Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Politics

Romano: The 22 seconds of silence heard 'round Florida (w/video)

Call it hubris by the governor. Call it a revolt by the Cabinet.

Or just call it an enlightening 22 seconds of silence in the Capitol.

In a second attempt at hiring a state insurance commissioner, the Cabinet listened to four candidates speak for a little more than an hour on Tuesday.

When the interviews were wrapped up, Gov. Rick Scott took a few moments to thank all of the candidates, and then immediately launched into a prepared statement that nominated Jeffrey Bragg for the post.

"Is there a second?" Scott asked the other three Cabinet members.

1, 2, 3 …

Scott turns to his left to look at Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who, like the governor, has to affirm the selection of a new insurance boss. Atwater, avoiding eye contact, looks straight ahead.

The beauty of this exchange is that it has been a month in the making. Four weeks earlier, Atwater had moved to appoint Bill Hager as the new commissioner and Scott immediately shot it down by saying he would not second the nomination. He wanted Bragg.

So, presumably, the four Cabinet members spent the next month looking at new candidates and reassessing Bragg and Hager. But Scott's immediate nomination of Bragg on Tuesday made it clear he expected Atwater to simply bow to his demand.

There was no discussion. No give and take. No pretense of esprit de corps.

4, 5, 6 …

Scott straightens in his chair. Then he reaches for a bottle of water.

By now, the governor must already know his ploy has failed. And the realization has to be dawning that the titular leader of the GOP in Florida, who has already been dissed by a Republican-dominated Legislature on his budget demands, is now being ignored by an all-Republican Cabinet.

7, 8, 9, 10 …

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who up to this point has looked like a disinterested bystander, straightens in her chair and looks toward Scott and Atwater.

Bondi would later appear to throw this in Atwater's lap by saying it is up to the CFO and governor to come to agreement on an insurance boss. She would explain that criminal matters are her expertise, agriculture is Adam Putnam's specialty, and financial matters fall under the purview of Atwater and Scott.

This is a convenient position for the attorney general to take, since she played the role of a doormat the last time Scott pulled a similar power play in appointing a new head for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

11, 12, 13, 14 …

Scott puts his water bottle down, and Atwater shifts in his chair.

What's amazing is, six years into the job, Scott still does not understand the art of governing. He has a receptive audience in both the Legislature and the Cabinet, but he sabotages his own cause with edicts and commands.

One would think the governor could get almost anything he wants if he would only give the appearance of listening and, occasionally, accommodating. Instead, he throws his weight around while insulting and embarrassing colleagues by diminishing their input.

15, 16, 17, 18, 19 …

Scott looks at Atwater again, who appears to be admiring some painting only he can see.

Any and all illusions of teamwork or compromise for the greater good have been shattered.

And it's not like this disagreement has caught any of them by surprise. The Cabinet has already been deadlocked for more than a month on this hire, and the current commissioner is due to leave office in the next week.

This is pure ego, and perfect rebellion.

20, 21, 22 …

The governor leans into the microphone.

"So it doesn't look like there will be a second," Scott says.

Twenty-two seconds of utter silence.

Amazing how much it said.

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