This column is a vehicle for a number of items in a bits-and-pieces, strictly opinion, sometimes irreverent format. Look for "Just Sayin'" to run once a week in this spot.
Philip Levine 'Has Been Bugging Us, Too'
Who turns up in Judicial Watch's court-ordered 1,184 pages of State Department records, including previously unreleased Hillary Clinton email exchanges, but Miami Beach Mayor and would-be-Florida-governor Philip Levine.
Seems Levine is among contributors given special access to the former secretary of state through unsecured email accounts released last Wednesday.
In a March 15, 2010, exchange, Clinton Foundation official Doug Band forwarded Hillary Clinton's assistant Huma Abedin a request for help from Levine.
There's no mistaking it. Levine was making a nuisance of himself. Neither Band nor Abedin knew what to do with him or how to make him go away. "He's been bugging us, too," Abedin tells Band. "We have done so much to try and help him!" Read the redacted email exchange for yourself here.
Fast forward to 2016 and serial Clinton contributor and surrogate Levine is renting out his 8,318-square-foot warehouse at 2215 NW 1 Pl. to Hillary for her South Florida campaign headquarters.
A 2016 Huffington Post interview with Levine reveals the genesis of the relationship between the mayor and former President Bill Clinton.
"In the early 1990s ... Philip Levine built a friendship with Bill Clinton. The pair first met at Levine’s Miami home where the businessman hosted a fundraising event for the former president over two decades ago. When Clinton asked Levine to join him in the limousine going back to Air Force One following the fundraiser, the two formed a lasting alliance. Throughout the 2000s, they travelled together to Saudi Arabia where Levine met King Abdullah and to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef where Clinton and Levine were together on 9/11."
Incidentally, Judicial Watch is still pressing for the Justice Department to begin an independent investigation into the Clinton email matter.
My View of the Aramis Ayala 'Movement' Differs from Leslie's
I don't often disagree with my friend and colleague, Leslie Wimes. Her comments on black issues come from a perspective I could never fully know. Certainly I always respect her point of view and I want to make that clear upfront.
But her latest take on Orange-Osceola State Attorney Armamis Ayala ("The Movement for Aramis Ayala," March 30)? I think it's a mile off.
I get that she admires Ayala, Florida's first African-American state attorney. And I certainly agree that the criminal justice system has failed the black community in America. I've seen it all my life, studied it and written about it. And anybody who says racial prejudice isn't pervasive in the criminal justice system in this country -- from local police forces to the judiciary to wherever prisoners are incarcerated -- either isn't opening his eyes or doesn't want to.
But that's as far as my agreement with "The Movement for Aramis Ayala" goes.
I don't think the governor was unjust, I don't think the Legislature was unjust. I do believe the heinousness of the murders committed -- a young, pregnant woman and an off-duty female police officer -- are the reason both might have overreacted, or reacted too quickly.
As for Ayala "only trying to do what she was elected to do" ... No way. She was trying do much more than that.
State law gives prosecutors, and that means Ayala, the discretion not to pursue the death penalty in individual cases. What she did, however, was adopt a general policy against the death penalty as long as she is in office -- which is until deep into 2020 -- and that's an abuse of that discretion.
And, by the way, nothing in Florida Statute 921.141 grants this discretion to a prosecutor. From what I understand, the procedures in a murder case are initiated by the indictment from the grand jury, not by any affirmative decision by the prosecutor.
Mostly, though, I take issue with Leslie's "lynch mob" hyperbole -- actually labeling Ayala "a black woman who is taking on people who are behaving like a 1950s-type lynch mob."
I was around in the 1950s. I can assure Leslie and anyone else: Nobody here today is "behaving like a 1950s-type lynch mob." I can't vouch for what's in their hearts, but I can remember as clear as yesterday, sitting in the back seat of the family Packard driving through Georgia, seeing a dozen-or-so men in white robes and hoods burning a cross in front of a church. It was terrifying. Boldly in the open. In broad daylight -- with cars full of peope, some of them law enforcement vehicles, streaming down the road seeing it. I was only 10 but it's something I'll remember till the day I die.
Trust me, if the rally for Aramis Ayala at the Capitol last Monday had happened in the 1950s, the city cops would have turned firehoses on the crowd before the first speaker opened his mouth, then they would have found an excuse to beat the protesters within an inch of their lives.
Sadly, we still have a long way to go to bring the races together in this country. That's just a fact. But comparisons to anything that happened in the 1950s, still the dark ages for race relations, are utterly, totally invalid.
The Ayala story shouldn't have been about black vs. white. As far as I'm concerned, a white state attorney could have uttered the same no-death-penalty declaration, and he/she would have been just as wrong.
Janet Reno, President Bill Clinton's U.S. attorney general, abhored the death penalty and made sure everybody knew it during her confirmation. Remember, she was a state attorney in Dade County first. Reno argued that though she didn’t write the law, she was obligated to enforce it. The Orlando Sentinel quoted her in a 1996 newspaper interview: "Before I ask for the death penalty, I make absolutely certain in my mind that this is the person who committed the crime -- that the aggravating circumstances arguably outweigh the mitigating circumstances and the evidence supports it. Then we ask for it."
I'm not sure who the attorneys and judges are who are coaching Ayala to wage a political war, but I'm pretty sure they're 1) driven by political hopes for 2018 and 2) aren't doing the new state attorney any favors.
I don't often disagree with Leslie. Her voice is bold, empowering and on target most of the time, and I wouldn't change that or the good she does for her community. I just don't think anybody thwarted Aramis Ayala but Aramis Ayala.
Quote of the Week
"It's true, I have chosen to continue serving my constituents in what will be my last term in the House and will not run for commissioner of agriculture. Thanks to everyone who reached out over the last year with words of encouragement and support, that means an awful lot to me. I have so many policy issues that I would like to see through to the end, like addressing how school districts implement seclusion and restraint policies for students with disabilities, sentencing reform in the criminal justice arena and revamping our approach to water quality and quantity for the long term." -- Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, on her Facebook page, following a Buddy Nevins blog on his BrowardBeat.com page.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith