Interview with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Interview with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

By On the Record - March 8, 2010

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: There seems to be blood on the floor in Florida. Florida Governor Charlie Crist is a bare knuckle Republican primary race for the United States Senate. Neither Republican candidate is taking prisoners. Earlier Governor Crist went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you, sir.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, R - FLA.: You too, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Front page of the "New York Times," we all woke up this morning you get slammed over an Everglades deal. Your challenger, Mr. Rubio, says that this Everglades deal is a massive taxpayer funded bailout and is slamming you down in Florida.

CRIST: Really? Is that what he would have call Yellowstone National Park too? That's pretty remarkable.

It is a great idea. It's the right thing to do. We are trying to protect the Everglades. It's a national treasure, I dare say an international treasure. We are trying to preserve this for future generations of Floridians and Americans.

My opponent happens to be funded by Florida Crystals, who decided they wanted to fund him instead of try to invest in the Everglades, and I think that's where his perspective comes from.

I, on the other hand, want to honor god's work, restore this to its natural position, restore the natural flow of the Florida Everglades. This may be the only time we have an opportunity to do this, Greta. And our administration has been very focused on it just the way Teddy Roosevelt would have been. It's the right thing to do and we'll get it done.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's interesting, because it seems like you are getting hit by all sides because former Governor Jeb Bush said he was disappointed by the way the deal has gone down and has said essentially this was a photo-op for you and not good, sound environmental policy.

CRIST: I think it's great environmental policy. Everybody has a right to their opinion. I respect that. But if we are going to restore the natural flow, this is the way to do it. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas herself said that if we want to get the Everglades back we will have to buy it back from these guys. That's exactly what we've done.

VAN SUSTEREN: And sort of a punch back which occurred previously is that you have said about your opponent, Mr. Rubio, that he is the greatest fraud perpetrated. So it sounds like you have had a couple of punches back as well. Why do you say that?

CRIST: Because he's trying to pawn himself off as a fiscal conservative. And yet just in reason weeks, two weeks ago it has come out in news accounts he had a Republican Party of Florida credit card that he charged $130 haircut, or maybe it was a back wax -- we are not sure what all he got at that place.

VAN SUSTEREN: Wait a second, stop. A back wax? Wait a second.

CRIST: I don't know what it was, you know?

VAN SUSTEREN: I know, but was there a suggestion it was for a back wax or are you being flip?

CRIST: I don't know what it was. Initially we were told it was a haircut. And then he said it wasn't a haircut. Then he had the gall to go on Neil Cavuto's show and said it was his money. It was a credit card from the Republican Party. It was party donors' money.

The detachment from reality is stunning to me. And to try to say that you're a fiscal conservative, yet you spend $130 for maybe a haircut and maybe other things, I don't know what you do at a salon we you are a guy.

I get my haircut for $11 from a guy named Carl the Barber in St. Petersburg, Florida where I grew up. And to me that's real fiscal conservatism.

And so what I mean by perpetrating a fraud on people is by saying one thing and actually doing another. That's night not right. That's not being honest and straightforward with the voters.

People deserve, Greta, as I know you feel, to have an informed vote when they go ahead and cast their ballot whether in a Republican primary or the general election, and I feel the same way.

And thank God we have an opportunity in this campaign to have an educational opportunity to make sure the voters get it right and that they get, most importantly, the truth. And that's what our campaign is going to be about. We're again that tell the truth about our record and our opponent's record, and the people will make the decision. And I have great confidence in the wisdom of the people.

VAN SUSTEREN: It would make a difference to me, I think, as a Florida voter with the use of the credit card -- I understand he paid it back. Did he pay it back before he got outed or caught, or did he pay it back after?

CRIST: He paid it back after he got caught. That's like saying I'm going to go and steal something, and if you don't catch me I'll never pay back, but if you catch me I'll go ahead pay it back.

And here is something else that's really strange about that. He lists his network on his last financial statement at $8,000. Yet he already said he paid back $16,000 and then another $3,000, a total of almost $20,000. If his net worth really is only $8,000 how is he paying back $20,000? Whose money is he using now to do that? It doesn't make sense. It is a house of cards.

