Burning down the house, Florida GOP style

They won't have Jim Greer to kick around anymore.

Jim Greer has had his moments. There was the time he tried to appeal to the wingnuts by going bat crap crazy over President Obama’s utterly benign speech to America’s school kids … or the time he went hat in hand to Black newspapers offering to buy up some positive coverage for Republicans (just look away from all the racist, homemade signs out there, folks, nothing to see here but the new, improved, teabaggified GOP…!) … his party’s finances aren’t exactly in the black (I wonder if they’ve caught up on their credit card bills) … its internal business is all in the street … oh, and Michael Steele? Yeah. That was Jim’s bright idea. (Hip hop hooray!) Still, the head honcho of the Florida Republican Party, who could easily have starred in a sit-com called “Everybody Hates Jim” in 2009, was defiant going into the New Year, calling his detractors in the Florida Republican Party self-serving traitors, and vowing to stay on as chairman even as a dozen major Republican donors signed a letter stating that he had to go. Greer told reporters just before the ball drop, via his spokeswoman:

“The chairman fully intends to serve the remainder of his elected term. He looks forward to a positive discussion with the state committee during the annual meeting next weekend.”

Yeah, well never mind. That meeting is gonna look more like a Michelle Bachman rally or a 9/12 movement confab (no, Glenn won’t show up to that, either) than a sober meeting of Republican grown-ups now, because today, Jim Greer joined the fine tradition of Republicans across the land, and quit his job. Surprise, surprise, the GOP-friendly news site Politico had the early handle on what was to come, and they even know why:

Greer has been under fire for the past several months, with critics attacking him for mismanaging state party finances. Conservatives have also chafed at the state party’s thinly veiled support for Crist over his upstart conservative primary challenger, Marco Rubio.

I think the polite word for it is “coup.” Greer’s statement going out had almost as much bite as his futile self-defense last month:

“There is a great debate in our party of the direction, moderates versus conservatives, whether we should have a big tent or a small tent. And while I have made it my utmost concern to try to keep those arguments and discontent out of the Republican Party of Florida, over the last 6 months, there have been a very vocal group in our party that has become very active in seeking an effort to oust me as chairman. They have distorted facts,” Greer said. “They have basically, as they say, thrown everything up against the wall that they possibly can to embarrass me or disrupt the Republican Party of Florida.”

“I cannot be a participant of the shredding and tearing of the fabric of the Republican Party,” he said. His opponents, Greer said, were willing to “burn down the house and try to destroy the Republican Party.”

Keep in mind that just about a year ago, this same Jim Greer had a realistic shot at becoming chairman of the national Republican Party. Now he’s on the outs. Greer is reportedly  to be replaced by Sen. John Thrasher, who Politico describes as “a conservative who is close to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.” They add that officially, Thrasher “will not be taking sides in the contested Senate primary.” Translation: the state GOP has officially switched sides in the Crist-Rubio battle. Not too long ago, Thrasher attended a Marco Rubio fundraiser, and just being friends with Jeb Bush means he’s no Cristian. Jeb always seems to be about two breaths away from outright endorsing Rubio over his rival/replacement Crist, who has not been sufficiently ebullient in his praise of the Jeb years for the Bushies’ liking. While the Forces of Rubio/RedState will be thrilled by the dethroning of the hated Jim Greer and his Charlie Crist loyalties, Thrasher’s assenscion may not exactly be good news for the Republican Party of Florida either, since, according to at least one legal eagle, (as tweeted by Miami Herald political reporter Beth Reinhard, and see here,) he can’t fundraise during session. At least, not legally.

Greer has not been without his supporters. Just last month, James H. Stelling, III, who chairs the RPOF Rules Committee, fired off a blistering letter to the party’s executive committee, which was reprinted in full by St Pete Times political guru Adam Smith. In that letter, Stelling called Greer “the victim of the most vicious smear campaign I have seen in my 25+ years on this board.” He went on to add:

I will say what nobody else has publicly said yet: this is a coordinated attack on the chairman from the supporters of the Marco Rubio for US Senate campaign because they believe Jim’s friendship with Governor Crist creates too much of an advantage for the Crist campaign. On a daily basis, we see grassroots leaders, elected officials and donors – all supporters for one US Senate campaign – call on our chairman to resign, but for what? It was less than a year ago today that we reelected him with over 75% of the vote of the full committee. It was less than six months ago that the RNC board granted him the high honor of electing him chairman of the RNC Committee on Rules, placing him 3 rd in the organizational hierarchy of the national Republican party. It wasn’t two weeks ago that the executive board gave the chairman a vote of confidence by a vote of 25-2. So I ask again – what has changed?

