Hold, Please: Florida’s New Senator Holds Obama Nominee Hostage for Cuban Support

ShannonIt’s hard to overemphasize to the other 49 states the impact the smallest gestures toward Cuba have on politics in Florida. Case in point: Florida’s new Republican senator, George LeMieux, is blocking the appointment of an Obama nominee as ambassador to Brazil because of a stand by that nominee on Cuba. Hanging in the balance is a $7.5 billion contract to build Boeing planes in Seattle.

LeMieux was selected by Gov. Charlie Crist to fill the vacancy created when Mel Martinez pulled a Sarah Palin and walked off the job with a year and a half left to go. He was largely considered a seat-warmer for his former boss, Crist, who is running for the Senate 24/7, except for when his primary challenger wants to schedule a debate. Then, of course, Charlie has pressing gubernatorial duties to perform. But LeMieux recently raised eyebrows when he opened a PAC, indicating he likes the feeling of power that elected office is giving him and intends to pursue it someday soon.

So far, his Senate record is in line with his party: say no to everything, and be as much of an obstruction and hindrance as possible. LeMieux’s method in the short time he’s been in office is to employ the hold.

You won’t find a description in the rule books, but a “hold” is one of the most powerful, many say abused, weapons available to the 100 men and women who make up the Senate — even to a neophyte like LeMieux, who was never elected and is serving on a temporary basis.

“It’s the power of one,” LeMieux says.

Because the Senate works by unanimous consent, a lone lawmaker can block a bill or nomination from reaching the floor by notifying party leaders. Holds can be ignored by leaders or broken with 60 votes, but that rarely happens in this clubby institution.

Sometimes holds are done in secret or with little fanfare, hence the nickname “silent filibuster.” Other times lawmakers publicize them to settle a score or in search of a bargaining chip or a headline.

LeMieux has used the hold a couple of times already, currently to block the confirmation of Thomas A. Shannon Jr. as ambassador to Brazil. It seems that Shannon, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemispheric affairs under George W. Bush, helped the Organization of American States (OAS) better define its membership rules. It would no longer exclude Cuba just for being Cuba, but would bar any nation that does not “practice OAS’s democratic ideals of multiparty democratic government, human rights and freedom of the press.” Theoretically, if Cuba ever met those standards, it would be admitted.

For the anti-Cuba faction in Florida, even this is too generous. So LeMieux, whose buddy Charlie Crist is running against Cuban-American Marco Rubio in the Senate primary, is taking the opportunity to pander for Cuban votes by putting a hold on Shannon’s nomination.

…last week, nine former assistant secretaries of state sent LeMieux a letter urging him to give up. “This continuing, prolonged vacancy sends an unintended signal that the United States does not consider Brazil an important relationship,” they wrote. One suggested the delay could hurt U.S.-based Boeing’s bid to sell Brazil $7.5 billion in fighter jets.

To LeMieux and Crist, the good of the country is secondary to playing politics. We couldn’t agree more with the headline on the matter in the St. Petersburg Times: “Partisan politics isn’t service.”

Poll Shows Crist Going Down in Tea Bag Flames

How disgusted are Floridians with Gov. Charlie Crist? So disgusted they’d be willing to have Jeb Bush back in Tallahassee. A new poll shows 46 percent of the registered voters asked wish that Jeb were still in the governor’s mansion, while 41 percent would rather keep Charlie, even though he hardly ever spends any actual time in said manse. Among Republicans, who will be selecting either Crist or former state House Speaker Marco Rubio as their U.S. Senate candidate soon, it’s way worse news for Crist. A landslide 71 percent prefer a hypothetical Jeb as governor to Crist, with only 22 percent backing Charlie.

The grimmer detail to emerge from this poll, which was commissioned by the St. Petersburg Times, Miami Herald, and Tampa’s Bay News 9, is that Jeb Bush could have a future in the White House.

“This is absolutely a proxy war between two Republican clans,” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman from Pensacola, told the St. Petersburg Times. “And it’s not just about Florida, but about what Florida politician gets to the front of the line to run for president. It’s a zero sum game. Any advantage Charlie Crist gets hurts Jeb Bush, and any advantage Jeb Bush gets hurts Charlie Crist.”

George Will on ABC’s This Week predicted Rubio would be the winner of the Senate primary, based on the recent upheaval in New York’s U.S. Rep. District 23 race. Republican Dede Scozzafava suspended her campaign after those backing third-party Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman ran ads that described Scozzafava as “Obama’s choice” and hit pretty much every FOX News note.

Dede Scozzafava is one liberal ACORN that’s fallen right from Barack Obama’s liberal tree. A tax-raising liberal who supports gay marriage and abortion for any reason at all — ACORN’s choice, NOT our choice.

The message, in case anyone could miss it, is that if Republicans want to appeal to fearful, angry, racist tea bag types, they better purge themselves of any shred of rationality or moderation. Translation for Charlie Crist: This whole Senate thing ain’t gonna happen.

Trying to Look Republican, Florida Gov. Claims He Didn’t Know Pres. Obama Was in State

crist-obama-2We told you that Florida’s Gov. Charlie Crist (R) wasn’t planning to hobnob with the president when he came to Florida this week. We knew that the political realities for Crist, who is in a very competitive race for U.S. Senate with an actual Republican conservative, would keep Charlie from appearing too chummy with Obama. After all, a handshake-turned-shoulder-hug this spring still rankles the far right in the governor’s party.

But even we are astounded at Charlie’s excuse for not welcoming the president to his state.

…the governor said he didn’t know President Barack Obama was in the state Monday to honor sailors and Marines at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, less than 200 miles from the Capitol.

“Where was he?” Crist asked Tuesday. “First I’ve known of it.”

While the president was saluting the nation’s fighting men and women, Crist was visiting the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood for a 40th anniversary celebration with tribal leaders.

Shocked reporters didn’t let Crist’s assertion that he knew nothing about the proposed visit, which has pretty much lead every news broadcast in the state for the past week, stand. They kept getting the governor on record throughout the day.

Crist got a second chance to talk about his decision to ignore Obama’s visit, but instead said again he wasn’t aware of the Jacksonville stop.

“Explain that comment? Is it unclear?” Crist responded after being asked a couple of hours later following a Cabinet meeting. “I didn’t know that he was in the state.”

Asked a third time, Crist said he was aware that Obama was coming, but didn’t know the itinerary.

White House spokeswoman Gannet Tseggai said Tuesday that Crist’s office was notified of the president’s Florida visit.

Don’t expect Charlie to start telling the truth now. He’s down in the polls and truly worried about his chances for grabbing that Senate seat.

It’s hard to imagine what will become of Crist if he doesn’t make it out of the primary. He’s thrown away the governorship, so he would likely have to fall back on whatever he did before he was on the taxpayer dole. Even if he follows in Jack Abramoff’s shoes and becomes a high-priced lawyer/lobbyist for the gaming industry, it’s hard to see his socialite wife hanging around for long. When she leaves, she can always claim she didn’t know Charlie would be out of the public spotlight one day.