Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has compounded the insult to Florida voters that U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez imposed on them by failing to fill out his term of office. For just about 16 months, Florida will be served by a caretaker senator. Okay, sometimes that happens. At the least, though, the caretake should be more than just a stalking horse for the governor who wants the seat. Crist’s choice of this guy LeMieux clearly is more political than substantive. This is a guy who will do Crist’s bidding first, rather than Florida’s. If somebody is to be in the Senate for only 16 months, it should be somebody who can hit the ground running, somebody who already understands how the place works. LeMieux has no Washington experience, and no real experience of his own independent of being Crist’s surrogate and deputy. He might be a fine fella, but it takes more than a fine fella to representa big state in the Senate with no transition period, no real orientation, and no experience. Crist should have chosen somebody like former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, a truly good man and solid public servant. In fact, Shaw may be one of the two or three most unfairly unappreciated congressmen, by the conservative movement, in the past several decades. It was Clay Shaw, more than any other individual, who finally put together the welfare reform package that passed Congress and became the single biggest achievement of the GOP’s management of Congress and perhaps the single most successful major domestic policy bill of hte past forty years.
But I digress. Whether Shaw or somebody else, the choice should have been somebody who can take over the office without missing a beat. The Senate is a complicated institution. If it is to be served by a caretaker, it at least merits a caretaker who won’t be lost in the hallways, confounded by the rules, and hobbled by the expectation that he is not his own man but the governor’s man instead.
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