Tampa? South of Ocala, north of Bradenton
Wake up and good morning. Ah, fame and glory. So fleeting. So mercurial. It's not as if Tampa needs more of an insecurity complex. But it sure does not help when the White House spokesman stumbles over where the dang Super Bowl was played all of six weeks ago!
Here's an exchange, word for word, on Thursday between White House spokesman Robert Gibbs (AP photo: Ron Edmonds) and a member of the White House press corps. You can read the entire press briefing here from the White House:
Reporter: "Another topic -- on the economy. Bill Marriott has an op-ed in the Washington Post today saying that business travel is way down and part of it is attacks from lawmakers and from the administration about business travel and -- seems to be referring in part to when the President said, don't go to Las Vegas, don't go to the Super Bowl --"
GIBBS: "Well, let's be clear about what the President said. I don't think the President said "Don't go to Las Vegas" or "Don't go to Hawaii" or "Don't go to the Super Bowl" -- I forget where the Super Bowl was --"
Ouch!! I don't want to overblow this omission of geography. Gibbs is a busy guy. But it's not the first time the Tampa, and Tampa Bay region, has been sent to the Land of Senior Moments. You'd think that after spending millions in promotions and security and clean-up, being put on our best behavior (strip joints included) in front of a global audience and having Tampa yodeled worldwide on the TV airwaves to a mega-audience... you'd hope someone like Gibbs would remember the Super Bowl did, in fact, take place in Tampa.
We really need our tourism dollars in these tough times, Mr. Gibbs. So how about a free plug for Tampa to make up for the slip?
The actual issue Gibbs and the reporter tried to address was the concern that the federal government has gone overboard in scaring U.S. businesses with any involvement in the federal rescue programs from holding any business meetings at any hotels or resorts for any reason. AIG got creamed in the media for an event at a California resort after taking billions from the feds. And Wells Fargo canned both an employee reward trip to Las Vegas but also a training program for insurance agents scheduled at the TradeWinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach.
In the Washington Post comment, Bill Marriott (in photo) -- who is Marriott International CEO -- warns that broadbrushing business travel as just more boondoggle will hurt the economy. Companies -- including those not receiving government assistance -- are so afraid of being criticized, they'd rather cancel their meetings and pay the penalty fees. Concludes Marriott:
"Continuing to scapegoat business travel will only hinder recovery. Meetings mean business. Meetings create jobs. If critics want America to lose another million jobs, they should keep talking."
I know. Let's have a conciliatory summit conference on this very subject right here in Tampa.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist