"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
— Really old-school line that says a lot about how America is supposed to work
I know the world has gone mad, Florida in particular, but let's get this much straight:
Despite the recent budget-signing soiree during which some who disagreed were told to leave, Florida's $69 billion budget does not belong to the governor.
It doesn't belong to Republicans. Not to Democrats, either.
Excuse me for repeating what most of us learned in junior high social studies, but the state budget belongs to all Floridians, ours to agree with or to criticize.
It's America, right? Lately, I feel like I have to ask.
As long as we're stating the obvious here, Rick Scott is in point of fact the governor of Florida, not the CEO of Florida Inc. Not yet, anyway.
All of which should go without saying. But our state has morphed into the Wacky World of Gov. Scott, a man I increasingly hear referred to as Florida's own Lord Voldemort. In Scott World, principles like transparency, openness and our very-American right to dissent are starting to seem like fusty antiques.
Remember public meetings, where anyone could come? Yeah. Good times.
Last week's signing of Scott's first state budget was staged to much red-white-and-blue fanfare in a conservative retirement community in Central Florida called the Villages, not at a low-key ceremony in Tallahassee as in years past. Can't say the man doesn't know his audience.
The Times reported that at the event, Scott staffers called over sheriff's deputies to say a group of Democrats in the audience had to go. More than a dozen Democrats, mostly retirees who live in the Villages and, naive things, probably believed they would be welcome at their own state's budget signing, were instead escorted out. A special assistant to Scott told a reporter it was "a private event."
It appeared to be a crime to be carrying a sign that was unsupportive of Scott. However, anyone bearing one with a sentiment along the lines of "I Heart The Gov" was more than welcome.
Lesson learned in Scott World: Disagree with government, and you are not welcome. How American does that sound to you?
If there is any good in this, maybe it's that we're seeing the Oz behind the curtain. With the all-out assault on everything from education to public employees, we're getting a glimpse of the true colors of a governor who acts less like he's elected to serve the people and more like early Gordon Gekko without the slicked-back hair. A recent poll gave him a dismal approval rating of 29 percent. Lately it's hard to find someone outside the tea party crowd who'll admit voting for him.
Republicans should be equally offended by the manipulation of that day. This was not a private invitation-only cocktail party over at the Scotts'. It was not a corporate picnic. It wasn't a rah-rah campaign stop nor a partisan Republican-only event.
This was the official signing of a budget that determines what happens to $69 billion of your money — yours, mine and that guy over there whose political views we don't particularly care for. Our elected officials should have made sure anyone interested was welcome, even those who disagreed.
You've probably heard of it, Mr. Governor. It's called a democracy.