Mayoral Matter

No, former state Rep. Ed Narain of Tampa did not jump into Tampa’s mayoral race, despite some speculation to the contrary. As a result, Tampa will go another four years at least without its first African-American mayor. Time was when Bob Morrison, the executive director of the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association–and one time, high-profile assistant to former Mayor Bob Martinez–looked likely to be that mayoral pioneer.

Sports Shorts

* Amid all the talk of the Tampa Bay Lightning having the best record in the National Hockey League and what that might–or might not–portend in another Stanley Cup run, there is, unalterably, another reality. The Lightning–in an area where baseball and football are embedded in our societal DNA–is Tampa Bay’s pre-eminent sports franchise. It’s not even close. We’ll leave it at that.

The team is successful. Every game is a sellout: 19,092 to be precise. That’s 158 in a row since 2014. The Amalie Arena vibe is cool and fan friendly. The owner, Jeff Vinik, hands out a check for $50,000 for local causes and charities at every home game. He also fronted multi millions to upgrade the arena–which wasn’t incidental to the city’s pitch to host the Republican National Convention in 2012.

Hockey in Florida: Who would have thought? The best team in the NHL: Who would think otherwise?

* A shout out to St. Petersburg’s Danielle Collins, a former Northeast High tennis player, who made it to the Grand Slam semifinals at the Australian Open.

* New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians recently announced the assistant coaches he’s bringing on: all 18 of them. It’s a reminder of the level of specialization these days. New hires include offensive quality-control, defensive quality-control, and even assistant special teams coaches, among others. No, it’s not the NFL we grew up with.


* “When it comes to China, Germany has to walk a very thin line in a rapidly changing international environment. The trans-Atlantic relationship has been rattled since Donald Trump took office; Germany suddenly finds itself agreeing with China more on certain issues, like climate change, than with the United States, its longtime ally. As a consequence, German diplomats have to play a tricky game: partnering with an ideological adversary against its close ally on some issues, while sticking with that suddenly difficult ally against its most important trading partner on others.”–Anna Sauerbrey, deputy editor in chief of Der Tagesspiegel.

* Sheldon Adelson now has more influence on American foreign policy than even the secretary of state, the Koch (brothers) tool Mike Pompeo.”–Timothy Egan, New York Times.

* “Drones and all of the rest are wonderful and lots of fun, but it is only a good old fashioned Wall that works!”–President Donald Trump.

* “Our president is behaving like an autocrat. His willingness to fabricate a national crisis and subvert constitutional checks and balances to avoid legislative defeat places him closer to Ferdinand Marcos than Ronald Reagan.”–Steven Levitsky, co-author of “How Democracies Die.”

* “Usually, rhetorical (campaign) promises are vague enough where they can be effective but not cost the president any real capital. Whereas this (border wall and Mexican underwriting) promise was very specific, and we’re seeing where that gets us.”–University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus.

* “How would a president who is willing to fabricate a national emergency over a simple legislative impasse behave during a real security crisis?”–Daniel Ziblatt, co-author of “How Democracies Die.”

* “Democrats who demanded new leadership in the House should be thankful they didn’t get their wish. It is hard to imagine anyone better matched to the moment and this task. … Trump is being knocked around by Nancy Pelosi and, even more hurtful, the attention for now is on her.”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.”–House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.

* “If we undercut the president, that’s the end of his presidency and the end of our party.”–South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

* “I don’t need you (mainstream media) guys anymore.”–What Donald Trump told Ted Koppel in a July 21, 2016 interview just hours before accepting the Republican presidential nomination.

* “Instead of covering Trump’s tweets on a live, breaking basis, just cover them in the last five minutes of a news show. They’re presidential statements, but we can balance them.”–Amanda Carpenter, author of “Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us.”

* “Female (presidential) candidates are battered by professional consultants who claim to understand voters, and who tell them to be strong but approachable, warm but steely, mom but dad, young and bouncy but wise and grave. These operatives are the swarming locusts of politics, eating all in their path.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “Swooping toward 2020, the moment of truth for Donald Trump that is also aptly the centennial of women’s suffrage, the women are gathering force at a giddy speed. … His greatest shock will be that his election woke up the wrath of the Furies, who are unceasing until they get their man.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “We face the greatest crisis of leadership we’ve seen in our lifetimes, and powerful voices are filling the void, sowing hate and division among us. … We know America is better than this–but it’s on us to build it. We’re going to have to fight for it.”–California Sen. Kamala Harris, in announcing her 2020 presidential candidacy.

* “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”–Charles Darwin.

* “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

* “We’re not an activist company. If you don’t like what we’re making better than cigarettes, then have a cigarette, that’s fine.”–James Monsees, co-founder and chief product officer of Juul, in 2014.

