Joe Henderson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 44

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.
Carlson Spano

Joe Henderson: If Florida CD 15 flips, blue wave could be coming

If you see Florida CD 15 starting to turn in favor of Democrat Kristen Carlson as election results pour in on Nov. 6, better get out your rain gear because the blue wave could be coming.

Carlson is the underdog against Republican Ross Spano, but three major national outlets —, the Sabato Crystal Ball, and the Cook Political Report — continue to agree that the race is close. They all have it leaning Spano’s way, but not convincingly. For instance, FiveThirtyEight has Spano ahead 51.2 to Carlson’s 48.8 percent.

That’s consistent with a poll in early October that showed Spano with a 3-point lead.

It should be noted that conservative  Club For Growth Action poll earlier this month gave Spano a 7-point lead.

This, mind you, is the seat held by the retiring Dennis Ross and it has been as safely Republican as most any you could find. He won re-election 2016 with 57 percent of the vote in this district that covers parts of conservative East Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties.

Although the boundaries of Florida CD 15 have changed a few times over the years, the result has not. This seat has been in Republican hands since 1995, and the fact it is even competitive is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.

So, what changed?

A lot of things, starting with Lakeland — Polk’s largest city.

Lakeland’s demographics and attitudes aren’t as rock-ribbed conservative as they used to be. It has a growing LGBT community and Polk Pride celebration to go with an eclectic downtown and thriving arts scene.

And while conservative firebrand Sheriff Grady Judd remains as popular as ever, it’s worth noting that he feuded with Spano during the primary campaign over what Judd said was a misleading mailer that suggested he was endorsing Spano.

Spano is well known in eastern Hillsborough but less so in Polk, and that’s an advantage to Carlson whose roots run deep there.

She was the chief counsel of the Florida Department of Transportation in Bartow, was general counsel for Florida Department of Citrus, was a prosecutor in Pasco County, and has served on the boards of Boys and Girls Clubs of Lakeland and the Polk Museum of Art.

She also has the backing of Emily’s List, which has been promoting women candidates throughout the country for high-profile offices. That brought in needed money and helped put Republicans in the unusual position of having to battle hard for a seat they have been able to take for granted in the past.

Democrats have targeted this as a seat they believe they can flip as part of an overall strategy to regain control of the U.S. House, and Carlson is running hard. Her TV ads are beginning to show up with increasing frequency.

Will it be enough?

That’s hard to say.

But Florida CD 15 is close, and that might speak volumes for could lie ahead on Nov. 6.

Joe Henderson: Hey, guess what? Hillsborough transportation is an issue!

I’m going to take a guess, but it looks like Ken Hagan has made Hillsborough transportation his signature issue in what is starting to look like a lifetime term on the governing body.

Take the colorful mailer that said, “Ken Hagan’s plan to invest infrastructure will create jobs, improve safety and improve our quality of life.” 

Or the one that said, “Last year Ken Hagan helped steer $800 million into projects currently underway that will help relieve some of Hillsborough’s most congested roadways.”

Or the one that boasts Ken Hagan “is the only candidate who has invested billions in our county infrastructure.”

And I shouldn’t leave out his fellow Commissioner Victor Crist, who brags in a mailer about delivering “billions” in new road construction to “alleviate traffic.”

Well, OK.

But both men have been on the Commission for a long time, and if they’ve directed so much dough and effort into upgrading Hillsborough transportation, shouldn’t our traffic be “alleviated” by now — at least a little bit?

But we know why it isn’t, don’t we?

Because, the governing agency has actually never addressed Hillsborough transportation in a systematic way, and long-serving commissioners like Hagan and Crist have exacerbated the problem by allowing unchecked growth that brought more congestion to roads that simply can’t handle the stress.

This might be a good time to note that thanks to loophole wide enough to drive a semi tractor-trailer though in the county’s term-limit rule, Hagan and Crist are essentially trying to swap seats.

Hagan, who is term-limited for his countywide seat, is running the District 2 chair in northern Hillsborough that Crist currently holds, while Crist is running for a countywide spot.

See how that works?

