This story was originally published in Around the Block
If only Seinfeld was still on the air to riff on our current slate of State Chief Executives
Back in the early days of Seinfeld, Jerry would start the show off with a scene from one of his stand-up acts. And invariably, at least one bit would begin with his signature intro line: “What’s the deal with…”.
Alas, the Seinfeld show is gone, so you’re going to have to make do with me to opine on our current, ridiculously bad, group of governors.
Be honest, haven’t you been thinking “what is the deal with governors”? Have we ever seen a time when so many governors are doing, saying and acting like…what’s the word I’m looking for…buffoons? And for many, buffoons who are doing serious damage to the their constituents?
Let’s review. And, lest you think this will be another of Around the Block’s “let’s pick on the GOP rants, I’ll start off with…Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York.*
(*I’d better get this finished today while he’s still governor)
It was a little over a year ago that Andrew Cuomo was the heartthrob of the Democratic party. His daily coronavirus updates were must see TV. As the Democratic primary season dragged on with no clear favorite, Cuomo was talked about as the savior of the party; perhaps the only Democrat with the experience, name recognition and popularity who could handily beat Trump. I even devoted three columns to him: Andrew Cuomo? Yes, Andrew Cuomo https://around-the-block.com/2020/03/22/andrew-cuomo-yes-andrew-cuomo/ and Andrew Cuomo? Yes, Andrew Cuomo! – Broken Record Edition (https://around-the-block.com/2020/03/26/andrew-cuomo-yes-andrew-cuomo-2/) and ‘Draft Cuomo 2020’ groundswell emerges amid the NY governor’s coronavirus response(https://around-the-block.com/2020/04/02/draft-cuomo-2020-groundswell-emerges-amid-the-ny-governors-coronavirus-response/).
Since it’s been at the top of the news for the last few weeks, I’m not going to devote any more space to Cuomo’s (putting it mildly) indiscretions or his arrogant, obnoxious defense of them. But my goodness, what a difference a year makes!
Maintaining the “What’s the deal with governors?” Democratic theme, I give you none other than Governor Gavin Newsom of California. Tall, movie star good looks, great political pedigree, Newsom seemed to have it all…even, perhaps, a presidential run a few cycles down the road. Unfortunately for Gavin, his road trip to the top has encountered a speed bump, namely the arcane California recall process, the same process that gave Californians “The Governator,” Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Why are Republicans trying to recall Newsom? Well, mainly because he’s a Democrat and given the state’s deep blue hue, the only way the GOP can ever hope to gain the governorship in the near future is to have an incumbent sneak in. Now that’s not to say Newsom has been a completely faultless chief executive. While the petition accuses him of favoring illegal immigrants; not “fixing the high homelessness in California, high taxes, and low quality of life among other things, he’s also been inconsistent in his approach to the pandemic (who hasn’t?), including his misguided attendance at a birthday party with more than three households at The French Laundry restaurant in Yountville despite guidelines issued by his own administration which limited private gatherings to at most three households. He then exacerbated the situation by lying that the party was held outdoors; it wasn’t as documented by photographs of the event. Has Newsom’s term as governor been a disaster? Of course not. Is his hubris a problem? Clearly. But given that there will be something like 64 candidates for governor on the recall ballot, odds are, he will retain his position and, hopefully, move off the “What’s the deal with governors?” list.
Now that I’ve got those two out of the way, let’s see who else.
Without question, number one is Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. There are so many instances of “What’s the deal with Ron DeSantis?” I could go on all day. But here’s the shortlist:
- He was one of only 16 governors never to issue a statewide mask mandate;
- He banned municipalities from punishing people who refused to follow local mask orders;
- While the pandemic continued to rage last fall, he allowed restaurants and other businesses to reopen at full capacity;
- .He signed an executive order and legislation preventing businesses from insisting that customers be vaccinated, causing a showdown with cruise lines that want to use “vaccine passports” to lure travelers;
- He claimed that vaccine passports are actually “deep state” plots that must be resisted at all costs;
- The pandemic is now virtually out of control in Florida due to the Delta variant, but he signed an executive order banning mask mandates for schools and then threatened to withhold the pay of superintendents and school board members who ignore the order;
- As frightened constituents at home were coping with the Delta variant, DeSantis slipped out of town, traveling to Petoskey, Michigan, Milwaukee, Las Vegas and San Diego to raise money for re-election;
- He coddles the anti-vaxx crowd, and even came out against the mandatory vaccinations of medical workers at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital which required them;
- When President Biden asked governors’s to help or get out of the way, he shot back by blaming Florida’s rise in Covid cases on Biden’s inability to fix the southern border crisis saying, “illegal immigrants from the southern border are spreading Covid in Florida, which is, of course, pure nonsense
- And, as Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel opined in a recent Op-ed, is sacrificing his constituents’ safety at the altar of political ambition.
