The Haridopolos Fumble


Florida has a hotly contested Senate race for 2012, in which several Republican candidates are competing for the opportunity to knock off sitting Democrat Bill Nelson.  One of the candidates is Mike Haridopolos, currently the President of the State Senate.  His campaign website presents him as “a conservative reformer who has transformed government in Florida,” and is “deeply concerned for the future of our nation.”  He has an impressive list of legislative accomplishments, and won the support of Mike Huckabee, who called him part of “a new generation of proven fiscal and social conservative leaders.”

This makes Haridopolos’ disastrous performance on an Orlando radio show this week all the more puzzling and disappointing.  The host, Ray Junior, asked how Haridopolos would vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform proposals.  This is a question with particular importance for a Florida politician, given the state’s high population of senior citizens, and their tendency to take the responsibility of voting very seriously.

Haridopolos stammered his way through a series of nine non-answers, prompting the frustrated host to throw him off the show.

Haridopolos was good enough to give Ryan credit for “having an honest discussion about how we balance the budget long-term,” and seemed to agree with some of the major features of Ryan’s proposal, such as leaving Medicare as-is for existing beneficiaries.  Then he said he doesn’t think Ryan’s plan should be “the one at the end of the day,” although “it has a lot of merit.”

It’s hard to tell, because the entire response is a dense pile of inert boilerplate, clearly intended to evade a question Haridopolos was not prepared to answer.  You can hear him performing long-form political division out loud, like a student faced with a tough math quiz he didn’t study for. 

He tries to back away from the question by declaring “I’m not going to get into that today.”  Sorry, but you have to get into that today.  It’s one of the most important questions facing Americans.  Hitting the campaign trail without clear positions on the Ryan budget and his Medicare reforms is simply not acceptable.  Directing voters to check out your web site later, for a more detailed answer prepared at leisure, is not acceptable.

The Ryan plan enjoys the overwhelming support of the Republican Party.  Democrats are using scare tactics to twist it into a weapon against every Republican candidate in every state.  Paul Ryan has stepped out front and center to answer these scurrilous tactics, becoming a tireless defender of the plan 235 Republican members of the House went on the record to support with their votes.  Every 2012 candidate owes it to Ryan to present a comprehensive rationale for opposing his plan, along with a detailed alternative proposal.  It has to be something you care about enough to discuss fluently during major radio interviews.

Barack Obama and the Democrats will destroy Medicare, utterly and finally, by riding it into the ground like the bomb in Dr. Strangelove.  Every GOP candidate should be ready to explain precisely what he will do to stop them.  In Florida, Senate candidate Adam Hasner has embraced the Ryan plan, while George LeMieux says he would have voted “yes” in an up-or-down vote on Ryan’s proposals, but has his own preferred reforms.  Agree or not, those are answers, not evasions.

Haridopolos eventually got around to posting a more coherent answer on his website, which he bills as the “Mike Haridopolos Statement on Protecting Florida Seniors.”  In this statement, he applauds Ryan’s “leadership in actually putting forth a plan to tackle the deficit,” and says he supports “almost every provision of the Ryan Plan,” but “believes it must be amended to provide greater protections for seniors.”  Greater than leaving Medicare untouched for every current beneficiary?  What would such “protections” be?  He doesn’t say, and that’s just not good enough.