Give a politician a hug

Teresa Jacobs and Barack OBama

Hugs may be attempting a comeback in politics.

For several years now, they seemed to be dangerous. Just ask Charlie Crist. Just ask Chris Christie. Just ask Carlos Beruff, who seems to think they still are dangerous. He sent out a news release slamming his U.S. Senate Republican primary opponent, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and featuring an old picture Beruff’s campaign dug up of then-Speaker of the House Rubio and then-Gov. Crist sharing a man hug.

The news release was entitled, “The Hug.”

And it included that picture of the very moment that Crist likely spread political cooties to Rubio.

But that image as a warning from Beruff just might be so ancient history now. Certainly, no one in Orlando begrudges anyone’s hug.

Orlando may be a special case. Since the horrific June 12 massacre at the city’s popular gay nightclub Pulse, everyone is hugging everyone in the City Beautiful.

President Barack Obama is hugging Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and then hugging Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, a Republican. There’s Jacobs and U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat, sharing a nice, warm embrace. There’s Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan and other city commissioners, and Orange County commissioners, hugging everyone in sight. There’s Gov. Rick Scott … wait, what? … fondly putting his arm around Jacobs.

OK, Scott and Jacobs are both Republicans. But still, isn’t it possible she caught political cooties from one those earlier hugs, and might she be contagious? And who else has he hugged?

Most political professionals are skeptical and dubious of the hug. Context of hugs matters. So does the reality that there always are political enemies. Pictures are forever, and once they fall into the wrong hands, well, anyone you hug can and will be used against you in the court of politics.

There have been too many infamous political hugs. Crist and Obama. Christie and Obama. John McCain and George W. Bush. Caitlyn Jenner and Hillary Clinton. Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro. Ted and Heidi Cruz. Plenty more.

Scott Widmeyer, former communications adviser to Jimmy Carter and Jay Rockefeller and a managing partner in Finn Partners public relations agency, advises clients: “the political stage is a politician hug-free zone.”

And yet; can there really be anything in wrong with something that feels so good?

We’re already seeing the rise of U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham as a likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Graham is a notorious hugger. If and when she starts her campaign, no one in the state is likely safe from a hug.

Still, we should probably draw the line at letting Joe Biden kisses becoming the next trend.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].

One comment

  • Gregory J. Klein

    July 4, 2016 at 7:20 am

    For anyone unfamiliar with Beruff, please check out the central Gulf press and see what the locals think of him:

    Bradenton Herald @


    Sarasota Herald Tribune @

    Do a search for Beruff and then read the online comments from his neighbors after each article. THAT is what those who know him best think of him–bully, cheat, liar, schemer, crony–uninformed yet always right. A prototypical and perennial Scott appointee, Beruff has ravaged every institution he has been inflicted upon.

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