Interesting that Crist notes his “new” plan involves “getting Tallahassee and Washington to send us our fair share of road money” and “forcing developers to pay their fair share of road improvements when they develop, not after.”

You know, Mr. Commissioner, a good time to collect the “fair share” from developers might have been many years ago. Crist has been on the Commission since 2010, and development has exploded without the roads to handle the growth. And why is that?

Well, you can’t be a Republican these days without being pro-development and in favor of low taxes, and it’s impossible to build a comprehensive system to handle the mess we have here without the money to pay for it.

Other than a lot of “harrumphs” and some serious hand-wringing, the traffic problem has been allowed to keep expanding until now voters are going starting to ask tough questions to the people in charge while this happened. And that’s why a citizen’s group got enough signatures on a petition to put

It probably won’t keep Hagan from extending a stay on the Commission, where he has served since being first elected in 2002.

You know those mailers I mentioned earlier? He can afford them because he has raised more than $500,000 to fuel his campaign, much of it coming from (surprise!) developers, real estate interests, and construction companies.

By contrast, his Democratic opponent, Angela Birdsong, has raised only $30,000 and is almost out of cash.

Crist faces a tougher test against Democrat Mariella Smith. The Tampa Bay Times, in endorsing Smith, noted she is “among the most informed and articulate candidates for local office this year.”

There also isn’t much of a money gap, and Smith is well known and outspoken on transportation needs, so it could be tough for Crist to get any traction on that issue.

And transportation is the issue.

The guys who were in charge when it became one promise, now, to fix it.

Joe Henderson: Michael’s wrath the latest warning to Tampa Bay

While watching the unfolding catastrophe Hurricane Michael brought to Panama City, a familiar fear crept back into my mind: What if this thing had come up the mouth of Tampa Bay instead of veering west?

It’s a warning people there need to take seriously.

That in no way minimizes what the people of Panama City and the Panhandle went through and all aid and comfort need to be directed to that area. But if past is prologue, a storm the size and intensity of Michael washing ashore in downtown Tampa or close it would bring unimaginable devastation to the densely populated Tampa Bay area, and I’m not sure that’s something that this area can adequately prepare for.

I think about that every time one of these hurricanes comes up the Gulf coast. A year ago, the Washington Post reported on what will happen when Tampa Bay’s century-long string of luck runs out. A World Bank says Tampa is one of 10 cities on the planet most at risk for utter devastation by a major hurricane.

It almost happened last year with Hurricane Irma, but the meteorological gods gave the area a last-minute break when the storm unexpectedly wobbled ashore at Naples, knocking it down a bit.

And in 2004, Tampa Bay had a bullseye on it from Hurricane Charley which, like Michael, suddenly strengthened from a Category 2 to 4 in the snap of a finger. But just as it seemed the worst-case scenario was about to happen for this area, Charley turned inland at Port Charlotte and left major damage in its wake.

The Tampa Tribune, where I worked then, produced an investigative piece shortly after that with a large, bold headline that read: “We’re Not Ready.”

Experts said then that if Charley had stayed on its course, most of Pinellas County would have experienced catastrophic flooding. Water would have been up to at least the second floor of every downtown office building in Tampa.

Tampa would have been just like New Orleans was a year later when Hurricane Katrina struck, and everyone who lives here understands the warning that one day we won’t get lucky. Of course, I guess – as the good people of Panama City and other parts of the Panhandle learned Wednesday – you can say that about anywhere in the state.

Some parts of Florida’s east coast around St. Augustine are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The same is true from parts of the state that were clobbered by Irma last year.

And now we see the nearly unimaginable force generated by Michael, and how the only defense against a storm of that size to leave. The problem for Panama City is that the hurricane exploded in strength in a short time, leaving residents and visitors little time to get out of the way.

The Red Cross estimated as many as 325,000 people in the evacuation zone did not leave. Maybe it was bravado for some, but it’s also a safe bet that many simply didn’t have the financial resources for a prolonged motel stay. And now many roadways are blocked, widespread power outages could last for weeks, stores are empty and probably couldn’t function anyway – the list of problems goes on.

