“Flori-duh” To “Flori-did it!”

Maybe we won’t be “Flori-duh” this time.

It’s a lot more than “Stand Your Ground,” climate-change denial and an unenlightened approach to Cuba. “Flori-duh” is also the swing state carried by Donald Trump that allowed Ron DeSantis to “monkey up” the process. And it’s the state known for two terms of the awkward, con-jobs Governor Rick Scott–whose off-year elections were facilitated by moderate, charisma-challenged Democratic opponents and embarrassingly low voter turnouts. It has all helped reinforce Florida as red-leaning, self-defeating and clueless.

But now “Flori-duh” could become “Flori-did it!”

The nation’s media–and the Democratic National Committee and a number of wealthy activists–are taking another, longer look. Florida could become a swing-state, blue microcosm of what we might see in November. It’s all because Andrew Gillum, 39, the unapologetically progressive, African-American mayor of Tallahassee, will be the Democratic standard-bearer against the Trump-channeling DeSantis, R-Fox News.

So much for the Dems playing it safe with a centrist candidate. So much for worrying about “socialist” labels or a Bernie Sanders nexus. The Gillum campaign will not be tacking to the post-primary middle. It will double down on a liberal agenda that shows serious signs of energizing a base too used to uninspiring compromise.

“We don’t have to run this campaign as ‘Republican Lite’ to win,” affirmed Gillum.

The primary turnout underscored the upward trend: The 1.46 million Democratic votes were 650,000 more than 2014, a 70 percent increase. And among those helped by a bigger-than-usual turnout: uninspiring incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. The Dems need to retain him to keep hope alive for the U.S. Senate. So, there’s plenty of incentive for the Democratic Party and mainstream media to nationalize Florida in the fall.

And it helps that DeSantis, now out of the Fox cocoon, might further gin up the Democratic base with his cult fealty to Trump and viscerally turn off independents with unforced errors such as racist dog whistling to the president’s base. Speaking of DeSantis’ “monkey it up” reference, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough thinks it’s been understated. The former Florida Republican congressman said it wasn’t so much a “dog whistle,” but more like a “screaming, 80-foot flashing neon sign.” That’s a “dangerous curve ahead” if you’re Republicans.

Gillum is now a de facto national player and won’t have to concede network coverage to the Fox-co-opted DeSantis.

One note of particular interest–and maybe concern–was that recent Orlando Democratic rally and show of solidarity: The only no-show, gubernatorial candidate was Jeff Greene. He spent a ton of money to finish next-to-last among five candidates. He said if he had won, he would spend big on the rest of the ticket. But he didn’t come close. Will he $tep up anyhow or go back to mogul status and grumbling about Trump at Mar-a-Lago? Everything matters for “Flori-did it!”

Trumpster Diving

  • The Washington National Cathedral memorial service for John McCain was more than a hero’s send off. It was a metaphor for who we still are and where we now are. There was a bipartisan presence and requisite aura of respect and gratitude. The aisle, in this case, didn’t separate political party affiliations. But there was a palpable, GOP elephant in the rhetorical room–ironically notable for its absence: the president of the United States. He was not there because he was specifically uninvited by Sen. McCain.

 

The reasons have been well chronicled. President Donald Trump, unconscionably, included McCain among his myriad targets for ridicule and insult. It was all too appropriate that Trump took his hypocritical “thoughts and prayers” to a Virginia golf course. And while speakers, such as Meghan McCain and former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, pulled some rhetorical punches and didn’t mention Trump by name, they made sure their praise of the late senator was juxtaposed to that of the unprincipled, classless current occupant of the White House.

 

The choice of Obama was totally appropriate. It was, even for Republican birthers and Obama obstructionists, a graphic reminder that not long ago we had an eloquent, honorable man in the White House. Flawed, but not an unethical, immoral, existential threat. It could happen again.

 

“So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty,” noted Obama. “Trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It’s a politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born in fear.” It looked like Lindsey Graham, a McCain best friend who’s increasingly prominent among Trump toadies, was among those party-first GOPsters nodding in embarrassed assent.

