Saturday, July 21, 2018
Politics

Romano: Rick Scott hides, dodges and ducks — and the voters don't get answers

It's an interesting strategy the Governor's Office has adopted.

Apparently, Rick Scott will sit down for television interviews only if his people are allowed to handpick the subjects, questions, reporters and, presumably, ferns.

This is a bold concept, bordering on nervy. A clear don't-mess-with-me vibe.

All of which got me thinking:

What if you made similar demands?

What if you told the governor that you will agree to vote for him only if he stops hiding from questions, running away from microphones and avoiding accountability?

Because, let's face it, the man's default setting is mute.

His lack of accessibility has become so ingrained, it almost seems routine. And if reporters do actually get close enough to ask him about a specific topic, Scott pretends to have heard some completely different question involving butterflies, rainbows or jobs.

I'll grant you, in some ways this can be an effective strategy. It keeps controversy to a minimum and gaffes under control. If you don't think silence plays better than being clueless, then you might want to talk to the handlers for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

But just because it is more expedient for a politician to hide behind his PR reps, that doesn't mean it's good for you.

It means Scott can duck real questions about Medicaid expansion. About immigration reform. About back-room business deals. About same-sex marriage. About nuclear energy. About mass transit. About anything that is important to you.

There is a difference between a politician staying on point and a politician running scared. And Scott is so committed to his own sound bites, it gives the appearance of a man who lacks either the acumen or the gumption to take on real questions.

The strong, silent type plays great in Hollywood.

It borders on pathetic in the state Capitol.

This issue is much larger than an Orlando television station's refusing to play by Scott's rules to land a rare interview last week. It's larger than the Tallahassee media contingent's getting the cold shoulder or having its questions continually ignored.

This is about your governor having the integrity, the decency and the courage to talk about issues that directly affect your life.

Scott's people would argue this is just smart politics. That the liberal media are out to get him, and so his only recourse is to control his own message.

Even if you believe that is true, the governor's response is still remarkably weak.

If he's afraid that interviews will be edited to make him look bad, his staff can simply make its own videotapes to keep television stations honest. Ditto for any questions asked at public events. Or one-on-one print interviews in his office.

If a question is unfair, he can point out why it is unfair. If the premise is incorrect, he can explain why it is incorrect. If he thinks a reporter is playing "gotcha journalism,'' he has every right to call him or her out on it.

But refusing to show up, refusing to hear questions, refusing to act like a responsible public servant just makes it look as if he doesn't have faith in his own answers.

For reporters who work in Florida? That's frustrating and mildly annoying.

For voters who live in Florida? It should be outrageous and inexcusable.

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