Now, take that carnage and imagine it in an area of more than 3 million people, with an inadequate road system, major buildup along coastlines and waterways, no way to run and nowhere to hide.

Experts tell us it’s going to happen one day. The Tampa Bay area will be under water.

I hope they’re wrong, but I fear they aren’t.

Joe Henderson: No time for politics with Hurricane Michael on its way

Politics seems so trivial in times like the Florida Panhandle is about to experience with Hurricane Michael. Petty red and blue arguments are out of place when a storm like this threatens everything and everyone in its path.

If you’re a Democrat and intend to vote with vigor for Bill Nelson to the U.S. Senate, you still should be rooting for his election opponent, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, to carefully and successfully manage this horrible situation in the days ahead.

Same goes for Republicans who support Ron DeSantis for Governor. I sure hope they’re wishing for his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, to be a steady and effective leader in this crisis. If it costs your man a few votes, at least you can be consoled by the fact it also might have saved some lives.

Only the most cynical and selfish person would think otherwise.

There is an appropriate time to question how leaders stepped up during a storm like this, but for the next few days, everyone just needs to be a Floridian. Think we’re up to it?

I hope we are.

But here is a reality: Hurricane Michael likely will cause catastrophic damage, and that can’t be fixed overnight. When Hurricane Irma blew through Tampa last year, some people went many days without power. There were flooded streets. Fallen trees and large limbs blocked some roads and it took a while to get them all clear.

Grocery stores had near-empty shelves for many days after the storm.

But as Floridians, we had each other and that’s how we got through it all — well, that, peanut butter, Chunky soup, and the stockpile from the local ABC store you safely stashed away.

At my home, power was out for a few days but people on the other side of the street had lights. So, you know what a neighbor did? She allowed us to run a long extension cord from her outdoor outlet to our house to keep the refrigerator going.

A small thing maybe, but it made life a little bit easier in a trying time.

Random acts of kindness like that will be in high demand in the next few days.

Charitable agencies will be looking for contributions, and I’m sure Floridians — and thousands of people from other states — will step up. But thank the workers, too.

I think one of the great things we see in this country is when workers from power companies all over the country head into a disaster zone to get the lights back on as quickly as possible. They’re working extra-long days away from their families and the lives they know just to help strangers get back on their feet.

If and when scoundrels try to take advantage of a natural disaster with price-gouging, looting, or bogus insurance claims, thank law enforcement officials when they make these mopes pay for their behavior. We had a FEMA rep show up at my house months after Irma hit to process the claim we made for our roof and other damage.

One problem: We didn’t have any significant damage and we hadn’t filed a claim. But somebody had our address and other information and was also trying to bill the government under our name for staying several weeks in a local hotel.

Storms like Michael are just the price we pay for living in Florida, and some bad people will try to take advantage of that. As we always find out though, the good outnumber the bad by a lot.

What’s about to happen here isn’t red or blue.

If somebody in authority really messes up, there will be time before the election to deal with that. But for now, just remember that Hurricane Michael isn’t red and isn’t blue, and that means we’re all in this together.

Joe Henderson: With Hurricane Michael bearing down, state leaders must excel

When you see Governor Rick Scott put on the Navy ballcap, stuff’s about to get real. It has become his trademark look when taking the lead role as warner-in-chief during past Florida hurricanes, and we can expect more of the same in the coming days as Hurricane Michael takes aim on the Panhandle.

With this potential Category 3 monster approaching, Scott is already sounding the familiar warnings of the impending emergency and for residents to find safe shelter or get out of Dodge before it’s too late. 

Well, that’s what he should do – and most people believe some of Scott’s best moments have come during these tense situations with the potential for disaster. The stakes are even higher now, both for Scott and Democrat and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

This time, the October surprise came from the National Hurricane Center. What’s about to happen here should be about people and saving lives, but there is no escape from the fact it also comes with major political implications.

How the Governor and the Mayor perform in the days leading up to the storm and its aftermath could tilt close elections in their favor – Scott, for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson, and Gillum in what has become an increasingly snippy race for Governor against Republican Ron DeSantis.

