A soggy speech on a soggy day. It's an overcast waterfront Thursday afternoon at Lantana's Old Key Lime House, and Adam Hasner, GOP candidate for U.S. House District 22, is looking for all the world like a nicely baby-faced blow-up doll, big brown eyes and a mop of hair, slightly pudgy and mild as toast.
He's all earnest concern as he runs down the nation's problems. It's the usual GOP litany -- too much spending, too much taxing, too much regulation -- but he's determinedly nonpartisan: "Both parties are to blame for where our country is today." What could be more reasonable?
Hasner knows his crowd, and today's isn't for red meat. The candidate's famous, custom-made elephant-skin boots of red, white, and blue are nowhere to be seen -- not literally or metaphorically. Neither are they very far away, however, and Hasner can be as oily or as demagogic as the occasion demands. The restaurant he most regularly patronizes is the Waffle House.
A Delray Beach boy by way of Brooklyn, Hasner jokes about being the son of NYC public school teachers/liberal Dems who, he says, "had $31" the day he was born. $31? Two public school teachers? Including the penny jar? That's it? It's the kind of statement makes you wonder how far to run with his assertion that the current national election is "about math."
Equally puzzling is how he illustrates the U.S. and the national debt. "Imagine a family making $52K a year, with $75K-a-year expenses and $325K debt." OK. Agreed. Not good. But then he adds: "They have no home, no assets." Huh? I mean, absolutely, let's deal with the debt. But the U.S. has no home? No assets? That's not the country we know.
Sure, we expect hyperbole, even sloppy thinking on the campaign trail. (Hasner's Poltifact score has him half-true or less more than half the time.) But Hasner has a history that puts him all over the map. Widely known as a "consummate Republican insider" during his time in Tallahassee (House majority leader for four years), he posed as an independent-minded outsider to court the
White Citizen's Council Tea Party when it emerged as a power, disowning the climate change, stimulus funding, and mass transit measures he formerly favored.
Hasner's wishy-washy (opportunist?) persona masks a loony streak, however -- either that or, Nixon-like, he's adept at the madman pose when convenient. His long association with crackpot Islamophobes like Pam Geller (pictured above, with Hasner) and Lake Worth Christian Zionist crusader/tax weasel Tom Trento shows Hasner's shameless political opportunism -- stirring up fear and serving it hot.
Fire Ant doesn't expect Hasner to be called on his hate-mongering by his Dem opponent, former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel. The current extremist craziness in Libya, Egypt and Yemen makes it difficult to do so, to thread the cloth of momentary passions with the needle of reasoned analysis. And both candidates are well aware of the importance of the Jewish vote in their district.
The candidates have agreed to two public debates in October, though, and Hasner won't get far playing Mr. Nice Guy there. Combativeness might as well be Frankel's middle name, and her political career is without a trace of taken prisoners. The nebbish-y Hasner on display in Lantana better not show up for those battles, and he'd better leave the waffles at home.
Fire Ant is an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite. He covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact [email protected]