 

We can only guess as to how many rewrites Meghan McCain did. Her presentation was personal as well as patriotic. It was, of course, her father who was on the receiving end of those sophomorically demeaning, disrespectful insults from Trump. “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great,” she said with barely a hint of nuance. “We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness,” she underscored. “The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly.” Indeed, John McCain’s “America First” had nothing to do with international arrogance or race-baiting, white nationalism.

 

One more thing–and a reminder that sometimes we add by subtracting. No Sarah Palin.

  • “You’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got,” said Trump in recently warning a gathering of, yes, evangelicals about what could happen if the arch-enemy Democrats do well in the mid-terms. “The level of hatred, the level of anger is unbelievable. They will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently.” Well, there’s Trumpian bombast and red-meat, base rhetoric. It’s a daily loop in Trump world. Then there’s this–an incendiary, de facto call to meet concocted violence with violence.
  • Upon further–and much earlier–reflection, does anyone in the Trump Administration, except the Oval Office Apprentice, really think it was a good idea to have that Trump-Kim summit without much preparation? How’s that (ambiguously-defined) “denuclearization” process going?
  • Imagine Trump now supporting the Senate re-election campaign of Ted Cruz. As in “Lyin’ Ted.” As in “unattractive” wife. As in “all talk, no action pol.” As in son of someone who may have been involved in the JFK assassination conspiracy. No outrage is too outrageous. Cruz and Trump may actually deserve each other, but this country deserves so much better. You go, “Beto” O’Rourke.
  • So, Sen. Lindsey Graham interceded and helped Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner put in an official appearance at John McCain’s Washington memorial service. It arched more than a few non-Trumpian brows.

 

We know the Trump-Kushner motivation and who they were representing. IT and JK are not unhinged, ideological haters. So, OK, why not put in a symbolically respectful appearance–while the president was golfing–and squeeze in near Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Director John Bolton?

 

But you can bet there’s another agenda, because there’s lot left of their post-Trump Administration careers and reputations. And it’s more than likely that being part of a historically disgraced family and administration–wealth and opulent lifestyle notwithstanding–will not advance their standing and agendas, which could include their own political ambitions. However this Oval Orifice mess ends, including before 2020, Ivanka and Jared want more than life-long societal pushback for being calculated opportunists who helped enable what could be seen as the most reviled presidency in U.S. history.

  • Word has it that Jessica Manafort, 36, the indie film-making daughter of convicted felon Paul Manafort will be changing her name. Reportedly, she will become Jessica Huckabee Sanders. No, not really. But we understand; being associated with a nationally disgraced person is unfair familial baggage for any individual, let alone one with a public-context career. No word on whether Ivanka Kushner or Melania Knavs have had similar epiphanies.
  • Here’s what no president, especially a faux-populist one, wants to hear on Labor Day from the president of the AFL-CIO. “Unfortunately, to date, the things that (Trump) has done to hurt workers outpace what he’s done to help workers.” That was AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, not exactly a spokesman for establishment elites.
  • “Coal miners for Trump.” We get that. “Bikers for Trump.” We get that. “Nazi Robo-callers for Trump.” Hell, we get that too. But “Evangelicals for Trump”? We will never get that. In fact, shouldn’t that be a sin?
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is the first formal test of whether the rhetoric of respect and bipartisan participation at John McCain’s Washington memorial service has made any difference. It hasn’t.

Sports Shorts

  • Count on it every year: Media commentary that criticizes the NFL for how it handles exhibition games. Do they really need four? Do they have to price them as if they were anything more than over-hyped scrimmages? But the bottom line is the bottom line. It’s all about the money, as has been pointed out. But it’s disingenuous criticism. So, here’s a suggestion for the media: Stop the enabling. Stop covering this stuff as if such exhibitions really mattered–at least to anyone not vying for a roster spot. Yes, it’s all about the money—but also the de facto free marketing that is saturation media coverage.
  • You have to wonder how the brainstorming sessions went for Florida Hospital as it stepped up corporately for the seven-figure naming rights to the erstwhile One Buc Place. For marketing purposes, the AdventHealth Training Center makes branding sense. Still wonder, though, if anyone acknowledged that health care and football–where concussion protocols are as frequent as time outs–could have a down side image-wise.

