Friday, May 25, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Demagoguery parading as democracy

This tends to happen in the waning days of most sessions of the Florida Legislature when lame ducks, in more ways than one, begin to become more unhinged than Breaking Bad's Walter White. It isn't pretty.

So there was Senate President Don Gaetz, doing his best Joe McCarthy impersonation and happily tossing demagogic chum into the political waters of Tallahassee during a speech before the James Madison Institute when he took note of all the "communists" populating the Democratic Party.

Then Gaetz bemoaned the cross he has to bear from an untrustworthy liberal media.

Next it was House Speaker Will Weatherford's turn, who mused how he wished the Republican Party was more compassionate, which it probably could be if it didn't sell itself to the highest bidders who collect Florida's elected officials as if they were Pedro's South of the Border souvenir refrigerator magnets.

Think of this as the Sanford and Son of the Florida Legislature's Last Guffaw.

What was interesting about Gaetz's conflating of Democrats with Moscow was this chap was once an Okaloosa County School Board member and school superintendent. They never bothered to teach history or civics in Okaloosa County? Or are the tots in Gaetz's home district being taught Thomas Jefferson was a tool of Havana? Do we really want to know?

So much for any pretense of committing bipartisanship. When you so cavalierly lump Democrats in with Mao's Long March, is reaching across the aisle viewed as high treason?

Lamenting one is being set upon by an unforgiving "liberal media" always has been a popular default position for politicians who feel under unfair assault by scribblers who constantly report what the elected official says and does. What could possibly be more biased? More liberal?

To be fair, Gaetz would have a more favorable view of the press gallery if those ink-stained wretches would throw rose petals at his feet and pen glowing tributes to the president's Reaganesque Tallahassee legacy.

Alas they nitpick over Gaetz's crusades on behalf of the state's monied interests, which never met a Florida politician they couldn't at least work out a lend-lease agreement with. Growth management laws to protect the environment? Please. Leaning on utility companies like Duke Energy to end its practice of extorting billions of dollars from ratepayers for nuclear power plants that will never be built? A liberal media conspiracy?

Or how about helping small businesses like the craft beer industry? Not in this Florida Legislature. Not under this Senate president, who instead went with the $65,000 spent by the state's biggest beer distributors on compliant legislators to undermine the ability of the smaller brewers to sell their product.

But Mr. Education wasn't done. For as long as he could, he stonewalled legislation to extend in-state university tuition for children of undocumented workers, children who were brought to Florida through no fault of their own. Can't have that. They might learn — stuff.

"It (the in-state tuition break) casts a blanket of approval over noncitizens who are in this country without proper legal status from anywhere in the world, including countries which are cauldrons of terrorism and anti-American violence," grumped Gaetz. Not quite. Nobody is talking about giving tuition relief to the offspring of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The tuition bill merely levels the playing field for Florida high school students brought here unwittingly who want to improve their lives and become productive members of society. What is more American than that? Still, despite Gaetz's red menace misgivings he grudgingly allowed the in-state tuition bill to move to the Senate floor for a vote.

While Weatherford was bemoaning the plight of people trapped in poverty and dreaming that his party becomes more compassionate, he was blocking the extension of Medicaid coverage to some 1 million poor Floridians. There's some empathy for the less fortunate for you.

The 2014 legislative session is almost over, and with it will end the leadership terms of Gaetz and Weatherford, one of whom sees Karl Marx behind every Democrat and another who mourns for the poor, just as long as it doesn't cost anything. But you didn't read that here. We don't want to offend any tender Tallahassee sensibilities.

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