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Thursday, Dec 18, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Don’t mistake the governor’s speech for reality

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Published:   |   Updated: February 5, 2014 at 07:43 AM

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You don’t expect reality when you go to the fair — unless you spend any time in the ag tents with the animals, where there is too much reality — and you’re seldom disappointed.

Even the politicians who will show up Thursday for the opening day of the Florida State Fair will be dishing out deep-fried platitudes by the bucket without fear of contradiction.

And nowhere will they be in more abundance than in front of the 800 or so of us who will be attending the Governor’s Luncheon, where the governor will take the stage with that effervescent charm of his to assure us that Florida has not only recovered but is leading the nation to glory.

At least that’s the way it always has gone.

***

The 800 or so sitting there will continue working over our strawberry shortcakes, wondering if there is any way of escaping the cavernous Special Events Center without anyone noticing and going home early.

You wish the governor was right. You would like to believe that litany of good news has some basis in the real world.

But the Florida the governor is talking about is no different from that midway just beyond where he is speaking. It is smoke and mirrors, and kicking the can down the road. Out on the midway everyone is happy, especially the ones taking your money in exchange for a stuffed dragon or the shills promising everything from miracle cures for baldness to getting you to pay cash for fried dough on a stick.

***

It’s not often the current governor gets to stand in front of a crowd like the one at the fair, a crowd that would like to have him be one of us. If he could only be folksy like Lawton Chiles or funny like Claude Kirk. It would be such a terrific opportunity if he had the personality for it, to stake out the reasons why he deserves a chance to stick around.

The issues are so important that it’s unfair to ask him to detail any of them, but you would like to see him getting fired up over education, immigration, water and a jobs program that appears to be trading off substantial occupations for lower-paying service jobs.

It may not seem like it Thursday with all the food and glad-handing, but Florida is in real trouble.

The last I heard, the orange groves that made us famous are being destroyed by some Asian parasite. Our educational system is being manipulated by politicians with absolutely no clue. Water will always be an issue, and if you only look at what’s happening in California, you can only pray.

The governor has begun paying some attention to environmental issues, but you wonder if we are beyond the tipping point.

But to be fair, these are the same issues we need to be talking about with Good Time Charlie Crist, the very likely Democratic challenger who has already had his shot.

I know, I know. There are 20 million people in this state and these are going to be our two choices.

It’s unlikely Crist will show up at the governor’s affair, although he could be out there on the midway somewhere riding something that keeps changing directions.

So Thursday it’s the governor’s moment, his chance to sparkle.

I mean, you never know.

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