosophy (To the big money backers, all that Libertarian stuff about individual rights and Second Amendment gospel are window dressing. Being billionaires, they can simply buy all the rights they want).

Their shills in the media and in politics, all of whom have so much to gain, willingly spread the party line (As Deep Throat said, “Follow the money”). Their legions of listeners hunger for easy answers, which are cheerfully supplied in large helpings.

In the final days before the midterm elections, President Obama is playing catch-up, campaigning hither and yon to defend and explain his vision for the country. He and his party might not be in such a jam today if they had taken the trouble to do the plodding grunt-work of repetitive indoctrination from the beginning.

His opponents certainly did.

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Chan Lowe: Is The Donald running for president?


As a cartoonist, I heard the news that The Donald was considering a run for the presidency with alacrity. Politics have become all too ugly and cutthroat of late, and the introduction of some comic relief would be welcome. The nation desperately needs it

When I say “comic,” I’m not talking about the bad stand-up material of John Boehner’s, Sharron Angle’s, Rand Paul’s or Christine O’Donnell’s irresponsible statements, which are both oblivious and dangerous. I’m talking about a man who would view the undertaking with a sense of self-aware bemusement; as another hobby with prospects of success, like his Apprentice franchise. Above all, you know the man would have fun, and that he would do his best to bring the rest of us along for the ride.

You may remember that The Donald ran for president way back in 2000. His short-lived campaign was eclipsed by the Bush v. Gore post-electoral debacle, but I got at least one good cartoon out of him then, and fervently hoped that someday, our flamboyant Palm Beach resident would once again consider throwing his toupee into the ring.

Besides, even if it were only offered on pay-per-view, I would drop everything to watch one of those pre-primary group televised debates just to hear Trump turn to the former governor of Alaska and say, “Sarah, you’re fired!”

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Chan Lowe: Christine O'Donnell's witchcraft denial


The media, both “lamestream” and proprietary, have it wrong when they use the term “anti-incumbent fervor.” The words aren’t specific enough to properly convey the mindset of a large proportion of this year’s voters.

The ire directed at current officeholders is really more of a resentment that there seems to be an entitled class of rulers, of beltway-savvy elites who don’t connect with the fears and aspirations of your average Wal-Mart shopper. The anger at government is about the distance that has grown between it and the people from whom it used to derive its legitimacy, before it fell into the clutches of special interests and individual self-interest.

The Democrats think they’re onto something by highlighting the zany comments of some of the wilder right-wing candidates as way of slapping lethargic voters upside the head.

This strategy could well backfire. Average Americans⎯upon hearing that someone dabbled in witchcraft, doesn’t believe in evolution, or thinks that government shouldn’t be telling a private business owner that he is required to allow minorities into his store⎯may respond by saying, “Yeah, by golly! I can identify with that!”

Best to ride it out. Let the nation have its convulsion at the polls, then sit back and enjoy the show. You think these candidates look clumsy on the stump? Wait until they galumph into the halls of congress, and are forced to confront the intricate, exhausting, inglorious and unlovely process of actually trying to run a government.

Who knows? They might even take a cue from one of their greatest avatars, throw up their hands and quit in the middle of their terms.

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Chan Lowe: The Republican deficit reduction hoax


They must think we voters are stupid, and maybe we are.

Poll after poll shows that when Americans are asked what bothers them the most about their government, it’s that it’s too big and it’s spending too much. Running up debt to China that our children will have to pay. We gotta rein the sucker in somehow.

Then these same Americans are asked what government programs they’d like to do without. Social Security? Hold on a minute! I paid in to that. They can’t steal it from me now. Medicare? What, and make me cough up for Granny’s doctor appointments? Obamacare? Gotta say, I like the sound of that preexisting conditions stuff. Unemployment benefits? Not if I’m the one who’s out of a job. Et cetera.

On top of that, we all want to extend the Bush tax cuts. Some have even bought into the idea that if we extend them for the rich as well, they won’t bank the difference or buy an Italian yacht with it, but instead will plow the loot back into jobs (maybe they’ll hire an extra couple of undocumented landscape workers to tend their estates).

The goal, for those who tease us irresponsibly with notions of reducing the deficit, is to somehow glide through election season without having to divulge the truth: that it can’t be done without pain, and a lot of it.

They know that if they really begin to do everything they say, voters will scream bloody murder as their favorite handouts get gouged. They’ll take it out on the perpetrators next time around anyway, so why tell them the truth now?

Better yet, once the elections are over, why do anything meaningful at all? That deficit stuff was all just rhetoric; any smart person ought to know that. The ones spouting it certainly do. Stalling has worked pretty well for us up until now. Let's keep on kickin' that can down the road.

And, when all else fails, blame Obama. Twenty percent of Americans are willing to believe anything you say about him. That’s a good solid base to build on.

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Chan Lowe: Crist, Rubio, Meek..oh my!


It doesn’t hurt, once in a while, to say something nice about someone, which is what I am doing now.

I’m sure many readers aren’t even aware that George LeMieux is one of Florida’s two U.S. Senators. The other guy--the one who sounds like Foghorn Leghorn at slow speed--is Bill Nelson.

The reason you don’t know George LeMieux is that, once in office, he kept his head down and worked hard. Not for his reelection, because he came to Washington with the understanding that he was only a bench-warmer. Nevertheless, he took his role seriously.

That’s right…when Mel Martinez resigned back in August of last year, it was up to Gov. Charlie Crist to appoint a replacement. Since his own eyes were on the prize, who better but his loyal lieutenant, Mr. LeMieux, who could be counted on not to catch Potomac Fever and try to stay on instead of vacating the space for Charlie?

But that was back when Charlie was a shoo-in. Charlie was also a right-of-center Republican then, so naturally his appointee was somewhat conservative.

Sen. LeMieux visited with our editorial board earlier this year, and while I didn’t agree with many of his political stands, he struck me as a thoughtful, reasonable man. More important, he was that rare conservative who appeared to have humility and heart.

He gave us proof of that just last week, when he and the also retiring George Voinovich of Ohio broke ranks with the Republican “Just Say No” caucus to help pass a bill that would give tax breaks to small businesses and grease the skids for bank loans.

The Republicans, of course, were for this bill until Barack Obama came out in favor of it. Then they opposed it. Unfortunately for them, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn’t threaten LeMieux and Voinovich, because they each have one foot out the door.

So LeMieux voted for what he thought would be best for his country…not his party, not his own political ambitions.

What more could you ask for from a United States Senator?

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Chan Lowe: Wexler endorses Charlie Crist


Back when Robert Wexler represented my fellow Florida Congressional District 19 constituents in absentia, he was one of my favorite occasional targets.

I liked to give him some good-natured ribbing, portraying him as a reverse-carpetbagger who chose to reside in a cushy hurricane-free suburb in Maryland while paying lip service to the teeming and steaming condo communities back here in the hinterlands.

All that Robert (who used to list his in-laws’ place as his district home address until forced by embarrassing revelations to rent a Potemkin pad of his own) had to do was show up once a year before election day to press some flesh, while making sure that everybody’s government checks arrived on time.

I was sad to see him retire, sadder still when his mid-term retirement (to chase bigger bucks at a think tank) resulted in a special election to replace him that cost local taxpayers over a million dollars.

Fortunately for me, the holidays have arrived early this year. Robert has bestowed one last gift by briefly resurfacing in his old district to endorse famously former Republican Charlie Crist for the U.S. Senate.

The self-described Fire-Breathing Liberal has, for reasons of his own, chosen to shill for a man who, up until earlier this year, was quite the conservative.

You have to respect loyalty to old friends. It’s that kind of quality that makes Robert such a mensch.

I would guess that the Democratic candidate, Kendrick Meek, is using different words to describe him.

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Chan Lowe: Crist and the gay adoption ban


It really pains me to draw a cartoon like this. As I’ve said before, Charlie is a very nice guy.

Once he’s left a roomful of people upon whom he has worked his charm, everyone feels warm inside. Then they look around, and it dawns on them that there is no possible way all of them could have heard exactly what they wanted to hear.

In fact, they all heard very little, but it sure sounded good.

That’s the problem with Charlie. We’re electing a United States Senator here, not the toastmaster for a Jaycees banquet. We want our elected representatives⎯on occasion⎯to be statesmen, not just weak reeds who bend to every zephyr coming from the public opinion polls back home.

Sometimes real statesmen have to buck the trend. They have to see clearly into the future and vote their conscience, even if it may be politically harmful to their prospects.

And statesmen don’t tend to be nice guys. Lyndon Johnson didn’t get civil rights and Great Society legislation rammed through Congress by being a delightful dinner companion, although his so-called charm was his most terrifying quality. He did it by being the kind of S.O.B everyone loathed and feared.

Charlie doesn’t have to act all the time like he’s worthy of having his image added to Mt. Rushmore. I just wish he’d find some principles and stick to them for a while.

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Chan Lowe: Tea Party zealotry


If you want an example of the ultra-right’s ability to flex its newly-pumped-up muscle in the Republican Party, go no further than Karl Rove’s embarrassing about-face on Fox News last week.

When confronted with the improbable news that Christine O’Donnell had won the GOP primary against the party’s designated standard-bearer in Delaware, Rove put on his independent news analyst hat and used words like “unelectable” and “nutty” to describe her.

By the next day, he was extolling her virtues and claiming that his statements of 24 hours earlier amounted to an endorsement. Sometime in between, Rove had gotten The Word.

Rove, of all people. The “genius,” credited by no less a figure than W., himself, as being the architect of two presidential election victories. One of the party’s most powerful generals.

His problem now? That’s the old party. The party that may have been ruthless in politics, but still used reason as its compass when formulating its strategies.

The Republican establishment is stunned and scrabbling to regain its balance after last Tuesday. As the hierarchy dutifully lines up to support the deeply flawed O’Donnell (minus her primary opponent Mike Castle, to his credit), they must contemplate the new reality; that in today’s poisonous voting atmosphere, the more unqualified⎯even unbalanced⎯a candidate appears, the more attractive he or she becomes as the runaway vehicle that will crash its way right into the U.S. Capitol building.

The bitterest pill for the former power elite to swallow is that they know she owes them nothing, particularly after the smash-mouth language they used against her in support of Mr. Castle. That’s why they’re now pouring money into her campaign in hopes of righting the imbalance, and setting the hooks for controlling her later.

Good luck with that.

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Chan Lowe: Florida energy rebates fizzle


Maybe the most appropriate comment for this situation is the one made by Otter, the frat brother of the fat loser, Dorfman, in the classic movie Animal House:

“Face it, Dorfman,” he says as the boy looks over the smoking wreck of his older brother’s Lincoln after allowing his friends to use it for a road trip, “you f****d up. You trusted us!”

