Crist Switches Positions on ‘Don’t Ask’
Gov. Charlie Crist’s switch on the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy Thursday left the no-party Senate contender caught in a crossfire of criticism from his Democratic and Republican opponents.
With Congress moving toward votes on repealing the policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military, Crist dropped his support for continuing the ban. As recently as Monday, Crist told reporters that the current policy, “has worked pretty well for America.”
But by Thursday, Crist said he supports the repeal.
“Ultimately, as in all military matters, I defer to the Pentagon and to the generals and what the Senate is doing today is giving them the ultimate authority to do what is best for our military,” Crist said. “So, I would be inclined to support the Senate’s action on this.”
The measure advancing in Congress is drawing support from some longtime critics of gays in the military by delaying the repeal for 60 days until a military review is conducted and certified by President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.
But Crist’s leading Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who has fought to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy for years, ripped the governor as “willing to say or do anything to get elected.”
“This is not about being independent,” Meek said. “This is about being whichever way the wind blows for his own personal gain.”
Meek said Crist’s wavering positions on offshore oil-drilling - which he was against, then supported, and now opposes again - and a legislative bill repealing teacher tenure that he earlier supported but ultimately vetoed, marks him as untrustworthy to voters.
Meek, who once seemed to have Democratic voters to himself, is now being crowded by both Crist and primary opponent Jeff Greene, who has already launched $2.6 million in television ads.
“There’s a Democrat in this race,” Meek said in a remark aimed at Crist. “And that Democrat is me.”
The leading Republican, Marco Rubio, whose rising popularity forced Crist to abandon seeking the GOP nomination and run as an independent, also blistered the governor’s switch. Rubio supports maintaining the existing policy, first adopted during the Clinton administration.
“Crist has made it clear that he will say-do-be anything to try to win an election,” Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos said. “Marco Rubio is the only candidate in this race who voters trust to say what he believes.”