Saturday, September 01, 2012

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Jeb!", like Dubya, Hates Teachers' Unions ... We get it

"Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush used a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention to further his reputation as an advocate for reforming public education."
While in the governor’s office from 1999 to 2007, Bush pushed for an accountability system that included grading schools based on student performance on standardized tests and proposals that funneled tax dollars to private schools. A coalition of groups including the state teachers union challenged the voucher program and the Florida Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. Bush referred to the union on Thursday as a “politically powerful” group that is a “master of delays and deferrals.”

“It’s what we’ve been hearing from Jeb Bush for a decade and half,” said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, the statewide union representing teachers and school employees.

“The Legislature is two-thirds Republican. Teachers and educators and school employees have not ever been consulted about the direction that we’ve taken in education for Florida for the past 15 years. I think a political powerful entity would not be in this situation,” Pudlow said.

"FEA responds to Jeb union bashing". Related: "Jeb Bush to Obama: stop blaming my brother".

The "face of the Republican Party may be white and the hair graying ..."

Like Myriam Marquez, the "face of the Republican Party may be white and the hair graying, but [whe writes] the number of young, dynamic Hispanic leaders on display at the GOP convention is telling." Marquez wonders, however, whether they are "'window dressing,' as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa claims?" "Balancing the GOP tripwire on immigration".

Scott runnin' gub'ment like a bidness

"It was one of Gov. Rick Scott's headline-grabbing campaign vows: Welfare recipients would have to pass a drug test to make sure addicts weren't receiving Floridians' tax dollars. But data now available from the state show that when a federal court temporarily suspended the law, the state had to pay out thousands of dollars to people regardless of whether they even took or passed a drug test." "State pays back thousands after drug testing struck down".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Mitt, Isaac and a Guy Named Clint". This is a regular laff riot: "Romney aides take cover after Eastwood performance". See also "Campaign Roundup: Voter registration and primary challenges".

"Defying party honchos"

The Tampa Tribune editors: "Republican brass during the convention pounded their chests and warned states they must comply with the party's 2016 schedule for presidential primaries or face a paddling. The threat was directed at Florida, which should not be intimidated. It's the party that needs to come to its senses. "

The shrill "don't you dare" stance came on top of the banishment of Florida's delegation to what Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnum termed "primary purgatory." The offense? State leaders moved this year's primary date from March 6 to Jan. 31, defying party honchos.

So Florida's delegation was cut from 99 to 50 and was assigned to the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, when normally the host delegation could expect a hotel close to the convention site.

Next time, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus promises the punishment will be much more harsh. As the Tribune's William March reports, this year the party allowed the "banished" 49 delegates to attend the event and participate in all the activities, except for voting. But if the state rebels again in 2016, Florida would lose all but 12 of its delegates, minimizing the impact of a victory in the state and discouraging candidates from campaigning here.

It's curious that Republican bosses would think slapping around a state with 19 million people and 29 electoral votes, one that has been crucial to Republican presidential victories, is smart policy.

"Toward more democratic and disciplined primaries".

"The scourge of insurance companies wants a public hearing"

"The scourge of insurance companies wants a public hearing on Citizens' officials spending after a Miami Herald article detailed exorbitant travel expenses." "Sen. Fasano calls for Cabinet hearing on Citizens' travel spending".

Week in Review

"Week in Review for Aug. 27 to Aug. 30".

GOPer "tough-sounding rhetoric plays right into the hands of Chávez"

Andres Oppenheimer: "The Republican platform approved by the party’s convention earlier this week — a blueprint of what a Romney administration would do if it is elected — makes no bones about its hard-line policy toward Latin America. Its section on the region starts out by saying that 'We will resist foreign influence in our hemisphere,' and calls Venezuela a 'narco terrorist' state."

According to Obama supporters, the GOP platform’s Latin America section is a throwback to the first George W. Bush term, when the White House used tough-sounding rhetoric against radical leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his disciples in the region. That approach failed, because it played into Chávez’s hands and helped him claim that he was a victim of “U.S. aggression,” they say.