And “trusted” is what hundreds of people did when they went out to buy air conditioners and solar gear on the promise that the State of Florida would provide them with energy rebates to help defray the outlay.

Little did they know they would get caught up in a grudge match between outgoing governor Charlie Crist and a spurned Republican legislature bent on destroying his dream to become a United States Senator.

The arcane details are not that important—all we need to know is that ordinary citizens, as usual, are being used as pawns by state pols following their own petty and self-serving agendas.

Suffice it to say that if Charlie had remained a Republican and taken his chances in the primary, the legislature wouldn’t have dragged its feet in approving the use of federal funds for the rebates…a strategy designed to portray him as having gone back on his word.

So if you want to blame someone for this mess, blame the Tea Party. If they hadn’t supported Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate nomination, he probably wouldn’t have been able to mount such a strong campaign, thereby eclipsing the colorless Crist.

Charlie wouldn’t have bolted the party and gone rogue, and the legislature wouldn’t have sought revenge by punishing those who laid out their hard-earned bucks in good faith.

That was almost too easy.

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Chan Lowe: The Republican establishment takes it on the chin


“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

It's no longer the Republican Party of your father or grandfather. One has to laugh ruefully at the hubris of the mainstream GOP (conservative as it already is) in assuming it could co-opt the grassroots Tea Party movement and ingest it into the “big tent.”

This may end up looking more like the gnat wagging the party by its elephantine tail. Too late, the establishment turned on the upstarts and attacked them mercilessly, not realizing that every calumny leveled at them was tantamount to an endorsement in the eyes of angry primary voters.

The phenomenon defies all the standard, cynical political logic. These extremists can’t win in the general election, say the experts. Don’t people have any sense? Do they have a death wish?

The experts are playing by the wrong set of rules. Those who voted for the Tea Party candidates don’t care if they win, and they have no particular affection for the Republican Party in its current form. They would rather go down in defeat now, knowing that having flexed their muscles as an internal force, they will drag the party even further to the right the next time.

Eventually, Americans will be forced to vote for the new breed of conservatives because they have no other choice except (Horrors!) moderate Democrats. Moderate Republicans, practically extinct today, will have ceased to exist.

Then, both houses will be filled with members whose sworn oath it is not to cooperate with anyone who does not agree with them in every way.

You think we have gridlock now? In a few years, our current session of Congress will look like a Girl Scout sing-along by comparison.

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Chan Lowe: Rise of the Tea Party


None of this would be happening if we weren’t feeling economically insecure.

When people are fat and happy, they don’t care much about politics. Why fix something if it ain’t broke? As long as you are free to splurge on flat-screen TVs, iPads, SUVs and vacation getaways, then finance your sprees by taking out another mortgage on your house, you don’t sit around whining about having your constitutional liberties taken away.

If those halcyon days were still with us, Sarah Palin would be just a better-than-average-looking footnote in history, Glenn Beck would be calling high-school football games for a small-town radio station, and Barack Obama would be sailing toward reelection in 2012.

Our current national unrest is evocative of that experienced in the 1920s during the runaway inflation in Germany, when families brought their life savings to the market in a wheelbarrow to buy a loaf of bread.

In those days, the anger and frustration reached such a boiling point that every political party had its own paramilitary wing composed of thugs who went out to crack heads in the streets. It was only a matter of time before the frantic and demoralized populace tired of their weak central government’s lack of ability to maintain civil order and provide them with a basic living. They ultimately turned to someone who promised deliverance.

The irony, of course, is that in so doing they sacrificed every personal liberty they ever had.

In other words, it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs…in a much more far-reaching sense than merely determining which party might win a by-election in November.

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Chan Lowe: Charlie Crist, Independent


Here’s how the scenario could play out this November:

A cracker from North Florida goes to the polls and faces three choices for U.S. Senator. “Shux,” he exclaims. “Meek?!!? A black Democrat? Sounds a lot like that commie Muslim we already got in the White House. Marco Rubio? Wonder if he’s even legal. Guess I’ll go with Crist. He ain’t done nuthin’ to tick me off.”

A retiree from the I-4 Corridor votes in Tampa. “Charlie’s that kind of moderate we always appreciated back in Ohio. I wonder if the Democrats are even running anybody, not that I’d vote for him anyway.”

In South Florida, a gay man makes a tough decision. “My heart’s with Kendrick, but I’d just be throwing my vote away. Rubio’s plain scary. I guess there’s no choice but to go with Gov. Man Tan.” Meanwhile, a snowbird from Queens connects the arrows for Crist because he’s heard of him.

The state and national Democratic Parties, while not openly supporting Crist, at least refrain from attacking him. They know Meek is a non-starter, but they can’t afford to anger blacks, who might stay home and withhold their votes for Democrats altogether.

Governor Charlie thereby squeaks into office, defying the early prognostications. Now the man who coyly answered direct questions about which party he would join in the senate, saying, “I caucus with the people of Florida,” (open mouth here, insert finger, and make a gagging noise) is open for business.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, once all the national results are in, discovers he’s one vote shy of a Republican majority. The GOP has already won the House in a landslide, and he’s willing to sell his own mother into prostitution to make this a sweep.

He extends the olive branch to Charlie. “All is forgiven, welcome back to the fold, and here’s a juicy committee chairmanship as a peace offering from the Republican Party. We love you, Charlie. Always have.

