10 April 2005

Mel Martinez: A Disgrace for Florida

Following the initial reports that the infamous memo regarding Terri Schiavo originated from the office of U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida), the hits just keep coming for the junior senator from the Sunshine State. This weekend, Florida's newspapers took turns taking shots at the disgraced senator and rightfully so. In case you missed, here is what the senator did.

During the Terri Schiavo saga last month, the U.S. Congress sought to intervene in the private dispute between Terri's husband and her parents. As the U.S. Senate debated the issue, a memo was circulated among the members that spelled out how the GOP could use Terri Schiavo's situation for their own political gain. The memo was unsigned and mentioned how the issue could be harmful to Democrats, especially Florida's own Senator Bill Nelson, who is up for reelection in 2006. Republican senators denied any knowledge of the memo's origin, and conservative blogs manufactured a conspiracy theory that the memo was actually created by Democrats in order to harm Republicans. (Just like conservatives to make themselves the victims in every scenario.) Unfortunately for right-wing activists, the source of this despicable memo was discovered on Wednesday evening. Republican freshman, Senator Mel Martinez admitted that a senior member of his staff, Brian H. Darling, drafted the document, but Martinez denied any involvement in the creation of the political document. Later, it was reported that Martinez himself actually circulated the memo on the floor of the United States Senate.

Florida's papers voiced their disappointment in Martinez's conduct. The Palm Beach Post refused to believe Martinez's claim that he was not involved in the politics of the Schiavo issue, stating that "[i]t is beyond ludicrous to think that the politics of this issue began and ended with one staffer in a first-term senator's office." The conservative Orlando Sentinel concluded that Martinez's "reputation, which he worked hard to establish, has been damaged." And the ultra-conservative Tampa Tribune landed the most devastating blows to Martinez's character and integrity. "Martinez may have had personal and religious reasons for supporting the Schiavo legislation, but it's hard to believe he did not also consider - and talk to his staff about - the political implications of his actions. ... It's bad enough that the memo politicized the Schiavo case. It's terrible that it was put in writing. That it specifically targeted Bill Nelson is not a healthy sign for Florida." The Tribune continued, "Martinez apologized to Nelson's chief of staff. He should apologize to Nelson personally. He owes Floridians an apology, too, for allowing so public a wedge to be driven between our two senators."

Unfortunately for Floridians who expect their elected representatives to possess some degree of integrity, the latest conduct by Mel Martinez is just another incident in a long list of other similarly immoral acts. Martinez is trying to convince us that he wasn't involved in the memo scandal, but Floridians know better. As the Tampa Tribune reported, "Martinez expects the citizens of this state to believe he knew nothing of the memo's contents. Why should we? He has shown a breathtaking pattern of disingenuousness." Last year during the Republican primary for his U.S. Senate seat, Martinez's campaign unleashed an astonishingly harsh attack on Bill McCollum, stating that the former congressman was the "new darling of the homosexual extremists." This accusation was based on the congressman's previous support for hate crimes legislation. Martinez said that the statement was made by his staff without his knowledge, and he was forced to retract his attack on McCollum after Governor Jeb Bush and state Republicans condemned his attacks. During the general election, Martinez continued with his dirty tricks by falsely accusing his Democratic opponent, Betty Castor, of being a terrorist sympathizer. Then Martinez again hid behind his staff when a press release from his campaign accused law enforcement officers of being "armed thugs" for seizing Elian Gonzalez from the Miami home of his relatives. Martinez stated that the remark was "inappropriate" and that "[i]t was put out by someone in the office." Now, history repeats itself. University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said it best: "Mel Martinez seems to like delegating to the people working for him, and then distances himself from their dirty tricks. As a senator ... you are still responsible."

Floridians wish that they could believe Mel Martinez, but honestly they can't. As an anonymous GOP strategist pointed out, "It's just so familiar. It's never his fault." If this were an isolated incident, perhaps we could believe him. If it were the second time, we would remain suspect, but possibly give him the benefit of the doubt. But the fact that this is the third time in less than a year that Mel Martinez has blamed his staff for reprehensible behavior emanating from his office should lead us to believe that the senator is not being honest with us. Florida deserves better than Mel Martinez. Unfortunately, we're stuck with this immoral politician for the rest of the decade.


Anonymous gator78 said...

I didn't support Mel Martinez last year, but saying that I never expected him to be this bad. I guess the writing was on the wall during the campaign. He is still worse than anything I could have imagined.

10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what an embarrassment! can't we get him out sooner?

4:12:00 PM  

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