1. Florida Politics

Rick Scott: From political outsider to business as usual

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has morphed from everyman to everypolitician.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has morphed from everyman to everypolitician.
Published Feb. 11, 2014

He rode into town as the faceless outsider. His appeal was his mystery, and his victory was his proof.

Beholden to no one, and politically chaste, he was going to turn state government into a streamlined machine that would champion people above any policy.

Now, three years later, here we are:

Gov. Rick Scott has morphed from everyman to everypolitician.

Decisions neatly coincide with campaign contributions. Partisan policies are not just the norm, they are essentially the rule. And if you need proof of Scott's mastery of the political sleight of hand, look no further than last week's education summit in Clearwater.

His office bragged about the significance of this largely impotent meeting of educators while Scott was meeting privately with the same old political heavyweights who are hellbent on privatizing public schools.

The outsider, it seems, has grown comfy in the mansion.

For what it's worth, this was not entirely unexpected. Campaign slogans routinely take a backseat to reality once a candidate is no longer in need of your imminent vote.

What's interesting in Scott's case, is how brazen the change has been. And how unnecessary, considering he was a self-made man without a pocketful of IOUs. "Today is the end of politics as usual in Tallahassee,'' Scott said in his victory speech in 2010.

Technically, he was right. For the politics of this administration appear even more cynical and partisan than we are accustomed to seeing.

Consider the approach to the state's major issues:

Job creation? Agree or disagree with his methods, Scott is ruthlessly pursuing out-of-state CEOs to relocate businesses to Florida. But the funny thing about it? Scott has targeted only states with Democratic governors. So where do his loyalties lie? With the Republican Party, or unemployed Floridians?

Political donations? We've gotten used to the quid pro quo of Florida politics, but wasn't Scott going to be above that? Hardly. From prison privatization to insurance upstarts to big sugar to developers to power companies and everyone with a checkbook in between, Scott's administration hands out favors like Don Corleone at his daughter's wedding.

Education? Evidence indicates that the school grading formula is unreliable, teacher evaluations are absurdly flawed, and high-stakes testing is having unintended consequences. Parents and teachers are begging for leaders to put the brakes on so-called reforms. Yet instead of attending his own public summit last week, Scott meets privately with Jeb Bush who continues to zealously promote this misguided crusade.

These examples don't even include the undermining of Obamacare and shameless election shenanigans.

Pin him down, and Scott will provide rehearsed explanations for a handful of his positions and simply ignore those that he cannot defend.

You might expect that from a political lifer. You might even understand it from an elected official who is young, good-looking and completely indebted to the power brokers who greased the skids every step of the way.

But Rick Scott claimed he was different.

He sold himself as a guy who would ride into Tallahassee and rescue us from the cocktail party crowd.

Who knew he would end up tending the bar?


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