Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: In Florida, a lot to apologize for

How comforting it is to know that beneath his robotic exterior, Gov. Rick Scott is a man of tender sensibilities.

It seems Scott got his jodhpurs in a wad when the Rev. Jesse Jackson parachuted into a Dream Defenders sit-in at the governor's office just long enough to grab some television face time and proclaim Florida was the "Selma of our time," a reference to the 1960s civil rights marches in Alabama.

Perhaps to beat Al Sharpton to the hyperbole-on-steroids punch, Jackson accused Florida of being little better than apartheid-era South Africa. After a few sound bites, Jackson left town in search of his next camera.

The Dream Defenders had set up camp in Scott's office demanding the governor and the Florida Legislature repeal the state's ridiculous "stand your ground'' law, which allows people to shoot other people, well, just because.

The aggrieved governor, summoning his inner Dr. Phil, was mighty offended by Jackson's ham-handed "insult" to Florida — even though we all know if the state didn't exist, tabloid television would be airing test patterns.

Scott demanded Jackson apologize for characterizing the state as a sequel to In the Heat of the Night. Not surprisingly Jackson, the huckster-in-chief for Jesse Jackson Inc., declined.

While Jackson's depiction of the state was less than artful, it did reveal Scott as a chap whose feelings are easily hurt.

Although a Jackson mea culpa appears to be a nonstarter, perhaps the governor would like to get the contrition ball rolling by apologizing himself for the insults he and the Republican-dominated Legislature have visited upon Florida.

One good place to start might be the governor's insulting decision to create a sham special committee to examine "stand your ground," which he populated with sponsors of the 2005 law, shills for the National Rifle Association and numerous other lock-and-load gofers.

As it turned out, Scott's panel of bobbing heads recommended a few tweaks, which the Legislature ignored.

Adding insanity to insult, House Speaker Will Weatherford in an apparent effort to get those Dream Defender squatters out of Scott's office, announced plans to hold his own phony hearings on "stand your ground.''

Weatherford named Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-You Talkin' To Me?, a supporter of the law, to chair the stacked deck committee. This is a bit like asking Al Capone to chair a panel on the efficacy of Prohibition. Gov. Scott? Aren't you insulted? Just a little bit?

Or perhaps the governor might be insulted over a renewed scheme to purge voter rolls of noncitizens, even though a manhunt for illegal voters a year ago was not only sloppily handled but uncovered very few desperados armed with criminal ballots.

But since it is Scott who is leading the charge to investigate a virtually nonexistent crime, he is essentially insulting himself.

Would the governor care to apologize to his fellow Floridians for rejecting $2.4 billion in federal funding to begin construction on a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa, which would have resulted in thousands of jobs? How insulting was that, especially since he turned down the money after serving only 20 minutes in office, basing his decision on pandering to tea party hand-wringing.

Oddly enough, the governor didn't seem all that insulted when, after grudgingly supporting the expansion of Medicaid coverage to 1 million Floridians with the federal government covering 100 percent of the cost for several years as part of the Affordable Care Act, the Florida Legislature rejected the deal.

So un-insulted was the governor that despite his tepid embrace of the Medicaid expansion, Scott did little arm-twisting of the Legislature during the 2013 session to receive the federal dollars. Why should he bother? It's easy enough to insult poor people in need of medical care when they probably weren't going to vote for you anyway.

The state is awash in guns, phantom scofflaw voters, congested roads and a school grading system based on Ouija board readings — and Rick Scott gets his ascot in a tizzy over Jesse Jackson?

It's an insult to reality.

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