Watching politicians on the campaign trail is a little bit like watching Freaky Friday. But instead of movie mom Jamie Lee Curtis swapping bodies with movie daughter Lindsay Lohan, we get to watch ideologues swap places with their counterparts on the other side of the political spectrum.
Take Governor Rick Scott, for example. For nearly seven long years, excepting a brief period when he was campaigning for re-election, he’s proudly adopted the moniker of being “not a scientist,” to halfway explain his abysmal record on environmental issues, cuts to conservation spending, stuffing agencies and boards tasked with protecting natural resources and other such regulatory oversight with folks who don’t know nothing about protecting no environment, but know a great deal about protecting the bottom line of big business. And who could forget his administration putting the kibosh on using the terms “global warming,” “climate change” and “sustainability,” on the few scientists sticking around for the death rattle of environmentalism in state government?
Of course, now that Gov. Scott is unofficially running against Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, he’s singing a much different tune. Scott’s campaign trail falsetto includes such lyrics as a “$3.8 billion proposal to preserve and protect Florida iconic natural resources,” including “record funding for our springs, state parks, beaches and the Everglades,” according to a statement on SecuringFloridasFuture.com, the website touting his final proposed budget.
You’ll be forgiven if reading the foregoing makes you think, ‘Hey, that guy should be governor or something.’ Rest assured, that guy might look like Rick Scott, he might sound like Rick Scott, he might have that reptilian glow we associate with Rick Scott, but he is most certainly NOT the Rick Scott who would be senator in the event that he defeats Nelson in 2018.
This is the Rick Scott who would represent Florida in the U.S. Senate: the man who appointed a Jacksonville shipping executive with “insights on the challenges businesses face in the permitting process” as secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; who reduced the budgets of the state’s five water management districts by more than $700 million in his first year as governor, then proceeded to gleefully stock their boards with developers, land-use lawyers and the like; the man who waged war against the Environmental Protection Agency for—the horror!—trying to enforce clean water standards in Florida, but lent a helping hand to his pollutin’ pals at Big Sugar (not to be confused with decent folks like the lovely farmers featured in this week’s cover story).
I can’t be the only one who does a double-take when I hear what sounds like the strains of “It ain’t easy being green” from the guy whose state DEP’s “non-enforcement posture” led it to bring 81 percent fewer cases against polluters in 2016 than it had in 2010 and, in 2015, to collect the lowest amount in fines from polluters in 28 years, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which concluded that, “In Florida, anti-pollution efforts have [become] so contracted that they are on life support.”
These and many other lowlights (not to be confused with the type that ladies who lunch rave about over beet salad and chardonnay) led the Tampa Bay Times to call Scott’s record “an environmental disaster” in 2014, during what it referred to as an “[attempt] to transform himself into an environmentalist during his re-election campaign.”
There’s this weird disconnect between what politicians say on the stump and what they actually do in office. The conventional wisdom seems to be that if you say it enough times, the voters will believe it and elect you—then you can do whatever the hell you want until campaign time rolls around again. Remember when Lenny Curry prattled on about how transparent his office would be? When Donald Trump repeated “drain the swamp” with mind-numbing regularity? When Marco Rubio said he was never going to run again? They didn’t mean a word of it.
It may be hard to swallow, but even proud pink-o commie libtard environmentalists like me understand that there needs to be some give-and-take between business and regulation; otherwise, we won’t have enough of the guv’nor’s favorite speech confetti: jobs. (If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard Rick Scott say “jobs,” I’d be able afford a case of that fancy water from Europe.)
What keeps me glued to the screen when I should be spending time with my nearest and dearest is whether politicians like post-campaign Rick Scott, which he automatically reverts to after the votes are counted, realize that if we get rid of all the regulations, we won’t have enough water, air and land which, last I heard, are vital to all earthly life. And, yes, Mr. Governor, that includes chameleons.