Daniel Ruth

Young candidate needs a course in Politics 101

Although his father spent many years face-down in the Tallahassee feedbag of the Florida Senate, young master James Grant is still a relative newbie to the political life. • And so it might be a teachable moment for the son of former Sen. John Grant to understand that a so-called smear campaign isn't a smear campaign when the alleged smear is actually true. • Come, Grasshopper — have a seat. You can take notes, if you want.

You want smears? You want good old-fashioned backstabbing, character assassination, lies and innuendo? Well, you've come to the right place.

A smear is what the George W. Bush campaign did to John McCain just before the South Carolina primary in 2000, by believing (rightly) they could chump a bunch of racist rubes in the electorate by spreading a rumor the Arizona senator had fathered a black child — out of wedlock, no less.

A smear is the Swiftboat Veterans for Demagoguery in 2004 spreading unfounded rumors that John Kerry's meritorious service in Vietnam was a fabrication.

And a smear is the suggestion that Barack Obama is a secret socialist/terrorist/Muslim, who wasn't even born in the United States.

Now those are some darn fine smears!

What has gotten young master Grant's Dr. Dentons in a wad is the suggestion a $40,000 loan he obtained in his race for a state House seat may have possibly violated state election law.

Hillsborough County Democratic Party vice chairman Chris Mitchell, in a complaint filed against Grant, has argued the money was used to pay for campaign expenses that the candidate incurred without having the funds on hand to originally cover his bills.

Mitchell also accused Grant of accepting campaign contributions — from his parents — within five days of the Aug. 24 Republican Party primary, which would also be an election law violation.

Now, to be sure, the $40,000 loan does look a bit hinky, considering Grant has a net negative personal worth of $5,780. It's not very often a bank forks over a $40,000 loan to someone who only has red ink to show for their personal fortune.

And since the loan was approved at First Citrus Bank by an executive who has contributed to Grant's campaign, it would not be unreasonable to conclude the candidate might have received some special consideration.

Are the allegations against Grant politically motivated? Duh. But that doesn't mean they don't have merit and aren't worthy of further investigation to determine if state election laws were indeed violated.

Yet Grant has reacted to Mitchell's complaint as if he is the hustings answer to the persecution of Galileo by the Vatican, the Dreyfus Affair and the court-martial of Billy Mitchell.

Instead The Blue Boy of Carrollwood issued a testy, whining e-mail accusing the "democratic party" of engaging in a "desperate" effort to undermine his campaign, ignore the issues and, oh yeah, Obama is a terrible guy, too.

Grant's moping e-mail is noteworthy on several levels. Both the Associated Press Stylebook and Webster's Dictionary note that when referring to, say, the Democratic Party, or the Republican Party, the references must be capitalized, not lowercase as Grant, who went to law school, wrote in his e-mail manifesto.

Grant also notes this is not a time for irresponsible leadership in Tallahassee when Florida faces a budget deficit of between $6 billion and $10 billion. Uh, not quite, Skippy.

According to the Legislative Budget Commission, as well as state economist Amy Baker, Florida's actual estimated budget deficit is $2.5 billion. That means a candidate for the Florida House campaigning on a theme of financial accountability was only off by between $3.5 billion and $7.5 billion on the state's financial shortcomings.

It was a story that was all over the state's news media last month when the figures were announced. Perhaps young master Grant was too busy trying to get through My Pet Goat to notice.

When Grant decries his inaccurate budget deficit estimate, he conveniently overlooks it has been his own Republican Party that has been in charge of running the state as the deficit numbers have been piling up.

So instead of spending $40,000 on his campaign, perhaps James Grant might think about taking advantage of a free political asset right under his nose: Daddy. The elder Grant might well tell his son that in a heated campaign, in a political life, a candidate is going to get slapped around from time to time.

An allegation, especially one that has some truth to it, is not a smear. And politics, as McCain once famously noted, is not bean bag. It's also not for pouting children.

Young candidate needs a course in Politics 101 10/11/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 11, 2010 8:00pm]

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