Friday, July 20, 2012

Scott's Press Flack: "There's no answer that will satisfy you"

My phone camera shot of Rick Scott
I am a good judge of character. I wanted to get a sense of the guy. So I crashed his photo op yesterday at the Hillsborough River State Park. Sat right in front of him, spoke to him, in fact.Know thy adversary. And I was in Tampa for other business anyway. It was ten minutes out of my way.

Rick Scott was doing his Bob Graham impression. You work a job for a day, to see how real people live.  There he manned a ticket counter, he cleaned up trash. He spread mulch. None of these things did I see him do. His press attaché, a young woman, tells me that these are the things he had accomplished before noon. Okay, I say.

He also went with us on a tour of the swampy wetlands.When I got there I happened to be very lucky to arrive just as a tour was leaving parking area number one. You know the deal: a hay wagon sort of affair. You sit, they drag you through the swamp, look at the palmettos, hopefully see some of the local wildlife before the governor tries to put a golf course down anywhere.

And who do I end up sitting in front of on my particularly little haywagon? The governor himself. I’m in a shirt, tie and nice slacks. He’s talking to a visitor about the fact his dad, a truck driver, used to like to drive the family everywhere.

Up close and personal Rick Scott is no monster from the black lagoon. Seems like a nice guy. I shook his hand. You learn about men from their shake. His hands don't sweat like some folks who are lying all the time.

But, the best liars always beat the machines. As Al Pacino said in Glengarry Glenross "you know who doesn't get nervous talking to the police? Criminals."

So this doesn't mean he isn't lying. Doesn't mean he isn't doing evil things. It means that what I suspected about him may be true - he is absolutely convinced what he is doing to the state, and to the citizens, is good. Maybe not good for the citizens or the state but, somewhere,on the universal balance sheet cutting programs, breaking federal election laws, preventing people from voting, privitizing everything including all prisons, making everyone of a certain socioeconomic status take a drug test, is good. Ends justify the means.

You combine this impression with his religious comments, the fact he didn't publicly take his lieutenant governor to task for her comments "Christianity is under attack," and you come to the conclusion, yep, committed Teavangelical.
Good people are other republican teavangelicals. Bad people need things done to them. They need to submit. Be forced into it, like summer Jesus camp, until they comply.
The wagons got stuck in the mud. So we get out and begin walking. Rick Scott is helpful. He wanted to make sure we didn't follow him into the brambles to get around a gigantic mud puddle. But, too late for me. I was right behind him fiddling with my camera phone for another shot. Now, a ranger takes us to a little stretch of mud that used to pass for a highway and says “who is responsible for our interstate road system in this country?"

I say very loudly “FDR”. I am immediately corrected by the governor. He says “No. It was Eisenhower.” Everyone agrees with him. Go figure. (I knew it was Eisenhower). But this gives me my opening.

“I guess everyone in this crowd is a republican, governor.”

He laughs. Everyone says “Yes!”

So anyway, the path is covered with water, deep-like and we have to walk to this, I don’t know, fort of some kind, to hear the cannon go off. They want to shoot a cannon off, for, whatever reason. It’s a tea-party thing. Obviously I am leaving out the fact a very real and historic fort stood where the modern replica is and I mean  no disrespect. These were details I couldn't get as I was looking for a conversational opening. I have questions, not just protestations.

And I am working up to it; when and how I am going to hit him with all these questions. I am trying to get him away from these families with kids. Because I know this is going to be embarrassing. Unpleasant and people are going to drag me away and I am going to be all over the news if I don’t handle this right. I don't want that for these families. They paid money to be here.

But, he’s using these kids and these families like human shields.  And I am sticking out like a sore thumb. Everyone else is in street clothes and me I am dressed formal and it’s 95 degrees, literally.

So we get to the fort and I am approached by his press guy, Lane Wright. He sidled up to me after the Seminole Indian (volunteer actor) gave us an excellent, moving speech and then shot off a musket.

So Lane sits down next to me and asks, very politely,  “which group are you with?” And I say I am a citizen journalist and I have some questions for the governor.  He whips out an iPhone 4 and tries to look up Rick Scott Watch and he can’t find it. I tell him to check Facebook. He gets nervous like a little kid. I mean really antsy. He gets up and walks over into the shade to do some more web searches.

He comes back an proceeds to tell me how inappropriate I am for doing this. I mean – wait; I drove onto the grounds of a state park. Paid the fee to get in, got on a haywagon and I am trying to ask the governor some questions and I am not acting appropriately.

What kind of journalist are you? A citizen journalist.

He goes to check his iPhone again for more information. Comes back; “Okay, so you’re not a serious journalist. So I can’t provide you access.” And it's like he's hissing this.

“Look man. You’ve got it all turned around backwards,” me to him. “I am a citizen of the state of Florida (special emphasis)and I have some serious questions for the governor.”

“I want to help you but I need to know what they are? I don't want you to heckle him.”

"He's standing right there. You see that television camera? I've been with him all during the walk through the woods. I could have made a real mess of things for the benefit of that camera. I'm not here to do that. I want answers," I said.

I didn't want to give up. I mean there he is, not ten feet away, all ganlgy, sort of stalking away like a great blue heron I wanted to take a picture of.

So I try to keep my voice down.

“These aren’t pleasant questions. They aren’t nice. I have a tape recorder here. I want to ask him, and he can answer. I don’t think he wants everyone around us to hear these questions either and I for one, don’t want to embarrass him in front of these families and children. They paid good money to be here just like I did.”

Really and truly. I wasn’t going to fall for that BS where they turn me into the asshole on camera. It was going to be me and him and a tape recorder. If not I could bug him during the rest of the tour. Now what's it going to be?

"You have to work with me. Give me some sort of idea of your questions.

I asked Lane to relay the following:

1. Did the governor approach Kurt Browning while he was just a candidate and before Browning's first "retirement.?"

2. How often does the governor meet with or talk to the Koch brothers?

3. What further reductions to the middle class are being planned in the form of tax breaks to corporations?
Me and Rick. I'm in the blue shirt

4. What other programs at colleges are going to be attacked the next legislative session?

5. Does he still plan to privitize all prisons in Florida?

"No answer will satisfy you," Lane said at last.

"You'll see what you can do, I suppose?"

"I'll see what I can do."

He approached the governor, now surrounded in huddle by all his handlers. The governor looks over at me, turns back to his discussion huddle. The parents are watching us. The kids are roasting in the hot sun.

I turned around for a second to grab some water in the shade, and in that instant the governor and his entourage flat ditched the entire group in the woods near that old fort. Evaporated. I don't know where they went, or how they got there. They were gone like shadows. Truly some Jedi shit.

We hopped on the wagons again, got back on the trail, went a few yards but the truck towing the first wagon broke down. No. I am serious. It BROKE DOWN! Up comes the hood, out comes the ranger "Looks like we're walking!"
"Must be those budget cuts," I said.

Or, and this is the more sinister of the two possibilities: or, Rick Scott wanted to beat feet back to his press conference with pool reporters who were waiting at the parking lot, and he didn't want me there to pose those pesky questions to him in front of the cameras. So he told the ranger to shut off the engine in the woods, lift the hood and get us stuck there.

The great mystery that is Rick Scott continues. Was it an accident that left families, old people, tiny children to walk the quarter mile out of the woods and across a state road in the middle of the day in the 95 degree heat? Or did he intentionally do that to his fellow citizens just to avoid hard questions on camera?

What do you think?

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