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Book Review: Charlie Crist Spills the Beans on The GOP’s Descent Into Anti-Obama Madness

Former Florida governor and current gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist has written a fascinating book that describes why he left the GOP, and the Republican Party’s descent into anti-Obama madness.

Charlie Crist’s new book The Party’s Over is part biography, and part first hand account of his years as governor. Crist has had a unique career. He has gone from moderate Republican to Independent Senate candidate, to campaigning for President Obama in 2012, to becoming a Democrat. Much like many other moderate Republicans, Charlie Crist didn’t leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left him. Former Gov. Crist is pro-environment. He calls himself pro-life, but Crist believes that Roe v Wade is the law of the land and government should have no role in telling a woman what she can do with her body. He is pro-education and is supported by teachers unions. Crist took the stimulus money for Florida. He doesn’t like everything about the ACA, but he believes in expanding Medicaid and the idea of giving more people access to affordable healthcare.

In short, Charlie Crist’s values match up really well with today’s Democratic Party.

The interesting thing about the book is that it details with examples the Republican Party’s step by step shift right. Crist starts noticing things. Boos at a Republican event for governors who believe in climate change. Tea party protests against his environmental agenda. Crist’s book reveals that the Republican shift towards the extreme right didn’t just happen overnight, but it did happen very quickly after the election of President Obama. Crist wrote about this change, “You could trace a line from Terri Schiavo to Sarah Palin to that panicked lady in the gym with John McCain calling Barack Obama an Arab to Judge Perry to where this Senate campaign was heading next. The forces of intolerance and extremism threatened to wreck everything I treasured and believed in. In the sweep of American politics, that all happened very quickly.”

Crist described a 2009 meeting between President Obama and the National Governors Association where Republican contempt and disrespect for the president was on full display:

It wasn’t that reasonable people couldn’t exchange insights on these important issues. It was that the loudmouths in the room seemed far more intent on lecturing the president. To me, it sounded more like finger-pointing—five or six beers in—than any give-and-take between the nation’s governors and the leader of the free world. It wasn’t everyone. But it was enough of them. And for a while there, they all but commandeered the room. I hadn’t said anything. In settings like this one, I don’t usually feel the need to hear myself talk. In a room packed with politicians, there are always plenty of blowhards to fill the air. But I could feel the president was getting ready to wrap up the sessions, and I was seething in my seat.

How two-faced, I thought. Most of them score their cheap political points—then end up taking money in the end! You’ll see them at the ribbon-cuttings for the projects they’re denouncing now! I decided I had to speak. I motioned to the president, and he called on me. “Mr. President,” I said, “I’ve sat here for about an hour.” People seemed to be paying attention. There must have been something in my tone of voice. “I’ve listened to my colleagues give you a bunch of garbage”—I kind of spat that word out—“about the stimulus. I’ve taken a lot of grief from these guys and others in my party for having been with you a couple of weeks ago in Fort Myers. I went there because I was raised by my mother and father and taught how to behave. Taught to be decent to other people. Taught to treat them respectfully—especially if that person happens to be the president of the United States of America.” I noticed a few people shifting uncomfortably in their seats, though no one interrupted me. “What I see here,” I said, “is a lack of respect that is unattractive and inappropriate, and I am sick of it. It is not the way we ought to be behaving toward one another. It is not the way we ought to be treating you. We ought to be treating each other as we’re told in the Bible—‘do unto others.’ “I just had to say that because I’m tired of watching this shit”—actually, I didn’t use the expletive. That’s what I was thinking. I said “watching this stuff.” The room burst out in applause, probably because more of the governors in the room were Democrats

There are stories like the one quoted above peppered throughout the book, because the stories explain why Charlie Crist felt that he no longer fit in with the Republican Party.

What really got Crist labeled an enemy of the GOP was that he hugged President Obama. Charlie Crist described the scene as he introduced President Obama during a speech on the stimulus in Florida, “”Ladies and gentlemen,” I said, “please give a warm Florida welcome to President Barack Obama.” He walked out toward me. Both of us smiled. The applause was just about frantic. We shook hands. The new president leaned forward and gave me a hug. Reach. Pull. Release. As hugs go, it wasn’t anything special. It was over in a second—less than that. It was the kind of hug that says, “Hey, good to see you, man. Thanks for being here.” It was the kind of hug I’d exchanged with thousands and thousands of Floridians over the years. I didn’t think a thing about it as it was happening. But that simple gesture ended my career as a viable Republican politician. It changed the rest of my life. Reach, pull, release—just like that.”

Book written by politicians who are running for office are usually full of a lot of fluff with little substance. Gov. Crist along with his co-author Ellis Henican, have written a book that a bird’s eye account of how the Republican Party slipped into madness. It is an easy, and extremely interesting read.

Charlie Crist’s The Party’s Over may be one of the best books ever written by a current candidate for office. Crist explains what issues matter to him, why they matter, how his strong populist streak basically got him kicked out of the Republican Party.

The Party’s Over is the perfect primer to remind Democrats what is at stake in the 2014 election. I highly recommend this book.

We are always interested in reviewing new political books. If you would like Jason to review your book, use this form to contact him

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