By appointing Mike Bennett his president pro tempore a mostly ceremonial jester of a job with a puffed-up title our incoming Senate president showed me hes one smart dude.
Bennett is not Mike Haridopolos friend. And Haridopolos knows it.
So, how come, with 26 worthier Republicans available in the Senate, would our Merritt Island man-of-the-hour so elevate this loutish reprobate from Bradenton? I think I know why.
Never mind the soppy praise for Bennett in his press announcement.
I think Haridopolos watched The Godfather 2 and embraced Michael Corleone's philosophy: You keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
Two years ago when Haridopolos was rounding up votes to be the Senate president after Jeff Atwater, Bennett decided he would make a play for the Senate presidency himself. It was too late but he didn't care. He used every cheap trick in the book to challenge Haridopolos. He even enlisted the help of his lobbyist buddy David Ramba and -- on Bennett's end, anyway -- the "campaign" grew increasingly vile.
Bennett wanted to be the Big Cheese. He liked the sound of it, Im told. No, he flat-out loved the sound of it: President Bennett Mr. President "Senate President Bennett ...
Even though the whistle had blown and the game was over and Haridopolos' victorious team had left the field, there was Bennett still strutting around the stadium with his chest out, bragging about his chances. In January 2009, he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that he could have won if he'd kept going, that he was only throwing in the towel for the sake of Party unity.
In the end, it was a humiliation for defeated candidate Bennett and a disturbing obstacle a Senate president-to-be didn't need.
The wound never healed. During the 2010 session, Haridopolos wanted the ultrasound bill passed; Bennett opposed it. Now Haridopolos wants the Legislature to take a right turn; Bennett remains a moderate.
Let's call a spade a spade. It wasn't love that brought Haridopolos to Bennett with the Big Promotion on Tuesday. It was smarts. It was knowing there's a way to tie him up, shut him up, stop him up like a bottle of Merlot with a tight cork.
How? You make him part of the leadership. You keep him where you can see him -- where he can't run one of his shake-downs without the rest of the Senate leadership knowing -- where he has to vote with his Senate president because he has no choice. You mute his voice at the table.
You make him president pro tempore.
What brilliant strategy.
Two years ago, Bennett the perpetrator of fraud stiffed Flagship National Bank out of $1.8 million and the Bradenton bank went under. That story still hasn't finished.
Then, on the last day of the 2010 legislative sesssion, Bennett the voyeur was caught on the Senate floor opening e-mail of scantily clad women at the beach. Sounds inappropriate but relatively harmless, right? It wasn't. The video of the incident traveled around the world and made Bennett a one-click laughingstock in more than a dozen countries. And it reflected just as badly on the Florida Senate.
Bennett has two years to go and the Senate will get its wish. He'll be gone, having done as little harm as possible in that time. President pro tempore -- an absolute stroke of genius from a Senate president waiting in the wings, Mike Haridopolos.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.