There really isn’t much Nelson or DeSantis can do to keep the spotlight off their opponents, either – although Nelson, to be fair, was visible along with Republican senatorial counterpart Marco Rubio during last year’s bouts with Mother Nature.

But Scott will have all the cameras focused on him for updates as the storm gets closer. And with Florida’s strategic importance in the national political picture, he won’t have any trouble getting whatever aid people need to be delivered from FEMA in a timely matter when the storm is gone – probably with lots of free media coverage on TV, too.

Republicans, meanwhile, have already opened attacks against Gillum for his performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine in 2016, when much of Tallahassee’s power infrastructure was damaged.

In an ad that has been appearing around the state in recent days, Republicans claim Gillum refused help from outside workers waiting to help restore power to the city. DeSantis said Gillum was waiting for unionized workers to arrive on the scene, a claim vigorously disputed by Barry Moline, the former head of the Florida Municipal Electric Association.

In the Sun-Sentinel newspaper, Moline said the decision about accepting extra was made by him and Tallahassee’s general manager of electric utilities. Under Tallahassee’s form of government, Gillum was not empowered to make that call.

“Any claim that suggests the mayor had anything to do with rejecting crews is a flat-out lie,” Moline said. “It’s wrong. It’s false. It didn’t happen. The mayor wasn’t involved with selecting or choosing crews to bring into Tallahassee.”

But, the ads keep airing and the image DeSantis is painting of Gillum might stick with enough voters to turn a close election. 

The image of Gillum, shovel in hand to help fill emergency sandbags, that was being circulated Monday afternoon on Twitter may help to blunt some of that.

Performing exceptionally in the coming days would blunt all of it though.

Hurricane Michael a real-life situation far too familiar to this state, and how the men who want to lead it to show what they can do under real pressure will go a long way toward determining if Floridians believe they’re up to the job.

Joe Henderson: Matt Gaetz ‘kill-’em’ remark straight out of middle school

Um, Matt Gaetz?

It wasn’t funny.

It wasn’t clever.

I’d say the Republican congressman from the state panhandle ought to be ashamed of himself, but he is a politician, and every time anyone thinks there is a line that can’t be crossed, it gets obliterated.

This was one was especially tasteless, though, referring to Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum as “Andrew Kill-‘em” — a reference to an FDLE report that the crime rate in Leon County has been the highest in Florida for four consecutive years.

You know, this might be a good time to bring up Gaetz’s A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association. At least 14 of the county’s 22 homicides in 2017 involved a gun. Oh, that’s right — guns don’t kill people, bullets do.

That’s not to say Tallahassee’s crime rate is not fair game on the campaign trail, but juvenile remarks like the one Gaetz made lowers the debate to something you would expect to hear in middle school. The issue merits a serious discussion, not just the same ol’ crap that we need arm everyone and the good guys will sort it out.

I imagine Matt Gaetz and the guys had a good chuckle around the table when this nickname was hatched, but I guess it’s understandable. After all, the leader of the GOP, President Trump, has elevated name-calling to an art form — so anything that plays to the base, right guys?

Do they really believe this makes Florida a better place, or they just don’t care and laugh it off as political hardball?

Democrats were quick to pounce, calling Gaetz’s lowbrow attempt at humor as racist and irresponsible. Janet Cruz, who is running for state Senate, called it “an abomination” and demanded Gillum’s Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, disavow the remark.

He has not.

Maybe this is also a good time to recall that on the day after the primary, DeSantis said Gillum, an African-American, could “monkey up” the state’s economic growth by calling for higher corporate taxes to pay for the expansion of health care.

DeSantis later called the national flap over the remark a “nothingburger.”

Maybe to him.

Now this.

Republicans can let their eyes grow wide in denial and put their hands to their foreheads in faux “who, us?” anguish after not-so-subtly reminding their base that Gillum is black, but they are playing the race card. Period.

Gaetz’s remark was reminiscent of Barack Obama’s first campaign for President, the one where some Republicans delighted in emphasizing his middle name — Barack HUSSEIN Obama — while people like Donald Trump kept the insipid theory alive that he wasn’t born in America and he was a secret Muslim out to invoke Sharia law here.

