In My Opinion

Hunting for elephants, unleashing political tsunamis

The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain. That is, unless the governor of Florida, the Honorable Blinkless and Clueless One, brings up shooting elephants to the king.

Then you unleash a political tsunami of late-night derision by Spanish TV comedians directed at Florida’s “let’s get to work” leader, Gov. Rick Scott, who was captured on video during an overseas trade mission acting like a blundering Local Yokel before His Majesty of Spain, AKA the hip-impaired Elephant Killer.

For the uninitiated in European scandals that don’t involve Greece’s imminent economic and political collapse or the wardrobe of Britain’s latest princess, King Juan Carlos of Spain became the subject of his subjects’ ire for taking a fancy hunting trip that cost more than an average working stiff’s annual wages, then falling on his tush and breaking a hip, requiring a private jet to take him back for socialized medical care.

“While ordinary Spaniards cope with harsh austerity, recession and soaring unemployment, the country’s royal family has been enjoying expensive hunting trips, one of which resulted in King Juan Carlos ending up in hospital,” reported Britain’s The Guardian in April. The 74-year-old monarch’s 13-year-old grandson shot himself in the foot during one of those trips, raising questions about his age and whether he was illegally handling a powerful weapon.

You would think Spaniards would be proud that the king preferred to get hip surgery in Spain and not Botswana, but that’s not quite how it played out. A contrite Juan Carlos begged forgiveness, apologized for going on a safari when an economic crisis is gripping Spain and vowed no public funds would be used to pay for any of it. Scandal closed, move on.

Still recovering from last month’s harsh headlines, the king greeted Scott, our always smiling albeit socially addled governor, who entered the room with his wife and seemed to think that raising the Botswana trip as a greeting would be the best ice breaker ever:

“I’ve ridden elephants; I’ve never tried to shoot one,” Scott started, hand extended, blue eyes unblinking.

The king — always a class act; that’s what royalty is groomed to be, after all — seemed caught off guard. Scott kept smiling and jabbering about the elephant because he had been to Botswana with his wife, and she, too, wanted to share with the king her wild ride in a jeep.

Talk about lack of social graces. Exit Yeehaw Junction.

“Gosh, if I did anything to do anything wrong I completely apologize,” Scott told reporters at Miami International Airport upon his return last week. “The king’s a wonderful person. He’s a wonderful world leader.”

Charlie Crist, where are you? At least the former governor only walked out on the king in the middle of a dinner back in Coral Gables at the Biltmore Hotel a few years ago. Charlie would have had enough sense not to bring up elephant trips in his opening introduction, right? Maybe not. Charlie’s man-hug of President Obama did him in with the GOP faithful in his Senate race and then the tea party rose to embrace Scott for governor. In politics, what you say and what you do have consequences.

Maybe it’s all that tea the GOP is sipping lately. Jeb Bush, please, please, bring your party back to coffee; a strong cafecito once in a while wouldn’t hurt, man. Give this newbie governor a second primer on Spain and Latin America. A little samba, a little salsa — Scott needs to loosen up, but not so much that he brings up the elephant in the room.

Coming after a host of events in which Scott has scrambled to recover from his awkwardness or plain political cluelessness, one has to feel the man’s pain. He’s not mean, he just seems a little over his head. Ask any older Cuban-American Republican voter about Scott’s bizarre two-step on the law to crack down on companies that do business with Cuba. The governor signed it with great fanfare here, only to change course in a Miami minute, calling it illegal because of federal law. Duh, then why sign it?

We can keep poking fun at the man, but it’s clear that he doesn’t just have a surplus in the social awkwardness department. He seems to have a huge deficit in the Hispanic department, too. Might a savvy senior Hispanic adviser been able to deter the governor from dissing the king?

I don’t know of any high-level Hispanic in the governor’s executive offices or overseeing a key agency. If there is such a person, they’ve been in hiding.

Might be worth going hunting for one, governor.

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