What did you expect? Civility? In 2016?
Rick Scott stopped at a Gainesville Starbucks Tuesday evening and happened across Cara Jennings. It was not what the governor would call a serendipitous moment. More like: Of all the coffee joints in all the towns in all the world ....
It would have been like Lord Voldemort popping into his favorite pub and finding Harry Potter at the bar. There was Jennings, a semi-famous leftie hell raiser and a former city commissioner from Lake Worth. And never a meek soul. She seized her opportunity and loudly, laying into the guv for cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, for refusing to expand Medicaid, for not facilitating Obamacare.
But it was her use of a magic word that elevated the confrontation to national news. She called the governor an a-----e.
That alone would not have made the Gainesville Sun, much less the Washington Post, Mother Jones, the New York Daily News and scores of other websites. But someone just happened to capture her indelicate remark on a bit of cellphone video. The encounter was reverberated across the Internet, racking up 1.6 million views on YouTube.
What mattered, really, wasn’t some disagreement over funding for Planned Parenthood or anything to do with Medicaid or Obamacare. Not that Scott didn’t deserve to be called to account over those issues. In the digital age, what would matter was crudeness of the harangue. The shock of someone calling the governor of Florida an a-----e to his face. On video. To be real, it had to be on video.
You almost felt sorry for Scott. Except that this same fellow has endorsed the least civil presidential candidate in modern history. It was his guy, Donald Trump, who has turned political discourse into a series of crude insults. Still, it was his bad luck, stumbling across Jennings 270 miles from her hometown. New Times has described her as a kind of den mother to Palm Beach County anarchists with links to the Florida Green Party, Food Not Bombs and various environmentalist groups.
Jennings has also been a champion of legalizing backyard chickens in Lake Worth. Maybe she and Rick Scott, who opposes meddlesome government regulations, could find common ground on the issue of urban chicken farming.
But Jennings is notable disruptor of Republican events. In 2012, the Palm Beach Post reported that she was escorted out of a party breakfast in Palm Harbor after heckling Sen. Marco Rubio. Earlier that year, she was similarly ejected from a Newt Gingrich rally in Coral Springs. A YouTube of that incident captured the voice of someone calling Jennings an a-----e. That video, however, did not go viral.
Jennings has been photographed on stilts demonstrating against police violence in Miami. In 2012, there she was outside the Republican National Convention in Tampa, decked out in a pink vagina costume. Jennings told the Palm Beach Post that she has been arrested protesting leftie causes at least seven times over the years, including in 2009 when she was busted in Miami (and later acquitted) during a protest against Israeli military incursions into the Palestinian territories. New Times reported, “The video of Jennings, in white face, being hauled off screaming is a classic.”
No common ground with Rick on that issue. Gov. Scott was at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County Wednesday to sign a mostly symbolic bill opposing boycott of Israeli-made goods. Thanks to the instant notoriety of the Jennings video, newspaper reporters and six TV camera crews showed up.
It was quite an arc in the life of our governor -- 10 hours after the Lake Worth activist achieved instant fame by calling him an a-----e, a rabbi was telling the crowd in Boca
Raton that Scott was “very much like Moses.” But after the bill signing ceremony, the erstwhile Moses was drawn back to YouTube reality, taking reporters’ questions about his encounter with Jennings. Scott, who never, never, never veers off message, talked about job creation. Only one reporter wanted him to comment on the Israel boycott bill.
TV cameras were rolling but no one called anyone an a-----e.
It won’t go viral.