“Now, I’m sure we can count on your vote to convict Obama once he’s been impeached by the house, can’t we?”

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Chan Lowe: Rick Scott, slobber baron


Politics is theater, as the saying goes. In the case of the Rick Scott for Governor of Florida campaign, we can interpret the expression as referring to actors who play leaders in public, but who neither mean nor believe the scripted words they utter.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Republican bigshots were pouring money into shoring up the faltering gubernatorial candidacy of Bill McCollum, the establishment candidate.

They financed attack ads focusing on the usurper Scott’s background as head of a health care company later found to have committed Medicare fraud. They asserted that the man was unfit to be governor.

How things change after a primary. It took a few days for the GOP leaders to recover from their drubbing, but then the wagons began to circle around the new star.

Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi and the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, was particularly egregious in casting aside the old, outdated script. “That’s all water under the bridge now,” he said when asked about his earlier statements attacking Scott.

Sure, that’s politics. It’s theater. But you wonder if these players ever truly mean anything they say, if they can deliver their words so convincingly and yet retract them with such facility when circumstances demand.

It also makes you wonder if there is anything so unacceptable in a candidate that the leadership would actually draw the line and not support him once he won the primary. Spousal abuse? Child porn? Embracing universal health care?

Bill McCollum, at least, has refused to do what’s expected of him and has not pivoted to support his party’s candidate, continuing to claim that the man is unfit.

Some would say he is being a sore loser. I say he's just a lousy actor. In this case, it's something to be proud of.

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Chan Lowe: Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin speak


There has been some delirious chatter in the wake of Glenn Beck’s March to Reclaim America’s Honor about a “dream” ticket involving him and the nation’s favorite Mama Bear.

Professionally speaking, I’m all for it. I don’t care who’s at the top of the ticket. What a gift such a candidacy would be for any cartoonist.

Unfortunately, it will never happen, for several reasons: first, the one I’ve alluded to in this cartoon, which is that there isn’t room on the same bumper sticker for these two enormous egos.

Let’s hallucinate for a moment and imagine that a Palin/Beck or Beck/Palin combo actually won in the 2012 election. I can visualize a scuffle on the inaugural dais while they try to rip the Bible out of each other’s hands to be sworn in as the chief, each citing constitutional chapter and verse in support of his or her own position.

But it will never get that far. Remember that when a president or a vice-president gives a speech somewhere, they’re expected to do so for free. No fees…public speaking is included as part of the job description. I doubt either of them would be willing to take the pay cut.

Besides, it’s a lot easier to take shots from the peanut gallery than to actually be responsible for doing something. Ms. Palin proved this by resigning from a job that demanded too much in the way of accountability for her actions.

Finally, let’s not forget other sizeable egos waiting in the wings. Newt “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” Gingrich is prepared to assume the office he has always felt was due a man of his gargantuan intellect, and then there’s one who makes Glenn Beck look like a finely-tuned scientific balance scale by comparison.

Michele Bachmann for President. Talk about “I have a dream.”

…That’s mine.

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Chan Lowe: Rick Scott wins GOP nomination for governor


Boy, did I get this one wrong. It’s true Bill McCollum is no live wire, but I had faith, albeit misplaced, in Florida’s Republican voters not to be so completely bamboozled by the blizzard of Scott ads.

The irony is that McCollum probably had a better chance of winning in the general election in November against Alex Sink. Well, whatever we end up with, we’ll certainly deserve it.

As a journalist, I’m delighted that Rick Scott has advanced to the finals. It adds an element of unpredictability and spice to an otherwise dreary contest. Plus, he’s very easy to draw.

As a person who has to live in this state, however, I’m less sanguine. I’m reminded of the suspension of good judgment Minnesotans displayed when they voted in former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura (who bears a passing resemblance to Mr. Scott, I might add) as their governor. His very newness and brashness captured the electorate’s imagination. The Body left office with decidedly mixed reviews.

Electing Scott as governor of Florida will be like taking a teenager to get his learner’s permit, then handing him the keys to a semi packed with nuclear waste material.

Considering the fiscal straits the state finds itself in, the guy who really should have won Tuesday’s primary was the virtually unknown third candidate, a gentleman by the name of Mike McCallister, who spent a grand total of $8,000 to garner ten percent of the vote. Contrast this with Scott, who shelled out $50 million of his own money to snag only forty-three percent, and it’s easy to see who knows how to get the most bang for the buck.

At the very least, Scott would do well to make McCallister his chief financial adviser in the event he actually gains office.

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Chan Lowe: The Obama Muslim hoax


Those of us who have heard the story are reminded of the famous Halloween hoax of 1938, when Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre of the Air broadcast a production of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The radio play, disguised as a series of perfervid news reports, was so realistic that many Americans, actually believing they were under attack from extraterrestrials, packed up what they could and attempted to escape. Wells made a disclaimer at the beginning and the end, but many chose not to hear it.

This just proves, once again, that people will swallow anything if they’re scared enough. The year 1938 was a time of uncertainty and fear, just like 2010. The Great Depression had been grinding on for almost a decade, and as if that weren’t enough, Hitler looked poised to take over the world—at least all there was of it on the other side of the Atlantic.

Just substitute radical Islam (to a lot of ignorant people, the term is a redundancy) for the Nazis, and you have a vile-smelling brew of deception simmering on the current stove of state.

