Governator's dig -- Florida is 'for the old people' -- ignites mini-war over tourism image
Wake up and good morning. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, pitching his state as the nation's frontrunner, offered this contrast to a Silicon Valley conference on infrastructure: Florida, the Governator said, is "for the old people." (Photo: Schwarzenegger -- age 62 -- with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist -- age 53, by Getty Images.)
Imagine this exchange in this photo:
Crist: But Arnie, I'll never be able to convince that waitress I'm eligible for a senior discount!
Arnold: Trust me, Charlie. Listen to your elder. Show her a photo of Marco Rubio and you'll be fine.
Careful, Arnold. Don't mess with senior Floridians. The California governor's "old people" remark stings a little -- remember (if you're old enough) St. Petersburg and Florida frequently got tagged as "God's waiting room" on the Johnny Carson late night show. But anyone who knows the Sunshine State realizes California's aging Teutonic governor is merely exploiting an outdated stereotype.
Which did not stop the backlash from Floridians against the Schwarzenegger comment, a dig that certainly will not help Florida with its tourism image.
So why take a stab at Florida? "I was thinking, maybe he's just jealous that Florida is not financially strapped and going under right now like California is," Charles Stella from visiting from Chicago told Florida's WINK TV. Check out the video report. Yes, Gov. Schwarzenegger is dealing with California's $21 billion budget hole and begging the federal government for a bailout. Florida's financial woes are significant, but puny by comparison to the Golden State. Besides, this week Florida has the Super Bowl.
Tongue in cheek, the Palm Beach Post responded to Schwarzenegger with comments like these:
"Not to be a nitpicker here, but among the states, Florida isn't the one with the most people who are 65 or older. According to the U.S. Census figures, we're only No. 2 when it comes to old people. The state that has more old people than any other state is … oh, I forget. Excuse me. Let me pull up those numbers again. Ah, here it is. California."
Alex Sink isn't even governor yet but she's happy to scrap a bit. So says the NBC affiliate in Miami and its story Judgment Day: The Governator Attacks Florida. State CFO SInk, the gubernatorial candidate, countered Schwarzenegger's war of words for tourism supremacy. If Florida is known for old people, Sink said, then California is best known for "high taxes and a ballooning deficit." Ooh. I bet that sent Arnold reeling. Well, give Sink an E for Effort.
And show some pride, Florida, senior citizens or not.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist