1. Florida Politics

Romano: Rick Scott gets frustration and anger to go at Starbucks

Published Apr. 7, 2016

The comeback is everything. When you've been insulted, particularly in public, the comeback you choose sets the tone for your entire line of defense.

Let's say, for instance, you're in a coffee shop (Maybe a Starbucks.) And let's say you're a public official. (Maybe a governor.) And let's say some unhinged person has just called you a nasty name. (Maybe an a- - - - - -.)

You could:

A) Aim for the high road: "I'm so sorry you feel that way. Let me buy you a coffee, and we'll sit down and talk about your concerns in a more constructive way."

B) Use dismissive sarcasm: "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?"

C) Revert to the school yard: "%$#@ you, lady."

D) Be a weenie: "Oh yeah? A million jobs."

Want to guess what Gov. Rick Scott chose?

Confronted by an irate woman in a Gainesville Starbucks on Monday night, the governor looked like he was waiting to be rescued by a speechwriter hiding behind a chocolate caramel muffin display. Alas, he instead resorted to his favorite talking point.

"A million jobs."

It was, in a weird way, instructive.

The 40-second confrontation, caught on video and already viewed more than 615,000 times on YouTube, perfectly captures the disconnect between this governor and a lot of voters.

PolitiFact Florida into the virally popular confrontation between Gov. Rick Scott and a political activist at a Gainesvillle Starbucks earlier this week.

He is singularly focused on state job numbers, no matter how miniscule the pay or how few benefits they provide. Meanwhile, residents are worried about health care. And education. And the income gap. And — darn them! — buying food.

It's as if Scott doesn't really care about improving people's lives as much as beefing up his resume. He doesn't hear complaints, he doesn't feel pain, he doesn't want to answer questions. Just like in his previous career, he is a CEO who sits above the masses.

Take away the insults and the curse, and that divide is at the heart of the Espresso Shot Heard 'Round The World.

The woman was angry, yet concise. Rude, yet specific. She rattled off a litany of perceived policy blunders, and Scott had no response other than a canned sound bite.

None of this means the woman, later identified as former Lake Worth City Commissioner Cara Jennings, was justified in her verbal assault. Like him or not, Scott deserves the respect of the office he holds. And civility is a virtue no matter what the situation.

Yet there is an irony in her abusive manner. In case you've forgotten, Scott is one of the most high-profile politicians to have endorsed Donald Trump's presidential bid.

And Trump has been stoking voter frustration, disillusionment and anger for months. He has encouraged precisely the type of vulgar expression Jennings unleashed at Starbucks.

Looked at that way, Scott got exactly what he is asking for. He got taken down by a voter tired of politicians who cultivate power at the expense of the public.

The governor has a well-documented history of avoiding scrutiny. Whether it's a deposition or a television interview, he has repeatedly ignored questions he deems unfavorable. In this case, he wasn't facing questions as much as insults.

Yet he still did what he does best.

He then walked away, without his coffee.