by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
October 24, 2010
SWISS BUILD TUNNELS; AMERICANS MAKE EXCUSES
BRADENTON, Fla., Oct. 24, 2010 -- There are no easy choices in America these days.
Voters who want to do what's best for their country - and not necessarily best for their political party - can watch debates in local, statewide and federal races, read their local and national newspapers, and talk to their neighbors and friends about the candidates, yet still feel uncertain they are making the best choices.
The American Reporter has no monopoly on political wisdom, but we do read an awful lot - and write a lot, too - about politics, and at least one of us is an elected party official. Since that person happens to be our editor and the author of this article, it needs to be disclosed that he's a longtime Republican who became a Democrat in 1987 and has served as an elected democratic county committee member since 2003.
The two most important races in America are for Governor of California and Governor of Florida. In California, former Gov. Jerry Brown is facing former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Brown has been serving to date as the Golden State's Attorney General after a successful stint as Mayor of Oakland. Whitman, who has spent more than $120 million on her own campaign, is the highly successful former CEO of eBay, one of the greatest and most successful enterprises ever to begin on the Internet.
For us, the choice is easy. Success on the Internet is no substitute for several decades of executive experience at every level of state government. Brown has been Secretary of State, Governor twice before, a big-city mayor and the state's top law enforcement official. He has become tougher than he once was in the latter post, probably for having been exposed to the darkest side of life in California. Whitman, in contrast, has never held public office, and has often failed to even vote, her record shows. Ultimately, we have never seen her tested except in debates, and those have been inconclusive.
We believe the former "Governor Moonbeam" is going to be "Governor Sunshine" for California. We think he will usher in a strong, progressive and compassionate administration that vigorously takes on California's greatest problems - unemployment, persistent budget deficits, a burgeoning welfare system and a great reversal of prices in the state's housing market. We warmly endorse Jerry Brown for Governor of California. We'd still like to see him as president one day.
The Florida gubernatorial race is a much tougher call. On the Democratic side there is Alex Sink, the former president of Bank of America's Florida operations. In that post, she is criticized for presiding over the firing of 9,000 bank employees, her $8 million bonus from the bank, the bank's role in the housing bubble, and its substantial fraud against depositors - $35 overdraft fees based on taking the largest debits first against balances, instead of the standard "Last In, First Out" protocol, for instance.
Sink is also liable as the elected Chief Financial Officer of Florida for losing hundreds of millions, if not billions, from the state employee retirement pension fund. We can't know how much she and then-Republican Charlie Crist and the GOP's Bill McCollum lost during their triune management of the pension fund, because all three are refusing to comment on the losses.
Republican Rick Scott, however, is also problematic. He was founder of Columbia Healthcare, which became the Healthcare Corporation of America. That hospital corporation defrauded the U.S. government of billions of dollars, and paid the largest fine in corporate history - $1.6 billion dollars.
Scott was not indicted and says he was not in any way involved in that massive fraud, but we wonder how much of a hands-on manager he could be if he knew nothing about it until after the fact? Yet we must believe federal investigators were not eager to let him go free when they prosecuted the company, so we have to think, too, that he had no role they felt confident in prosecuting. That is exculpatory of criminal behavior in a meaningful way; his ethics are another question.
In such cases, we ask ourselves whether we should elect a crook that has been caught, or a crook that has not? Our painful choice is to endorse the crook that has been caught. We think that a successful builder of corporations probably can generate new jobs and investment better than a bank president, while also cutting some of the awful waste - like the $48 million "Taj Mahal" Florida is building for the state Court of Appeal - that has occurred on the current governor's watch.
We hope Rick Scott will come to a more enlightened position on immigration instead of taking advantage of the wave of thoughtless popular support for Arizona's unkind and unconstitutional immigration statute. We think that the office will moderate his more conservative views, and hope he will move to the middle. It's encouraging that he ran against the GOP establishment in Florida and, if he wants to, can maintain a degree of independence if elected. So, with trepidation and also with hope, Rick Scott is our choice for Governor of Florida.
Endorsing in the Senate races in the two states is again difficult in one and easy in the other. The easy case is California, where Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has served her state and nation with outstanding discernment and fearless integrity for many years. Parenthetically, it seems to us that it is not so much what a person believes (within reason) that should guide our electoral choices but what they are willing to stand up for when the going gets very, very tough. We think that's a better measure of character.
We don't expect much in the way of character from Carly Fiorina, Sen. Boxer's opponent, who was fired from Hewlett Packard after a scandal in which she apparently ordered the wiretapping of her fellow executives' phones. Unlike Meg Whitman, another multimillionaire, HP was on track for big losses when she left, and its electronics business was riddled with technical flaws that saddled consumers with worthless gear. It's remarkable, to say the least, how much HP has improved by both measures since Fiorina left.
