Saturday, February 16, 2013

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Actually, it was THAT funny

The Rubio laff riot continues: "David Letterman takes aim at Sen. Rubio’s water gaffe in top 10 list".

The New Yorker's Ian Crouch has perhaps the best take on "Rubio's parched performance and water-seeking squat":

By the second minute of Marco Rubio’s official Republican response to the President’s State of the Union address last night, it was clear that the Senator’s body was betraying him. His lips caught each other in the way they do at moments of stress, when we are suddenly confronted, after long lapses of unthought, with the actual mechanics of speech. Under the hot lights, Rubio’s mouth went dry. A few minutes later, sweat trickled down his right temple, and he moved his hand instinctively to wipe it away. The dry mouth persisted, and, at times, his eyes flashed with a kind of pleading and mounting desperation: the speech was less than halfway over, with words and words to go. His hands, already large in the frame when he kept them low in front of him, flashed a few times to his lips. And then back to his temple.

By the eighth minute, he seemed to have adjusted, and it looked as if he might push through to the end. But then, three minutes later, he made a gamble and reached for a water bottle offscreen: he lurched down to his left and fumbled a bit, making a terrifyingly intimate moment of eye contact with the audience before taking a quick sip from an unfortunately tiny bottle and then ducking to put it back. He quickly returned to his speech, and spun out the final few minutes. But, by then, those eyes had turned faintly sad; while continuing to perform the words, Rubio looked as though he knew he’d made a mistake, and that all anyone would remember in the morning would be the image of him stooped to the edge of the frame, sheepishly grasping for the smallest plastic bottle of water in the District of Columbia.

Crouch continues:
It was a defensible act, and perhaps several minutes overdue, but physically clumsy to such a magnificent degree that it smudged out the actual meaning of everything he had said before and everything he would say after. That such a thing could happen, that Rubio’s very human need for water in a time of stress could become the defining moment of a fourteen-minute policy speech, will be cited by many contrarians as further evidence of the shallowness and vapidity of the media class and of the public at large.

Well, fine, but that’s scoring easy points—and no one will suggest that what Rubio said about the housing crisis, government spending, or which party cares more about solving the immigration crisis is somehow not important or worth discussing. But it is significant, too, that the people watching the speech, people who are at once an audience to entertainment and participants in the civic enterprise, found it so transfixing. Twitter, which gives quick voice to the American cultural id, was the venue for a flood of mocking and gleeful gut responses. (The best, for my money, came later, from the flop-sweat extraordinaire Albert Brooks: “I didn’t see Marco Rubio’s speech but I just got a residual check.”) Yet the flexing cleverness may have obscured a deeper feeling that we, as seasoned viewers of bland and staged political theatre, had just made an uncomfortable personal connection that we were not expecting, and did not enjoy.

Crouch clinches his piece with this:
Watching the video for a second time this morning, with the full knowledge of what is to come, the entire thing takes on added drama and weight, which suggests that it may linger not merely as a “Nixon moment” in political history but as a durable Web artifact. Rubio’s body seems locked in a struggle that we know he is sure to lose. If the video makes it across the threshold of a few news cycles of late-night mockery, it will be because of those eyes, which give us, in just a few minutes, a full narrative arc of dread, desperation, decision, and regret.
"Marco Rubio’s Water-Bottle Moment".

The Rubio crowd just doesn't get it. The Tampa Trib's Joe Henderson - who apparently wants to insinuate himself with the (previously) ascendant We-Luv-Marco crowd - wonders what all the fuss is about. He acknowledges that the "national TV stage is a bad place to have a case of cottonmouth when you're trying to look cool and presidential, and so Marco Rubio's clumsy water-bottle grab was funny for a moment."

Nevertheless, Henderson is quick to praise Rubio's predictable gaffe-control-efforts:

He immediately poked fun at himself and proved he can take a punch — or, in this case, a punch line, most of which came in the 9,200 tweets per minute that went out via Twitter right after watergaffe. He turned a negative into a positive through humor and a clever fundraiser.

