Charlie Crist: An Oxymoron (with a Silent ‘Oxy’)
The former governor’s “core beliefs” consist of whatever will get him elected.


Jonah Goldberg

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (including those Dear Readers who do not hold your reading dear and as a result thought I forgot the Dear Reader gag last week, when in fact I very subtly wrote “Deer Reader” with a link to a deer reading. Get it? Ye of little faith! Nothing says comedy more than a bibliophilic odocoileus virginianus, am I right?),

I am not going to dwell long on Charlie Crist. With his baseball-glove skin and white hair, he looks not unlike a career beachcomber who spends his days with a metal detector in search of treasure he’s convinced himself he deserves and he will tell you all about it if you make the mistake of sitting next to him at the counter at the local diner. Whenever I see him on MSNBC or NBC, he looks like the same kind of eccentric, only dressed up for one of his many court dates.

Except for his eyes. He’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.

Anyway, sticking with the beachcomber thing, lingering too long on the subject of Charlie Crist would be like waving a metal detector over the same patch of sand over and over again. All you’ll find is a few bits of detritus, a bottle top or two, some dead things, maybe an old condom, and then beyond that, there’s just nothing, layer after layer after layer of nothing. The texture of the nothing may change — he’ll grow wetter and tend to smell more — but there’s no golden prize to be found, because like that treasureless patch of beach, the defining quality of Charlie Crist is that there’s simply no there there. He is an oxymoron (often with a silent “oxy”): He is a man defined by what he is not, including his lack of manhood.

I bring this up because earlier this week Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post’s “The Fix” blog wrote a post with the less than economical headline: “Charlie Crist didn’t leave the Republican party because of racism. He left it because he couldn’t win a primary.”

Crist apparently went on Jorge Ramos’s show on Fusion TV and said: “I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there.” Crist added: “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing; it was intolerable to me.”

Now, this isn’t merely a lie. We are used to politicians telling us they can and will “eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse,” that they won’t take money from lobbyists, that they can give you seven-minute abs in six minutes and all of that. This is different. This is the sort of lying that makes God look over the top of his morning newspaper the way a dad looks at his kid when the boy’s making fart sounds with his armpit at the breakfast table. This is the kind of lying you expect of Vichy politicians as they run into the room after hastily putting on their “Vive la Resistance!” T-shirt for the first time.

He’s not simply making this nonsense up. He’s actually claiming moral conviction he doesn’t have and bravery he hasn’t earned in order to advance a lie no honorable man would ever utter. His weaselly “I’ll just go there” line is the kind of courage-on-the-cheap that you’d expect from the guy who tried to sell out Bruce Willis to Hans Gruber in Die Hard. But at least that shmuck had an air of plausibility.  

Let me put it another way: It is the kind of lying that not even the “The Fix” can let stand. I don’t mean to be unkind to Cillizza, but the simple fact is that normally when a former Republican says the GOP is racist, it is de rigueur for the MSM to either hype such statements so that they will ultimately yield a 20-minute round of head-nodding celebration on Morning Joe or at least let them go unchallenged so that they can serve as an under-examined “one example among many” of GOP racism.

Moreover, it’s not just racism. Whenever a conservative (I use that term very advisedly and reluctantly) or a Republican moves leftward it is to be celebrated and consecrated as a victory for the right side of history. I can go on about this at great length (See, Kevin Phillips, John Dean, Lincoln Chaffee, Michael Lind, Doug Kmiec, et al). But just consider when former senator Jim Jeffords jumped ship in the early days of the Bush administration. He was hailed as a latter-day Thomas More. He went around talking about how he had to leave the party because of abortion and social issues and “conscience.” The truth is that he expected Strom Thurmond to die any minute, which would throw the Senate majority to the Democrats and imperil his seniority and perhaps the Northeast Dairy Compact, his corporatist-socialist holy of holies. So he bolted and then told the media what it wanted to hear and the media dutifully treated Jeffords as the Martin Niemöller of the early Bush years (“First they came for the milk subsidies…”).