It was to be a trilateral debate among Florida's candidates for the U.S. Senate, the first in a two-night doubleheader at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale. So what was Aesop, the famed Greek fabulist of antiquity, doing up there?
For the most part, Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek, Republican former House Speaker and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio, and Republican-turned-Independent Gov. Charlie Crist tried to stick to their talking points.
For Rubio it was the "spending spree" in Washington where, "from the stimulus package to the threats of tax increases to Obamacare, everything that has happened...has made it harder, not easier, for jobs to be created."
For Meek, it was defending the stimulus "as a tool that set the platform to stop us from going into a depression" and health care reform as the "second largest deficit reduction legislation that's been passed in the Congress in several years."
For Crist, it was the "need to send an independent to the United States Senate, because otherwise you're going to end up with either a hard right Republican or hard left Democrat who can't find the middle ground if it stared them in the face."
"That's a good talking point," remonstrated his questioner, Myriam Marquez of The Miami Herald.
"It happened with Obamacare," Crist persisted. And later, "Obamacare was off the charts."
When Meek got his chance, he went after Crist, who has been siphoning Democratic voters away from him. "I'm just shocked to hear...the new lingo from the governor, talking about Obamacare," Meek said. "I wonder if he said that to the President when he was walking with him on the beach."
Crist: "When we were on the beach we were protecting Florida (from the BP oil gusher in the Gulf). And that's what I talked to him about."
Meek: "But you're for offshore oil drilling."
Crist: "No I'm not. I'm opposed to it."
Meek: "Now you are. Now you are....You were with Sarah Palin a couple years ago saying, 'Drill baby drill.'"
Crist: "I never said 'Drill baby drill.'"
Meek: "You were clapping."
Crist: "I was there to support my friend John McCain."
Thankfully, a commercial break intervened, but immediately afterwards, moderator Antonio Mora, news anchor for host station WFOR-TV, returned to the theme. That's when Aesop made his cameo appearance.
In making your run as an Independent, you changed some of the positions you had held as a Republican in the past. In one of Aesop's fables, he talked about the bats and the beasts and the birds, and how the beasts and the birds were in a fight, and the bat wouldn't pick a side. In the end, the moral of the story was that he who is neither one thing or another has no friends. Who are you now?
Crist replied, "I am the same guy I've always been...a fiscal conservative and a social moderate," then pivoted to attack Rubio for wanting to "overturn Roe v. Wade" and "putting...privatization (of Social Security) on the table....I am running against an extreme right wing candidate who believes in taking away women's rights, punishing seniors...and that's just not right."
And so it went....
This article is cross posted at jrbarras.com