He has started selling refillable bottles for his political action committee. For $25, you get a squirt bottle with the name "Rubio" on the outside, along with the message "Send the liberal detractors a message that not only does Marco Rubio inspire you … he hydrates you, too."

"Rubio's Watergaffe wasn't THAT funny". Other Rubio fans are less effusive. Guillermo Martinez writes that: "Rubio shows he's articulate, but he still needs polishing".

Andres Oppenheimer refrains from overt cheerleading, and actually acknowledges that "Rubio missed his chance", but wants his readers to know that

Rubio may recover from his “water-bottle gate,” because I found in my own experience interviewing him that he’s an intelligent, good-natured politician who will surely put this awkward moment behind him with a mix of self-depreciating humor and smart policy proposals.
However, Oppenheimer concedes that he is
not so sure he will be the “savior” who can reconnect the Republican Party with Hispanics, women, and other sectors of society unless he distances himself from his party’s right-wing extremists on immigration, gun violence, women, and other social issues, while continuing to stick to the Republicans’ small-government philosophy. Rubio’s problem wasn’t the water. It was the message!
"Marco Rubio’s problem wasn’t the water".

Week in Review

"Week in Review for Feb. 11 to Feb. 15". See also "Weekly Roundup: Jim Greer Soap Opera, We Hardly Knew Ye".

"Jeb returns"

Tom Jackson: "Jeb returns; exclamation point to follow?"

No reports of golf carts filled with hookers

On the heels of the Republican Party of Florida narrowly avoiding having to answer some tuff questions in the Greer case - like "were prostitutes indeed present during a [men only] fundraising trip to the Bahamas"? - the Tampa Trib can't resist trumpeting Obama's "boys' weekend" in Florida:

"Faced with a lonely weekend of rattling around the White House without his wife and daughters, President Barack Obama arranged a golf outing with some buddies. In Florida. . . . It's a weekend with the boys, presidential style." "Obama treats himself to boys' weekend in Florida".

Crist has "no comment"

"The ex-husband of former Florida first lady Carole Crist has been granted full custody of their two daughters, after alleging that she abandoned them and hasn't returned messages in nearly two years."

Mrs. Crist and ex-husband Rome had joint custody until Feb. 1 when a family court judge in New York granted him temporary full custody. Rome said he may seek full custody permanently.

"She probably will not fight it, because she didn't fight this one,'' he said.

Neither Charlie nor Carole Crist could be reached for comment Friday, and a local attorney for Mrs. Crist said they would have no comment.

"Charlie Crist's wife loses custody of two teenage daughters". Nancy Smith has something to say about this:
Did you know Carole Crist has two children by her ex-husband, Blue Star Jets CEO Todd Rome? Probably not. How would you? Neither she nor her husband Charlie are ever seen with them.

And that's the problem now. Carole apparently has "mommy issues" -- as in "I don't want to be one."

As in, "I'm a deadbeat mom."

All of a sudden, people are beginning to notice there are people in her life conspicuous by their absence.

"Carole Crist Doesn't Fight for Her Teenage Daughters".

Florida missed a Friday deadline

"Florida missed a Friday deadline to sign up for a partnership with President Barack Obama’s administration to operate a health exchange, an online marketplace that is required for each state under the 2010 federal health care law." "Feds will run Florida health exchange after state misses another deadline".

Runnin' gub'ment like a bid'ness

"Citizens agrees to reform travel after report raps $633 hotel nights in Bermuda".

"Florida ranks at the bottom of Southern states"

"With 37.6 percent of Floridians saying they are 'very religious,' Florida ranks at the bottom of Southern states, according to the latest Gallup Poll. Mississippi, with 58 percent of its residents classified as very religious, tops the region and the nation." "Gallup Poll: Florida is least religious state in the South".

