About Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for governor, who spoke Wednesday to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg:
• He is personally compelling and impressive and says many things about our state that resonate.
It's a good story. Scott, 57, is the son of a truck driver, once lived in public housing, married his high school sweetheart, and grew up to found and build the Columbia/HCA hospital empire.
He says Florida should be doing better economically, especially in job creation, and it makes sense. He says Tallahassee is broken, and he's right. He says Florida has to have a world-class state university for our future, and he's right. He has the guts to say Florida needs to reform its state pension system.
• On the other hand, Scott glosses over anything bad with pat answers that ignore or defy reality. This is a little creepy, actually.
The biggest example, of course, is that his Columbia/HCA chain was the subject of the biggest Medicare fraud case in history and paid a $1.7 billion settlement.
As one Tiger Bay member asked Scott: Did that happen because he was unethical, unscrupulous — or just a bad manager?
But Scott gave his usual answer: He "takes responsibility," unlike, you know, those no-good "career politicians" who apparently never "take responsibility."
It is not clear what this "taking responsibility" means to Scott, however, since he thinks that a $1.7 billion fraud settlement should not keep him from being governor.
Perhaps, in the modern fashion, the phrase "I take responsibility" contains the additional unspoken clause, "As long as it does not affect me in any way."
As for his bitter and negative primary fight with Bill McCollum, in which he has spent $38 million on ads, Scott blithely said that his part of the attacks are merely explanations of his "differences" with McCollum.
This is a slick, politician's explanation for poisoning the democracy. Since he is the claimed antidote to politics-as-usual, he ought to have the grace to be a little chagrined.
• He has an amateur's simplistic view of governing, which makes it easy to embrace snap answers. All we need to do, you see, is get "smarter people" involved.
Oh, and we should cut school property taxes in Florida by 20 percent. We also should roll all government spending back to 2004 levels. (Try sellin' that to your local sheriff or police chief.)
• He is as pro-business as you're going to get, and he throws in some social issues for good measure.
For example, if you think health insurance companies just want to "help" us and "do the right thing," but they are blocked by Evil Government Regulation, then he's your guy.
Also, Florida's taxes on business should be cut or eliminated. The police should be able to ask us to show our papers Arizona-style. And he is in favor of "states' rights," whatever exactly that means.
Well! He did a practiced, smooth job, said exactly what he wanted to say, and the Tigers did not lay a glove on him. A couple tried, but without followup questions he got off, uh, Scott-free.
They say that McCollum, propped up by special-interest dollars and the Republican hierarchy, has pulled back ahead in the polls. The fact that Tallahassee is so opposed to Scott speaks well for him. Dang! If it weren't for a little multibillion-dollar fraud …