* A healthy business needs to be part of a healthy community. And a healthy community must have housing within the economic reach of every part of the community, including the many dedicated people who provide the vital services on which we all rely.”–Microsoft President Brad Smith, in announcing the company’s $500 million pledge to address affordable  housing in the Seattle area.

* “The quality of our water and environmental surroundings are foundational to our prosperity as a state. It doesn’t just drive tourism; it affects property values, anchors many local economies and is central to our quality of life.”–Gov. Ron DeSantis.

* “Whether they (patients) have to smoke (medical marijuana) or not, who am I to judge that? I want people to be able to have their suffering relieved. I don’t think this law is up to snuff.”–Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is pressuring the legislature to repeal a law that prohibits smokable medical marijuana.

* “When there’s insurance for medical marijuana, that’s when we’re really going to put a dent in the opioid and Oxycontin industry.”–Attorney John Morgan.

* “The mayor of Tampa is the single-most important political position in the region.”–Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez, a mayoral candidate.

* “They (pirates) come in here, think I’m gonna surrender the key to the city, and they realize that one Irishman against 600 krewe members is pretty much a fair fight.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn, on the Gasparilla invasion.

Pompeo Goes Beyond “Water’s Edge”

* It spoke volumes when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chose to speak recently at the American University in Cairo. That’s where former President Barack Obama spoke early in his presidency in an attempt to reset U.S.-Muslim relations. In his globally-chronicled speech, Obama spoke emphatically, if idealistically, of a “new beginning.”

In his speech, Pompeo underscored that he wasn’t restrained by the adage that partisan politics stops “at the water’s edge.” Would that he were.

“The age of self-inflicted American shame is over,” he trumpeted, “and so are the policies that produced so much needless suffering. Now comes the real new beginning.” Zing.

It’s one thing to try and be President Trump’s Middle East “fixer” and walk back his blindsiding declarations on Syrian policy. But it’s a new low to denigrate a former president while on a foreign mission to cozy up with the usual authoritarians.

* The biggest undocumented-immigrant problem we have are visa overstays. How does a wall fix that? We also know that smuggled drugs mainly come through legal ports of entry. A wall doesn’t address that either. Then there’s anxiety-and-anger-inducing anecdotal evidence of illegal perps committing heinous crimes against innocent Americans on our sovereign soil. The crimes remain blatantly disproportionate, but no less emotionally impacting. Too bad we can’t wall out home-grown criminals, including domestic gangbangers.

* Migration from Mexico is now negative. There are more Mexicans returning there than coming here. The issue is Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Maybe we could help Mexico build a wall on its southern border.

* “The Wall” is part of Trump branding. It works well at a rally or on a bumper sticker. Forget the real issues dealing with border security and illegal immigrants. His base wouldn’t rally around “Improve E-verify!” Just like “Lock her up!” goes over much better than “What questionable ethics!”

* How could it be that this president–who built his marketing reputation by building a brand–has missed an obvious wall-funding opportunity? How about naming rights? It doesn’t even have to be “1-800-ASK-MEXI.” Hell, maybe WALL Street would be interested.

* “I think he’d like it being called ‘The Great Wall of Trump.'”–Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio.

* There’s obviously no love lost between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump. And it was visceral even before the shutdown-sit-down fiasco. This is, among other things, a battle of wills. One key variable: Pelosi actually knows how the legislative process works.

* Seeing Trump in that “Make America Great Again” cap is, uh, grating enough. But wearing it while there’s a government shutdown that he “owns” and is “proud of” only ups the ante on insult, hypocrisy and anger.

* Ultimately, after anxiety fits over family budgets, furloughed federal employees will be paid for work they didn’t do. So much for conservative, Republican fiscal ideology.

* Last week Mexico was one of the few countries to have representation at the swearing in of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. A few weeks earlier leftist Mexican President Andrés 

 Manuel López Obrador had invited Maduro to his own inauguration. It doesn’t bode well for any future Obrador-Trump negotiations–from trade to border security.

* The Democrats are hardly resting on the laurels of a retaken House of Representatives. Campaign solicitations for 2020–in the form of “Senate Majority PAC” donor mailings–are out over the signature of Sen. Chuck Schumer. It’s a reminder that 2020 doesn’t look like 2018 for Democratic Senate inroads. “Republicans have to defend 22 seats–while Democrats have to defend just 12, giving Democrats a huge strategic opportunity,” says Schumer. “We have a real chance to take back the Senate.

“Under Senator McConnell and his caucus of yes-men, the Senate has become Donald Trump’s most reliable blank check. Only Democrats will stop his reckless ideas from becoming law.”

