Editor’s column: Sen. Rick Scott is Trump 2.0

June 20, 2022 10:18 am
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaking Friday at the Faith and Freedom "Road to Majority" event in Nashville. (Photo: John Partipilo)

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaking Friday at the Faith and Freedom “Road to Majority” event in Nashville. (Photo: John Partipilo)

If you think former President Donald Trump was bad for America, let me tell you about Rick Scott. 

Scott is the first term U.S. senator from Florida and former two-term governor. He was in Nashville Friday to speak at the Faith and Freedom “Road to Majority” event that also featured Trump as its keynote speaker and other Trump sycophants including both Tennessee senators, Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former Trump Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. 

Scott took a break from the conference to speak at a luncheon held in a Brentwood restaurant with a group of local Republicans that gathers regularly.

I attended out of curiosity, as much to see the man for whom a number of Nashvillians and members of the state’s health care industry still harbor a good deal of ill will as to hear his political thoughts.

Scott founded Columbia Hospital Corp., which merged with Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) in 1994. As he told the crowd Friday, Scott lived in Nashville for three years, his departure coinciding with his ouster from the top role at Columbia/HCA in 1997. 

During Scott’s term as CEO, the private hospital company was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with Medicare and Medicaid fraud and fined $1.7 billion, which was at the time the largest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history. 

He was not personally named in the DOJ suits but the buck stops at the top, and as CEO, Scott signed off on annual stockholder reports, in which early signs of financial difficulties may be found.

After he was bounced by the company’s board, Scott took his severance package, which the Wall Street Journal estimated to be at least $10 million, moved to Florida and launched his political career. 

And here we are. 

I listened to Scott talk about his “11 Point Plan to Rescue America,” which he pointed out  is his personal plan and not one developed in concert with the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which he chairs. 

Sen. Rick Scott's, R-Fla. proposed plan. (Photo: Holly McCall)
Sen. Rick Scott’s, R-Fla. proposed plan. (Photo: Holly McCall)

The plan includes all the Trump-era GOP’s greatest hits, including Scott’s first point, “We will inspire patriotism and stop teaching the revisionist history of the radical left” and his third: “The soft-on-crime days of coddling criminal behavior will end. We will re-fund and respect the police because they, not the criminals, are the good guys.” 

This, for you “Stranger Things” fans, is like being in the upside down. 

What Scott calls “revisionist history” many of us call “truth,” and includes—as the evolving study of history does—information we didn’t know 50 years ago or new historiological interpretations of events included in school curriculum for years. 

Soft on crime? Refunding police? The U.S. has one of the highest rates of people in prison of any country in the world, a fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.—politicians at different ends of the partisan spectrum—both agreed on in a 2015 Washington Post story. 

And the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan research organization, published a 2021 report debunking claims that U.S. police departments have been defunded.

Also in Scott’s plan? Point 10, which specifies “Americans will be free to welcome God into all aspects of our lives.” I must have missed the policy that prevents any of us from worshiping or welcoming God however we choose to do so. 

During his Friday talk, he worked to gin up outrage at the federal government, although as a U.S. senator, he is a part of the federal government. 

“Have you tried to get a passport in the last six months?” Scott rhetorically asked the crowd. “People in federal agencies aren’t showing up to work.” 

“I got mine in three weeks,” said a woman sitting near me, debunking Scott’s implication that passport agencies are creakily slow. 

I changed my mind about Scott after watching and listening to him for an hour and half. My simple curiosity turned into alarm. A rich man—Scott is estimated to be worth a minimum of $165 million and is the wealthiest member of the Senate—who is also smart can do a lot of damage. 

Scott has also called for the sunsetting of all federal programs within five years and has been particularly hostile toward Social Security and Medicare. His plan has received criticism from unlikely outlets like Fox News and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But Scott has remade himself before, as Nashville healthcare veterans can attest. And now, he’s in a Republican leadership role during a crucial midterm election year as he takes his RSCC show on the road. 

I expect Scott to continue refining his plan. While many pundits look for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president in 2024, I think they are looking at the wrong Florida official. 

Scott’s younger and smarter than Trump, he’s got a lot of money and he’s using Trump’s platform. He’s Trump 2.0.

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Holly McCall
Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. She has served as political analyst for WZTV Fox 17 and provided communications consulting for political campaigns at all levels, from city council to presidential. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.