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When the Rick hits the fan

By Paul Begala
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
  • Paul Begala: Hunter Thompson said: When going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Enter Rick Scott
  • Scott held up debate seven minutes when rival for governor, Charlie Crist, had fan in his podium
  • Begala: Scott's political career blown across Florida by a one-foot-wide electric fan.

Editor's note: Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House. He is a consultant to the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Once more, as I often do, I find myself wishing for the late, great Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. It was he who said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." But it was Florida Gov. Rick Scott who brought Thompson's maxim to life Wednesday. In fact, Gov. Scott brought it to the stage of a televised debate.

To begin with, Scott has all the telegenic appeal of a garden slug: lean and hairless and slick and creepy. But then again, I've been a friend and business partner of James Carville for 30 years, so who am I to judge?

Paul Begala
Paul Begala

What Gov. Scott demonstrated to the world is that, beneath that creepy exterior is an even more creepy psyche. A guy who is so deeply weird, so twisted and nutty that he would boycott a debate at the last second because his opponent had a small electric fan beneath his podium to keep him cool. Granted, the fan was a violation of the rules, but who cares?

A human being would have sent minions out after the debate to note that his opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, broke the rules. A politician with even a dash of personality might even have used it to mock Crist: "I suspect Charlie was worried his face would melt" -- a sly shot at Crist's perma-tan.

I have seen and done a lot of crazy stuff in political debates. In 1992, my compadres and I stole the stools Bill Clinton rehearsed on from a Williamsburg, Virginia, hotel and put them on the stage of the Bush-Perot-Clinton town hall debate in Richmond, so Gov. Clinton would have the home-butt advantage. I made one client so angry before a debate that he rhetorically bludgeoned his opponent until the poor man wept onstage.

I know a politician who whispered the name of his opponent's mistress to him in the opening handshake of a debate. I even saw the governor of Texas forget how to count to three in a nationally televised debate. But I ain't never seen nothin' like Rick Scott's fan dance.

Florida governor stalls debate over fan
Rick Scott responds to fangate

Scott refused to come on the stage for seven excruciating minutes. The moderators were flummoxed. Crist could not conceal his glee.

He had the same expression on his face that I had when I was an 18-year old pizza delivery boy called to bring lunch to the lovely dancers at The Doll House in Austin. "I cannot believe my luck. This is not really happening." Everything since that magical moment for me has been anticlimactic, and I'm sure everything from now on will be for Crist.

No matter. Crist will become governor again, and Rick Scott will slink back under the rock from whence he emerged. But even there, in the gritty grime of the fetid Florida sand, he will be recognized and remembered as the guy who blew it because of a fan.

When Dr. Thompson removed himself from this Earth he had his ashes shot out of a cannon. A spectacular explosion of fireworks scattered Hunter's earthly remains over Colorado. Rick Scott's political demise was considerably less spectacular; the remains of his career as a politician were blown all across Florida by a one-foot-wide electric fan.

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