There are reasonable arguments to be made against voting for Gillum, starting with the real question of how he could work with Republicans if they keep control of the House and Senate. His signature issues of health care expansion and raising the starting pay for public school teachers to $50,000 would never get out of committee, let alone to his desk for a signing ceremony.

But it’s just easier to smear and snicker.

That says more about Matt Gaetz and DeSantis than it does Gillum.

Joe Henderson: Florida can’t let #MeToo become yesterday’s news

Can it really be a year ago that Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a scumbag and #MeToo became the hashtag to live by? Titans toppled, old scores settled, secrets exposed.

While here in Florida … um, what? Political careers ruined (see Latvala, Jack).

SB 1628 from Democratic Sen. Lauren Book, tried to create the “Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct.” It cleared the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and then died in the machinery of delay in the Legislature.

“For far too long,” Book said at the time, “bad actions have been able to hide in the shadows of this process.”

She spoke of the “good ol’ boys club” where women knew to go along to get along and keep quiet — or else.

That’s only part of it. And the Parkland high school massacre moved from #MeToo to mourning the dead in the horrific slaughter of innocents.

So, here we are — a year later, with #metoo fading in the public consciousness even after the seemingly nonstop barrage of news from all angles. Bill Cosby is in prison. Al Franken is now a “former” U.S. Senator.

Powerful CBS Entertainment CEO Les Moonves was forced out following multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Actor Kevin Spacey is disgraced. And now, we have come full circle, with the controversy surrounding allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ripping open the wounds anew.

Democratic Florida state Sen. Jeff Clemens resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. Republican State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto joined with Book in a statement that said such misconduct, “whether in action or in spoken word, has no place in our world and certainly not in our places of work nor in the halls of power.”

Adding all that to the backdrop of President Donald Trump and the long-standing allegations of sexual messiness against him, and we were supposed to witness a movement that changed the world.

But has anything really changed in Florida?

It doesn’t seem so.

There have been many public demonstrations of outrage by women, and more women are stepping into the political arena.

But, Democrat Gwen Graham lost her bid to become Florida’s first female Governor when she was defeated in the primary to Andrew Gillum despite leading in the polls into Election Day, suggesting that voters were more motivated to support Gillum’s progressive agenda.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle publicly denounce any form of sexual harassment, but President Trump has argued that you can’t trust female accusers because they might be lying. Thursday’s FBI report on the Kavanaugh SCOTUS investigation was denounced as too quick, too shallow, too political to be taken too seriously.

Yet, it is likely to put a man on the Supreme Court despite the impassioned appeal by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and others that Kavanaugh sexually harassed them. And Trump mocked Ford at a political rally this week to the cheers of the Republican crowd.

In a few weeks, Florida will choose a new Governor; it’s a coin-toss whether it will be Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis. No matter which man wins, there will be chatter about the direction the new Governor will take the state on vital issues of the environment, education, health care, taxes, and so on.

What about #MeToo?

Let’s just hope it doesn’t become yesterday’s news in the wake of tomorrow’s headlines.

Joe Henderson: Polls show strong voter support for Amendment 4

Florida remains divided on many political issues, but there seems to be strong bipartisan agreement about the issue of restoring voting rights for convicted felons, formally known as Amendment 4.

As Florida Politics reported, a recent poll showed 74 percent support for the constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would strike down voting prohibitions for felons who have completed their sentences and parole or probation requirements. Those convicted of murder or sexual offenses would continue to be banned.

It needs 60 percent to pass.

That bipartisan support I mentioned — 79 percent of independents and 88 percent of Democrats are in support, and even a majority of Republicans (59 percent) said they’re in favor.

Boiled down, this means the people of Florida had to go this route of a grassroots push for a constitutional amendment because Republican-controlled Tallahassee wouldn’t budge — fairness be damned.

Florida is one of only three states — Iowa and Kentucky are the other two — to automatically and permanently bar felons from voting even after their sentences are complete. They can apply to the state for a restoration of rights, but not until five years after their release. Most of the time, the answer is no — and there is a backlog in the thousands of cases waiting to be heard.

