Politics — more big time
We knew that the big time would come again to Tampa Bay, specifically to our city, Sarasota. There has been more Republican action in town this year; I suppose you can chalk that up to the primary activity in the GOP. The Republican Convention up in Tampa had to have some spill over to this area, if only for available hotel rooms. That’s good for us.
It also had what was billed as a major event just before convention opening. The Republican Party of Sarasota County hosted its 2012 Statesman of the Year Dinner Sunday, Aug. 26 at the Ritz-Carlton. This event honored Donald Trump. You see we are in the big time, even if it was a fundraising special. I was fortunate to be invited to this event as Press; maybe even I have made it.
Your reporter has been to a lot of these events. I’ve been in the K of C hall, the Sarasota Yacht Club (SYC) and in a tent in a citrus field. The Ritz is a new high for me. I read the preliminary attendee list of almost 400. As usual I didn’t see any clear LBK representation. I suspect that we’d do better at Democratic Party events. Charlotte isn’t so far. It’s further from the coastal storms too.
Tropical Storm Isaac didn’t dampen this event. This gathering was billed by the Sarasota Republicans as the Convention-Kickoff Dinner with Donald Trump. Donald and Ms. Trump braved the Sunday afternoon pre-tropical storm weather to fly into SRQ. He faced the press before the main event. I was impressed by this friendly and gracious man. He seems at ease before the press, local and national. They were both here. I didn’t get a question in, but I did shake his hand. That’s hand number two; Mitt’s was number one at the SYC.
A light rain started to fall as I drove over the bridge to the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota. The early arrivals were light, as I noticed the valets speeding cars to the ballroom garage. I parked my old Saab in the street. It was a tight squeeze, some skills just remain. As the weather finally deteriorates later Sunday afternoon, this event appears to indeed be the kickoff to the festivities of the Republican National Convention – now scheduled to start Tuesday, a day later than planned.
The early hype says there will be 1,000 people at the dinner, impressive. Trump is now reported to be flying to Sarasota from New York — returning to New York after this event and not going to Tampa. The press contingent is large, print and electronic journalists present. The TV Channels are well represented.
I notice that Trump apparently travels without handlers, at least visible ones. Of course he is not a candidate, eh? This is the grit of retail politics — follow the newsmaker, maybe he’ll say something. The man arrives. Joe Gruters, the local party chairman introduces the honoree. Trump knows Joe’s name. Gruters says, again, that we’re taking our country back. Trump opens by saying that we’ve raised a lot of money tonight. He notes that, “the country is in serious decline.”
A reporter asks what advice Trump might have for Paul Ryan. Trump replies, “Ryan is doing a great job. He lives an exemplary life; is in the public spotlight; adds energy.” He adds, “Ryan will save Medicare” — the takeaway line.
Another asks about Trump’s convention role. Donald says he is going to New York after dinner. “A big role had been planned for me at the convention. We’ll see what develops.” In answer to another question Trump says that the Obama campaign is the most negative. McCain chose to be nice — that didn’t work out.
Trump says, “Four more years and we may not have a country left. Mistake (for Romney) would be to be too politically correct.”
In reply to a question about Romney’s comment on Obama’s birth records, Trump says, “What I say about Obama’s birth doesn’t matter. I’m still with Romney.” Question: “Is Obama’s birth certificate an issue you will be pushing?” Trump replies, “We’ll see.”
Reporter from the Washington Times asks about Trump’s relation with Romney. Trump says, “I have a good relationship with the Romney campaign. Mitt’s visions on many issues are mine.” Trump brings up current rise in gasoline prices. He says that “OPEC can’t wait to raise oil prices.”
The Miami Public TV station asks what does Statesman of the Year mean. Trump replies, “People like what I say. The country is in serious decline. China rips us, also OPEC. People want to hear the truth. So being a statesman means talking this truth.”
Another asks what messages need to be sent to voters. Trump says that late polls show Romney-Ryan up. “Mitt had to win Florida in primary.” “Mitt did well in winning Florida primary,” Donald says, “I love Florida.”
I enjoyed my exposure to the give and take of a press conference. Trump gave us 20 minutes, before moving on to the heavy donors.
This piece was a tale of politics — big time in a small city.
We learned of a bigger bit of news, if not of politics, of the rule of law. This news was published in the form of a decision of the Florida Second District Court of Appeal sitting in Lakeland. That Court affirmed the ruling of the 12th Circuit in Sarasota, which had quashed the town-approved development order in favor of the Longboat Key Club’s expansion application. Ramifications of this action will be seen in these pages and elsewhere in the days and weeks to come.
This non-lawyer finds it refreshing that four judges in two courts will rule in favor of justice when a local government takes action contrary to its own law and the rights of others. This really is a wonderful country.