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Daniel Ruth

McCollum fires off a vicious ... pout

Like a palm tree version of Henry II in Becket, there are times when you have to imagine Bill McCollum padding around the house in his Doctor Dentons muttering to himself: "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome robber baron?"

There he was just a short time ago envisioning himself sitting in the Governor's Mansion, whiling away the days signing death warrants, schmoozing the Florida Legislature and whirling around in amazement every time someone uttered the words: "Oh Gov. McCollum!"

Instead, in less time than it takes for an American Idol contestant to get the heave-ho, Florida's attorney general, the man who would be king, is facing the prospect his political career will wind up on a pile of tea bags.

Little wonder then that Bill McCollum is angry, Elmer Fudd-like vewry, vewry angry.

McCollum has now entered that stage in the Republican gubernatorial campaign in full pout, kvetching about how that big ol' meanie Rick Scott, who could buy the I-4 corridor with his watch, is trying to steal away a nomination, which should rightfully be his because … well, because it's his turn gosh darn it.

Sheesh, Lindsay Lohan hasn't verklempted this much.

Scott, who has proposed turning the Florida Department of Corrections into Robben Island on steroids, is on the verge of wresting the nomination away from the GOP establishment's pin-up boy for special interests. He is spending nearly $30 million of his own money on television ads, which portray the defrocked Naples businessman as being tighter with a dime than a Glazer trying to calculate a tip on a Starbucks double mocha latte.

Inveighing against the Scott windmill before the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club a few days ago, McCollum implored the crowd to reject the dubious Republican in mugwump trappings. "You know me, you don't know him," he pleaded, as if this wasn't a race for governor but two foes vying for membership in the Gasparilla Krewe.

"Rick Scott has flaws," McCollum pleaded with the Tiger Bay types. "He has character flaws."

Flaws? Flaws? Your brother-in-law who drinks all your liquor and still owes you a $50 poker bet has flaws. Rick Scott doesn't have "flaws." He's a walking confessional. He's the Jerry Springer Show meets the Justice Department.

And thus it was that McCollum may well have inadvertently stumbled upon the crux of his political pickle. It might well be that the public does know McCollum all too well. And having known him, the body politic has decided it doesn't have much use for him.

Or put another way, the public, or at least those members of the Republican public, would prefer a gubernatorial candidate who once ran and was booted out of Columbia HCA, a company that was indicted in the largest Medicare fraud case in American history, paying $1.7 billion in fines. Ouch.

Indeed, much of Scott's wealth, which is funding his campaign, came from the international single-digit hand gesture severance package the Daddy Warbucks of Naples was given to please go away.

And nobody seems to care.

Instead, Scott's constant attacks on McCollum as just another "career politician" seem to resonate. For McCollum, this has to feel a bit like Tonya Harding emerging as the darling of figure skating by accusing Kristi Yamaguchi of being just another "career Olympian."

McCollum only makes himself look more like a candidate for the minister of silly walks than the chief executive of the fourth-largest state in the union when he whines that Scott plagiarized his economic platform.

Really now, stealing another pol's policy position, which essentially consists of giving tax breaks to swells, hardly constitutes ripping off John Maynard Keynes' The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.

And if the public seems blithely indifferent to Scott's leadership of a corporation that defrauded the American taxpayer to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, what makes the attorney general think anyone is going to get outraged if Scott pilfered McCollum's homework?

Rick Scott's campaign is pretty much predicated on turning state government into Mayberry City Hall and reducing Florida's prison system to something out of Papillon. Indeed, Scott has readily admitted there is much about governance and the essential issues facing the state that he has less familiarity with than Lady Gaga trying to comprehend the latest issue of Vogue.

There's no doubt the Scott Juggernaut, running on a full tank of tea and reveling in its own willful indifference to what it actually takes to govern a state as large as Florida, is rolling right along.

But if Bill McCollum believes he can close the gap on an opponent who is more ethically challenged than a Chicago alderman schlepping around the hustings by complaining about how life is so unfair in a state with a nearly 12 percent unemployment rate, perhaps the candidate should change his campaign slogan to: "Bill McCollum — A proven whiner."

McCollum fires off a vicious ... pout 07/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 29, 2010 8:25pm]

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