MAXWELL:  A repeat of a bad nominating decision

3/27/2002 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper



Like father, like son.

Gov. Jeb Bush’s father, President George Bush, stuck African-Americans in the eye with his nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. The elder Bush was determined to get back at blacks who liked nothing about him or his policies.

Like his father, Gov. Bush has stuck black Floridians in the eye with his appointment of Rudy Bradley to the Public Service Commission.

Both Bushes, who worked their tails off to eliminate affirmative action, gave affirmative action a black eye, as it were, with their appointments. Although he has proved to be a competent jurist, Thomas was not the most qualified person for the court. As for Bradley, well, he is unqualified to sit on the PSC. And Bush knows it.

Forget Thomas. This column is about Bradley.

Some background. Voters, mostly blacks, elected Bradley to represent them as a Democrat in the Florida House of Representatives and to support Democratic candidates, which is what party members (Republicans, too) usually do. Well, during the last gubernatorial race, Bradley supported Bush, the Republican. Bradley then switched parties, joining the GOP.

Angry voters threw the rascal out of elected office when he ran for the Florida Senate. They elected black Democrat Les Miller.

Now comes Bush. To thank the defeated Bradley for supporting him, Bush gave Bradley, 55, a big-deal job under Education Commissioner Charlie Crist. When a better job came along _ a $120,000-a-year opening on the PSC _ Jeb appointed Bradley, thumbing his nose at black Democrats who had given the turncoat what he had coming to him.

The PSC has the important function of regulating electricity and telephone rates statewide.

In a press release, Bush lauded Bradley’s “broad experience and knowledge” of the state’s utility issues. “Rudy is a friend and I trust him to be a good hardworking public servant,” Bush said. “He was actively involved in the regulated industry committee and his views in a general way I was most comfortable with.”

In a 35-4 vote, the Senate approved Bradley’s four-year appointment. Only Democrats _ all of them white _ opposed this travesty. Broward Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz courageously opposed the vote and rebuked her colleagues. She serves on the Senate Regulated Industries committee that interviewed Bradley, and she concluded that he was not prepared to trot (forget dash) from the starting gate.

Before the vote, she warned: “It is evident that he did not know what he should know. If we confirm him, we would be doing a disservice to the people of Florida.”

For her honesty, Wasserman Schultz fell victim to the race card, played by both black and white lawmakers. Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, a black, uttered the most outrageous racial nonsense. Here is part of what he told Wasserman Schultz: “Don’t stand up here before the state of Florida and say an African-American male is not qualified. . . . A master’s degree, but he’s not qualified. What else do you want him to do? Want him to go back to school and get qualified?”


Lawson is telling a white woman, along with other senators, that she cannot criticize an eminently unqualified black man. Bradley’s master’s degree in administration from the University of Michigan while living in Pinellas County does not have squat to do his qualification for the PSC.

The race card has introduced a new standard: Thou shalt not judge a black man, especially one with a master’s degree. As a black man, I am embarrassed by Lawson and others who said Bradley, a black man, was above reproach.

I agree with the view of a Times editorial in this matter: “Plenty of unqualified white nominees have preceded Bradley to the PSC over the years, but color-blind patronage is no sign of progress. Lawson should apologize to the senators he criticized for judging Bradley according to his qualifications rather the color of his skin.”

Lawson, along with the governor, has offended both white people and straight-thinking African-Americans _ the governor by appointing Bradley, Lawson by playing the race card. Determined to reward Bradley, Bush chose him over five other superior applicants. His dad did the same thing.

Like father, like son.