It does not help that there are opportunists out there willing to stoke the fires of hatred for their own immediate gain, whether it’s to win an election in a couple of months or to attract more listeners and viewers to their radio and TV shows.

What they are doing by taking advantage of the fears of those who don’t know any better is tearing holes in this nation’s fabric that will take a long time to mend, certainly longer than the span of our lifetimes.

All of us—liberals, progressives, moderates, and conservatives—rallied behind President Bush after 9/11. There were aspects to the man many of us didn’t like, but he was our leader, and we were smart enough and scared enough to know that we needed one, for better or worse.

We need one just as desperately now. Why is it so hard for some of us to accept the man who was duly elected by a majority of the people?

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Chan Lowe: Rick Scott calls on a higher power


What was this guy thinking? The biggest Republican party event of the season, five days before the primary, and not only doesn’t he bother to appear, he sends his mother instead?

It sounds like our dilettante billionaire has decided that running for governor of Florida is no longer a fun hobby, now that his numbers have dropped behind Bill McCollum’s in the latest polls.

Maybe he’s taken his bat and ball and moved on to some other indulgence, like buying a small Central American republic for a personal playground.

Assuming he goes on to lose the Republican nomination this Tuesday, one is left to wonder what benefits the $30 million he spent on his ego might have wrought, had it been given to charity.

All over Florida, there might have been Rick Scott pantries to feed the hungry, Rick Scott community programs to keep kids in school and off drugs, Rick Scott shelters for the homeless.

Instead, all that will linger of Rick Scott in Florida’s collective consciousness are some titters of laughter and a smattering of polite applause as we recall his poor mother standing there in his place and telling a disappointed crowd that her no-show son was once an Eagle Scout.

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Chan Lowe: A dangerous strategy for Republicans


According to the latest news stories, Republican Party strategists are beginning to caution their candidates not to pile on the mosque issue, and Muslims in general, too heavily. It could backfire.

Grover Norquist, a member of the GOP brain trust, happens to be married to a Muslim, and he is one of those urging restraint. In fact, he says Muslim-bashing is a loser in the long run, and he’s right. To know a member of a group personally is to humanize that group.

This is one of the theories as to why Americans have become more accepting of gays, and why each year it’s a heavier lift to get people riled up against them as a campaign issue. As gays have come out into the mainstream, more and more people realize they have one in their family, one whom they love and who hasn’t sprouted horns. Why shouldn’t they have equal rights?

One thing Americans don’t like is watching somebody get bullied, just because of who they are. It might give some people a thrill at first, but after a while the revulsion sets in.

The Republican Party, while it may gain a temporary advantage for the coming election, runs a risk of crossing that fine line and starting to look like it’s simply beating up on people who don’t happen to be white, straight and Christian.

A suggestion: Dump the crazies and go back to being the Republican Party you used to be, decades ago: socially moderate, fiscally conservative. It’s probably too late for that, but if you really want to capture the all-important American Independent Middle, it’s more of a winner than the line you’re pushing right now.

Better for the country, too.

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Chan Lowe: Rick Scott, stonewaller


It would be charitable to write Rick Scott’s clumsiness in handling the media off to his inexperience as a candidate, but as I indicated in a previous posting, when you’re running for an office as lofty as state governor, there’s no room for amateurishness.

Here’s a guy who’s trading on his acumen as a businessman, the candidate with the purported savvy to pull Florida out of its financial morass. Naturally, one would think that this opens a legitimate line of questioning by the media regarding a rather glaring issue in his past, which is that the company he headed, Columbia HCA, had to pay a fine of $1.7 billion for defrauding the Medicare system.

The fine was paid after he left the company, but he did receive hundreds of millions in stock options with which he is now financing his campaign for governor.

Now there’s a brouhaha over a deposition he gave regarding a chain of walk-in clinics he co-founded, which he will not deign to discuss. Not only that, but he’s become downright rude to reporters who even allude to it.

Even though we Floridians are dumb enough to allow a lot of personally financed campaign ads to put the virtually unknown Scott within a hair’s breadth of the governor’s mansion at this stage, we wouldn't be blamed for wondering why he’s being so secretive.

Could it be that the revelations in the deposition are so devastating that they might deep-six his campaign if they became public? Was it decided that it would be less injurious to his run for office if he simply stonewalled and rode out the inevitable backlash?

Or is he just being snooty and asserting his so-called right to privacy?

When you seek to work for the people, that’s a good way to get turned down for the job.

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Chan Lowe: Tea Party kiss of death?


While there’s a certain romance, a Mr.-Smith-Goes-To-Washington quality, about some of the characters running under the Tea Party banner, they have a lot to learn about the…um…political skills necessary for victory.

I’m thinking, for example, of Rand Paul, the Tea Party-backed candidate for U.S. Senator from Kentucky. While his off-the-cuff comments about how a restaurant ought to be free to refuse service to blacks at its lunch counter might appeal to some of the more troglodytic Republican Primary voters, it’s going to be a tough sell in the general election in November, when more reasonable citizens of all parties might wish to send him back to the planet Xykron where he came from.

By “skills,” I mean the ability to segue seamlessly from one point of view to another, to turn on a dime without leaving listeners experiencing whiplash.

I’m talking about the fine art of not answering a tough question from an interviewer. You’ve seen it: they might try to trip the candidate up by quoting something he said earlier, and ask him to square it with what he’s spouting now. The average viewer says, “He’s never going to be able to explain that!”

