“And she took snuff too. Of course that was all right
Because she done it herself.”
— From Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn
The quote above is Twain’s and Huck’s window on hypocrisy. The malefactor here is the Widow Douglass, who was down on Huck’s smoking, which she styled “a mean practice,” and was not bashful about hectoring him about it.
Those who follow politics need have a pretty high tolerance for hypocrisy. Candidates are forever hectoring their opponents about things they do themselves. Depending on the political consumer’s temperament or mood of the day, this can be either amusing or depressing. I usually choose amusement because it’s more enjoyable.
The winner of the Widow Douglass Award for this week is rookie Democrat Charlie Crist. Crist, who was Florida’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011, and wishes to return to this office as a Democrat. Through an exceptionally nasty campaign, Crist has hectored incumbent Republican governor Rick Scott about being a rich guy and owning a private jet. Making a blatant pitch for the envy vote, Crist accuses Scott of only caring about other rich guys and deliberately crafting policies to discomfit Florida’s middle class and poor.
Scott is indeed a rich guy, thanks to his efforts in the private sector, about which lifetime politician Crist is innocent. And Scott flies about in his plane to campaign. But this week Crist is wheels-up himself, using campaign funds (perhaps some of them from rich guys) to rent a jet and fly about and campaign. Of course it’s all right because he done it himself.
At least Scott’s plane allows Florida taxpayers to save a little money. Florida got rid of a state jet and Scott gets around at his own expense. Crist only allowed one reporter, Tampa’s Bay News 9 reporter Troy Kinsey, on his Jacksonville-Sanford-Miami circuit on Saturday. Even Kinsey wasn’t allowed to take picture of the plane. Scott too almost never has reporters on board, and doesn’t even publish his flight schedules.
The Scott campaign is getting some air mileage out of Kinsey’s standup that reminds viewers that Crist gigs Scott for being a jet setter, and ends with, “The image of Crist flying private, even for one day, could undercut that message.”
Maybe so. But it’s hard to see how it matters. Both candidates have been sending out non-stop messages for months, usually about what a fiend in human form the other guy is, and the result, as polls measure these things, has been a dead heat. Almost all the polls in this one have been within the margin of error for weeks. With less than a week to go, the status is still quo. Of the two most recently released polls, one shows Crist with a two-point lead, the other shows Scott ahead by one.
We’ve reached a point where polls are even less instructive than usual. Through absentee ballots and early voting, more than a million Floridians have already voted. Any late October surprise can have no effect on a sizable fraction of Florida’s electorate.
Thanks to the nasty ads, the ceaseless robocalls, and mind-numbing news reports on campaign events, many Floridians are eager for this one to be done and dusted. But as each successive poll shows the candidates neck and neck, worry has sprung up that any problem in counting votes on Nov. 4 could lead to this very unappetizing contest lasting beyond its appointed time.
Since 2000, Southern Florida counties have had recurring problems getting people voted and counted. Palm Beach County doesn’t do chads anymore. But in a race this close, any problem could cause the election to linger on. And surely both candidates are lawyered up for this possibility. So you see, over the next week, Halloween may not be the scariest event.