The governor visits the Fair
By Chris Ingram
It was a sunny day in Tampa. The wind wasn’t as brisk as it had been the day before, but it was windy enough to spread the smell of cow dung, cotton candy, and corn dogs around the midway of the Florida State Fair.
There were more muckety-mucks gathered on the Fairgrounds this fine February morning than there would be gathered the rest of the week. Muckety-muck types preferring Starbucks and Berns to elephant ears and deep-fried Snicker bars don’t come to the fair unless there is a good reason.
So in fact, the political elite from the Tampa Bay region had gathered at this unlikely location for what seemed to them a very good reason: the Governor’s luncheon was being held this noon. Outside the gathering hall carnival barkers pitched their games and a child-sized roller coaster’s clickety-clack over its rusty rails was so loud it was almost obnoxious.
But the power elite and those who aspired to be so considered didn’t mind too much. They were here to see and be seen. Candied apples and cheap prizes made in China are for common folk. These folks were at the fair for some politicking. Besides, it was relatively quite inside. Warm and away from the breeze, the meeting hall was dimly lit with annoying fluorescent lights that looked like they’d been installed thirty years ago – this wasn’t the Palma Ceia, but the food smelled pretty good no less. And besides, the governor would be here soon.
VIPs at the head table — which stretched so long you wondered why they didn’t just call everyone in the room a VIP — made small talk as others milled around the concrete floor chatting while the smarter ones stood in line waiting patiently at the buffet for their turn to eat black beans and rice, corn dogs, and thinly sliced steak with potatoes. The county commissioner who had sexually harassed an employee said hello to the man who had two weeks before filed an ethics complaint against him. Said commissioner was all smiles and clueless to whom he was being pleasant with. The complainant had a laugh to himself and his lunch companion chuckled too.
Other politicians similarly worked the room making sure they didn’t waste time talking with a nobody if a somebody was close by. Successfully pressing the flesh is an ugly business and one has to be constantly aware of who is around him.
Most of the crowd now seated at tightly packed tables on cheap folding chairs were unaware the governor would soon make his entrance.
But the governor’s chief local hack was keenly aware of where the governor would enter and he staged himself at the door like a Swiss guardsman protecting the Pope. This oddity of a man had the face of Gargamel and the body of Montgomery Burns. It was a combination a mail order bride couldn’t even love. And she didn’t. But regardless of his looks, and his general lack of competence, he was prepared to honor the man he so worshipped.
His blind loyalty was a testament to what is wrong with American politics and many of the people who are drawn to it. In fact he was so blind and so loyal he wasn’t even aware of it. You almost felt pity for the man, but not for long because he knew deep down it was a trade-off. His idol valued blind loyalty so he got the honor of holding the door and acting as a real big-wig among all the big-wigs who all knew he was really nothing. That others snickered at his fool meant nothing to the governor, for blindly loyal people made him feel good. Besides, smart people with high levels of integrity and honor made the governor feel insecure. So the hack had the opportunity to shine – and thankfully not bowling balls, or worse, at the shoe store where he belonged.
The man of the hour entered and the hack did his duties escorting him impressively and without tripping over himself or laughing when he realized how ridiculous he looked taking himself so seriously. Now seated, his honor sat at the head table and the lengthy introductions began with the excitement of watching paint dry.
Soon, the best man at the head table was recognized. The agriculture commissioner was not running for re-election due to term-limits. He had toyed with a run for governor, but the money men must have told him “No. It’s Howdy-Doody’s turn.” So this being his last State Fair, he was given his due recognition for his years of public service. And though it wasn’t mentioned, the fact that he’d never embarrassed himself, taken a boatload of cash from some ponzi-schemer, or charged up strip club visits on his RPOF Amex card certainly meant he should be held in higher regard than most at the head table.
Those annoying fluorescent lights were turned off during a video tribute which with the lights now off, you could see, but could hardly hear. And whoever turned the lights off failed to realize they were so old; it took them five minutes to flicker back on once the video was over. But alas, we’re at the fairgrounds not the Ritz Carlton.
Following the video, the ag. man had a chance to speak. He was the type of man you would be happy with if your sister had married him. Not particularly ugly, but no Don Juan either. A tad overweight and seemingly out of place in a business suit, you might have figured him more comfortable in overalls with his name sewn on his pocket. He was smart, and seemingly good-natured with a well-intentioned heart. He had character. That’s what most politician’s lack. Why don’t more people like the ag. man go into public service?
Instead we choose the phony, overly coiffed, too-tanned, simpleton with the simple sound-bite solutions whom it took four or five tries to pass the Florida Bar. This guy went on to be the elected Secretary of Education for the whole state of Flori-duh. The legislature abolished the position after his first term in office.
The ag. man finished his farewell speech with polite but not inspired applause and that was followed by the presentation of an award and more polite applause.
Now it was time for the man of the hour to speak. One thing was certain: he wouldn’t be darting off to Ft. Myers for a bear hug with the president this year like he did after last year’s luncheon.
The man with the tan told the political elite what some out of touch hack, consultant, or country clubber must have told him. “Times have been hard, but they’re getting better.” “Real estate is up – of course prices are down – but hey, some Realtor is making a commission and that’s great! So three cheers for the rebounding economy!” Paraphrased of course, but close enough. No one could make this stuff up.
In between out-of- touch comments, he would look at and name a person from the audience. Monsignor so-and-so. Ambassador Moneybags. Dorothy. As in, “Right Dorothy?” he would ask, not really wanting a reply. Some in the audience thought this was cute and the sign of real “master politician.” Only they were oh so wrong. If one’s actions as a politician make you think they’re acting like a politician they are failing. For the truly great politicians rarely if ever make you think about how you’re being played.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of www.IrreverentView.com. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, Front Page Florida, and National Review online. E-mail him at: Chris@411Communications.com.