Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ruth: It takes two to tango on the debating dais

Poor Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. After months on the job performing his official duties rearranging Gov. Rick Scott's sock drawer, untangling the governor's Christmas tree lights and alphabetizing the governor's Johnny Mathis record collection, at last the state's No. 2 was actually given a public task to perform — only to have Charlie Crist rain on his charade.

Lopez-Cantera was shadowing the former Republican governor-turned-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Monday at a lunch speech in West Palm Beach when the hunter became the deer-in-the-headlights himself.

Apparently the lieutenant governor's mission was to point out that Crist has been running around the state telling lies about Gov. Rick Scott, who has turned his own campaign for re-election into a whopper-fest.

As Lopez-Cantera accused Crist of saying whatever it takes to get elected (wherever did he ever get that idea?), the ex-governor appeared behind the lieutenant coat-holder to inquire about his health and the well-being of his family.

When asked about the whining that he had lied about Scott, Crist said that sort of thing could be addressed when the two eventual lieutenant governor candidates hold their own debate.

"Give me Scott," Crist smirked as if he was Muhammad Ali yearning to climb into the ring against Danny DeVito.

Whether there will ever be a debate between Crist and Scott remains somewhat muddled. Acting as if he was delivering a homework assignment, Scott sniffed he is not prepared to debate Crist since Crist has yet to agree to a face-off with former state Sen. Nan Rich, who is also a Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Sheesh, this is beginning to look like a masochistic Thanksgiving dinner among family members who can't bear to talk to one another.

The solution here is very simple. If Crist persists in not debating Rich, he will hand Scott the perfect excuse not to debate him. Scott knows the loquacious candidate will quite possibly make him look like a carnival geek show exhibit.

It would be no skin off Crist's perpetual tan to afford Rich the opportunity to debate. It would make him look gracious to an opponent and yes, provide him a forum to demonstrate some still suspect Democratic Party bona fides, as well as a chance to brush up on his already formidable debating skills before the general election. Plus, it is simply the right thing to do when you are asking people to vote for you.

Still it is altogether possible that even if Crist and Rich were to embark on a statewide series of Lincoln/Douglasesque debates, Scott would still find an alibi not to get anywhere near the same dais as the prospective Democratic nominee.

And from a purely cynical point of view, can you blame him?

It's a little late in the day for the Scott camp to get all pouty over whatever falsehoods Crist may be uttering when the governor has turned his own re-election effort into an episode of "House of Yarns."

First on the smear parade of fibs Scott would have to explain away is why — despite numerous debunkings of the claim — he still insists on running commercials claiming 300,000 Florida health insurance policies were canceled by Florida Blue as a result of Obamacare. The actual figure is closer to 40,000, and those were eventually reinstated.

Scott has repeatedly been confronted about the intentionally erroneous numbers and has continued to perpetuate a lie he knows is a lie.

The governor has lied to senior citizens about their Medicare benefits, claimed to be an environmentalist while gutting growth management laws and attempted to undermine the state's voting laws while pretending to be a champion of democracy.

It's an interesting — albeit perverted — campaign strategy: secretly fly around the state on a private jet, debark, tell a bunch of prevarications, get back on plane to the next event, repeat.

The master plan would seem to be grounded in the idea that if Scott just keeps offering up his own alternative universe paid for with $100 million in silk-stocking contributions, perhaps no one will notice all the deceit, the calumny, the mendacity.

In other words, the strategy is the play the voter like a chump. It's worked before!

Then again, Crist could call Scott's bluff by debating Rich. Then what will be the governor's tortured Tallahassee shuffle to still avoid a debate with his likely opponent?

It is sure to be a doozy.

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