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218 posts from June 2008

June 19, 2008

Donna Shalala feted at the White House

President Bush today awarded UM President Donna Shalala the Presidential Medal of Freedom, praising her "efforts to help more Americans live lives of purpose and dignity."

Bush had the audience cracking up when he recounted a story about her parents trying to find her after a tornado struck her house and neighborhood. She was 10 at the time, Bush said.

"Her parents searched throughout the house for young Donna, but couldn't find her anywhere," he said at the ceremony in the East Room at the White House. "She was finally spotted down the road, standing in the middle of the road directing traffic. Even at a young age she was ready to take charge."

She was lauded for her tenure on a presidential commission that looked at ways to improve veterans health care.

Obama on the air in Florida

Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama is launching his first ad of the general election in 18 states -- including Florida -- signaling that he intends to wage a strong campaign in the state he once boycotted.

Looking friendly without a tie, Obama tries to dispel the GOP-fueled perception that he's a stuffy elitist who doesn't bleed red, white and blue. In fact, the ad is called ""Country I Love."  The Illinois senator talks about being raised by his single mom and grandparents with "values straight from the Kansas heartland."

Check it out and please give feedback in comments.

Trantalis confirms Fort Lauderdale mayoral bid

Fort Lauderdale's first and only openly gay City Commissioner has decided to run for mayor, guaranteeing a feisty race between three well-known individuals who have served in elected office.

Dean Trantalis confirmed that he will announce Monday that he is running for mayor in the March 2009 election. Trantalis had been vague about his political intentions earlier this week although a Dolphin Democrats board member had said Trantalis told him he  planned to run for mayor.

Trantalis served on the City Commission between 2003 and 2006. He decided not to run for a second term.

Trantalis' entry into the race has not drawn cheers from all gay political leaders because some had already agreed to support City Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson, an ally to the gay community. Both Hutchinson and Trantalis publicly critized Mayor Jim Naugle last year when he angered the gay community by making comments about gay sex in park bathrooms.

Hutchinson said Trantalis initially supported her campaign and participated in her kickoff fundraiser. But she said he sent her an email last week stating that he planned to run.

Trantalis said he initially supported Hutchinson but ultimately decided that he should run.

"I don't mean to leave my friends in a lurch but at the same time I have to do what I feel is necessary to advance the goals  I feel we need to achieve,'' he said.

State Rep. Jack Seiler and defense attorney  Steve Rossi are also candidates to replace term-limited Naugle.

Poll boosts Miami congressional challengers?

There's a split between older and younger Cuban Americans on whether exiles should be allowed to travel more often to visit relatives on the communist island, according to a new poll commissioned by a group seeking better U.S.-Cuba relations.

The poll was conducted in three congressional districts, including the ones represented by Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, who both favor the travel restrictions President Bush imposed in 2004.

And the issue has become central to their re-elections, with Democratic challengers Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia pushing to relax the restrictions.

Ros-Lehtinen backs the ban, bucks the President and McCain

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has taken pains to distance herself from President Bush, says she strongly supports keeping the two-decade old ban that prevents drilling offshore -- putting her at odds with both Bush and John McCain, whom she backs for president.

But the high-profile McCain supporter didn't mention McCain, nor the president in a statement. She did, however, note that her district includes the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

"We must continue to protect and preserve our economic interests by safeguarding against near-shore drilling," she said. "Our energy policy should not completely disregard the importance of protecting our natural resources and environment."

Her stance on the ban also differs with that of fellow Miami Republicans, Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart. They -- and a number of other Florida Republicans -- began to argue for compromise when the then-GOP led Congress began to push aggressively for drilling off Florida's shores in 2006.

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Jeb's oil alternative: drill but preserve the buffer

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who negotiated the federal-state compromise to keep drilling away from Florida shores, said in an email to the Miami Herald that he supports drilling off Florida with restrictions. His suggestion: reviving the 2006 compromise to create a deep buffer around Florida while lifting the moratorium on domestic oil and gas drilling.

"I support the president's continued advocacy to develop domestic sources of oil and gas with a sense of urgency," Bush said. "This does not diminish the long term need to conserve and develop alternative sources of energy.

"I would encourage Congress to reconsider the common sense plan that Congressman Pombo and I worked on in 2006. The proposal would have provided a 100 mile buffer of permanent protection around the state from Jacksonville to Pensacola and, at the same time, would have opened up millions of acres in the energy rich Central Gulf for new exploration."

See today's Herald on the rising Republican rift over oil driling, and the nuts and bolts questions surrounding drilling off Florida's coast.

June 18, 2008

Crist's road show gets panned in California

Gov. Charlie Crist's trip out west last week, as the keynote speaker at the California's Orange County Republican Flag Day dinner, evoked this snide response from columnist Frank Mickadeit of the Orange County register.