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DeSantis Debut

Granted it’s a low bar, but the case can be optimistically made that we’re better off with Ron DeSantis, the Trump acolyte who was more familiar with the Fox green room than his home state, as our governor.

His inaugural address was notably inclusive–not numbingly inciting and polarizing. For openers, there was no mention of Donald Trump. None. Battling green algae and Red Tide, protecting drinking water supplies and getting a better grasp on controlling state-managed lands were high-profile priorities. Green infrastructure is not an oxymoron, nor should it be a partisan bullet point. It’s integral to Florida’s economy as well as its quality of life. That gets buy-in.

The following day he formally pardoned the Groveland Four, something his predecessor chose not to do. He also made it clear that he’s committed to rescinding some of the classless, last-minute appointments made by lame duck Rick Scott. He’s also picked a couple of Democrats to serve as department heads and named the first Cuban American woman to the Florida Supreme Court.

But now let’s see how he handles Amendment 4, school-choice priorities and the lack of a justice of color on the State Supreme Court. And how about rescinding the appointment of Richard Corcoran as Commissioner of Education, Dana Young as president and CEO of Visit Florida and Carlos Beruff as a member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission?

But on balance, it was a good–better than expected–start. “It’s good to be able to do some things that are not just red vs. blue all the time,” underscored DeSantis at his inauguration. Indeed.

Media Matters

* I’ll admit to binge-watching video of the Fox News Sunday Chris Wallace interview with White House mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The one where Wallace wouldn’t let her get away with talking points that were not remotely fact-based as she stated that “nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists have come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.” Turns out that those illegals were captured at airports.  His dad would have been proud.

* Because the media have been demonized by the prevaricator-in-chief as the “enemy of the people,” it typically fails to acknowledge where it has truly fallen down on the media-coverage job. As in the over-the-top, disproportionate attention paid to candidate Donald Trump because he brought high ratings. As in ceding too much narrative control to the commander-in-Cheeto.

Dan Rather had an interesting take. “The shadow of what we did last time looms over this next time,” he recently noted. “When you cover this as spectacle, what’s lost is context, perspective and depth. And when you cover this as spectacle, he is the star.”

* Remember the subjunctive mood? If I WERE a copy editor, I’d familiarize myself with it.

* Another “You can’t make this update.” Thanks to what’s being called the “Bird Box challenge,” derived from the hit movie “Bird Box,” society now has another viral video stunt to confront. This one records people doing various tasks–including driving–while blindfolded. Imagine making “driving while texting” look almost sane and safe. Almost.

Tampa Bay

* This Saturday is the Gasparilla Children’s Parade. There are none better, including the one next week. The Children’s Parade is impressively big, colorful and family-oriented. It actually looks like Tampa: Hispanic, African-American and Caucasian. A true celebration of Tampa. Moreover, it’s never been a booze fest and there’s no rite of pissage in the neighborhood alleys.  

* Why is there a debate? Wherever you’re from, whatever your race and ethnicity, if you are a resident of Tampa, you are a Tampeño. Revel with a cause.

Sports Short

* It’s coming up on four years now that Joe Maddon has been the former Rays manager. But he still lives here in the off-season and still stays involved with community charities–and even helped recruit new Bucs coach Bruce Arians, a fellow native Pennsylvanian . “I told him how much I love living here,” said Maddon after pitching the area to Arians over a private meeting at his (co-owned) Ava restaurant in South Tampa. “I always sell Tampa Bay.”


* “Israel is one of the few developed countries where opinion about the United States has improved since Mr. Trump took office. … American Jews, in contrast, see President Trump as their existential threat, a leader who they believe has stoked nationalist bigotry, stirred anti-Semitism and failed to renounce the violent hatred swirling around his political movement.”–Jonathan Weisman, author of “Semitism: Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump.”

* “If they agree to hold a second North Korea-U.S. summit in a not-too-distant future, we can see this as a rather optimistic sign that both sides have narrowed their differences on this (denuclearization) issue.”–South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

* “Because we’re a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will be ours.”–President Ronald Reagan.

* “We have got to find a middle ground between trying to transform the Middle East and increasingly walking away from the Middle East. We want to wash our hands of it, but history suggests that the Middle East won’t let us.”–Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

* “America is a force for good in the Middle East. Period.”–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

* “A wall, in my view, is an immorality. It’s the least effective way to protect the border and the most costly.”–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

* “Governing by shutdown is ignorant, cowardly and destructive.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “I find China, frankly, in many ways to be far more honorable than Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy. I really do.”–President Donald Trump.

* “It is not only unusual by historical standards, it is outrageous. … it certainly gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump.”–Former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbot, on Trump’s success in concealing details of his one-on-one meetings with Vladimir Putin.

