By Rep. Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
It seems a week doesn’t go by where I am not astounded at the level of ungratefulness and hypocrisy in politics. This week, the Ungrateful Backstabber Award goes to Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Roselló for having endorsed Sen. Bill Nelson in his reelection bid against Gov. Rick Scott.
To be sure, a Democrat endorsing another Democrat is no shocking development. But here’s the thing: no national or state public figure has been more proactive in bringing assistance to Puerto Rico, nor done more to accommodate displaced Puerto Ricans, than Gov. Rick Scott. He’s simply been the best friend Puerto Rico has had after the devastation.
Hurricane María hit the island territory Sept. 20, 2017. Although the initial casualty figures were amazingly low, everyone knew the true scope of the devastation and humanitarian crisis was going to be colossal. This was an island far removed from the mainland that had essentially lost the totality of its power grid. There was no drinkable water for its 3.3 million inhabitants. Its roads were blocked or destroyed. There was no ground access to the island’s interior. No access to the rural, poorer communities far from Puerto Rican harbors and docks. No schools for kids, and countless roofless homes stood as irregularly shaped remnants stripped of their abilities to provide protection or comfort from the elements.
By Sept. 21, 2017, it was clear that Puerto Rico was America’s greatest humanitarian challenge. Of course, the federal government helped, eventually approving $2.2 billion of aid. Cargo ships made their way to the beleaguered island to drop off supplies and personnel. The U.S. military set up around-the-clock operations inclusive of countless helicopter sorties to send water and food into the island’s interior. And, of course, President Trump visited the island on Oct. 3.
But consider the totality of actions by Gov. Scott.
- On Sept. 28, a mere eight days after the hurricane hit, Scott — at Roselló’s request — traveled to Puerto Rico, not for a show of support, but to coordinate the island’s response and recovery efforts! Let’s not forget, Scott was already juggling Florida’s response to Hurricane Irma, the largest natural disaster to have ever hit the state, from a mere 10 days earlier.
- On Oct. 5, through the actions of Scott, Florida became a FEMA host-state for Puerto Rico — the only state to do so. Throughout the month of October, Scott traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Congressman Michael McCaul, and the Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, among countless others, to advocate, not just for Florida, but for Puerto Rico.
- Scott sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget pleading for assistance for Floridians and Puerto Ricans. He sent a contingency of utility workers to Puerto Rico to help in the infrastructure reconstruction efforts.
- Scott aided Puerto Rican families that had been displaced by the effects of the hurricane by activating Florida’s Emergency Response Team.
- Scott adjusted Florida’s school requirements to accommodate displaced Puerto Rican children and insisted that the Legislature provide funding to accommodate for the influx of these students.
- And on Jan. 11, 2018, Scott met with Puerto Ricans, in a town hall in Puerto Rico, with Gov. Rosselló at his side to discuss the status of the island’s ongoing relief efforts.
Truly, the list of documented, selfless and life-saving activities by Gov. Scott in support of people not in his jurisdiction who were suffering from the devastating effects of a massive natural disaster while responding to his own state’s challenges, cannot be recorded.
Of course, Sen. Nelson did his part. He visited Puerto Rico on Oct. 16, 2017. During his visit, he flew with Roselló in a helicopter to go inland. And while speaking in San Juan, he encouraged displaced Puerto Ricans to register to vote in Florida because “they have been very embracing of my public service.” Of course, he clarified that he was not encouraging them to depart forever.
Nelson also assured Puerto Ricans that FEMA would do its part while again noting that he has a close tie to Puerto Rico because he lives in Orlando. And, of course, Nelson stood out by supporting the delivery of aid to the island at the federal government’s expense, along with every other member of the United States Senate.
Basically, Nelson campaigned in every one of his minimal efforts.
One would think that in light of the colossal work Gov. Scott has done on behalf of Puerto Rico, work that is unparalleled by any other national or state figure and truly stands as being beyond the call of duty, that Puerto Rico’s own governor would demonstrate some semblance of gratitude towards him. But instead, what Roselló did on Monday was to deploy the political knife, sharpen it, and insert it into the back of Puerto Rico’s greatest advocate and champion, Gov. Rick Scott.
But that’s par for the course for Democrats today.
Even Roselló has recognized his own hypocrisy by clarifying that, in his opinion, both Nelson and Scott are “great people running for office,” and that, “In no way should one take this as a negative toward somebody. It’s a positive for somebody. This might fall on deaf ears, but we need to steer away from, in every contest, to see who the villain is and the superhero is. In many cases we have find folks running for office.”
Indeed! And in the world of political endorsements one’s position in such circumstances is to stay out of it.
The truth is that Roselló’s endorsement isn’t going to make a hill of beans of difference to the outcome of Florida’s senatorial race. But in supporting Nelson, Roselló has made a resounding statement about his lack of values, integrity, and loyalty. The big loser in this endorsement exercise is not Scott, who Roselló was aiming to injure, but Roselló himself who has cheapened the value of his word and demonstrated himself to be a political hack.
Clearly, in this case, Roselló’s best option was to simply shut up.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and cohost of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod. Dr. Gonzalez is presently serving in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.
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