Florida Trend Publisher Andy Corty writes about “the hug” with President Obama that has symbolized the nosedive Governor Crist has taken in the polls:
Think back to late January. President Barack Obama was scheduled to appear in Tampa to announce federal funding for a high-speed rail line connecting Tampa and Orlando and eventually Miami. That was the real news, but the question getting wide publicity was this: Would Gov. Charlie Crist greet the president as he did in Fort Myers last February or would he avoid Obama as he did last October in Jacksonville?
Partisan politics unfortunately played a major role in these decisions. After the â€œman hugâ€ of February â€™09, Crist was pummeled from the right wing of the Republican Party for consorting with the Democratic president. The pressure grew so intense that Crist, running for the U.S. Senate, pointedly stayed away in October, saying he wasnâ€™t even aware the president was traveling to Florida.
Such a political game runs counter to the Crist I know. He is a man who is uncommonly polite. He has friends of many stripes. He has always accepted criticism without knocking the critic. And he has typically governed toward the center. While we may personally differ on some significant policy issues, Iâ€™ve never felt anything other than warm collegiality from him. Perhaps Iâ€™m a starry-eyed political neophyte, but thereâ€™s something really â€œAmericanâ€ about fair-minded discourse between people who donâ€™t see eye-to-eye on policy topics.
By chance I was at the Governorâ€™s Mansion for a reception the night before Obama was to appear in Tampa, so I asked Crist about his intentions. â€œOf course Iâ€™m going to be with the president,â€ Crist replied. â€œItâ€™s about jobs for Floridians. With unemployment over 11% here, thereâ€™s nothing more important than jobs.â€
That was the right decision, and I applaud the governor for greeting Obama. But I wish he had also said that as governor â€” and as the official representative of 18 million Floridians â€” he would always greet the president of the United States when he visited the great state of Florida. Itâ€™s a question of civility.