* “I never worked for Russia.”–Donald Trump.

* “Donald Trump is going to be impeached whether it is by the ballot box or Congress. It will just be a matter of which one comes first.”–U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the Intelligence Committee.

* “You can’t impeach somebody who is doing a great job.”–President Donald Trump.

* “In an era of tribal emotionalism, you’re always going to be able to make a splash reducing a complex problem to a simple narrative that separates the world into the virtuous us, and the evil them.”–David Brooks, New York Times.

* “Whatever happens in 2019, (Trump’s) false version of reality will not survive history, just as Nixon’s did not. Which side of that history do today’s Republicans want to be on?”–David Leonardt, New York Times.

* “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”–Frederick Douglass.

* “My firing of James B. Comey was a great day for America. He was a Crooked Cop.”–Donald Trump.

* “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.”–Former FBI Director James Comey.

* “I don’t understand this guy. I really don’t. (Trump will) get his comeuppance; it’s just a matter of time.”–Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings.

* “If you look at the last century, the people who did the most, in many ways, to advance progressive politics in the country–F.D.R. and the Kennedys–all came from great wealth.”–Longtime Democratic adviser Bob Shrum, giving Democratic context to an era of populist backlash against the wealthy. Ironically, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz, both billionaires, have shown interest in a Democratic presidential run.

* “We have a singular focus over the next two years. And that’s getting our president re-elected.”–State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, the recently elected chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

* “This is different than when Scott first got in. DeSantis is more prepared to hit the ground running.”–David Custin, Miami-based, cross-partisan political strategist and lobbyist.

* “I fully expect the (Rays) to hold the (Tropicana Field) site hostage as long as possible. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their biggest negotiating chip.”–St. Petersburg State Sen. Jeff Brandes.

* “These two downtowns were meant to connect together.”–HMS Ferry president Matt Miller, in announcing that ridership for the first two months of the Cross-Bay Ferry was up nearly 35 percent compared to the ferry’s inaugural season.

* “If it takes six months to determine whether or not this charter amendment meets the letter of the law, to me, that’s well worth it and time well spent.”–Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White, on the rationale behind his suit over a transportation tax approved by voters in 2016.

Trumping Out 2018

* The Pentagon-and-ally-ignoring Syrian pull-out. The lack of a working definition of “denuclearization” with North Korea. The border wall stand-off resulting in a governmental shutdown. The unpaid price for Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Trans Pacific Partnership. The Paris climate-change accord. Too bad we couldn’t have elected a president whose forte was, uh, negotiation.

* Isn’t it telling that England, France, Germany and Israel, among many others, disapprove of the unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from Syria, but Russia, Iran and Turkey couldn’t be more pleased?

* We should give Trump credit for going to Iraq and visiting with war-zone troops. But, of course, he had to turn it into a campaign-rally dynamic. Indeed, he did work “The Wall” in, lied about military raises and also gloated that “We’re no longer the suckers, folks.” In short, he was equating life-risking, American members of the military with “suckers” who cluelessly fight others’ battles. Enjoy those selfies.

There are only two protocol boxes to check when a president visits troops: giving gratitude and boosting morale. Presidents don’t engage in political rhetoric, because politics and the military must be kept separate. Presidents should never morph those who serve into political pawns. And speaking of protocol, it didn’t go over well with locals that he didn’t deign to meet–even nominally–with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdu-Mahdi.

* How outrageous, frustrating and unfair that we have to endure a government shutdown over a border wall. If only Mexico had kept Trump’s word that it would pay for it. Such bad, unreliable hombres.

* “A made-up fight so the president can look like he’s fighting. The whole thing is juvenile.”–Retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on the battle over border wall funding.

* “Turn me into Hoover.” That’s what Trump narcissistically fears could happen as a result of decisions being made at the Federal Reserve under Fed chairman Jerome Powell.

* The GOP, as we know, lost 40 House seats and ceded majority to the Democrats, which means, among other things, a halt to key parts of Trump’s legislative agenda. It also means that the Dems will have House oversight authority–as in calling the shots on holding hearings, requesting documents and issuing subpoenas. As in having the wherewithal to investigate the president’s family, business, campaign and administration.

So how do Trumpsters spin it? Try this: “It’s absolutely fair to say that it’s better to have Nancy Pelosi as a foil than Paul Ryan as a foil,” pointed out Marc Short, who used to be Trump’s legislative affairs director. “It’s better for the party, and it’s better for unity. The reality is the Democrats could overplay their hand.” So there.

* Speaking of Dems, all the speculation about presidential opponents for Trump will start to solidify before too long. The first candidate debate will be this June.