But the seasoned pol, with perfect pitch, pretends as if he’s addressing the question while artfully changing the subject so smoothly that by the end of the explanation, you can’t even remember what he was originally asked. That’s political skill.

It has nothing to do with governing, and everything to do with getting elected. This is the big leagues, not some farm club.

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Chan Lowe: Early primary voting in Florida


Let the games begin.

Florida has never been blessed with Lincolnesque candidates for public office; in fact, by our standards, a politician’s term is considered successful if it doesn't end with a conviction.

It seems that the primary races of 2010 offer some particularly stellar examples of mediocrity, both on the part of candidates and voters.

One of the Republican candidates for governor, Rick Scott, has set about to buy the office with his own money. As if that weren’t enough, it appears that he made said millions while remaining ignorant of the fact that individuals within the health insurance company he headed were committing fraud. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for someone who seeks to be the chief executive of a large state.

On the Democratic side, another candidate with too much money on his hands, Jeff Greene, is attempting to purchase the U.S. Senate nomination. His conflicting accounts about a yacht vacation to Cuba read like a collection of Hemingway short stories. That both these gentlemen are front-runners thanks to their ad buys says as much about the electorate as it does about them.

At the local level, a Democratic acquaintance of mine lives in Florida House District 90, and faces a dilemma. “If Irv Slosberg doesn’t value my vote enough to try to bribe me with a corned-beef sandwich or a free schlepper bag this time around,” he said disdainfully, “then he doesn’t deserve it. At the same time, how can I cast my ballot for somebody whose campaign slogan is, ‘Send Klassy to Tallahassee?’”

Surely, a conundrum the Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly have envisioned.

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Chan Lowe: Changing the Fourteenth Amendment


So is the U.S. Constitution a living document, written and designed to be flexible enough to be interpreted through the prism of the times—thereby remaining current⎯or is it a strict set of iron rules that we must use to psychoanalyze the minds of the Founding Fathers and divine their intent; a screed frozen in the mindset of the Eighteenth Century?

The tension between these views will persist for as long as the republic lasts, and is at the core of philosophical fights over Supreme Court Justice nominations.

Anyway, it’s easy to be a strict constructionist as long as you agree with the particular fragment under discussion. This Fourteenth Amendment battle is a case in point. It’s part of the Constitution. There’s a process to change it, but once you start fiddling with one thing, what’s to keep people from messin’ with the rest?

I can see it now: Since the Founding Fathers had flintlock muskets in mind at the time they wrote the Second Amendment, maybe it should only cover the right to bear a single-shot rifle that you painstakingly load from the muzzle, and that won’t work when it’s raining. No automatic weapons of any kind. Or, conversely, if you should manage to get your hands on a tactical nuclear weapon, who's to say you can't bear it if you want to?

Freedom of religion? Maybe the government should only be allowed to butt in and restrict it if we’re talking about building a Muslim mosque somewhere. In fact, a lot of people last week already thought that’s what it meant.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Not if you’re gay and want to get married. Besides, that isn’t even in the Constitution, although many Americans don’t know that.

I could go on and on.

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Chan Lowe: The Arizona immigration law


Like gay marriage and gun control, cooler heads will not prevail on the issue of immigration reform until the last vote and the last campaign dollar have been squeezed out of the base, which is to say, never.

Both sides are guilty of demagoguery, which is nothing new. In a perfect world, we would bring out an enormous sieve, strain it through the American populace to collect all the illegal aliens, and ship each of them back to his country of origin.

At the same time, we would build a crenellated Great Wall of America across our southern border, with embrasures every dozen feet or so, that would afford a clear field of fire for the crossbowmen to keep the barbarian hordes at bay.

Of course, we’d all have to eat off paper plates because no dishes would get washed, and we’d need machetes just to get through our front lawns. Fruit and vegetables? An ounce of Beluga caviar would be cheaper than a chicken Caesar salad.

While it might offend the moral sticklers if a way were found to legalize (some would say, “reward”) those already here, it’s probably the only realistic solution in the long run. But reason is trumped by emotion when it comes to getting people to pull out their checkbooks.

Besides, if the pragmatic solution were ever achieved, we wouldn't be able to scream about the civil rights of the downtrodden being violated any more. Nobody would benefit from that, except the workers and their families who live furtively in a perpetual twilight legal state.

When you look at it that way, why would any politician want to settle?

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Chan Lowe: Tea Party Caucus


It does seem ironic that these politicians are jumping on the Tea Party bandwagon in hopes they’ll get reelected and be able to spend two more years mismanaging the same Evil Empire against which they rail.

If I had a job with their salary, perks, and benefits, I wouldn’t want to leave it, either. Sure beats taking your chances in the private sector.

Small government is for the little people, not elected cheeses, particularly if along with the job comes a tidy staff allowance to hire lackeys who can handle the nuts and bolts, thereby leaving you free to demagogue your pet issues.

The new caucus members had better hope that their tri-corned constituents never find out the full extent of those benefits they pull down—the free gym membership, the more-than-generous pension, the health care, the travel allowance, the taxpayer-financed self-serving puff piece mailings, to name only those I’ve heard of.

They might just find themselves on the wrong end of a pitchfork.

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Chan Lowe: Charlie Crist's special session

special.gifMuch as it makes me shudder to agree with anything Marco Rubio says, I have to admit that there’s something fishily opportunistic about our newly independent governor calling for a special session to deal with offshore oil drilling.

