Charlie Crist: 'I Feel at Home as a Democrat'

Image: Charlie Crist: 'I Feel at Home as a Democrat'

Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 10:47 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Charlie Crist says he never should have been a Republican, according to The Atlantic.

“I feel at home as a Democrat, I really do,” says Crist, Florida’s 44th governor, who went from being a lifelong member of the GOP to an independent to a Democrat in less than two years. As a Democrat, he is looking to reoccupy the governor’s mansion and toss Republican Rick Scott from the post.

In the lengthy March Atlantic piece, writer Molly Ball delves into whether Crist is a craven opportunist or a voter-pleasing pragmatist for a time of ideological exhaustion.”

Crist, 57, takes criticism of his fair-weather status in stride, according to Ball, who notes that he will be the first to toss out the word opportunist when asked what he stands for. Crist points out that that is how others may characterize him before rattling off a canned retort that he stands for “fairness and trying to treat people right.”

Others view him as shallow, Ball says, “a needy personality with nothing underneath.”
The slender, chronically sun-tanned 57-year-old with the perfectly coiffed silver mane “lights up” when Ball notices that he doesn’t touch his food during a power-broker lunch in Miami. He passed on the bread basket, she writes, uttering “eat bread, look like bread.”

“One meal a day! Just dinner!” he exclaims before pointing out he power drinks caffeine, preferably Diet Red Bull.

Ball marvels at Crist’s warmth, whether one-on-one or in front of an audience.

“He is elaborately, embarrassingly solicitous of everyone he meets: the waiter, the billionaire, the activist, the security guard, the local television reporter,” she writes.
But he’s not very savvy, she says, when it comes to his’ “nearly pathological need to tell people what they want to hear.”

On his flip-flopping position on the embargo with Cuba (as a Republican he was for it, as a Democrat he’s opposed), Crist says: “Yeah, well, you know what, if the president is allowed to have a new position now and again, can’t I? Isn’t it okay? Would you rather have your leaders be open-minded or head-in-the-sand?”

After now Sen. Marco Rubio entered the U.S. Senate race in 2009, Crist, who did not seek re-election as governor to run for the office, tried unsuccessfully to rebrand himself as a conservative before dropping out of the race an becoming an independent. It was only a short time before he endorsed President Obama in his reelection bid, spoke at the Democratic National Convention and officially joined the Democratic Party at the White House in December 2012.

In November 2013, Crist announced his campaign for Florida governor.

Despite his laundry list of offerings that he says illustrate his core liberal beliefs – restoring felons’ voting rights, spending $1 billion of taxpayers’ money to preserve the Everglades, and siding with teacher and trial lawyer unions – Crist’s record makes him a prime target for carrying the flip-flopper label, according to The Atlantic.

“After voting for Florida’s gay-marriage ban in 2008, last year he announced his support for marriage equality,” it the article states. “As a gubernatorial candidate in 2006, he once told a Catholic priest he would sign a restrictive ban on abortion; just hours later, he told reporters he didn’t think that was government’s role. Crist wears as a badge of courage his February 2009 appearance with Obama in support of the stimulus bill; he rarely mentions that a few months later he pretended not to know that the president would be appearing in the state. A few weeks ago, after years of supporting the Cuba embargo, he suddenly declared himself against it—conveniently, according to recent polling: Floridians are now mostly against the embargo, too.”

There’s also the issue of Crist’s “unsavory associates,” according to Ball, such as convicted Florida Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, a former Fort Lauderdale attorney serving 50 years, who alleges Crist sold federal judgeships in exchange for campaign contributions. And Jim Greer, former chairman of the Florida republican Party (anointed by Crist) who “turned the powerful and lucrative state GOP machinery into his personal piggy bank.”

Crist is unapologetic about his change in ideology, explaining that “other than the party label, none of this is new. I haven’t really changed.”

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