Issue Summary and Coverage Analysis
Former Governor Charlie Crist is running for Senate in Florida’s 2010 election. Given his state popularity and track record as a moderate republican, most thought that the former Governor would be a shoo-in for the Senate seat. However, since the Republican Party has lost significant national power, it has become severely fragmented. In most recent months, the party has tried to unify itself by ousting all those who hold moderate positions. As a result, this senatorial race is proving to be more difficult than the Crist campaign initially expected. The latest so-called blow to the campaign is this picture with President Obama. In fact, Crist has been criticized for this picture (by his fellow republicans) to the point that he is now lying to the press about his contact with the White House.
Before I give my thoughts, I would like to commend the media for doing its job on this issue. This is one of the rare instances that the media has not used a story as an opportunity to increase its own ratings. In this case, for some strange reason, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox have simply reported the facts.
Frist’s opponent released this ad to remind republicans that the former Governor supported Obama’s stimulus package; and to suggest that Frist is fully supportive of the President’s policies. But, more broadly, it demonstrates the importance of pictures and imagery to American political campaigns.
Irrespective of the importance of these images, I resent the fact that the President has been demonized to the extent that taking a picture with him is discouraged by the opposing party. It seems that the President is being treated as if he is an enemy of the state. This is almost the same criticism that President Obama received when he shook hands with Hugo Chavez. Or, to cite another example, the same treatment that American government officials are supposed to give to pictures with leaders of hostile nations.
Secondly, I don’t understand why Crist is being rebuked for his support of the stimulus package. The stimulus issue should be “water under the bridge” for republicans because it actually worked. It has rescued our economy from the brink of collapse, and it has saved or created over 640,000 jobs. To suggest that the former Governor Crist is acquiescent to all of the President’s policies as a result of his support for the stimulus package is gross distortion.
Yet again, we have been shown that optics have weight and gravity in our political process. I can only hope that in the future, it will be used for the right reasons. This is certainly not one of them. Barring a hypothetical situation in which the President commits a heinous crime, taking a picture with the President of the United States should not be a sin. The President is the leader of our country. He is not a criminal or leader of a hostile nation.