Make us your home page
Daniel Ruth

Common decency in short supply

Ambition does funny things to people, like turning them into backstabbing, duplicitous oafs with all the loyalty of The Godfather's Tessio.

And so here's a simple question for George LeMieux, the Iago of Florida politics. Someday, when you are in your dotage and sitting around admiring all the dusty photos of yourself and Newt Gingrich, will you be able to say: "It was worth tossing Charlie Crist under the tea party malcontent express bus, just so I could be a U.S. senator again"?

It is true — despite LeMieux's best efforts to suggest he has never heard of Charlie Crist, wouldn't recognize him on the street and certainly would never think of acknowledging his presence — that the Brutus of the Beltway once played a vital role in the former governor's political success.

But it is equally true that LeMieux owes his own public career to Charlie Crist, who literally gave him a U.S. Senate seat to fill out the term of Mel Martinez, who resigned from office after he was completely bumfuzzled to learn he was actually expected to show up in Washington now and then to do his job.

It was LeMieux who served first as Crist's campaign manager and later the governor's chief of staff. It was LeMieux who crafted Crist's positions on casino gambling, global warming, voting rights for felons and accepting Barack Obama's federal stimulus money (man-hug optional). It was LeMieux all along. He's the one. He's the one you want.

George LeMieux, the Mata Hari of the Subtropics, was all too happy when Crist tapped him over other high-profile pols to replace the Maynard G. Krebs of the U.S. Senate. The former junior senator owes Crist big time, but it is a debt the former governor will likely never collect. When it comes to reciprocity, George LeMieux is the Lucy Van Pelt of friends.

Now that the Lord Haw-Haw of Florida politics is running to return to the Senate, he has taken great pains to disassociate himself from Crist, insisting there are many issues on which he disagreed with the governor. And if you give him a couple of months to work on it, he'll get back to you on what those issues are, say around December 2012.

LeMieux has defended his retreat as one born of necessity once Crist left the GOP and remade himself into an independent for a failed 2010 Senate bid. Balderdash.

LeMieux insists he is his own man in the 2012 Senate campaign, a claim made while giving the conservative kingmaker Grover Norquist a pedicure.

A much stronger case can be made that LeMieux turned his back on Crist out of sheer political fear, wary of offending the Inquisition wing of the Republican Party.

If LeMieux had an ounce of self-respect, not to mention a scintilla of dignity, when asked about his long association with Charlie Crist, the Lady Macbeth of Florida politics could have said something like this:

"Look, Gov. Charlie Crist is and always will be my friend. While I wish he would have run for a second term as governor, well, that's politics. And if there are some yahoos in the far right wing of my party who have a problem with my friendship with the former governor, well they can go pound sand, or a few other things, too. If getting elected means turning my back on the man who allowed me to serve in the Senate, then it's probably a job not worth having."

And what would have happened to LeMieux if he had had the audacity to commit common decency? Nothing. Oh sure, maybe a few tin-foil hat types would have started accusing LeMieux of high treason.

But many more people likely would admire LeMieux's loyalty to his old boss and friend.

Alas, getting back to Washington — a place politicians decry as a den of iniquity, yet are willing to put a pillow over their mother's face to get there — has consumed LeMieux.

Crist, for his part, regardless of what you might think of his politics, has continued to comport himself with uncommon graciousness. Though his former friend now treats him as if he were a leper, and a liberal one at that, the gentlemanly Charlie Crist has resisted the temptation to speak ill of LeMieux.

And really now, why should he? For when it comes to establishing his credentials as a standup sort of chap, George LeMieux has proven himself to be about as reliable as Fredo Corleone.

Common decency in short supply 04/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 25, 2011 7:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours