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Marco Rubio’s Dog and Pony Show (or “Why weren’t there any seniors at the Senior Center?”)

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By Jerry Waxman
As submitted to the Huffington Post

The day didn’t start out so great. We found out that my wife’s gynecologist doesn’t accept Medicare (more on that in tomorrow’s story) and I had a problem at the bank that took a couple of hours to straighten out to my satisfaction. Those couple hours were not necessary if the tellers did their jobs properly, and I can’t get those hours back. I figure that my time wasted there was worth at least $75.00 per hour, so I should charge them for it. Fat chance I’ll ever collect. So, you can figure that I wasn’t in the best of moods to go to cover Marco Rubio’s kickoff campaign. P.S. I will definitely move my money at some future date.
The notification came Monday evening that both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were going to be at the Marks Street Senior Center in Orlando, FL. at 12:30 PM to kick off Rubio’s barnstorming campaign. They were to speak of the virtues of the current legislation (SB 6/HB 7189) awaiting Governor Charlie Crist’s signature. This legislation, among other restrictive measures, would sharply curtail local control of public schools and eliminate collective bargaining for teachers as well as nullifying their advanced degrees for salary consideration. Now, the first question I ask is “Why discuss education at a senior center?”  Well, the answer is pretty clear- Florida seniors are a large part of the population and they vote in higher proportions than younger people. They also have no direct connection with public education so it’s easy for unscrupulous politicians to tell them that these reforms will save them tax money and improve education, without offering valid proof of their claims. When seniors realize that they have as much of a stake in public education as the rest of us it may be too late. In 10 years these kids are going to be our police, firefighters, store employees, transportation workers. If they’re not adequately prepared to serve in the work force it’s not only seniors who will feel the effects, so it’s important that seniors be properly educated as well. Also, it’s pretty tough to get teachers out to protest in the middle of a school day.

Some members of the unions showed up to protest and urge the governor to veto the bill. One surprise was a group of Charlie Crist supporters protesting in another area also urging the governor to veto the bill. Lisa Burk, a Volusia county Crist supporter said that she and her group are opposed to the legislation and want the governor to dismiss both Rubio’s and Bush’s pressuring. Burk feels that Bush’s meddling has made things worse.

I got inside after Rubio had started so I didn‘t hear the first part of the speech. I was standing next to PBS anchor Judy Woodruff and casually asked her if he had mentioned the education bills. She replied that he hadn’t. I took a quick headcount and figured that there were perhaps twenty actual seniors in the crowd of about 170.The rest of the group were all members of his entourage, with a half dozen shills who led the applause after every statement. The speech was pure Marco, berating the President for his handling of the nuclear reduction talks and for not taking a stronger stand on terrorism. He also took the administration to task for its economic policies. His favorite expression was “American Exceptionalism” and he used it frequently to point out why this country has to lead, conveniently forgetting that that very same exceptionalism in the wrong hands brought us to where we are now over an eight year period during the Bush Administration, an administration he supported fully. He also said that he knew how to fix Social Security and Medicare, which seems odd in a senior center….oh wait! There were only twenty seniors there; well, if you include me there were twenty one.
We found out later that Rubio altered his plans due to his father’s lung cancer diagnosis. Frankly, I don’t buy it. Not that his father isn’t ill; I ‘m sure that is true and I wish him both effective treatment and a speedy and complete recovery. What I don’t buy is Marco’s reasoning because this tour is only for four days. Tending to a sick parent plays well with his base so he uses it, but I suspect that his practiced stump speech has a few holes being blown through it by the President. At the same time Rubio was speaking events were taking place in Washington that completely negated Rubio’s nuclear scare tactics. Also, all the news magazines and the economic press are claiming that things are beginning to turn around, including the fact that the Dow is now 3000 points higher than a year ago, so there’s another talking point that needs a radical makeover. What I believe is that Rubio will emerge from his caretaker mode in a couple of days with a different speech than the one he’s been using, however, it will be as jingoistic and substance free as the old one.
Outside the center we received word that Congressman Kendrick Meek (D FL 17) had written to the governor to veto the legislation. Meek recently made history by being the first person in Florida to qualify for U.S. Senate by petition. He will face either Crist or Rubio in November. Meek was also the driving force behind the Florida class size amendment, and he also has the distinction of being one of the very few people ever who stood up to and stood down Jeb Bush. Here’s a link to Meek’s letter to Crist, urging him to veto the bill.
My day ended at the Orange County School Board meeting where the board actually did the right thing. They voted unanimously to add a quarter mil tax to the budget which will raise an additional twenty two million dollars to make up for drastic budget cuts from the state. No matter how I felt this morning, I felt better tonight. Going home I thought “I think good things were accomplished today.”


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