Charlie Crist, the consummate chameleon

crist obama hugHe’s at it again. Charlie Crist couldn’t get enough votes in 2010 from both Republicans and Democrats to win a statewide U.S. Senate race against Marco Rubio. But now he thinks he can cobble together enough Democratic votes to become governor. He might be right.

I will be having some very interesting discussions with my Democratic friends over whether they will vote for Crist in his new Democratic clothes. Those same friends are moral, ethical people who will be forced into a sobering decision that carries heavy ethical implications. Their dilemma is whether they should vote for a man who has publicly proven himself to be either a liar in the recent past or a liar now.

If Crist runs, this will really put Democrats’ core beliefs to the test. Democratic voters will discover something about themselves: Is my voting decision determined more by pragmatism or by principle? Am I more interested in winning, or am I more interested in backing an intellectually honest candidate? What’s more important to me in a candidate, honesty and ethics or someone who supports my politics?

In my view, the more voters agonize over those choices, the fewer votes Crist gets.

Charlie has embraced the demagogue’s trick of speaking out of both sides of his mouth, depending on what is momentarily convenient. Here’s a man who ran for governor in 2006 by telling Floridians he was a “pro-life leader” who “supports conservative judges — not activist judges — who apply the law as written.” He was endorsed by the NRA back then because he “proudly” defended “the right to bear arms and to advance the rights of … shooters and hunters.” How is he going to handle his 2006 commitment to stand with former Gov. Jeb Bush for “conservative values” or his opposition to child “adoption by gay couples”? Will he still support “displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings”, as he did back then?

It would be a fascinating psychological exercise to explore the inner workings of Crist’s mind. Apparently, he believes he can get a lot of people to support him based on the hope that they will forgive and forget what he told them in the past. His hope is to overcome his clear actions that he is a turncoat and a waffler, and to convince Democrats he won’t flip-flop again in the future and betray them. Maybe Charlie just likes the adrenalin rush of being a double-agent.

But it all sifts down to one of the most common complaints I hear from Democrats and Republicans alike: Too many politicians cannot be trusted to honor what they claim are their core beliefs.

Trust and honesty should be threshold issues when selecting political candidates, and if they fail this evaluation, they should never make it to the next step.

When you enter the voting booth, you know for sure what you’re getting in Crist: an expedient chameleon with no core beliefs who will change direction based on what’s best for him and how the political wind blows. And that’s why my discussions with my Democratic friends will be so deliciously entertaining. Oh, this is going to be fun.

John R. Smith

John R. Smith is chairman of BIZPAC, the Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County, and owner of a financial services company.

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