Our choice, one we make with great confidence, is California's incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.
The U.S. Senate race in Florida offers by far the most difficult choice of all. The candidates are current Governor Charlie Crist, the son of Greek immigrants, from St. Petersburg, Fla.; Rep. Kendrick Meek, the son of a former Member of Congress, Carrie Meek, and a onetime state trooper who has been in Congress for eight years; and the former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Marco Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants whose father was a bartender and whose mother was a maid in Las Vegas-area hotels.
Rubio is a great disappointment. Rather than stand up for the millions of illegal immigrants who have come to Florida seeking work, he has joined the ultra-conservative camp that rejects efforts like the Dream Act, which would allow the innocent children of undocumented people to get through U.S. schools and become citizens, and the bipartisan "path to citizenship" proposed by Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, which would require the undocumented to pay a fine, go to the back of the line, maintain a clean police record, and pay any back taxes - in other words, to earn citizenship the hard way.
Rubio has betrayed his own immigrant heritage, and for that alone deserves contempt. But his spending on credit cards issued by the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) has been almost as questionable. Through reporting by the St. Petersburg Times and other newspapers, it has become obvious that Rubio used the cards for personal expenses, but he has not been willing to release his records of that spending. By contrast, Charlie Crist - who also was given the RPOF cards - rebutted the party's allegations that he did not pay for personal expenses by trotting out proof that he paid for such expenses himself.
We have some respect for Rep. Kendrick Meek, but since 2003 he has yet to author a single bill that has become law. He either never had an original idea to help his country and state, or lacked political skills to enact them if he did - even as fellow Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. His mother, Rep. Carrie Meek, a 5-term Congresswoman, had an equally undistinguished record.
It's also alleged that Meek had a dangerous flirtation with a developer, later indicted, who hired his mother at a $105,000 salary and also bought her a Cadillac Escalade as the younger Meek lobbied Congress for earmarks that would benefit the developer. We question the essential competence of Rep. Meek, and these other complications just add to the weight of the talk against him.
Florida's Governor, Charlie Crist, is one of a kind. A former legislator and state attorney general, he was elected governor to succeed Jeb Bush. He appeared to be a conservative, although he always seemed an incongruous one. When he appointed his chief of staff, George LeMieux, to replace retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez - who wanted more time with his family after just four years of the six-year U.S. Senate term - the open understanding was that LeMieux would back Crist for the Senate seat when LeMieux's two-year partial term was over.
But things didn't work out that way. Crist was dumbfounded when statehouse Speaker Marco Rubio gave up that job (and was replaced by a crook that was forced to resign) to run for Senate with the help of the Tea Party. Rubio soon took a commanding lead in the Republican gubernatorial primary, and Crist bailed.
With great howling on the part of the state GOP, he declared himself an independent, vetoed a bill that would have fired thousands of teachers and cut their pay - and killed a weird Republican bill that would require pregnant women to view an ultrasound of their fetus before getting an abortion. As Crist moved dramatically to the center, it helped at first, but now the race is Rubio's to lose. Crist is running at least 14 points behind in a CNN poll.
The questions many ask about are Crist are, first, whether his conversion to moderate Republicanism - or independence, as he calls it - is genuine; and whom he would caucus with in Congress; presumably, it would not be with Bernie Sanders, Vermont's independent U.S. Senator. Crist has not told us, yet in some alternate reality we suspect he would be the 60th Democrat.
But here's the good thing about Charlie Crist: He has the support of a lot of Democratic elected officials, privately and publicly. Our own former Democratic Party chairman in Manatee County, attorney C.J. Czaia, is backing Crist. We also think he is a compassionate man. Crist did veto the two highly political, mean and wrong-headed pieces of Republican legislation we mentioned. He endorses the "path to citizenship" approach that Rubio treacherously rejects. And he is a known quantity, even if we don't always know what he really believes.
Apropos of our comments about Sen. Boxer's character, Crist is unlikely to commit political suicide by making a hugely unpopular decision. But he is equally unlikely to take any such position, or to back any truly weird proposal; he is ultimately a centrist, and most importantly, we think he has a genuine reverence for the American experiment in democracy. We trust him to be himself, in other words, and that also counts for a great deal. We endorse him for Florida's vacant U.S. Senate seat with pleasure.
Endorsements are a matter of opinion, and we know there will be many readers who disagree with these. You're welcome to submit well-reasoned, intelligent endorsements; we'll try to publish them quickly, and in the interim, we hope you'll vote for those whom you believe will serve us best.