"Brought in as the keynote speaker because he's on the short list of potential McCain running mates, his performance Friday night truly did help his party.'' Mickadeit writes. "By showing unequivocally he would be a complete disaster for the GOP – the worst running mate since Dan Quayle.

"Mr. Crist looks great: – silver hair, ragged shirt, baggy pa— … wait, that's Mr. Bojangles; let's try again: silver hair, warm smile, great tan, perfectly tailored suit of clothes, decent teeth. It's when he uses his facial musculature to try and form cogent sound that he falls apart."

Mickadeit apparently has no appreciation for the governor's homespun patriotism, or his gift of succinctness:

"His speech began at 7:38 p.m. and was over at 7:47 p.m. – at nine minutes the shortest Flag Day Dinner speech on record....But into that nine minutes, he packed two major gaffes and one cliché-ridden anecdote, a nice trifecta. First, he displayed his knowledge of history by informing us that Ronald Reagan "came from right here in Orange County, California." (Sorry, Charlie, that was that other Republican president. Orange County was simply where Reagan's ATM was located.)

"Then, again seeking to, uh, connect, with the O.C. Republican establishment, he managed to invoke one of the most reviled names in Orange County: "Your governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is doing a great job! … I love him!"

"Thud. The groans in the room were audible … audible!!!Obviously, Crist's advance team had failed to tell him that conservatives see Arnold as a vapid, poll-driven sellout who faked 'em out good.'

"Crist closed with an anecdote about the American Dream, about "a boy named Adam" who came to the U.S. without knowing English, who worked hard shining shoes, had seven kids … At which point, I wrote in my notebook: "It was his dad." Close. A minute of porridgy drama later, we find out Adam was his grandfather.

"OK, here's an easy one, Charlie: How do you spell potato?

Continue reading "Crist's road show gets panned in California" »

Rubio: linking drilling to gas prices is 'disingenuous'

Republican House Speaker Marco Rubio said in an interview with the Herald that he supports oil drilling off Florida's coast "if it can be done in a manner that's safe for our environment.'' But he challenged Gov. Charlie Crist and John McCain's implication that drilling could lower gas prices anytime soon.

"For anyone to represent that someone drilling off the coast in Florida is going to lower gas prices here or anywhere in this country is disingenuous and a flawed argument,'' he said. "Oil drilling could take 10 years before any oil is pulled out of the ground, and there are a large number of leases held by oil companies that are not being exploited now. We can't say we need more until we've exploited those.''

Rubio said he dislikes how the issue over oil drilling is portrayed as "black and white" because he believes there is a middle ground that can help the nation achieve more energy independence while not harming the environment.

"If our beaches are going to be polluted and oil is going to end up on our shores, I'm against it,'' he said. "But I do believe that we have an obligation to safely exploit our natural resources in this country and I believe we have the technology to accomplish that.''

McCain finds more time in schedule for Hispanic groups

Last summer, when John McCain was vying for the Republican nomination, he and and most of his rivals were no-shows at two major Hispanic conferences: the National Council of La Raza in MIami and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in Orlando.

But with the general election five months away and Hispanic voters poised to play a pivotal role, McCain has cleared his schedule. Last month, he said he would attend the La Raza conference in San Diego in July, and today NALEO announced his RSVP to its June 28 gathering in Washington.

Democrat Barack Obama will also address both groups.

"We're delighted that Senators McCain and Obama will meet directly with Latino officials who represent millions of Americans across the country, said NALEO President Adolfo Carrin, Jr. "Latino voters are going to play a decisive role in the general election and the community is ready to hear both candidates make their case.''

Sink to Crist: oil drilling "doesn't sound very green"

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink joined the chorus of Democrats, and some Republicans, sounding off in opposition to Gov. Charlie Crist's call for oil drilling off the coast to offset rising fuel prices. She noted that, unlike his climate change push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, his turnabout on oil drilling "doesn't sound very green to me.''

"Florida needs protection from Washington politics,'' Sink declared at a hastily called news conference. She said she was "stunned" when she learned of the news of the governor's reversal today by reading news accounts, including a piece in the Wall Street Journal which she said left the impression that if the governor supports oil drilling, the rest of Florida does.

"The more I thought about it, the angrier and angrier I got,'' she said. "We can't be ruled by polls...The governor is one person, he's one public official and I'm another statewide public official and I'm presenting the countervailing position.''

She said drilling could take as much as 10 years to even recover one drop and "will do nothing to reduce the pain we're feeling'' from $4 a gallon gas prices. "The future is not in destroying our coast,'' she said. "We need long-term solutions now.''

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