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Daniel Ruth

Grover's mad? Horrors!

Oh the ignominious shame of it all!

One minute you're Gov. Charlie Crist, bopping along, singing a song basking in the glow of loving approval ratings from the citizenry — and before you can say "Barack Obama," you find yourself cast as the Tokyo Rose of the Potomac.

Because Crist had the crazy, wacky, insane temerity of bipartisanship to publicly suggest this stimulus package thing being promoted by the president of the United States might not result in a plague of locusts, festering boils and the arrival of the angel of death, the governor has found himself on the receiving end of — cue the Jaws theme — some very serious lip-pursing by the likes of Grover Norquist.

Grover? Norquist?

It seems nothing instills more fetal position puckering on the part of Republican pols who commit the unpardonable mortal sin of even uttering "Lovely day, isn't it?" in the general direction of the party opposite than risking a stern harrumph from the likes of Grover Norquist, who runs something called the Americans for Tax Reform, a tres conservative Washington think tank full of like-minded souls who are aghast at the notion of the government spending so much of a dime on hardtack for the great unwashed.

So you can only imagine the tsk-tsking that went on when Crist appeared with Obama in Fort Myers last week to support the administration's $789 billion stimulus package. From the ensuing pinched hue and cry you would have thought the governor had suggested renaming the capital Trotskyhassee.

Norquist, who is something akin to the Ernst Stavro Blofeld of the GOP, took time out from petting the cat in his lap to denounce Crist's palling around with presidents, whining the governor was tacitly supporting the very issue the Republicans hope to campaign against in heading into the 18th century election cycle.

But Norquist was hardly alone in his Scarlett O'Hara-esque case of the vapors over Crist's apostasy in appearing in the same ZIP code as Obama.

Soon fellow travelers Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth (what fun), as well as political consultants Alex Castellanos and Ana Navarro along with other hand-wringing Republican Roundheads had joined the fray, accusing Charlie Crist of a mugwumpian betrayal that would make Judas look like Sgt. York.

Think of these folks as a sort of Neo-Con Star Chamber — with spats.

While Norquist and his cabal of ideological lemmings, aided by the drive-by bloviators of right-wing radio, fulminated and wept into their spittoons, for his part Charlie Crist seemed blissfully indifferent to the attempt to characterize him as Benedict Arnold meets Bill Ayers.

For years the Grover Norquists of the Beltway have reveled in their ability to reduce politicians who otherwise love to extol their bravery, their guts under fire, their courage of a thousand lions in maintaining their independence to piles of quivering goo if they deviate one iota from the traditional Republican Party mantra.

Charlie Crist did more than merely support a Democratic president's economic plan. He exposed the Grover Norquists, the Pat Toomeys and all the other dithering, bullying demagogues of the Washington clucking set as impotent Grand Inquisitors with no sackcloths.

For appearing with Obama it has been suggested the governor's potential U.S. Senate prospects, should he decide to run (wink-wink, nod-nod), have been severely undermined. Incredible though it may seem, Crist managed to get himself elected governor without once calling upon Grover Norquist and his grumpy band of penurious grinches to campaign for him.

With approval ratings hovering close to 70 percent, should Crist opt to run for the U.S. Senate (decisions, decisions), it's doubtful too many Republicans are going to sit on their checkbooks simply because Grover Norquist got his bloomers in a wad.

Consider this scenario. Let's suppose it's Election Day, November 2010. Charlie Crist is running for the Senate against his Democratic opponent: a 22nd round draft choice from the Broward Democratic Club.

As voters go to the polls, does anyone believe they are going to be torn as they ask themselves a question: Maybe Charlie Crist has been a pretty nice guy as governor, ah but there was that time he ruffled Grover Norquist's powdered wig. What to do? And by the way, who is Grover Norquist?

If anything, the governor only enhanced his Senate prospects by so publicly supporting the stimulus bill. After all, how vigorously would Barack Obama now be willing to campaign against Crist in a Senate race?

For in the end whom would Charlie Crist prefer to alienate? A popular sitting president? Or Grover Whatshisname?

Decisions, decisions.

Grover's mad? Horrors! 02/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 19, 2009 7:58pm]

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