Politics: A Nightmare Averted: Governor McCollum

Christmas came four months early to a sweltering Florida last week.

I feel like cuing up a particular song from The Wizard of Oz to describe how I feel right now.  Dead are the political aspirations of our state’s top witch – er, prosecutor.  Funny thing happened on the climb up the ladder to the state’s top job:  A richer-than-Midas fellow named Rick Scott came from out of nowhere and kicked that ladder out from under him.

YOW-WEE!  The Bill McCollum for Governor Express has been stopped in its tracks.  Derailed!  Locomotion de-motion!  Glory, hallelujah, amen!

“Ding Dong!  The Witch is dead.  Which old Witch?  The Wicked Witch!  Ding Dong!  The Wicked Witch is dead.”

Didn’t see that derailing coming down the tracks.  Pinch me – am I dreaming?

“Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.  Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead.”

Last Tuesday morning McCollum was as much as already standing in front of his mirror rehearsing the oath of office he expected to pronounce in January; by the next morning he was hit with the prospect of having to reserve a moving van to haul his pompously-righteous ass out of Tallahassee and back to Altamonte Springs for what is hoped will be a permanent retirement from state politics.  Able to perpetuate his double-double-toil-and-trouble sorcery on his fellow Floridians no more.

“Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.”

A yellow brick road election result.  Rick Scott splashed the mean ol’ bespectacled curmudgeon with a bucket of votes (which, if Scott spent $50 million for the primary, comes to about $83 per every vote he got) and the Wicked Witch of Tallahassee melted away.

“Ding Dong the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.  Let them know The Wicked Witch is dead!”

Now that McCollum has been ejected from the race and his ambitions to be the Sunshine State’s moral reich-marshal have been squelched, Alex Sink just may now have the chance to win the race he was long expected to run away with.  What a turn the Fates pulled in this primary election!

For those of you clueless and in the dark, here’s what Florida was mercifully spared:  Four – and potentially, 8 – years of a rabidly anti-choice, no-gay-adoptions, no Obama-care-in-this-state, no-embryonic-stem-cell-research hard ass in the Governor’s Mansion.  This guy’s neo-con leopard spots would have made Jeb Bush’s tenure look like that of a liberal pussy cat in comparison.

State Republicans probably shot themselves in the foot big time by taking out their best chance at retaining the guv job for a fourth consecutive term.  Most pre-primary polls showed Sink as “who’s she?”, Scott as “who’s he?”, and McCollum as “your next governor”.  We can all breathe a lot easier now that the political obit of Ira William McCollum, Jr., appears to have at last been written.

The wrenching nightmare of a McCollum governorship has been displaced by the electoral possibility of a pro-choice guv (Sink) and a gay-friendly and health care-friendly A.G. (Dan Gelber) who supports ending Florida’s ignominious embarrassment as the only remaining state that bans gay adoptions, and who will deep-six McCollum’s petty lawsuit against Obama-care.

Progress – at least the prospect of it – won out last week; taking this state back, back, regressively back, lost.  And all thanks to (who’d have thunk it?) Florida Republicans.  Much thanks, GOP!  Much thanks.

“Yes, let the joyous news be spread:  The wicked Old Witch at last is dead!”

The Other Bill

If Bill McCollum only had Bill Clinton on his side, he might have won.  Of course, that would have required (1) McCollum to be a Democrat, and (2) winding back time and undoing all that nasty business of McCollum serving as one of the House managers in Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial.

The Great Bubba was in Miami Town, at the downtown Gusman Theater, on behalf of Democratic Senate hopeful (now nominee) Kendrick Meek the Tuesday night before Primary Tuesday.  I turned out – as did most of the crowd – not for Meek as much as for the chance to hear the Great One speak.  And he did not disappoint.  To sit enraptured by the wisdom and wit of Bill Clinton must be akin to sitting at the feet of a sage.

It was the third stop at the end of a long day of campaign appearances on behalf of Meek, stretching from Palm Beach County to here, and came on the eve of yet another Clinton departure for Haiti, where Clinton and his foundation are assisting humanitarian and rebuilding efforts.

It was on the campaign trail that I first met a young, ambition-pumped 46-year-old Gov. Bill Clinton, when his bus caravan tour across the middle of the state kicked off from Daytona Beach’s shore.  It was October 1992, only a month before his date with electoral destiny.

Now, at 64, the full head of hair is whiter, the height about an inch or two shorter, the face more lived in.  But here’s where his aging has been a blessing:  The man is more erudite and worldly-wise.  A professor, as it were, of politics’ – and life’s – experiences.

He’s a veritable walking almanac, our ex-42nd president.  A human compendium of facts and figures.  One suspects that few if any would dare get away with mischaracterizing the accomplishments of his presidency in his presence, for he’d only brow-beat any political opponent or Clinton-hater with those facts and figures – and a lengthy discourse to go along with them – to disprove, dislodge, depose, and disinvest any verbal jouster of any wrong notion, prejudice, or impression.

Word to the wise:  Debate Clinton at your own peril.  Know your facts.  Study your issue.  Know it inside and out.  Take it to heart.  Then repeat all that.  Again and again.  And despite all that, you’ll still likely lose.  Yet you will come away not only impressed by the intellectual depth and breadth of the man and his command of what he knows, but you will undeniably learn something or two or ten which you may never have known before.

The thought crossed my mind as I sat in the audience at the Gusman:  Imagine the conversation time that has been enjoyed by all those who’ve ever been privileged with an evening in the company of this man, as an after-dinner guest or as a vacation partner, or as a fellow air passenger or golf partner.

The presidency has been very good to Bill Clinton.  I’m not referring to the vast sums he has earned from the sale of his memoirs, or the speaking fees from countless lecture tours the world over, all of which, of course, have rewarded him handsomely in the nearly a decade that he’s been out of the White House.

No, I’m talking about how the experience of dealing with the great issues and problems of his era, while Leader of the Free World, has inculcated a deeper understanding and contemplation of the issues and problems of our age, and facing our future, that might not otherwise have been attained if he had never been any more than a governor of Arkansas, never left Little Rock and become the globetrotter that he has become.

Eight years of the presidency – seasoned by a subsequent decade as a statesman, humanitarian, foundation head, fundraiser, cheerleader for causes and other candidates – have made him a profound, reflective, engaged thinker as well as doer.  It may turn out that Bill Clinton’s defining contributions to his nation and world may not have been in the years he was in office, but in those that followed when he was out.

About Charles Branham-Bailey

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