Sunday, February 25, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Amateur hour in the House

If nothing else, the supremely confident Eric Eisnaugle appears to be a man full of himself.

The Arcadia Republican has made it perfectly clear he aspires to ascend to the speakership of the Florida House of Representatives when its annual gathering of oat bags convenes in 2020. For all anyone knows, the speaker-in-waiting is already picking out the color of the royal sedan chair to carry him between the House chamber and his anticipated high office.

Who can deny that ambition is a wonderful thing?

There's just one snag about the He Who Would Be Speaker's plans. Eisnaugle hasn't been elected yet to the House and yet he already has thrown his hubris into the ring to run the place. Details, details.

Indulge a somewhat stupid question. Before one gets to be a Tallahassee big, smelly slab of cheese, shouldn't one at least pretend he is mildly concerned about first winning a seat in the lower political chamber pot?

Apparently not. Do you have the suspicion Eisnaugle is fairly well convinced his victory in the March 11 special election to succeed Republican Rep. Steve Precourt, who resigned recently for a fancy six-figure job, is merely a matter of Manifest Destiny meets Divine Intervention?

Not to go all Emily Post on everyone, but as a matter of good taste couldn't Eisnaugle at least pretend he's taking his campaign seriously to succeed Precourt before jockeying to become an eight-point buck trophy for Tallahassee's lobbying interests — six years from now?

Then again, the good manners train left Tallahassee about the same time the United States settled on a common currency.

It is understandable why Eisnaugle, who served one prior term in the House, would regard his election with all the certitude of an Everglades python eyeing a hapless rabbit. The manner in which most legislative districts are drawn all but assures dominance by one party over another. Eisnaugle could have drawn a Democrat like Lawton Chiles, Reubin Askew or LeRoy Collins in District 44 and he still would be polishing his Will Weatherford speaker's decoder ring.

Perhaps you are offended a politician would so cavalierly take his election to office as a fait accompli. And now this chap believes he is just the guy to rise to the top of the House pyramid scheme of power before he officially rolls over for a Snausage and a tummy rub from Tallahassee's entrenched special interests.

But Eisnaugle's presumptuous "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the most doctrinaire of them all?" moment is more easily understood when you begin to grasp how Florida's onerous term-limit rules restricting legislative glad-handers to eight years in office have created an amateur political class.

Because a newbie member of the House needs at least two terms just to find the Capitol loo, an incoming legislator is forced by the ticking clock to begin to position themselves for a leadership position almost from the moment they announce their rental rates.

And thus the fourth-largest state in the union finds itself governed by a litter of inexperienced, easily manipulated, but exceedingly narcissistic dilettantes who from a legislative standpoint couldn't find their keisters with the help of Magellan and Ernest Shackleton.

As a result, we have a system where a House candidate finds himself twisting arms and forging alliances to become one of the state's most powerful politicians more than a half decade from now. Yet no one knows for sure what issues or what challenges will be facing the state or what Florida's economy will look like.

Is this any way to govern a diverse state with nearly 20 million residents, with a political game show version of "Florida's Got Greenhorns in Charge"?

This is like being rolled into the operating room to discover the surgeon who is who about to carve you up has never gone to medical school, but intends to attend a few classes six years hence.

In many respects Eric Eisnaugle is the poster child for the wretched morass that is Tallahassee — untested, untried, more focused on accumulating power than gaining experience in a House that has become a master class in how to become a lobbyist.

Maybe that's why Eisnaugle's campaign slogan ought to be "Bait and Switch Expectations — 2020!"

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