Number two, and duking it out with DeSantis for the top spot, is Governor Gregg Abbot of Texas:
- He threatened to fine local officials who enforce new mask mandates.
- In a state that’s vying with Florida as the hottest of the Covid hot spots this summer, he said, “Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19. They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities;”
- He, like his self-serving Florida cousin, claimed, “The dramatic rise in unlawful border crossings has also led to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases among unlawful migrants who have made their way into our state, and we must do more to protect Texans from this virus and reduce the burden on our communities;”
- He announced that he was going to match Trump’s stupidity in his state saying that, “Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows,” and that he was going restart building Trump’s useless and mostly nonexistent border wall, but gave few details on how he’d actually accomplish that feat since the state has little authority to do so, given the fact that much of the land is privately or federally owned.
Next up, Missouri Governor Mike Parsons. Less well known than his two big state colleagues, Parsons definitely belongs on the “What’s the deal…?” list, if only for, as this headline from Slate attests, Remember the Couple Who Waved Guns at Protesters? The Missouri Governor Just Pardoned Them. From the article:
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson made good on his promise and pardoned the couple who gained national attention after waving their guns at social justice demonstrators who marched past their home in St. Louis last year. Mark McCloskey had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault and was fined $750, while Patricia McCloskey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was fined $2,000. Neither one was facing jail time, and because the convictions were misdemeanors, they didn’t face the prospect of losing their law licenses or their rights to own guns.
OK, you say, as disreputable as this was, governors, like presidents, have the right to pardon whomever they want with no no rationale or questions asked. And, if you did say that, you’d be correct. But wait, there’s more.
Kevin Strickland has been behind bars in Missouri for decades even though several prosecutors have said he is innocent of a 1978 triple homicide. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has said that her office believed the evidence used to convict Strickland in 1979 has since been “eviscerated.” Federal prosecutors, Jackson County’s presiding judge and members of the team that convicted Strickland agreed that he should be exonerated. Yet, he still sits in prison.
On the day in August that Governor Parson pardoned the McCloskey’s (by the way, Mark McCloskey is running for the U.S. Senate seat in Missouri – now isn’t that special), he also pardoned 10 others and commuted two more sentences. But not Kevin Strickland. Parson, who has over 3,000 clemency requests on his desk, claimed that he wasn’t completely convinced of Strickland’s innocence. Strickland, Parson said, “was not a priority,” going on to say that he didn’t think Strickland’s situation deserved to “jump the line.” Well, certainly not before the McCloskey’s given that they served no prison time and Strickland has been in prison, though innocent, for 42 years!
I could go on*, as I did in April 2020 with the post, “Dumbestest!” (https://around-the-block.com/2020/04/21/dumbestest/) and in July 2020 with “Who’s the Dumbest Republican Governor?,” (https://around-the-block.com/2020/07/22/whos-the-dumbest-republican-governor/) but you’re getting the picture.
(* including, Brian Kemp – Georgia; Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas; Kristi Noem, South Dakota; Kevin Stitt (Oklahoma).)
So, let me get serious for a second. Unlike other really self-serving, disingenuous, power-hungry politicians in Congress like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, etc;. the simply dumb ones like Mo Brooks, Louie Gohmert and Devin Nunes, etc.; and the evil, disreputable ones, including Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, etc., all of whose actions don’t really have a direct influence or effect on a citizen’s everyday life, governors’ actions do. And in the case of the above governors, what they’re doing, and not doing can, and does, not only effect their constituents, it literarily kills them!
I began this essay with the question, “What’s the deal with governors?” I think I’ve answered it. They’re more concerned about their power, their careers, their egos and their self-preservation than they are about the people whom they govern. And that, my friends, is a truly bad deal for the rest of us.
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