Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Second in command, first in irrelevance

It's a hint that the exalted post of lieutenant governor is as vital as a state swamp ape inspector that Gov. Rick Scott has spent so much time pondering how to fill the cricket-filled vacant office down the hall.

Whatever other shortcomings Scott has, he deserves credit for engaging in a form of do-nothing governance one can actually applaud.

Still it is somewhat curious that the College of Cardinals can settle on a pope in a few short days while Scott is taking months to find someone whose sole function is to call the Governor's Mansion every morning to make sure the governor answers the phone.

It's not as if anyone really cared when Jennifer Carroll resigned after disclosures a public relations firm she owned had an association with the hinky company involved in the equally hinky Internet cafe gambling business. There was brief harrumph of indignation, followed by great waves of yawning.

Since then, Scott has supposedly roamed the moors of Florida in search of just the right person to serve as his No. 2. The process for selecting Carroll's successor has taken so long because, as the governor's apparatchiks have explained, the governor's office has been burning the midnight oil to draft the proper "criteria" for a suitable lieutenant governor.

Proper criteria? What? It has taken almost half a year to find someone uniquely skilled in the cutting of ribbons? Schooled in the savvy ability to say: "Yes, governor, you're absolutely right, governor. That was a brilliant observation, governor." It ought not take this long to find someone, anyone, able to pass the mirror under the nose test.

During her brief Camelot-on-the-Sopchoppy time in office, Carroll's crowning achievement was serving as the chairman of Scott's pre-cooked "stand your ground'' law panel. It found that the law that has turned Florida into a) the Gunshine State and/or b) a lifetime annuity for Saturday Night Live writers was the greatest piece of legislation since Moses came down off Mount Sinai.

And then the music stopped.

Democrats have voiced the faux fear that if — insert the heaven forbid template — something happened that made Scott unfit to govern there would be no successor in the wings. Ahem, a cynic might well suggest that Scott has more than met that standard over the past three-plus years with or without a vice governor pacing the reception area.

Far more probable is the notion that Scott's gold standard for picking a lieutenant governor has less to do with managing the affairs of state than it does in getting him re-elected. This isn't as if the governor is wrestling over a Florida Supreme Court nominee — you know, someone up for a real job.

Since Scott possesses the retail political skills of a mullet net, he needs a lieutenant governor and running mate to assure the public their incumbent governor has a pulse. No small stump challenge.

Perhaps that explains why the name of former House speaker and current state Sen. John Thrasher, R-Florida's Answer to Foghorn Leghorn, has been bandied about a bit.

Thrasher — at least in Scott's world — would be a revolutionary pick, since the senator actually understands how Tallahassee sausagemaking works. After spending a better part of the last 20 years in both the House and Senate as a Republican power broker, Thrasher has left more shattered kneecaps in his wake than Martin Scorsese's body of work.

But bringing Thrasher into the governor's fold could come at a price. Thrasher might insist on being given something to do besides making sure the Capitol's fire extinguishers are up to code.

There have been other lieutenant governors who were more than glorified gofers. Buddy MacKay under Lawton Chiles and Toni Jennings under Jeb Bush come to mind.

And that's the choice for Scott. Does he want a compliant placeholder — or a China-breaking playmaker?

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