VAN SUSTEREN: Speaking of money, the stimulus bill, you were one of the few Republican governors who has been in favor of the stimulus program. Why were you in favor of it, and what has it done for Florida?

CRIST: I was in favor of it because we needed the money. All my other Republican colleagues realized and came to the same conclusion. That's why every Republican and Democrat utilized the money and did it for the benefit of their state because it was the right thing to do.

How has it helped Florida? By over 87,000 jobs being created or retained, and 20,000 of those jobs are educators, teachers in our school system.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is it about the Florida economy that you have about an 11.7 percent unemployment, higher than national average of 9.7? Is there something different about your economy that it is reacting to sort of different economic pressures? What is the explanation for that difference?

CRIST: As you know as well as anybody so much of our economy in Florida is based on housing marking. It's housing, agriculture, and tourism. The housing market has taken a plummet and that's accentuated in what the Florida numbers are.

But there's good news too. As you know and most economists will tell you, the last lagging indicator of the economy turning around are the unemployment numbers. I wish they were lower and hopefully soon they will be.

But other things are happening, too. For example, in our housing sales in Florida, this month over this month last year housing sales in the Sunshine State are up 31 percent. That's good news for our people.

In addition we just found out we got this opportunity to have rail in the sunshine state, to have high speed rail. That will produce another 34,000 jobs for our people as well as alternatives for transportation between, primarily, Tampa and Orlando, but eventually linking up Miami.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, is there some sort of back story to this? Governor Jeb Bush says he is staying out of it, he's not going to endorse either one and support whoever is the nominee of the party. But it seems like every time I turn around, he sort of jabs you a little bit. Is there something going on between you two?

CRIST: Not that I'm aware of, not at all. And I think what is important is to be focused on the endorsement --

VAN SUSTEREN: So why do you get the jabs?

CRIST: I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why is he saying -- he doesn't have to say these things? No idea, there's no feud between the two of you or anything?

CRIST: None whatsoever, no. Listen, Governor Bush served our state incredibly well, and I have enormous respect for him, as I do all our former governors. But no, not at all.

But for Governor Bush I wouldn't be where I am today. I had run for the U.S. Senate in 1998, and the day I lost he won and got elected governor. He brought me into his administration. And I'm grateful to him for that and I owe him for it for the rest of my life.

No, no. I think he's a great guy, he's a great leader. We have differences of opinion, but who doesn't? I think that's just a healthy part of debate in our society and a healthy tradition in our country. Nothing wrong with that

VAN SUSTEREN: So why do you want to be senator? The governor is a better job? Are you term-limited out?


VAN SUSTEREN: Why? Usually most people want to be governor not senator.

CRIST: That's right. But I understand that our country needs help. And you're right, I'm not term-limited out. This is my first term. And most governors do run for reelection.

But I understand what most people in this country understand, our country needs help. We need good leadership, common sense leadership in Washington, D.C. now more than ever. We've done it in a common sense way in Florida. We have worked Republicans, Democrats, independents, all together to get things done.

Let me give you one example. We just started our session for this legislature last week. We had a problem with unemployment compensation going up from $8 per employee to over $100 per employee. That law was going to change effective April.

And people came to me, small business owners and said governor, we to do something to fix it or we're going to have this horrendous fee we're going to have to pay.

I said, look, I'm going to talk to the Senate president, the speaker of house, Republicans and Democrats, make sure we understand and they understand how important this is to stop.

On the first day of the session, last Tuesday when I gave the state of the state address, we passed that change so that they don't have to pay that tax. We got rid of it. And it was unanimous, Greta. Every Republican in the House and Senate, every Democrat in the House and Senate voted for it, and I signed it into law 10 minutes before I gave my state of the state address.

That's why I want to take that kind of common sense approach to Washington D.C., because people see people bickering all day long on cable networks and others, and it frustrates the people.

They understand what Abraham Lincoln once said, the government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people, and that's the kind of common sense approach I want to bring to Washington. I think that's what our country needs and I know it is what my state needs, because Florida has benefited from that kind of leadership for the past three-and- a-half years.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you, and good luck, sir.

CRIST: Thank you, Greta, hope to see you in Florida soon.



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