Amendment 4, if passed, would restore rights to an estimated 1.5 million people in Florida.

Did we mention that maybe it’s the right thing to do?

When Charlie Crist was Governor, he restored the rights of thousands of nonviolent felons. That changed when Rick Scott took over. That’s when the legislative equivalent of Bob’s Barricades was placed in front of felons to keep them from taking that next step into society and the voting booth.

In a withering decision in February, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker overturned Scott’s policy, saying “disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s Governor has absolute veto authority. No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration.

“Until that moment (if it ever comes), these citizens cannot legally vote for presidents, governors, senators, representatives, mayors, or school-board members. These citizens are subject to the consequences of bills, actions, programs, and policies that their elected leaders enact and enforce.”

Naturally, Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi fought the decision out of respect for “the victims.” Funny, Bondi wasn’t so concerned about “the victims” of Trump University’s money scam while she was receiving a $25,000 campaign check, but are we surprised?

I’m not.

When a person is convicted of a felony in Florida, they already will face a lifetime of obstacles that will remind them daily that society has judged them to be failures. Getting a decent job with a felony on your record can be a problem. That means supporting yourself or a family will be an ongoing struggle.

Yes, they shouldn’t have committed the crime.

But let’s say a felon is sentenced to five years for robbery and serves that time. Society considers the debt paid, but Florida is like a loan shark who just keeps piling up that debt until it becomes unsustainable on the individual.

Politicians then like to say they’re “tough on crime” but what they really are is hardhearted and shortsighted. A person who feels more invested in society — and voting can be a big part of that — is less likely to fall back into trouble.

I wouldn’t expect the lawmakers we have now to embrace that idea, though. It’s easier to demonize and tag people who made a serious mistake with a scarlet “F” for the remainder of their days. That’s why sometimes voters have to take the law into their own hands with things like Amendment 4.

This is one of those times.

Joe Henderson: Winner in Florida U.S. Senate debate? Status quo in runaway

Let us sum up the essence of the Florida U.S. Senate debate Tuesday between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott for the seat Nelson currently holds:

Blah, blah, and furthermore, blah.

Nelson believes Scott is a lying slimeball whose policies have savaged public education, health care, and the environment. We already knew that.

Scott believes Nelson is a do-nothing, accomplish-nothing political hack who exists to raise taxes because it’s fun to do so. Yep, knew that too.

OK, Florida … choose your candidate.

Did anyone learn anything about the hour Nelson and Scott spent telling a statewide Telemundo audience that the other is a horrible person and electing them would mean the end of life as we know it?

I doubt it.

Neither man is an orator of great renown.

Neither man has what anyone would call a charismatic personality.

Both men have been around long enough that we know where they’re coming from, so let’s cut the bull, shall we?

Scott is running on his record of job creation after two terms as Florida’s Governor. He is also running a campaign that shifts the blame for all the problems that environmental problems that cropped up during his reign (see Tide, Red) on Nelson because Washington didn’t act to keep dead fish from populating Florida’s shores.

After absorbing Scott’s attacks that blamed him for everything wrong on Planet Earth, perhaps even including the Tampa Bay Bucs 48-10 loss at Chicago, Nelson whipped out the white glove and said, “We would call that a whopper because it’s totally disjointed from the truth.”

Ouch. That hurts.

Do you bite your thumb, sir?

In this political climate though, the truth is whatever anyone chooses to believe, so what I would sum it up like this:

Status quo was the runaway winner in this debate.

If you liked what Scott has done for this state, you probably think he won.

If you think Nelson deserves a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, nothing happened Tuesday to change your mind.

It was boring.

It was safe.

It was repetitive.

It lacked substance.

I doubt this debate got anyone excited.

This was nothing but Talking Points 2.0.

Scott has been following an effective strategy throughout the campaign of attacking his opponent while not exactly saying what he would do if elected, other than his “promise” to go to “give ‘em hell” in Washington.

Yeah, like a freshman Senator, just one in a body of 100, would do anything except say, “How would you like me to vote on this, Sen. Mitch McConnell?”