Quoteworthy

  • “Putin is so ‘popular’ that anyone who challenges him must be murdered, exiled or banned. Anyone who treats these (Russian) ‘elections’ as anything other than a dictator’s theater is a fool.”–Russian exile Gary Kasparov.
  • “I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico.”–President Donald Trump.
  • “I don’t think they can impeach somebody that’s doing a great job.”–Donald Trump.
  • “Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America. … Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.”–The late Sen. John McCain.
  • “I want to be a bridge between McCain World and Trump world.”–South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.
  • “You learn to let things go.”–John McCain.
  • “We’ve never had a president who’s deliberately made decisions the effect of which is to tear down America’s standing in the world.”–Former Vice President Al Gore.
  • “(Trump) knows that the conservative base of the Republican Party will remain loyal as long as he’s busy stocking the courts with their brand of judges.”—David Van Drehle, Washington Post.
  • “My fellow Americans: Rudy Giuliani is right; truth isn’t truth. And climate change isn’t real. And Donald Trump isn’t president! Feels better already, doesn’t it?”–Bette Midler.
  • “I think Republicans will lose the House in the November midterms, and the results will yield enough angry Democrats for a majority of the House to vote for impeachment.”—Republican political consultant Ed Rogers.
  • “Resign.”–Al Gore’s one-word message to Donald Trump.
  • “Such a fantastic win.”–President Donald Trump, on Ron DeSantis’ primary win over Adam Putnam.
  • “Let’s keep Florida great–and make it even greater.”–Ron DeSantis.
  • “Florida’s not picking an apprentice. We’re electing a governor.”–Adam Putnam.
  • “I think (Gillum) is way, way too liberal for the state of Florida.”–Ron DeSantis.
  • “A failed socialist mayor … who has allowed crime and many other problems to flourish in his city. This is not what Florida wants or needs.”–Donald Trump, referencing Andrew Gillum.
  • “What our state and country needs is decency, hope and leadership.”—Andrew Gillum.
  • “He’s the talent that our party has waited for for so long.”–Gillum primary opponent Chris King.
  • “Now we must put all our efforts behind Andrew Gillum.”–Gwen Graham.
  • “Andrew’s nomination was good news for every Democrat on the ballot. This pumps energy, excitement into the Democratic ticket unlike anything we’ve seen before.”—State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando.
  • “I can’t believe the party has turned into a cult of personalities.”–Keith Rupp, former aide to Adam Putnam.
  • “Either (DeSantis) has got some nasty tendencies within himself or he just doesn’t get out much. And neither is good.”–David Brooks, New York Times.
  • “I’ve always assumed that the path to victory has been through the center. … He certainly has excited the Democratic base. Now the job is to expand the universe.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
  • “Search is not used to set a political agenda, and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology.”–Google
  • “Give a man fake news, and he’ll fool you for a day. Teach a man to fake news, and he’ll lie to you for life.”–M. Berger, author and fellow with the Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communication Project.
  • “The best way to encourage continued economic growth, make it easier to rebuild aging infrastructure and place more young adults into high-paying careers is to address construction workforce shortages.”–Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America.
  • “The policing of women’s bodies must end.”–Billie Jean King.
  • “Sadly, it’s very common, ballot fatigue. You’ll see with the Amendments in November. … Undervotes have consequences. You literally are letting someone else choose for you.”–Pasco County Election Supervisor Brian Corley.
  • “Our estimates imply that the benefits of school air conditioning likely outweigh the costs in most of the U.S., particularly given future predicted climate change.”–From a Harvard research study of the impact of AC on standardized test results.
  • “His passing will leave a hole in the heart of theatre in the United States and abroad.”—Stageworks Theatre, on the passing of Neil Simon.
  • “The ability to get our new name out there was very important to us, because it is a very competitive landscape in health care.”–Florida Hospital president and CEO Mike Schultz, after signing 10-year deal with the Buccaneers to rename One Buc Place the AdventHealth Training Center.

A Civics Amendment

Unless you’re a fan of the Constitutional Revision Commission and all things chartered, you likely have issues with the CRC’s Amendment 8. Lost in the controversial legal weeds of that misleadingly-bundled Amendment proposal is the relatively ignored component that would require civics to be taught in the schools. Civics, however, can’t be an Amendment afterthought; nor can it be an inducement to get voters to go along with charter school schemes.

This should stand on its own. It’s that critical.

But this can’t be old-school civics, with a focus on knowing the difference between senators and representatives and what the definition of the Electoral College is. No, this would have to be a re-worked hybrid.

