Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Just Plain Weird

Miami Herald commentator Michael Putney tries to get an interview with an elusive prey.

I talked to Katherine Harris the other day, and it wasn’t easy. Not the talking part, the finding – the – candidate – and – getting – permission – to talk – to – her part.

The two-term Sarasota congresswoman and star of Florida’s 2000 election was perfectly willing to go on Fox News last week to field some soft balls from Sean Hannity about her new and improved Senate campaign. But she canceled a news conference two days later with Florida reporters and was not available to sit down with me for 12 minutes of free TV air time on Sunday even though she was in town.

I eventually caught up with Harris last Saturday at one of her ”grass fire” campaign events in Fort Lauderdale. Speaking to about 30 people at a restaurant, she spent a lot of time talking about her commitment to keeping Florida ”strong in job creation,” building adequate infrastructure and making sure we have enough evacuation routes during hurricanes. She also scolded the media for ignoring her sponsorship of ”Carlie’s Law,” named for Carlie Brucia, which calls for harsher probation for anyone convicted of a committing a crime against a child. All well and good, but if she thinks she’ll be elected to the U.S. Senate on any of these issues, she’s delusional.


It looks like Harris is floating merrily along on the far-right side of the political mainstream and can’t even see the other shore. It’s not just that she sees the world through rose-colored Prada glasses, she sees it through a different prism. Hers is a Weltenschauung based on privilege and plutocracy. As the granddaughter of one of Florida’s great citrus and cattle barons, Ben Hill Griffin, you can understand why. But Harris gives no sign of understanding or even empathizing with the plight of Floridians who struggle to find a decent job, make their mortgage payments, buy groceries or see a doctor when they get sick.


If Harris can rebuild her staff, which has suffered from high turnover, and bring some discipline to her campaign, Harris could make it interesting. She could also get a good deal of ”free” media should she ever decide to deal straightforwardly with reporters. I doubt that will happen. After her speech last Sunday to the conservative Reclaiming America conference, she refused to speak to the media.

Perhaps one reason is that Harris knows her unscripted TV appearances are not confidence-builders or vote-getters. As I watched her on Hannity & Colmes last week, a name from the past sprang to mind: Paula Hawkins. The former Florida senator was another nice lady but something of a ditz. She and Harris share the same unsettling effect: slightly off-kilter, too smiley, emotionally disproportionate and occasionally just plain weird.

Any further sightings in the wild of this rara avis should be reported immediately to the nearest blogger.