But the reverse is true as well. Democrats are desperate for Nelson to hold on to his seat because they need every vote against President Trump, especially if Republicans continue to control the Senate after the midterms. Nelson won’t be that mythological “independent’ voice in Washington. He will be what he has been — reliably Democratic.

So, all of this back and forth is nothing but “R” versus “D” repetitive drivel.

This debate was characterized by many as nasty.

Shoot, folks … it was already nasty. It has been nasty for a long time.

We already know what they’re going to say. We knew it before either Scott or Nelson said it. Whichever man you like you like now, you will like in November. Nothing happened in this debate to change that.

The strong likelihood is that nothing is going to change, either.

They are what they are.

And what they are won’t excite anyone to do anything but what they were already going to do: vote against the other guy.

Joe Henderson: Who ‘won’ the SCOTUS hearing? Nobody

Politics is all about winning, and nowhere is that truer than the all-out war to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. That is why I am trying to find a winner after one of the most exhausting and extraordinary days anyone has experienced.

I. Just. Can’t.

Christine Blasey Ford was brave, believable, sympathetic, and forceful when she was asked how certain she was that Kavanaugh sexually attacked her more than 30 years ago when both were high school students.

Her answer, without hesitation: “100 percent.”

I believe her — and not because she came forward even after acknowledging in her opening statement that she was “terrified” to testify to the U.S. Senate committee that will recommend whether Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court should go forward.

There is no doubt she will look back on this experience as one of the worst periods of her life, and that pain showed throughout her testimony. She said she is haunted by Kavanaugh’s laughter after the encounter.

I think we all know how she would respond if someone suggested she “won” the day.

I admire the stand she took and the way she handled herself, but only she can say if it was worth the cost. Her life has been a living hell since she came forward — and will continue to be. That’s what this process does to people, and it’s disgusting.

What about the man she says committed that vile deed as a boy?

Kavanaugh’s anguish was clear during his combative and emotional opening statement. You would have to be a hell of an actor to fake that kind of pain. It was hard not to feel sympathy for him when he said he and his family have been “totally and permanently destroyed” by the resulting furor after Ford came forward. I have no doubt that it’s true.

A reputation, once lost, is hard to recover.

He thundered his innocence. He cried frequently. He choked up, knowing his carefully crafted reputation was unraveling before the entire nation. He was alternately combative and defiant, maybe figuring he had nothing to lose at this point.

No doubt many saw that as a man fighting an injustice being inflicted on him and his family.

But I’m also wondering what the reaction would have been if Ford had screamed at Senators and sobbed during her appearance, the way Kavanaugh did. Would she have been dismissed as too emotional and unhinged? Would that have cast doubt on the truthfulness of her testimony?

Even if Brett Kavanaugh ultimately is confirmed to SCOTUS — which I wouldn’t bet on and I doubt he truly believes will happen either — it won’t be a win. He’ll carry these scars for the rest of his life. What happened during testimony Thursday will be in the first sentence of his obituary.

And as far as the Senate?

Big losers.

Democrats embarrassed themselves while grilling Kavanaugh about stuff in his high school yearbook that appeared to be about barfing and flatulence. I would say it’s beneath the dignity of the Senate, except I don’t think there is any depth to which these politicians won’t sink.

I thought Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina might have tilted the scale a little bit in Kavanaugh’s favor with his blustering outburst defending the nominee from what he called a “sham” process.

“You’re looking for a fair process? You came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend,” Graham thundered, his face turning red, blood vessels bulging.

I might have been inclined to give Graham’s words more heed if minutes later he hadn’t brushed off a woman in the lobby who told him she had been raped. He told her to go to the cops, then got into an elevator. 

That is really what it comes down to – the attitude that many in the Party of Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh, seem to have toward women and what they endure. They attack the victim. They dismiss. They smear.

Republican Senators, one by one, told Kavanaugh how much sympathy they felt for what he has endured.

What about Ford, and what she has endured?

What about what the nation has endured, and how divided it will be after this?


Find one. I sure can’t.

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