Come November, the national notoriety and tragedy surrounding Rilya Wilson and the blatantly inept Florida Department of Children and Families likely won’t result in major political fallout for Gov. Jeb Bush.
First, DCF has been a bipartisan disgrace for too many years, across too many administrations.
Second, for too many voters, a DCF nightmare — to put it cynically — is just not mainstream enough to influence their vote. Florida is as bad as it gets, but no state does a good job of, in effect, raising the children of those unable or unwilling to do anything other than procreate. Moreover, in the Rilya Wilson case there’s a family-caretaker shoe that seems likely to drop.
Having said that, however, Gov. Bush has not responded well to a scandalous scenario that cries out for outrage. How do you underreact to a lost child? Even right-wing pontificator Bill O’Reilly has — in his own inimitable way — noticed and denounced Bush for his action-challenged response.
The governor said the state would review the case, gave a vote of confidence to DCF head Kathleen Kearney, had his office issue statistics showing funds he has had channeled into DCF and appointed an appropriately hued, blue-ribbon panel. To his credit, Bush did order state personnel to personally check on the children — some 45,000 — currently in state custody.
On balance, however, Bush did not act the part of outraged governor. He looked detached and, well, bureaucratic. The sort of person who would, well, represent a big, bloated social agency chronically lacking sensitivity — and accountability.