Very Possibly the Defining Stupidity of the 2014 Electoral Cycle

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist waits next to an empty podium for Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott, who at first refused to participate in a gubernatorial debate due to an Crist’s use of an electric fan. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Maybe monumental stupidity in reckless lying is more of a Republican thing in general, instead of merely a foible of a small-time Republican calling for an American coup. The current stupidity comes out of Florida, where, as many of us have already heard and watched, incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) refused to take the stage for nearly seven minutes at the beginning of the debate, apparently complaining that former Gov. Charlie Crist (D, fmr. I, fmr. R) had an electric fan under his podium.

Yes, really.

Reporter Marc Caputo tweeted last night:

Privately, Republicans/Rick Scott loyalists are telling me the moment he didn’t go onstage over fangate was the moment he lost the election

Maybe so, but Gov. Scott and even surrogate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) decided to drive a couple more nails just to make sure.

Consider, please, the answer from Gov. Scott:

'Privately, Republicans/Rick Scott loyalists are telling me the moment he didn't go onstage over fangate was the moment he lost the election' (Marc Caputo)Well I waited to see if he—’til we figured out if we figured out if he was going to show up. He said he was going to come to the, uh—uh, he said he was going to come to the debate. So why come out until he’s ready?

And then there was Sen. Rubio to back him up:

Well, as you saw Governor Scott say, it wasn’t clear he was even going to show up. When I got here today for this debate, I was told that Charlie Crist was going to cancel the debate. Because unless there was a fan on that stage he would not come out. So I think that Governor Scott was waiting to see if Charlie would actually pull it off or not.

And, of course, there is a punch line: While Gov. Scott was apparently waiting to see if Crist showed up, Mr. Crist was standing onstage waiting for the incumbent to emerge.

David Nir of Daily Kos noted Crist’s ability to exploit the several minutes of awkwardness:

As the moderators discussed what to do about Scott’s kvetching, Crist just shredded his absentee opponent. Referring to Scott’s infamous deposition where he refused 75 times to answer questions about the Medicare fraud his health care company committed, Crist interjected:

“That’s the ultimate pleading of the Fifth I ever heard.”

What is perhaps saddest about this is that Team Scott apparently decided to play a weird definition with words. Their objection to the fan had to do with a rule prohibiting “electronic” devices. This usually refers to smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other such devices. An electric fan, as such, is not an electronic device as much as it is an electrical device. To wit, note that the Scott campaign had no objection to other (ahem!) “electronic” devices such as lights and microphones.

Still, though, as stupidity goes, Gov. Scott’s nitpicking about an electric fan pales in comparison to his response. Or, as Nir put it:

Yes, Scott actually claimed he wouldn’t come on stage because he said Crist wasn’t planning to come on stage—only, you know, he was already there.

But how to formulate this magnitude of stupidity? While refusing to start a debate for the sake of an electric fan sounds really, really stupid, at least Gov. Scott wasn’t calling for a coup. But while Debbie Dunnegan Waters, the Jefferson County Recorder of Deeds who did call for a military coup against President Obama, demonstrated a unique valence of stupidity in trying to say she did not say what she actually said—not a claim of being misinterpreted, but that she didn’t write what she actually, observably did write—in the end she’s a county official without a tremendous amount of policy influence.

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R).Governor Scott, however, is a sitting governor who wants to be re-elected. Is that a coefficient or an exponent in trying to figure out just how stupid this whole maneuver was?

After all, they were (ahem!) waiting to see if Crist would show up. While Mr. Crist stood onstage, waiting.

Insofar as both candidates are shallow opportunists, one could almost feel sorry for Floridians that this is their gubernatorial race. After all, while many might be unhappy with Scott’s tenure in office, it is easy to see how voters might prefer to reject Crist for his opportunism. As it is, polling averages suggest Crist carries a one-point lead, which is a functional tie. If Scott loses, Caputo may be correct insofar as “fangate was the moment he lost the election”.

But this is Florida. And while it is easy enough to pity Sunshine State voters for the choice before them, they kind of did this to themselves. And, furthermore, enough of this seems to be about identity politics that a growing prospect of Charlie Crist returning to the governor’s mansion might rally conservative voters. Remember that truth is stranger than fiction because fiction is generally obliged to eventually make sense. Reality has no such obligation. Keep an eye on Florida. Crist might be a slick technocrat, but Floridians have already elected Scott once, apparently finding hope in his administrative skills. After all, apparently the guy is such a good adminisrator that he could not possibly know that the company under his control committed such fraud that it eventually paid out over $1.7 billion in fines, damages, and other penalties. Which, of course, is why he shielded himself behind the Fifth Amendment seventy-five times in a civil lawsuit deposition, refuisng to answer such damning questions as whether or not he was currently employed.

And that apparently, was good enough for Florida voters.


Caputo, Marc and Adam C. Smith. “‘Fan’ dispute overshadows sharp debate between Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott”. The Miami Herald. 16 October 2014.

Caputo, Marc. “Privately, Republicans/Rick Scott loyalists are telling me the moment he didn’t go onstage over fangate was the moment he lost the election”. Twitter. 15 October 2014.

Nir, David. “Unreal: Rick Scott refuses to debate Charlie Crist because of a—well, just watch”. Daily Kos. 15 Octoberr 2014.

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