Charlie wants to enshrine a ban on drilling off Florida’s shores in our state constitution. For several reasons, this is unnecessary and sets bad precedent.

First, the state constitution ought to be a blueprint for the mechanics of how Florida is governed, nothing more. Any editorial board and political policy wonk will tell you that. The rest of us probably don’t even know or care that we have one.

Specifics like oil drilling policy have no more reason to be included than protecting pregnant pigs. Oops, that’s in there, isn’t it? Remember, this is Florida’s constitution. We should allow room for at least a little idiocy.

Second, a ban on offshore drilling is already part of state law, so the amendment would be superfluous. But Charlie fears the law could be changed someday. Does he really think that after what just happened in the Gulf, any politician would dare touch that law? Ever?

So it’s beginning to look like Charlie is calling a special session--at tens of thousands of dollars per day—which will accomplish little more than showcase him at the podium acting as master of ceremonies. Oh, and looking senatorial.

If it’s so easy for Charlie to play fast and loose with state money (where the budget has to be balanced by law), imagine how much fun he’ll have in Washington, where they can print as much as they want.

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Chan Lowe: Tea Party Racist?

teaparty.gifThere are many good-hearted people in the Tea Party, I’m sure, who have been swept up in the enthusiasm of a cause that articulates the frustrations that have been building within them for years.

The very nature of their movement--amorphous, absent any hierarchy, lacking a clearly defined manifesto, welcoming to all disgruntled newcomers—is the source of its spontaneity, its inspiration, and what makes it so exhilarating to be a part of.

It’s also the Tea Party’s Achilles’ heel. Without rules, structure or coherent leadership, what is a legitimate representation of political sentiment can easily be infiltrated and hijacked by those with a darker agenda.

Racism—tragically--will always be tangled in the warp and weft of the American fabric. It’s the legacy of a past we’d just as soon forget, but are shackled to forever. It lurks just beneath the surface of our national discourse like a crouching beast.

We see examples of it every day right here at our newspaper’s website. The Internet, with its attendant anonymity, has given voice to those whom nobody ever bothered to listen to before, and they exercise their vocal cords with a vengeance. Even comments to our weather site, of all places, can easily degenerate into racist rants if we don’t keep an eye on them.

So the Tea Party may have a racist component, as the NAACP claims, but that does not mean that all of its adherents ought to be tarred as racists.

It’s equally unrealistic to ask the Tea Party to condemn racism within its ranks. It isn’t organized that way. Who is going to write the resolution? Who will disseminate it? Who will sign it?

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Chan Lowe: Immigration reform

mariachi.gifThe Spanish expression for “to patronize” is, “tratar a alguien con condescendencia.

Now, when President Obama just happens to give a speech in favor of immigration reform, and its intended audience knows he knows there’s nothing he can really do about it--given this Congress and the current public mood--it doesn’t matter if he’s treating them with condescencia or not; that’s they way they’re going to read it.

It doesn’t help that the speech came just as the polls show that Obama’s support with Latino voters is slipping a few months before the November election, when all Democratic hands are on deck to minimize the inevitable losses.

People get ticked off when they think they’re being taken for fools. It’s an affront to their dignidad. They went along on this ride the first time around, and now they’re being asked to get back up on the bronc after it already threw them into the mud and rode off into the sunset without them.

The political calculus in the White House is that Latinos aren’t going to suddenly vote Republican; the principles of that party are inimical to Latino self-interest. But they are worried they’ll stay home on election day out of disgust with the way they and their issues have been kicked to the back of the line. Hence, bring out the old silver tongue and woo them once more.

Words are nice, but action is all that counts at this point. The word in Spanish for “word” is “palabra.” Interestingly, there's a cognate to that in English: “palaver.”

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Chan Lowe: Charlie Crist, Caped Campaigner

campaigner.gifHe’s tanned, maybe not so rested, but certainly ready.

…and ambitious as hell, as we all know. A few weeks ago, Mrs. Lowe-Down was watching CNN at midday as the media and the political types prepared for a press conference at one of the fouled coastal areas of the Gulf.

President Obama was due in momentarily for one of his now-regular local appearances to demonstrate to the American people how much he truly, deeply cares, and for some reason a wide-angle shot of all the disorganized pre-speech milling around was being broadcast, C-SPAN-style, during the lull in the festivities.

According to my real-time witness, there was a lot of jockeying for position among the various hangers-on who always appear at these politically charged gatherings, and as Obama strode to the lectern, some jostling occurred between Governors Charlie Crist of Florida and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Jindal, a slight fellow, took an expertly-aimed elbow jab in the ribs from Crist, who ended up in prized pole position right next to the President just as the cameras tightened for the close-up. Charlie immediately hung a concerned, squinty expression on his tanned visage, nodding sagely like a bobble-head doll for several minutes as Obama spoke.

At the time, Louisiana was the only state to be affected by the slick, but Gov. Jindal was nowhere to be seen in the footage.

Then again, he wasn’t running for the U.S. Senate this November. Eat slime, Shorty.

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Chan Lowe: Charlie Crist, Founding Father


Since Charlie Crist cut himself off from his fecund Republican funding sources, he’s been leveraging his governor’s pulpit to the hilt.

His latest move is to call a special session (costing taxpayers $40,000 per day) to pass a state constitutional amendment banning offshore drilling for all time. It’s a textbook example of how he can bend the power of his office to his own ends.