One part should pragmatically focus, for example, on subjects such as how local, state and federal governments actually work in the real world; what constitutes voter eligibility; what the implications of gerrymandering are; and what the consequences are of not voting or not being familiar enough with issues and candidates to cast an informed vote.

The other part is the role of media–social to mainstream–in this contemporary American democracy with its evolving technology and demographics. An understanding of media and how it can inform as well as manipulate is necessary to prepare 21st century young Americans to meaningfully participate in their self-government. If the cyberattacked election of 2016 is to be a teachable moment, we have to teach and promote media awareness and savvy in our schools. Outsourcing ideology and cherry-picking media that validates is counterproductive if the goal is retaining a viable democracy.

Trumpster Diving

  • Trade deficits, as we’ve heard time and again, are incompatible with MAGA. Regardless of the overall volume of trade. But here’s a way to trim that deficit without resorting to tariff threats and trade wars: Get more foreign tourists to visit the U.S.

Since 2016, the number of international visitors has dropped by nearly 7.5 million. Travel industry economists estimate that this decline has reduced foreign purchases of American goods and services by more than $30 billion. It also, obviously, impacts jobs.

And begs the question of why. The strong dollar is a factor, as is immigration scrutiny. But the biggest factor is Donald Trump. Many foreigners with the wherewithal to travel and spend money don’t like Trump, his policies and the arrogant, America-first image the United States has been projecting.

  • It says it all that two former presidents and rivals, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, will speak at a memorial service for John McCain. It also speaks volumes that the current president will not.
  • Remember when the media, in effect, colluded with partisan Republicans in legitimizing “Obamacare” as the go-to, demonizing reference for the Affordable Care Act? Maybe it could do something comparable and Dem-friendly with the Trump energy plan that would increase carbon emissions and lead and subsequently cause up to 1,400 premature deaths annually. Maybe “Trump Gas” instead of the disingenuous “Clean Energy” rule.
  • “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen.” Indeed, but it took Donald Trump a dozen-plus years of personal attorney-fixing to finally come to that realization about Cohen. Just never know when an epiphany is coming in the world of Trump.
  • It’s a longstanding Justice Department position that a president cannot be criminally charged while in office. It’s also a longstanding tenet of American democracy that no man is above the law. Something’s got to give.
  • He was once a respected prosecutor, “America’s mayor” and a presidential candidate. Today he’s a ghoulish minion farcically defending the indefensible. Rudy Giuliani: We hardly knew ye.
  • “Bikers for Trump.” Who would have thought?
  • Whatever happened to the “law and order” candidate? Aren’t campaign finance violations illegal? Isn’t being surrounded by felons sort of at odds with a “law and order” mantra?
  • Alas, John McCain is gone. The best way for his party to honor him would be to mirror his feisty, truly America-first response to the threat that is the Trump presidency. Feckless fealty can’t trump principles if you want to honor McCain’s legacy. Among McCain’s last proclamations was his assessment of the Trump-Putin summit: “One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.” Too bad his spine couldn’t be donated to the Republican Congressional leadership.
  • So, who is the key figure in the National Inquirer’s effort to keep secret the identities of those who had extra-marital sex with Trump? David Pecker. Once again, you can’t make this stuff up.
  • Using campaign-finance hush money to shut up sex partners has all sorts of legal ramifications. As for the Trump base, having extra-marital sex with babes is a perk–not a character flaw or some technical illegality. And if Melania doesn’t seem to care, why the hell should anyone else?
  • “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” That was Sir Walter Scott–not Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
  • Our democracy is founded on the constitutional sanctity of three branches of government and attendant separation of powers. It can understandably be a delicate balance. But there’s nothing understandable–or acceptable–about the legislative branch’s abdication of power-sharing responsibility. The Congressional quislings.
  • “There will be holy hell to pay.” That was South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham last summer when rumors were rife about Trump firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. These days, in effect: “Fire away. We’ll move on.” Graham has become Exhibit A for all the gutless GOPsters (who are not stepping down) who constantly remind us of their hierarchy of priorities: Career, Party, Country. A basket of deplorables.
  • And when AG Sessions is finally disposed of, imagine how the Senate hearing for Trump’s next nominee will play out. It will be a de facto forum on “recusal,” “the indictment of a sitting president,” “perjury,” “obstruction of justice,” “impeachment” and “collusion.”
  • If Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had an iota of fairness and integrity, he would consider saying something like: “Given that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, of Ken Starr-staff fame, is on record for favoring the criminal immunity of a sitting president, we cannot accept his nomination by this vulnerable president. The prospect of a conflict-of-interest scenario looms too likely. Frankly, I’d like to see the president re-nominate Judge Merrick Garland. It might help heal the dangerous divisiveness that truly imperils our country. And let’s not forget, Trump isn’t really a Republican anyhow.”
  • Imagine Trump’s crazed reaction to the disparaging zinger of Fox News host Neil Cavuto. “You are so darn focused on promoting a financial boom that you fail to see that you are the one creating this moral bust,” castigated Cavuto. “And we could all be the poorer for it.”
  • Living in the tremulous times of Trump certainly lends itself to escape. If your respite from reality, however, is going to the movies, heads up if you’re going to see Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” Lee is not exactly agenda-challenged, and it’s no coincidence that this movie is out now in the context of rabid white nationalism. “Make America great again” and “America first” are dialogue staples. And you won’t depart the theater on a note of hope. The movie, which is worth seeing, ends with brutal images from the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Party Partner

