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Daniel Ruth

Rick Scott, Mr. Outsider, is clearly on the inside now

How long does it take a pol to go from claiming to be a crusading outsider who will ride to the rescue of that den of iniquity in Tallahassee, to being a monied-up insider darling of special interests?

About the same time it takes to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination.

There was gazillionaire Rick Scott just a few short weeks ago in full Old Yeller froth over the evilness of Tallahassee on his quest to become the Republican nominee for governor, railing against the GOP mandarins for taking the state down the road to ruin and doom.

And there was Rick Scott over the weekend at a Republican "unity" event in Orlando, getting a foot massage from fawning party chairman John Thrasher and the rest of the GOP establishment that only days earlier had been accusing the nominee of being a bigger liar than Bernie Madoff meets Jon Lovitz's Tommy Flanagan.

"The dark period of our party's history is over, and it's gone forever," swooned Thrasher as he trimmed Scott's ear hair.

Memo to John Thrasher: When your party's gubernatorial nominee is a guy who makes Lurch look like Winston Churchill, you're about to enter a political nuclear winter, Bunky.

It was quite a menu for all the GOP faithful to feast on at the Republican sweat lodge moment in Orlando — hypocrisy on the half shell, duplicity du jour, half-baked faux "unity" all topped off with hubris flambe.

Clearly, Scott cannot — with anything remotely resembling a straight face (either one of them) — continue to tout himself as Mr. Outsider. He is crawling under the sheets with the Republican establishment and hitting up for campaign contributions the very special interests he attacked as agents of Satan during his primary run.

But wait! The tartuffery in the land of make-believe was only just getting started.

Thrasher emerged from a Republican Party board meeting as man in full harrumph, accusing Gov. Charlie Crist of being part of a now defrocked GOP cabal that misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars. He cited a trip the now independent U.S. Senate candidate took to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where apparently considerable sums of money were spent on … well, they did go to Las Vegas.

There were just a few itsty-bitsy problems with John Thrasher's discovery of his inner J. Edgar Hoover. Although the chairman was blithely thrilled to accuse a political rival with engaging in more questionable — and by implication illegal — free-spending, Thrasher refused to offer any proof.

That kind of McCarthyism sort of makes you wonder whether on the day they taught due process while the chairman was attending law school at Florida State University, he wasn't otherwise engaged in burning a witch.

Wouldn't it have been rather hard for Crist to abuse state party money since he never possessed a Republican credit card?

But let's assume the worst. For the sake of argument suppose Crist and then-state party chairman Jim Greer and his Renfield, Delmar Johnson, went off on a Las Vegas bacchanal — paid for with GOP contributions — that made The Hangover look like My Dinner With Andre.

How do Thrasher and his hand-wringing sob sisters square their outrage with their newfound fealty to Rick Scott, who as the chief executive officer of Columbia/HCA led a company that paid the largest fines ever for Medicare fraud for transgressions that occurred on his watch?

Or put another way, John Thrasher is getting his bloomers in a wad over a trip where perhaps room service got horribly out of hand. But he has happily signed up as a hot walker for a chap whose company paid $1.7 billion in fines for ripping off taxpayers.

So much for fiscal accountability.

This is a Republican Party whose former House speaker, Ray Sansom, remains under indictment on grand theft charges.

It's the same party that has seen Greer, its former chairman, indicted for grand theft and fraud charges.

It's the same party that has just nominated a candidate for governor who ran a corporation that engaged in a massive Medicare fraud perpetrated against the citizenry.

It's the same party whose gubernatorial candidate, its champion of good government, refused to answer questions and took the Fifth Amendment 75 times during a 2000 deposition in a software dispute.

It's the same party that gleefully raised $2 million over the weekend to support a candidate it regarded as a feckless low-life just a few short weeks ago.

And it's the same party, the Grand Old Prevaricators, that has accused the current governor of Florida with improper behavior without offering a scintilla of proof.

To date at least, Scott's entire campaign strategy seems to be accusing his Democratic opponent, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, of being a dreaded — all together now — "Obama Liberal." Sink is about as liberal as George Will. But the baseless attacks beat trying to explain away liberally ripping off the federal government and then walking away from Columbia/HCA with a $300 million parting gift.

Perhaps what we learned this past weekend is that money may not buy love, but it sure covers the cost of a package deal on sycophants.

Rick Scott, Mr. Outsider, is clearly on the inside now 09/13/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 2:15am]

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