The answer is nothing. On a daily basis, Jim’s former opponents for chairman and members of the Rubio campaign have called for his resignation. They’ve cast misstatements (ie losses in the senate, house and cabinet), lies (that we are bankrupt when we have over $1.5 million in the bank) and hurtful personal indictments that I won’t repeat. They’ve engaged in demagoguery of the lowest kind. They’ve impugned a good man’s character because they didn’t like who he personally supported in a race. Over the years, I’ve considered each of the men involved in this to be a friend, but I am so disappointed and disgusted in their actions I can’t hold my tongue any more.

Stelling went on to blast Allen Cox of the party’s budget committee, for releasing internal documents about the party’s budget to the media. Said stelling:

His decision to release the internal budget documents of the RPOF has been called treason, and I believe that it is. Every member of the budget committee, including Cox, who served as its chairman of the committee for the last seven years, is required to sign a confidentiality clause when he does so. Mr. Cox turned this document over to the press, and in so doing did extraordinary damage to our party. It is my belief that he should be removed from the committee altogether for doing so.

Doing this clearly demonstrated to the media, and to the democrats, where we were allocating our money, and where we would be focusing future expenditures. This would be like Urban Meyer, Randy Shannon or Jimbo Fisher giving the playbook to the opposing team, then telling them what play was coming next.

Stelling referred to the Forces of Rubio as a “bitter, but loud minority” who were threatening to “burn the [Republican Party] house down” for the love of their candidate. In other words, he called them teabaggers. I don’t think he realized that to that crowd, that’s considered a compliment…

Apparently, “burning down the house” is now the official theme of the Republican Realists (and I suppose, of the Crist campaign more generally,) because in his going away statement this afternoon, that’s just the phrase Greer used to explain his decision to throw in the towel:

State GOP Chairman Jim Greer said in a just completed conference call that he continued to enjoy the full support of Gov. Charlie Crist, legislators and members of the executive committee. But even if he could survive a vote this weekend, he and his wife Lisa concluded in the last 24 to 48 hours that he needed to put the party first and step down.

His critics had only two goals: “Remove me as chairman and if that doesn”t work, burtn the house down and try to destoy the Republican party…They have basically, as they say, thrown everything up against the wall they can to either embarrass me or disrupt the Republican Party. I cannot be a participant in the shredding and tearing of the fabric of the Republican party.”

“These individuals who have turned their guns on fellow Republicans instead of defeating Democrats have done nothing to serve our party,” said Greer.

Asked if he believed longtime Florida GOP giants such as Tom Slade and Mel Sembler really would be willing to destroy the GOP, Greer responded that some of of those calling for his ouster simply had bad information. “Many people don’t know the facts. Many people any people know only what they hear.”

I guess Erick Erickson has finally gotten his real, live civil war. New York 23 was just a test run. Florida is the real McCoy (or Hatfield, depending on which side of the Crist-Rubio war you’re on.)

Meanwhile, from Charlie Crist on down, the Republicans begin to fall in line behind Thrasher (and the RedStaters celebrate.) But the big, unanswered question is, now that the guys with the gas cans have custody of the house, will they be able to grow beyond the teabagger base, or have they so turned off Crist Republicans that they’ve really done themselves no good? And what happens when the teabaggers up north figure out that Marco Rubio is … um … Hispanic? How are they gonna figure out how to spell THAT on a cardboard sign???


Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic doesn’t buy the notion that Greer was deposed by the teabag movement. Rather, he calls Greer a victim of party activists who have never been comfortable with his, or more to the point Charlie Crist’s, level of conservatism. Well … yes and no. The tea party movement didn’t take down Greer on its own, but there’s little doubt Rubio is driving his candidacy on the tea party bandwagon, co-opting it as surely as RedState and other purifiers within the conservative movement are, and taking full advantage of a convergence of conservative forces that includes disaffected Palinites, teabaggers, and winger opponents of Charlie’s mild mannered, get along with everybody pragmatism. Rubio is Florida’s Dick Armey (only much younger and less slovenly looking.) He’s riding the tea party movement (and manipulating it) for all its worth, and it’s that RedSate/teabag zeal that’s making him a threat to Charlie Crist. The GOP activists on the right are simply responding to that. And it doesn’t hurt that the same conservatives who want to teabag the party are also the ones who consider themselves Jeb Bush — not Charlie Crist — Republicans. With the help of the RedState/teabagger putsch, we’re seeing something that looks an awful lot like a Jeb restoration by another name. Stay tuned…

More winger cheering here.

UPDATE: More reactions pouring in –

The Florida Democratic Party chair plays it nice (and misses an opportunity to take a shot at the opposition):

“As Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer moves on, I would like to wish him all the best in the future and thank him for his service to the political process.

“As Chairman Greer’s counterpart at the Florida Democratic Party, I understand the unique pressures and difficult responsibility of leading one of Florida’s two major political parties. While we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, I will sincerely miss our spirited debates.”

Sweet. Meanwhile, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine delivers the Official Narrative:

“Today’s right-wing led coup of Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer is a telling and unsettling sign about the extreme direction of the Republican Party – a direction that is narrowing the Party ideologically, demographically and, ultimately, electorally.

“We’re not even a full week into 2010 and the extreme right wing of the Republican Party has claimed another trophy for its wall – adding Greer to Senator Specter and Dede Scozzafava in its quest to purify the Republican Party, eliminate moderate voices and enact an extreme right-wing agenda.

“By deposing the top party official in a state that is virtually unmatched in electoral importance, and that has perhaps the most contested GOP Senate primary race of 2010, the tea party movement has landed a powerful blow squarely on the chin of the Republican Party.

“As we saw in 2009, the right-wing’s unrelenting drive towards a smaller, narrower Republican Party cost the GOP dearly – most notably it cost Republicans millions of dollars and a seat in Congress when the extreme right wing forced moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava from the race in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.

“Anyone who was wondering if Republican leaders possessed the power to curb the extremism of the far right and channel it into a productive force has their answer today in the silence and lack of support from national Republicans as Jim Greer departs in the midst of this GOP civil war. Greer’s departure confirms that the GOP’s biggest liability this year will be its right-wing that sees November’s elections as an opportunity to purify the Party – at any cost.”

To the GOP’s horror, I think that’s the narrative that’s going to stick. At this rate, the only people left in the Republican Party are going to be Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmen, a handful of old white guys in the south and Rush Limbaugh. … oh, and the tea party faithful, who represent the strange convergence of a set of corporate, rich guy-authored, Republican/Libertarian ideas at the astroturf/Dick Armey level that are consequence free, because they’ll never be implemented (privatizing or getting rid of Social Security and Medicare, slashing corporate and personal income taxes to near zero and ending the regulation of corporations so that capitalism becomes completely unfettered, leaving workers pretty much at the boss’s mercy, and stopping the flow of federal money to the states, meaning no more earmarks, no federal spending on roads and bridges, whether or not they’re to nowhere, etc. Yeah. When pigs fly … plus this weird, authoritarian obsession with torturing and imprisoning whatever foreigners they’re afraid of) … and a small but excitable cohort of white, low-information, Republican-leaning, disappointed Palinites at the base/protester level who aren’t interested in ideas per se, but who are clinging to vague platitudes about “less government” and “returning this country to the way the founding fathers wanted it” (for fun, quiz a teabagger or two on what any one of the Founders actually wrote or believed. Better yet, ask them to name three founders…) while grasping at any valve through which they can vent their nameless, aimless rage (whether that rage is racial, economic or political.) It’s quite a hot mess. And it’s also the state of today’s Republican Party, in or out of Florida.

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One Response to Burning down the house, Florida GOP style

  1. Pingback: Biggest winner, loser in the Jim Greer indictment sweepstakes? : The Reid Report

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