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Sen. J.D. Alexander bullies wrong kid on Florida Board of Governors

It's merely a theory, mind you, but as we witnessed last week you can be more tone deaf than Yoko Ono and still rise to great heights of power and bullying in the Florida Legislature.

Exhibit A: state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Snidely Whiplash.

It is certainly true that because Alexander chairs the Senate Budget Committee, there is more bowing and scraping in his presence than to Caesar entering Rome.

The arm-twisting prowess of Alexander, R-Bring Me A Shrubbery!, was in full high-octane evidence during the recent soap opera over whether the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland should be granted a divorce from USF and become the state's 12th public university.

Aside from the fact the Lakeland campus performed less due diligence than the Little Rascals trying to organize a lemonade stand, Alexander, the Big Daddy of Tallahassee, wants an independent USF Poly.

Big shots like Alexander the Grate are used to getting their own way. People fear if they don't grovel in humiliation, they may find their funding requests disappear faster than a Syrian dissident.

But then Alexander, R-I Am The God of Hell-Fire, crossed paths with 20-year-old Michael Long. And Long didn't give a rat's patootie about the chairman's knee-trembling reputation for being Tallahassee's answer to Liberty Valance.

Long, a New College sophomore, is the lone student representative on Florida's Board of Governors, which was mulling over the USF Poly breakaway republic request. And so the young man, in an attempt to do his job, paid a visit to the chairman on a fact-finding mission.

Perhaps Alexander, R-Nurse Ratched, thought Long was some 20-year-old punk he could easily browbeat. Perhaps he thought he could impress this naive young man with his power. Or perhaps he was simply denser than a black hole.

During his meeting with Long, Alexander tried to regale the student with hilarious stories about using his perch on the budget committee to extract financial revenge on unfortunate souls who crossed him. He not-too-subtly hinted that if the USF Poly deal didn't turn out to his satisfaction, he would wield his influence against the rest of the state university system.

At the Board of Governors' meeting last week, Long had the chutzpah and the courage of his convictions to publicly call out Alexander, R-Bluto, for the bully that he is. Long recounted his conversation with the chairman, the not-so-implied threats, the corrosive effect of politics in the USF Poly debate and then added: "I do not feel very well represented by J.D. and his comments."

The emperor had no clothes. And it wasn't a pretty sight.

Eventually, the board voted to impose a series of preconditions on USF Poly that will defer the school's divorce from the main campus for years to come. If he had an ounce of common sense, a chastened Alexander, R-Simon Legree, would have stopped talking. Instead, after threatening Long in his role as a member of the Board of Governors, Alexander told Long his conduct on the board had been "highly inappropriate" and darkly hinted the young man had jeopardized his future career.

Oh really? Just what was so inappropriate in Long publicly acknowledging what anyone involved in Florida politics admits privately — that policy issues are driven by cronyism, backroom wheeling and dealing, and the thirst for power?

It must annoy the term-limited chairman mightily that there is precious little he can do to damage Long's future career, despite his tacky threats to the contrary. What is Alexander, R-Leona Helmsley, going to do? Defund New College? Introduce a bill stripping Long of his college credits?

Despite his declasse experience with the Huey Long of Lakeland, the student Board of Governors' member has indicated he might want to pursue a political career.

Good for him. Government could use a few more gutsy public servants.

If Michael Long gets a chance to serve and rises to a position of power, perhaps the moment may come when a young student serving on the Board of Governors comes to visit with him.

All the future Sen. Long will have to ask himself is, "How would J.D. handle this issue?" And then do the opposite.

Sen. J.D. Alexander bullies wrong kid on Florida Board of Governors 11/14/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 14, 2011 6:26pm]
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