1. Opinion

Ruth: Scott flunks Spanish 101

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, smiles while talking to a panel of students and their parents during a round table discussion of skyrocketing college costs Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at Jefferson High School in Tampa.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, smiles while talking to a panel of students and their parents during a round table discussion of skyrocketing college costs Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at Jefferson High School in Tampa.
Published Jun. 18, 2014

Given the incumbent governor's penchant for being more tone deaf than Roseanne Bar mangling the national anthem, you have to wonder where this chap is turning for political advice.

Scattered chicken bones? Harvey, an invisible 6-foot rabbit? Jo-Jo, his imaginary friend? A Ouija board? Eric Cantor? This much is certain. Whoever or whatever Rick Scott relies on for keen stump consultation, it isn't working.

Florida's Major Major seems intent on antagonizing as many Hispanic voters as possible as he campaigns as the most out-of-touch chief executive since Gov. Andrew Jackson wrote off the Native American vote.

This should have been a no-brainer for a sitting governor vying for re-election. He had a chance to speak directly to Hispanic residents, courtesy of an invitation from the Orlando Spanish-language TV channel InfoMas, which is part of the Bright House cable system.

For a governor already perceived as having less interest in matters Hispanic than Vladimir Putin does in preserving Ukrainian culture, this should have been a welcome opportunity to demonstrate his sensitivity to Hispanic issues. The Scott camp initially accepted the offer but then stiffed the event after the station informed the campaign the interview would be conducted by anchorwoman Ybeth Bruzual and be made available to Bright House's sister station, BayNews 9 in Tampa Bay.

Minions in the employ of Florida's Wizard of Odd insisted the candidate would only agree to appear if the campaign could approve the interviewer and if the subject matter was confined to Scott's Hispanic outreach efforts, in which case the chit-chat would be over in about 12 seconds. To her credit, and with the support of her editors, Bruzual essentially told the dithering Scott campaign to buzz off.

This is another notable dissing of Hispanic voters by the Scott campaign. Months ago, high-profile Scott fundraiser Mike Fernandez, a Cuba-born Coral Gables health care executive, left the re-election effort amid accusations that campaign staffers had made disparaging comments about Hispanics using a bad Mexican accent.

And now the governor himself has rejected an opportunity to sit down with an Hispanic journalist to answer questions about his record. It's probably a stretch to suggest the governor just doesn't want to respond to inquiries from a reporter with a Spanish accent. The governor is averse to answering questions from anyone with a press pass, whether of Hispanic or Lapland heritage. Gracious, this guy is less chatty than the late circus mime Emmett Kelly.

It's difficult to tell sometimes whether this is a chief executive of the nation's fourth-largest state, or a man who was supposed to go into the witness protection program and inadvertently found himself living in the Governor's Mansion.

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If Scott, R-The Apparition of the Apalachee Parkway, is afraid to sit down with an Orlando reporter for a few minutes without imposing more restrictions on the interview than the negotiations over the size of the table at the Paris peace talks to end the Vietnam War, what do you think the chances are that Richard the Dandelion-Hearted will show up for an extended debate against his likely Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist?

When your entire repertoire of responses to questions from those pesky scribblers asking about cozy tax breaks for pals, or gutting environmental protections, or undermining public education, or expanding Medicaid benefits, or denying man-made global warming, is: a) "Let's get to work" and/or b) staring blankly into space like an extra from The Walking Dead, debate prep might be problematic.

One can only fathom what pouty parameters of political polemics Scott will demand before sharing the stage with Crist, who was more than happy to sit down — no strings attached — with Bruzual.

Perhaps Scott will insist Crist must deliver all responses to questions in Klingon while also wearing a Buster Brown costume. And it's possible the governor will push to be situated behind a lectern with a neon sign blinking "GOVERNOR," with each utterance accompanied by Gregorian chants, while Crist will be required to sit in the rear of the audience without a microphone.

That ought to level the playing field for an incumbent governor with all the retail political skills of a carp — but just barely.


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