Regarding assertions that Venezuela is a national security threat because it allegedly has become an “Iranian outpost” and harbors “thousands of Middle Eastern terrorists,” people close to the Obama foreign policy team say there is no evidence for such claims.

“Iran is President Obama’s top national security priority,” says Dan Restrepo, who until recently was Obama’s top White House adviser on Latin America. “But if the Republicans have evidence that there are thousands of Middle Eastern terrorists in Venezuela, they should provide it to the president, and to the public.”

[Oppenheimer's] opinion: The Republicans are right in that Obama has neglected Latin America. He has (and, by the way, so did former President Bush after 9/11). But critics are right that tough-sounding rhetoric plays right into the hands of Chávez and his disciples in the region. They are constantly insulting Washington in hopes of getting the U.S. president to say something that would justify their claim that the “U.S. empire” is about to invade their countries at any moment, and who use that fantasy as an excuse to grab absolute powers. If Romney takes that line, he may — ironically — strengthen them.

"Republicans tilt right on Latin America".

Never mind NASA

"Though the Space Coast is less than 150 miles from Tampa, it might as well be on Mars for the attention given to NASA by Mitt Romney during the Republican convention this week. As has been the case for most of the campaign, Romney largely ignored the issue — heightening anxiety even among some Republicans about how a Romney administration would impact NASA and Kennedy Space Center." "Romney stays quiet about his views on NASA".

"It's unwise ever to bet against Charlie Crist's ambition"

The Sun Sentinel editorial board:"Democrats, and President Barack Obama, have found an unlikely ally in the form of former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who just endorsed Mr. Obama in a surprise op-ed article in the Tampa Bay Times on the eve of the Republican National Convention."

Cynics have suggested that Crist is setting himself up for a 2014 run to topple the unpopular Republican governor, Rick Scott, and reinstall (and reinvent) himself as Florida's chief executive, only this time as a Democrat.

Two points would argue in favor of this view: First, what business does Charlie Crist, private citizen, have endorsing anybody for president unless he has some kind of personal agenda, and second, Florida is unique in that its voters have a rich history of electing (for better or worse) candidates who have the most name recognition. It may be that by 2014, Floridians will be so weary of the divisive antics of a Scott administration that they will no longer care what party abbreviation comes after Charlie Crist's name, so long as he can promise a return to the older, more tolerant and inclusive days for which his governorship was known.

If that is Crist's gamble, it might just pay off. Conservatives already distrust him, so his treachery won't lose him any votes. Teachers will never forget his courageous, or craven (depending on your point of view) veto of a merit-pay bill passed by the Republican Legislature a few years ago, so they are likely to lend their numbers in support of his candidacy.

No one can get inside the former governor's head, but so far he is making all the right moves to stage a dramatic comeback. One more thing: It's unwise ever to bet against Charlie Crist's ambition.

"Will Crist 2.0 pay off?".

Blame the Unions!

"Broward school bus problems spark battle between union, management".

"Shocked, shocked! at ballot fraud"

Fred Grimm: "Imagine, someone suggesting that Hialeah, of all places, has a problem with electoral artifice. 'We know this is not true. We know our city.' Mayor Hernandez protested that his town was 'the most hard-working city in the state of Florida.'"

Perhaps that explains why Hialeah suffers this awful slander. Because the city’s boleteros, indeed, are the most hard-working in the state of Florida.

It was those hard-working absentee-ballot brokers who sullied the 1993 mayoral race, forging signatures and collecting dubious absentee ballots from mentally disabled nursing-home residents.

Another investigation, in 2003, discovered that the City Council election had been turned by a wildly disproportionate number of absentee ballots collected by boleteros on behalf of certain lucky candidates.

But who remembers 2003? At Tuesday night’s council meeting, it was the recent arrest of a couple of boleteros that left the mayor and the council members shocked, shocked that their city had once again been besmirched.

"Hialeah as Casablanca: Shocked, shocked! at ballot fraud".