We all get the pragmatic side of politics. As in, don’t unnecessarily alienate Republican Gov. Rick Scott, no matter how unconscionably repugnant, because he’s still in a position to help out. Democratic Mayor Bob Buckhorn has understandably played that card.

But this isn’t reason enough to rationalize the Tampa Bay Partnership coordinating a ($2,500-per-person) fundraiser in late September for the State Senate Campaign Committee of the Republican Party of Florida. And TBP has done it before.

And it’s problematic not just because TBP’s members are not all GOP affiliated. This fundraiser is about helping to keep a Republican Senate majority, thus assuring that the next two Senate presidents will come from this region. Not a good enough reason.

The bottom line: If it’s a Rick Scott fait accompli, then make the best of it. But stop short of actually helping the Republican Party keep its ideological hold on Tallahassee power. TBP should get its fund-raising mitts off the electoral scale and do what’s best for all Floridians in the long run. Sure, be partisanly helpful to the Tampa Bay region, but not at the expense of helping keep this state in the right-wing clutches of the Republican Party.

Sic(k) Transit

Here we go again. The 1-cent sales tax initiative on Nov. 6–the one that would raise some $280 million over 30 years for transportation, including seed money for light rail–faces a daunting challenge. An extra cent would give Hillsborough County the highest sales tax IN THE STATE. You don’t have to be a “No Tax for Tracks” activist to have all the anti-initiative ammo you need. Moreover, you also have the School District adding a half-cent tax for all its capital needs. The timing couldn’t be worse. It’s a perfect-storm referendumb. No way they both pass, and the double tax hit likely undermines each.

The sobering reality is this. The city of Tampa voters will support–and have supported–serious transit upgrades and know they should have happened a generation ago. Those outside the urban core have different perspectives and different priorities.

Major Florida municipalities still need the legal right to hold city-only referenda. No way should those who live elsewhere be able to veto projects that benefit urban–and, yes, surrounding–areas in terms of economic growth and corporate recruiting to the environment and quality of life. There’s also the matter of self-determination. It’s not an abstraction.

Foreign Fodder

  • Here’s a telling comment by Mexico’s President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. “For some time now, (Trump) has been very prudent in referring to Mexicans, or he hasn’t said offensive things. I have to thank him for that.” A shout-out for not insulting his people? How low can a gratitude bar go?
  • Interesting title for Cho Myung-kyun, the one who oversees South Korea’s relations with the North: Unification Minister. Wonder if his counterpart in NK has the same title?

Sports Shorts

  • Two biggest team surprises in MLB have to be the winning seasons of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics. Both are beset with small-market, modest-payroll, obsolete-facility and poor-attendance issues. And both Kevin Cash of the Rays and Bob Melvin of the A’s should be prime candidates for manager of the year honors.
  • Chris Archer’s bad start with the Pittsburgh Pirates seems to confirm a reality that’s been apparent for a while. Archer, often the face and articulate voice of the Rays, was a better presence than pitcher.