Joe Henderson: A few suggestions for VP Mike Pence during his Orlando visit
Image via AP.

Mike Pence
Most important, Mr. Vice President -- DON'T FORGET THE MASK!

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit Orlando today, where he will make headlines one way or the other.

Pence is scheduled to deliver personal protective equipment to a local nursing home (note to Pence’s staff: don’t forget the mask, got it?). He will talk with Gov. Ron DeSantis about tourism and Florida’s re-opening. And he probably will say 50 or 100 times what a great leader we all have in President Donald Trump (let us bow our heads).

Mr. Pence, we know this is a quick trip and there won’t a lot of spare time. Besides, you’ll probably be back at least a dozen times between now and November, right Mr. VP?

But given the uncertainty in which we all live now, there are some things that we should mention for you to keep in mind in the land of 29 electoral votes.

More than 2,000 people have died in Florida of COVID-19, including 56 on Tuesday alone. The latter total is more than died in the Pulse nightclub slaughter in the city you’re visiting today. Surely, you heard about that.

Since you are the head of the nation’s COVID response, would you mention to DeSantis that it’s a bad, bad, bad idea to fudge the numbers to make yourself look good? That’s what the DeSantis team apparently has done, and it will bite them hard.

Rebekah Jones, who managed the public updates on the Florida Department of Health COVID dashboard, was recently removed from her job for doing her job.

Sounds weird, huh, right Mr. Pence? Come to think of it, maybe not – considering the guy you work for does that kind of stuff all the time.

Anyway, Jones said this in a farewell email to the staff and public: “As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months. After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it.”

Jones told Florida Politics her removal was “per order of the executive office.”

Mr. Pence, I know you’re not the most transparent guy in the world.

Still, you might tell DeSantis that anything less than full disclosure during a pandemic IS A LOUSY IDEA!

It’s Nixonian. Worse, once the public feels it isn’t getting the whole story, the people will never trust you again.

We know how important Florida is to your boss’s reelection chances. Frankly, he doesn’t have much (any) margin for error. The best thing Mr. Trump has going just now, frankly, is that Joe Biden has been basically invisible.

Don’t count on that remaining the status quo.

If anything, staying bunkered down at his family basement headquarters might make Biden an even more dangerous opponent. He’ll be fresh when/if full campaigning starts again. So, you might want to bone up on things that especially matter to Florida.

Your boss doesn’t believe in climate science. For the sake of everyone, do your best to change his mind before a Category 5 hurricane this fall does it for you.

I’m not saying converting to a belief in science would keep bad winds off our shores before Election Day. But if Florida gets clobbered again by one of those monster storms, enough voters might remember Trump’s mockery of climate change.

Think of it as a virus: It’s happening whether you believe it or not, and it could kill you.

So, we bid you welcome and hope you will stay safe until we see you again.

And whatever you do – don’t forget the mask.

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.


  • DisplacedCTYankee

    May 20, 2020 at 7:48 am

    I ducked into a 7-11 in Bradenton this morning, wearing a mask. Four men, a woman, and a clerk, NONE wearing a mask. The others didn’t even try to keep their distance from me. This really, really pisses me off. I’m 71 and suppose I look it. Came home, washed hands, gargled with Listerine. What else can anybody do? Thanks for nothing, Floriduh assholes.

  • Sonja Fitch

    May 20, 2020 at 11:10 am

    Another 71 year old. Mask it or casket! It ain’t just oldies. Our children are getting horrible reactions from this virus! Wear the damn mask!!!!

Comments are closed.


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