Aside from the fact that it may be as bad an idea to enshrine a drilling ban in the constitution as it was to protect pregnant pigs (yes, newcomers, that happened), Charlie is banking on us to forget that a short time ago⎯pre-slick⎯he was touting offshore drilling as a way to help deliver the state from its fiscal woes.

It's a gamble that will probably pay off, because the Pennsylvania transplant knows as well as anyone that in a transient state like Florida, name recognition pays off in a way that it doesn’t in places where pols and voters grew up knowing each other.

Those who are familiar with Charlie and his career are becoming more and more disappointed⎯in some cases, disgusted⎯with his spinelessness. But most voters don’t follow that closely. They’ve heard of him, more than they’ve heard of Kendrick Meek and Marco Rubio. They neither know nor care that he’s a human weather vane.

Whatever direction the parade goes in, all that matters to Charlie is that he’s out front playing the drum major, and that everybody's keeping time to his beat.

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Chan Lowe: Charlie Crist, fallen angel

pulse.gifThe way the Republican Party leadership was talking about poor old Charlie last weekend in the wake of his apostasy, you’d think he was the guy who left the SUV full of explosives in Times Square.

Some senator on Meet the Press huffed about how Charlie, by resolutely ignoring the Voice of the People, had been beaten fair and square by Marco Rubio, and instead of being man enough to bow out of the race had decided to become the skunk at the garden party.

What made the comments ugly and cynical was that, up until Thursday, the GOP establishment would have been perfectly happy to support Charlie’s candidacy with money, staff, and boots on the ground had he won the primary.

As I alluded to in a cartoon on Switcheroo Day, he was still the same old Charlie he’d been the previous week. Nothing about him had changed except his label.

For his part, Charlie⎯who was given his own Meet the Press segment⎯ allowed as how it wasn’t he who had changed, but rather his beloved Republican Party whose primary voters had moved so far to the right that ordinary Americans couldn’t compete anymore.

I tend to agree with him. If Charlie actually had principles, I’m guessing they’d be more along the lines of the fiscally conservative, yet socially laissez-faire Rockefeller Republicans who may still inhabit Tri-State Area country clubs. If there are any left alive, they can probably be found hunkering in the Men’s Grill over their Wild Turkey manhattans, wondering what the hell happened to their party.

It gives a whole new meaning to "mourning in America."

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Chan Lowe: Charlie goes Independent


As of this writing, it looks like Charlie has decided to go rogue.

A mere three weeks ago (an eon in political time), he was telling us that he was and always would be a Republican. But then, he was also saying that teacher merit pay was a great idea for Florida's schoolchildren. He's a professional politician...what do you expect?

Being an unprincipled moderate means that pesky things like ideology never stand in your way. This can be both an advantage and an Achilles' heel. It affords extraordinary flexibility to someone who uses the same common sense most of us would to solve problems and forge sensible compromises.

It also means that certain officeholders can never be depended on to do anything courageous in the face of strong public opposition. There are times, believe it or not, when the public doesn't know what's best for it. Sometimes people in government, who are supposed to make it their business to be well informed, can grasp the nuances and ramifications of issues in a way that rises above the raw, self-interested emotion of the masses.

Then, they act in a way they think is best for the country, rather than their own political futures.

Which type of person is Charlie Crist? That's something the voters will have to decide in November.

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Will Crist pull a switcheroo?

rumors.gifThe big speculation, even in national circles, is whether embattled Gov. Charlie Crist is going to run as an Independent.

Everyone is weighing the pros and cons. The bad news for Charlie is that if he bolts, he'll lose his big GOP donors, most of his staff, all of his party's organizing support, and be branded as a turncoat.

Already, party stalwarts are saying he should either remain in the primary race against Marco Rubio or bail out altogether, rather than act as a spoiler.

The good news is that polls show he actually has a chance of winning the general election as an Independent. Charlie can go ahead and be moderate (detractors would say "wishy-washy") Charlie, the People's U.S. Senate Candidate. If he makes it to Washington, he can acquire power beyond his junior status by auctioning his loyalty to whichever party needs his caucus vote more.

Most interesting in the wake of Charlie's decision will be the Great Moderation of Marco Rubio. Once he becomes the de facto Republican candidate, Rubio will no longer be forced to emit all the wild jungle noises that appeal to rabid right Republican primary voters.

In fact, he'll leave skid marks as he suddenly begins to sound like a reasonable person in an attempt to pick off the Crist moderates in November. Tea Partiers be damned...after all, where are they going to go?

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Tea Party gives back

treasury.gifIf big government is our beef, then what is more bloated, more out-of-control, more emblematic of the drain on our resources than Social Security?

Even the name sounds vaguely subversive. It bears the aroma of one of those un-American, welfare state European imports⎯like Danish pastry, French fries, frankfurters, English muffins, pepperoni pizza. One could go on, but the point is made.

To compound the insult, Washington doesn’t even give the average freedom-loving American a choice in the matter.

Anybody who wants to make a decent living is forced to participate in the Social Security system…a lot like that communistic Obamacare that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their collectivist fellow travelers just passed against the wishes of the majority.

Not only should we tell Washington what to do with its Social Security money, the old folks ought to pay for their own health care, too.

Medicare…now, there’s another huge bureaucracy gobbling up tax money that we should be allowed to keep for ourselves.

Let the free market take care of ’em. It’s the American way. Besides, it’s right there in the Constitution.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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