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You got what you voted for

Attention certain women, men, Democrats, abortion-rights supporters, reformers, do-gooders and liberals: Quit bellyaching about Lawton Chiles. He is exactly the same guy you elected governor.

You canonized him, even though he had the same flaws then as he does now.

You were so starry-eyed over the fact he was Not Bob Martinez that you assumed he could do no wrong.

Abortion-rights folks seized upon him desperately, doing their best to downplay that he had voted in the U.S. Senate to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Women far preferred him to Martinez, but soon after he called them the "weaker sex" and said it was for men to "allow" them freedom of choice.

Editorial writers swallowed his good-government line, and then were dismayed when he hired his cronies, gave them fat salaries and kept a "report card" of patronage.

Advocates for the disadvantaged invested him with superhuman compassion, only to see him veto a civil rights bill that had been opposed by powerful interest groups.

Reformers lined the streets and waved palm fronds as he passed, but now complain that he settled for a patchwork quilt of crazy taxes just like his predecessor, that he held secret meetings, that he kept a secret office schedule.

Liberals who called Martinez an intolerant prude saw Chiles as the new soul of the Democratic Party, but now cringe as he employs terms like "fish-eaters" to describe Catholics.

St. Lawton is no more.

The best indication of his passing is the public reaction to the goofy, lightweight stuff that surrounds him.

As governor-elect, Chiles was ticketed for driving 80 mph. It was a big joke. It was still funny when he almost ran over Secretary of State Jim Smith.

But now people are starting to grouse about the little stuff. Suddenly, the people of Florida are begrudging their beloved governor a crummy $935 ice maker for the poolside.

Maybe they laughed in Tallahassee, but they didn't laugh in many other places when Chiles tried to downplay the "fish-eater" crack by joking about his use of an anti-depressant: "You've got to expect some of that from a 61-year-old man who takes drugs."

Poor Martinez. He really didn't do too bad a job of running most of the government. The Democrats say his big sin was that he was too cowardly to raise taxes, but hey, where are they?

Martinez's downfalls were that he let too many cronies dip into the trough, he was loyal to too many boobs, he saw all criticism as enemy attacks, and he made too many shallow grabs for popular, knee-jerk opinion.

A warm man in person, he seemed wooden and insincere to the outside world.

A lot of people disliked Martinez. It was easy for Chiles, with the help of a slick media consultant and a slobberingly favorable press, to become bigger than life.

And so, the harder he falls.

The funny part about all this is that when it comes to the boring part, actually running the state, Chiles is having a solid first year.

Florida has beefed up help for at-risk mothers and newborns.

There are new environmental efforts. Chiles took the refreshing step of going to a Miami federal courtroom and admitting for the first time that Florida needs to clean up the Everglades.

With Education Commissioner Betty Castor, Chiles helped win school reform that puts more power, and more responsibility, on the local level.

In large part because of Chiles, the Legislature passed long-awaited ethics reforms and lower limits on campaign contributions.

Lawmakers even gave Chiles a new Department of Elderly Affairs, or "elder affairs," as Chiles calls it, although for starters it won't have much power.

This is a pretty good track record so far for a human governor, as opposed to a superman _ better, certainly, than Bob Graham's rookie year in 1979, or Martinez's in 1987.

Chiles hasn't reformed the world.

He hasn't "right-sized."

He hasn't fixed Florida's tax base.

He can be pig-headedly self-righteous.

And yes, he has said some awfully dumb things.

But he is exactly the same guy so many of you swooned over last fall.

If you were one of them, you have absolutely no right to be surprised now.

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