Politics & Policy

Jeff Greene Slammed Hardest in Debate Not by Meek, but a Panelist

It was one of the designated panelists, not Kendrick Meek, that delivered the coup de grace to Jeff Greene in today’s Democratic primary Senate debate.

“You clean up real well, but your reputation is really as a party boy. You have the stories on the yachts and the trips to Cuba and the friends with celebrities, and you want to be in the world’s greatest deliberative body — the United States Senate. Do you really have the judgment and the gravitas to be Florida’s United States Senator?”

The question came from Mary Ann Lindley, the editorial page editor at the Tallahassee Democrat.

If she was hoping to give Greene an opportunity to answer critics, what she did instead was give voice to voters who have read article after article questioning both his personal life and business practices, with a rhetorical fire that Meek himself wouldn’t touch.

When asked about the question after the debate, Greene suggested that the media is in the can for his opponent.

“This looks like an alliance between the press, special interests and the politicians against the outsiders trying to shake things up in Washington,” Greene said.

The Tallahassee Democrat, though — the very editorial page that Lindley edits — has endorsed Greene’s primary bid.

Meek himself landed a few strong blows, too. “You have more versions of why you went to Cuba than Baskin-Robbins has ice cream,” Meek said. “Mr. Greene, I have more integrity in my pinky than you have in your whole body.”

That’s not to say Greene was defenseless. When asked why he shorted the housing market — making millions — instead of raising the alarm on the subprime crisis, he told viewers that Meek and the establishment were part of the problem.

“I wasn’t a genius, it was on the front page of Time Magazine, ‘Housing Bust Coming,’” Greene said. “This is the problem, guys like you were just part of the party. You were getting money from all these guys and failed to regulate them. I knew what was happening, you’re right, but how could I tell people in Congress who were part of the problem?”

He then called Meek out for holding housing seminars in his district.

Between swings at each other, the candidates touched on a few of the issues.

Meek touted the economic benefits of bringing high-speed rail to Florida and cutting middle-class taxes. Greene stated his support for a payroll tax holiday and the creation of a national infrastructure bank.

Both decried offshore oil drilling and the Bush tax cuts for the top 1 percent of earners.

Greene said he is “not interesting in raising the age for Social Security,” and suggested that economic recovery is the path out of the entitlement crisis.

“With a million Floridians not working and an unemployment rate that’s between 11 and 12 percent here and between 9 and 10 percent nationally — that’s why we’re having problems in our country, because we are not growing our economy. We need to have bold moves to get people working again. That will ultimately put us in a position to deal with Social Security.”

For his part, Meek agreed on not raising the retirement age and emphasized his experience fighting attempts to privatize Social Security. Neither candidate took a firm position on means testing.

Then the two got back to the prime objective of bashing each other.

Meek’s final message for viewers, though, was both subtle and perhaps the most damaging of all: urging voters to do the research.

“I just would send Floridians to Politico.com. Take a look at what Mr. Greene’s judgment has been in the past,” Meek said, referring to an article that talked about the candidate’s frequent party cruises with Mike Tyson. “All of this is online and available in your local paper for you to see.”

The debate will be aired statewide tonight at 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the area. It will also be streamed over the Interwebs: Look for the link here around 7 p.m. EST.

UPDATE: The video page now says footage will be posted by 8 p.m. EST, so look for it here shortly thereafter.

UPDATE: Video page now reads 8:30 p.m. EST.

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