Thirsty "savior of the Republican Party" sits on his hands as seas rise

The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "If only South Florida's 50 state lawmakers would join forces to address issues of key regional concern, something significant might get done. After all, Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties are home to 30 percent of the state's population. How can we be ignored?"

State Rep. Mark Pafford, who chairs the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation, deserves credit for bringing half the region's delegation together. For if ever there were an issue that should galvanize our representatives and senators, it is the disproportionately high risk we face from climate change because of our low elevation and rising sea levels.

The Atlantic Ocean is expected to rise at least a foot along Florida's southeast coast between 2040 and 2070, according to projections outlined in a 2012 report by the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.

That's enough to put 81 miles of South Florida roads, power plant properties and roughly $4 billion in beachfront homes under water.

Already, Key West has seen a sea level rise of nine inches in the past 100 years.

While some still doubt whether human activity has anything to do with climate change, it's past time for the rest of us to deal with the reality around us.

Many South Florida communities are grappling with ways to protect their shorelines. In Delray Beach, officials are seeking state approval to renourish storm-ravaged public beaches. In Fort Lauderdale, officials are reducing the number of lanes on State Road A1A because of the coastal devastation. In Palm Beach County, commissioners scuttled a breakwater proposal because of its impact on sea turtles.

Across the region, there's talk of raising seawall heights, moving drinking-water wellfields farther inland and imposing tougher development regulations along the coast.

And then there is Florida's notorious empty suit, the thirsty Mr. Rubio:
While responsible action is being taken locally, at a national level, members of Congress continue to sit on their hands. Just last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio acknowledged climate change is a global problem, but questioned whether our nation should do something about it since the world's largest polluters — China and India — impose no limits on carbon emissions. "The United States is a country, not a planet. If you did all these things they're talking about, what impact would it really have?"

Better if Rubio, the so-called "savior of the Republican Party," put aside tired talking points and took to heart the words of India's late spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, who so rightly said: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

"Raise our voice on climate change". See also "South Florida delegations urged to recognize reality of sea level rise".

Joe jumps

"Joe Martinez, the former Miami-Dade Commission chairman who lost his bid to become county mayor last year, said Friday that he intends to run against U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in 2014. . . . Martinez’s name has been floated in political circles in connection with the 26th Congressional District since Garcia, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican Rep. David Rivera in November. The district extends from Kendall to Key West." "Joe Martinez says he’ll challenge Joe Garcia".

"Few decline money"

The Palm Beach Post editors write that "Lots of politicians decry money, but few decline money." "Menendez, Melgen: The wrong way for a politician to say thank you".

Legislature needs to stop bowing to disingenuous special interests

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett moved quickly last week, promising to clean up a privatized tutoring scheme two days after the Tampa Bay Times disclosed how the arrangements had enriched criminals and cheats by millions of dollars with no proof it had helped students."

But the real solution would be for the Florida Legislature to stop bowing to a disingenuous special interest and abolish the program, as the federal government agreed the state could do a year ago. Lawmakers should redirect the millions flowing to a corrupt, privatized education plan to the state's 67 public school districts that can best decide how to provide help to poor students.
"End Florida tutoring scheme".

The Miami Herald editorial board writes that many of these privatized "tutoring firms are run by criminals, corporate lackeys and swindlers trying to make a quick buck." "Million dollar giveaway".

Bought and paid for

Bill Cotterell: "Ballard Partners is the new king of Capitol hill as the firm posts a total of $5.4 million from its 90 clients. A total of $121 million was reported in payments for lobbying this past year." "Lobbyists report earnings of $121 million for 2012". "Florida lobbyists earned more than $120 million last year in an effort to pass and defeat bills in the Republican-controlled Legislature, reports show."

An analysis of year-end reports filed this week showed that some of the biggest spenders on lobbyists were those with the most to lose or gain in the halls of the state Capitol.
"Fla. lobbyists earned more than $100 million".