Rick Scott and fangate: the limits of ignorance

[See update below]

Apparently the rules of the Florida gubernatorial debate forbade the contestants from using electronic equipment.  Rick Scott refused to participate (until his handlers told him how silly he looked) because Charlie Crist brought a fan on to the stage.

Yes, I know that there’s no legal minimum IQ required to become the governor of a state. But really, is it too much to expect the the former CEO of a big health- care company to know the difference between “electronic” and “electrical”?

Update Well … not perzackly. A reader points out that the debate rules banned “electronic devices (including fans).” Now, I still insist that passage is nonsensical, since a fan is an electrical device, as opposed to an electronic device such as a cell phone. I suppose there might be some sort of fan with semiconductor controls that was, to that extent, electronic – in which case the rules would bar such electronic fans, as opposed to normal fans,  but an ordinary air-moving machine with an electric motor is not, by any normal definition, an “electronic device.” So to me, the phrase is about equivalent to “birds (including bats)” or, in Lincoln’s example, “legs (including tails).”  To make sense, the phrase would have had to read “electronic devices or fans.”

Apparently Crist’s penchant for cooling himself was well-known.  And apparently his handlers didn’t agree to the conditions as suggested by the organizers, but added to the signature page *with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.”

My understanding of the law is that when one party modifies a contract before signing it, the other party has the choice of accepting the contract as amended or refusing it. So it can’t, I think, properly be said that Crist broke the rules he had agreed to. Clearly, the organizers were remiss in not bringing the amendment to the attention of Rick Scott, which left Scott’s handlers believing that Crist was breaking a rule.

It was, still, I submit, unbelievably foolish to try to use that as an excuse to duck the debate, and it’s remarkable that it took the Scott corner six long minutes to figure out they couldn’t get away with it. But the original post wasn’t right to suggest that Scott doesn’t know that a fan isn’t a cell phone. After all, what are the odds that someone who cheated the federal taxpayers out of most of a billion dollars and never went to jail for it is actually that stupid?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Rick Scott and fangate: the limits of ignorance”

  1. In all fairness, according to the statement they provided, the proviso attached to the letter of understanding doesn’t really mean what you think it means. After the organizers received the letter from Crist, they told him (and he agreed) that the decision on whether to allow the fan would be based on the organizers’ evaluation of the temperature and humidity in the hall. The responsible official decided that a fan would be unnecessary and the debate organizers informed Crist right before the scheduled start of the debate that he couldn’t have his but he brought it anyway.

    My surmise is that this was initially a ploy by the Scott camp to make Crist look childish when his fan was taken away from him because he apparently treats his fans the way that Linus treats his blanket. Crist seems to have outmaneuvered everybody by simply bringing the fan anyway and daring Scott to do something about it without looking childish himself.

    Scott himself seems to have lost the thread of his ploy and fell into his own trap by refusing to participate until the offending fan was removed, thereby looking unimaginably silly. At some point he seems either to have lost his nerve or been persuaded by his advisors that he was looking less like a dynamic leader, standing up for a fair interpretation of the rules and more like a petulant child.

    I score this as a clear win for Christ.

    1. I'm really amazed that Scott and his handlers didn't immediately see that refusing to take the stage was the worst possible choice. Even coming out and complaining about the fan openly (or getting in some digs about inability to stand the heat) would have been way better. It's almost as if they'd never been in a situation where they couldn't control all the appearances.

      1. I think you're absolutely right. Plus, I suspect they were so fixated on all the negotiating and gamesmanship about the fan that they just didn't see the trap until it was too late. And I also think you're right that as a very, very rich CEO and then as governor, Scott has probably been surrounded by sycophants and careerists so that he really couldn't see that what he thought was brilliant maneuvering (and was probably constantly being told was brilliant maneuvering) wasn't coming off the way he expected or was seeing it. Kind of seeing how his "standing up for the rules" or whatever was in his mind (and God only knows how he saw himself that night) would play with Drudge and Fox and then, with that kind of impetus, on the Sunday gasbag shows and the papers and not seeing what everyone else saw.

        It would be sad if the guy wasn't a cheating, crooked lowlife.

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