Ruth: Cabinet's silence of the lambs (w/video)

The Florida Cabinet meets at the Florida State Fair grounds in Tampa on Thursday,
The Florida Cabinet meets at the Florida State Fair grounds in Tampa on Thursday,
Published Feb. 7, 2015

When the governor and Cabinet are in session, no American flag is safe from being used as a shroud of life, liberty and the pursuit of haplessness.

It was all so very amber waves as Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater assembled for a ceremony honoring the nation's veterans at the Florida State Fairgrounds last week before the start of their meeting, which would soon devolve into more cowering than Monty Python's Brave, Brave Sir Robin.

Scott and the Cabinet members reverentially extolled the virtues of the heroic men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the ideals of freedom so cherished in the U.S. Constitution. Very touching.

And then they got to the heady business of evading their sworn duties. You would find greater accountability, transparency and responsible governance coming from Catch-22's elusive Major Major, who you can only see when he's not there.

The marquee agenda item was the subject of ousted former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, whom Scott forced out last December without a formal vote of the Cabinet.

Since then, Bailey has called the governor of Florida a big fat liar for suggesting he resigned voluntarily and accused Scott of attempting the politicize the FDLE, including an effort to create trumped-up criminal charges against the Orange County clerk of courts.

Scott kicked off the meeting by acknowledging the obvious, that perhaps he could have handled the canning of Bailey better. That was like the architect of the leaning Tower of Pisa admitting that he could have used a better ruler.

Then the grinch who stole FDLE proposed a new process for evaluating and appointing Cabinet agency heads.

The probability that Bondi, the state's top law enforcement officer, would challenge Scott's treatment of Bailey was about the same as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie becoming a vegetarian. After all, in what had to be a state fair deep-fried Oreo batter bacon burger spit-take moment, Bondi had called Scott "our great governor" and a man of "character."

But for weeks now Atwater and Putnam, both potential 2018 gubernatorial candidates, have been in full Moe Howard faux braggadocio "Why, I oughta!" mode, suggesting they intended to inflict some serious head-slapping on the governor.

As they entered the fairgrounds, Atwater said he wanted a frank and candid discussion on the Bailey debacle. Putnam noted he would be "disappointed" if the FDLE issue wasn't thoroughly hashed out. Cue the chirping crickets.

Just after Atwater and Putnam had been practically doing the Iwo Jima Memorial pose, the meeting with Scott got under way and a cone of obsequiousness descended over both men.

Almost in passing Putnam grumbled that the attempt to unduly influence the FDLE to frame the Orange County clerk ought to be "addressed." But he never pursued the issue and neither did anyone else.

Spend your days with Hayes

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

This should have been a moment to show some chutzpah and publicly confront Scott. They had a right to know and so did the rest of Florida why Scott went behind the Cabinet's back and dumped Bailey. And for what reason? What about the effort to conspire to obstruct justice by falsely accusing the Orange County clerk of impropriety? Had Scott attempted to use the FDLE for political purposes?

Never asked. Certainly never answered.

Putnam, Atwater and Bondi had so eloquently paid tribute to men and women who had died for their country fighting tyrants, despots and dictators. But it was so much meaningless piffle when none of them had the stomach to take on the bully sitting feet away from them.

One person was suitably indignant.

Former CFO and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, who narrowly lost to Scott in 2010, was steaming over the Bailey firing. "I would have smelled a rat," she fumed as she hoped the Cabinet would do the "right thing" by investigating Scott's actions. That's so precious.

"I don't trust him," Sink said. "The governor breaks the law and gets away with it. That's just irritating."

It was tempting to wonder if Sink had been that fired-up on the campaign trail against Scott if things might have turned out differently. But there was no time for such ruminating. The Cabinet meeting was moving on to other issues. Bondi, as the state's official dog walker, was busily trying to foist a hound off on someone.

At last, the Cabinet had found something to do. Semper Phooey.