Scott Came For Coffee But Fled With A Foot In His Mouth
Yesterday Rick Scott got a dose of reality on what life is like for actual Floridians since he became governor, and not surprisingly, it hardly matched his narrative that Florida is the place where dreams come true for residents.
The moment came when he was asked a question by a constituent in a Starbucks in Gainesville. Some of the angry interaction was captured on video. (See more details, and the video here.)
But there was more to the story before another patron started filming, and it's what prompted the angry outburst from Cara Jennings, the woman who confronted Scott in the first place.
In an interview with MSNBC, Jennings, a former Lake Worth City Commissioner, said she had spent the days before the confrontation stewing about a bill the governor signed into law on March 25 that could restrict women's access to reproductive healthcare clinics.
So when she was sitting in that Starbucks and saw the governor stroll in with a sizeable entourage, she told MSNBC she thought to herself: "Oh great, this is an opportunity to talk to the governor about the bill he signed."
Jennings said she asked the governor why he signed the bill, which she called "damaging to women's healthcare choices." He turned to her, Jennings said, and gave her a "very politician, very typical politician reaction."
The governor told her he doesn't vote on the bills, Jennings said, a statement she understands is true but considers misleading, since he has the power to veto and instead chose to sign it into law.
“Then I proceeded to explain to him that that decision is damaging to low-income women such as myself that rely on public healthcare options,” Jennings told MSNBC. “And he very inappropriately responded by telling me where I should go to receive my healthcare, as if I shouldn’t make that decision myself.”
Jennings doesn't say where Scott told her to go to receive said healthcare, but the lawmakers who did vote on that bill, and proceeded to pass it, offered women suggestions of their own, like elementary schools, dentist offices, and podiatrists as alternative options to Planned Parenthood and similar clinics, the only places many low income women could afford to go before Republicans made their cuts. Since Scott gleefully signed the bill into law, one wonders what his suggestion to Ms. Jennings was.
But let's look at Scott's own defense of his statements to Jennings, specifically addressing her comments on Scott and Republican lawmaker's refusal to expand Medicaid:
"I've said all along that if the federal government wants to have its program, they should fund their program," Scott said Wednesday. "But don't come to the state of Florida and ask us to tax our taxpayers for a federal program. I don't believe in that. I don't go to the federal government and say 'fund my program.'"
But Scott has also doubled down against Jennings, saying she wasn't willing to have a conversation.
"I didn't see the video, but I was there," he said. "She was not somebody you could talk to."
Scott's excuse here is ludicrous, not only in terms of Medicaid and tax dollars, but also in terms of the actual response he gave to Jennings during the confrontation: Jobs.
For one thing, Floridians have already "funded" the program Scott and the GOP blocked. They paid their taxes, and those tax dollars went to Medicaid in other states when he and the legislature said no to expansion in Florida. Scott also very much wanted federal funding, but he wanted to use it as he saw fit and with little accountability. It was a move similar to his refusal to accept federal funds for high-speed rail, and now Florida taxpayers are helping pay for rail projects in other states. Scott has no problem throwing away taxpayers' money when it suits his far-right ideology, even if it kills people, as in the case of Medicaid, or costs the state jobs, as it did when he turned down high-speed rail.
Scott also thinks nothing of throwing away taxpayer dollars as "incentives" to corporations he lures to the state, many who make big promises to create jobs, only to leave the state after those positions never materialize, and all those tax dollars disappear right along with them.
So it's hardly surprising that Jennings lashed out as she did, being someone who's living the reality that doesn't match Rick Scott's rosy narratives, especially if he referred her to a podiatrist for her next pap smear as Republicans did when they cut funds for Planned Parenthood.
As for the confrontation itself, since writing a post on it yesterday, I've seen reactions from the media and others who took issue with Jennings disrespect for Rick Scott. You can certainly argue that calling an elected official an "asshole" and shouting at them out of frustration may not be the best way to handle things, especially when you know you're right and he tries to respond with a non-answer as Scott does. His ex-chief of staff certainly used Jennings' angry outburst to blame her in a statement, saying "its not at all surprising that an anarchist prefers shouting over conversation.” Scott himself said "She was not somebody you could talk to." This doesn't exactly ring true given what Jennings says happened before a video recorded the aftermath.
Still, you can hardly blame people who are the real-life victims of Scott's radical policies for being angry about it, and there are plenty to go around.
But there's another point to be made here, and John Romano of The Tampa Bay Times spelled it out in excellent fashion here:
Yet there is an irony in her abusive manner. In case you've forgotten, Scott is one of the most high-profile politicians to have endorsed Donald Trump's presidential bid.
And Trump has been stoking voter frustration, disillusionment and anger for months. He has encouraged precisely the type of vulgar expression Jennings unleashed at Starbucks.
Looked at that way, Scott got exactly what he is asking for. He got taken down by a voter tired of politicians who cultivate power at the expense of the public.
The governor has a well-documented history of avoiding scrutiny. Whether it's a deposition or a television interview, he has repeatedly ignored questions he deems unfavorable. In this case, he wasn't facing questions as much as insults.
When reporters ask Scott a question he doesn't like, he flees. He did the same thing to Jennings, but insulted her intelligence both during the confrontation, and later while trying to explain his way out of it to the press.
Yes, some may say Jennings could or should have handled it differently, but you can't blame her for being angry. Either way, I think more people would say Scott got just what he deserved.