Corruption and character: How Crist, Meek, Rubio handle the tough question
One of the better moments in last night's Florida Senate debate came when the candidates were asked about their scrapes with controversy. Kendrick Meek and Marco Rubio were defensive but finally said they would have done things differently, in hindsight. Charlie Crist's response was more succinct: "It happens."
Meek was asked about the earmarks he secured for a developer who was employing his mother. Shouldn't you have known more about those ties and why isn't that politics as usual?
He dodged, saying his track record "doesn't speak to anything that's unethical or off-color." He said he represents an impoverished area and development is needed, but that he supports the investigation into the developer. Still spinning away from the issue, Meek said, "This state needs strong leadership that has integrity" and that's why he traveled the state to launch a campaign. "I’m a public servant; I’m not a politician."
Finally, when pressed, Meek replied, "I think it’s very very important to know that … (if I had to) do it all over again (I) would have paid closer attention to what’s going on. But I can tell you there’s no improprieties there as far as I’m concerned."
Rubio was reminded about his use of a Republican Party of Florida credit card, on which he charged at least $16,000 in personal items, and his house in Tallahassee that nearly went into foreclosure. Given your personal issues, why should people believe you would be a good watchdog of the federal budget?
"My personal expenses have never been paid for by the Republican Party," he insisted. "Anything that’s personal I paid for out of my own pocket." But you did put them on a GOP-issued credit card at one point. "But I paid for them out of my own pocket. Now clearly if I had a chance to do those things again we’d handle it all differently."
Rubio, too, quickly changed the subject. "Now these are important issues, and we should discuss them, but they can’t be the only issues in this campaign," he said, accusing his opponents of lacking concrete ideas.
Crist pushed "over strong objections of Republican leaders" for Jim Greer to head the state GOP. Now Greer is under indictment for mishandling party money. And yet you stood by him to the very, very end. How come, and what does that say about your judgment?
"You do the very best you can when you’re picking people, whether it’s to help out my former political party, an agency in Tallahassee as a secretary head or a judge for the Florida Supreme Court," Criist replied. "When you do the best that you can, sometimes you’re disappointed. And that happens from time to time. It happened to Gov. Jeb Bush. He appointed a guy to be the head of Department of Corrections who ended up getting arrested after he was indicted and is now in prison. It happens. All you can do is the very best that you can."
Crist then pivoted to attack Rubio for selling a home in West Miami to a lobbyist.