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Daniel Ruth

In just weeks, Scott makes state cry uncle

Perhaps a brief review is in order. Over the space of just a few short weeks, newbie Gov. Rick Scott, R-Lurch, has managed to:

• Alienate vast swaths of his own Republican Party by treating the Florida Legislature with all the respect and collegiality of the baptism scene in The Godfather.

• Invite the legislative black caucus over to the Governor's Mansion for lunch, only to serve up a steaming plate of arrogant, dismissive, condescending hooey worthy of a plantation overseer.

• Recoil against the state's long-standing open government laws as if they were inspired by the Communist Manifesto, Soledad Brothers and Mao's "Little Red Book."

• Scuttle Florida's high-speed rail effort that would have meant tens of thousands of jobs by rejecting $2.4 billion in federal funding based on the financial due diligence equivalent of consulting a Wikipedia entry, a matchbook cover and Rush Limbaugh's website.

At this rate, Scott is well on his way to forging hostile relationships with the Mother Teresa Association, the Girl Scouts and the Dalai Lama — just for fun.

It might be tempting to suggest that Scott, who before this never came closer to interacting with government than running a hospital company charged with massive Medicare fraud, could be just a tad over his head in trying to run the nation's fourth-largest state.

But it also could be argued Scott is drowning in demagoguery. He's in a free fall of insolence. He has become the Chilean copper mine of governors.

It's not that the Mongo of Apalachee Parkway was simply wrong to blow up the high-speed rail plan. It's that his reasoning made about as much sense as Hosni Mubarak plotting a political comeback.

There was no immediate rush to trash the high-speed rail proposal. The effort had strong bipartisan support. Indeed, the Florida Department of Transportation was still in the process of wrapping up a study on the plan.

But Scott, R-Carnac the Magnificent, didn't bother to wait, arguing it is certain that taxpayers would be on the hook for cost overruns (wrong) and that the system would require public subsidies (wrong).

The governor fretted about the project becoming mired in mismanagement, which struck high-speed rail supporter Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio as rather odd when she correctly noted Scott — as the state's chief executive officer — was essentially admitting he wasn't capable of handling oversight of the project.

Or put another way, all the stuff Scott whined about as a predicate for rejecting the federal money he just made up — just like the death panels, Obama is a Muslim and other delusions offered up by the governor's fellow travelers in the alternative consciousness community.

Ignoring the realities of the project — including requiring the companies that would build the system to be responsible for cost overruns and operating losses, Scott simply entered his own parallel universe of right-wing/libertarian chin rubbers who see any government effort with Barack Obama's name attached to it as a Socialist/Marxist/Trotskyite/Jane Fonda/George Soros high-speed rail plot to turn the state over to Hugo Chavez.

Never mind that construction on the Tampa-to-Orlando leg of the system could have created as many as 20,000 jobs, not to mention the ripple effect of genuine economic stimulus, the very things Scott, R-Let's Get To Knee Jerk, campaigned on during his witness protection run for the governorship.

In the wake of the decision to make sure Florida remains firmly mired in the 15th century, one can't help but think if the high-speed rail funds had come from Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, Scott would be hailing the effort as a bold, visionary, recession-busting godsend to the citizenry of the state.

Instead Scott met with tea party apparatchiks, who regarded the prospect of high-speed rail as if black helicopters were descending on Central Florida, and decided it was better to tell 20,000 potential workers to keep filling out resumes somewhere else.

Therein can be found Rick Scott's festering problem. The governor has yet to figure out there is a substantial difference between running a company that ripped off the government and actually governing a government. That's why they are called governors.

And in his first major test of fiscal accountability, Scott relied more on the ideological rantings of hysterical political spear carriers than on the larger needs of all his constituents.

It's the Governor's Office, governor — not a Fox News sweat lodge, where you seem to be spending much of your time.

In just weeks, Scott makes state cry uncle 02/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 17, 2011 7:01pm]
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