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Nancy Smith

Justin Sayfie, GWDSIL; Delusional Bill Nelson, Zero

February 5, 2011 - 6:00pm

Justin Sayfie, I apologize. I wanted to call you my hero in the headline, but I didn't get a chance to run it by Lucy Morgan first.

I tried to go it alone last week and write a headline without asking Lucy's permission. Bad idea. l think I prodded an already unfriendly diva.

So, for now, Justin, I'm going to call you Guy Who Did Something I Like.


It's Justin Sayfie's twitter from last week I like so much. By implication, it refers to the press corps' outrage over Rick Scott's "bad dog" routine. Scott maybe didn't realize Tallahassee is obedience school. As Lucy told Politico, "It's hard to break in new governors."

Never harder than right now, I'm betting.

But the attorney, political consultant and publisher put it all in perspective.

"I wonder what Lucy Morgan thinks of this & this & this #sayfie," Sayfie twittered.

Click on any one of those three sites. You'll find we've got a blue president behaving like our red governor. Like Scott, Barack Obama doesn't want much to do with the press corps when he's busy.

Last week during the political crisis in Egypt, the president circled the wagons at the White House. He failed to address the press pool before or after the Cabinet meeting, shortened his media e-mail list and shut the press pool out of substantive updates on Egypt and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

When Obama signed the highly anticipated START deal with Russia -- it's the first Senate-ratified treaty since the president took office -- only photographers were allowed in. No press pool. No questions.

Talk about a crew of reporters who feel irrelevant.

The White House Correspondents' Association is hot to trot. It's urging Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs to open up. The association's board wrote a letter to Gibbs insisting Obama's e-mails "are not a substitute for access to the press secretary or the president."

The president, meanwhile, believes he has quite enough access to the people, thank you very much. He's been on more than a dozen talk shows since he was elected. He even appeared around the globe on FOX with conservative Bill O'Reilly in the shank of the Super Bowl pre-game show.

Come to that, the first words out of his mouth to O'Reilly were a celebration of journalists' courage and value to the republic, particularly during the violence in Cairo. Lofty stuff. And I think he meant it.

But, like Rick Scott, the president doesn't see a need for the middle man -- and I'm talking about the press corps. Both men have more success going straight to the people. Obama uses network and cable television, Scott his private plane.

Times they are a-changin' -- that's all there is to it. And maybe the press corps should change with them.

How useful is the time-honored question-and-answer press conference, anyway? Ask yourself. Does shouting out questions over each other rabble-style -- as if media people still compete instead of cooperate and hammer out the same story -- increase the press corps' ability to write what readers need to know? To speak to power?

In all the years I've covered elected officials or sent reporters off to get stories for a newspaper, never once have I seen a Big Story broken because a reporter asked a question at a press conference or crowded an official in a hallway gaggle.

Reporters write great stories by getting off their duffs, doing legwork till it hurts, talking to sources. And the excellent reporters at the Florida Press Center, in the Capitol press corps -- and there are so many good ones among them -- know this very well. That's how they do their best work.

Justin Sayfie's twitter pointed out what a futile fight Tallahassee journalists are engaged in. They aren't up against one man, they're up against a new era.

Sen. Bill Nelson, Zero

Last week during a radio show -- and I confess, I don't know if it was a live or recorded interview -- I listened to Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson describe himself, politically anyway, as a moderate.

"I think I reflect the moderate point of view that the majority of Floridians hold," Nelson said.

Moderate? Bill, please.

You aren't Dianne Feinstein or Ted Kennedy liberal, that's true, but look at yourself: President Barack Obama can count on your vote 89 percent of the time, you get high ratings from lefty organizations like Americans for Democratic Action and low ones from right-of-center groups like Eagle Forum and Club for Growth.

You voted for the health care bill when it became law. But as soon as it got mixed reviews in the polls, apparently it mixed you up, too, because now you say you're against it.

Well, sometimes that's what you say, sometimes not.

On Feb. 3, when ABC News asked you what would happen if the Supreme Court threw out the health care law, you sounded mighty proud of helping to draft it right -- or should I say, left?

Here's what you said, Bill: I think that's a possibility, but it's not a probability. We were very careful when we crafted this law. It is going to pass constitutional muster. There might be parts of it that might be struck down. But there is at the end of it what is called a severability clause, that says if parts are stuck down, that doesn't strike down the whole law.

You outed yourself there, Senator. You are a liberal.

Here's the problem as I see it. These new folks coming along in the other party are looking at extremely-vulnerable-you, licking their lips and nipping at your heels. They're all channeling something big going on out there in Tea Country. And it isn't liberal.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos isn't Katherine Harris. Come to that, neither is George LeMieux. They're going to have more money and better support. And, in case you haven't noticed, this isn't 2006 either.

You're the only statewide-elected Democrat left in Florida, Bill, standing on a lonely island. You're an endangered species. Better take a new, realistic inventory of your stock. And if I were you, I'd put a lid on moderate.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at (850) 727-0859.

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