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Frank Artiles’ racist and misogynist rant in front of fellow senators gathered at a Tallahassee bar is disgraceful enough. Now here come some of his fellow Republican Cuban-American lawmakers from Miami to the rescue of his political life.
One argues that the Senate isn’t qualified to judge him. Another conveniently says it’s time to move on to other business.
What could they possibly be missing?
There’s no sugarcoating the harm of Artiles’ words. He called Senate President Joe Negron a “pussy” and called the senators in the GOP caucus that elected him “niggas.” He called Sen. Audrey Gibson, an African American Democrat from Jacksonville sitting across the table from him at the Governor’s Club, a “bitch” and a “girl.”
He made matters worse with an insincere apology in the Senate, blaming his lack of basic human decency on growing up in Hialeah and living in a “diverse community” where “we share each other’s customs.” Never mind that Hialeah is 95 percent Hispanic. That’s how twisted and incompetent he is as a legislator and a person. He managed to leave no one unscathed.
He shames the people who elected him. He shames the Cuban-American community from which he hails. He shames the office he holds. He certainly shames Hialeah, where I grew up without the N-word being tossed around me, a city whose fierce political battles I covered as a Herald reporter without witnessing Artiles’ brand of gutter mentality on public display.
But maybe he was referring to former Rep. Ralph Arza, the Cuban Ameican Republican who in 2006 threw racial epithets at Miami-Dade’s African American school superintendent and left ethnic slurs on a legislator’s voicemail, using the N-word in a drunken stupor. Gov. Jeb Bush pressured for Arza to step down. His friend and House Speaker Marco Rubio had no choice but to discipline him. Arza was forced to resign.
And now here’s Artiles. As if his original sins weren’t enough, he further devalues and underestimates all of us by boasting, right after delivering his lame apology, that not only is he not resigning, he’s filing already to run for re-election in 2018.
There’s no remedy for what ails him.
Artiles bullied Gibson, saying that if she didn’t want him to mess with her bills, she better not mess with his. A table full of people heard his rants. Just like witnesses saw him punch a college student at a bar two years ago and a political opponent caught him on tape using a slur for Arabs and Muslims, “hajis.”
He shouldn’t get away with such behavior with the slap on the wrist of a reprimand.
Since he’s too arrogant to resign, he deserves nothing less than expulsion from the Senate by his colleagues. It won’t be much of a loss. Artiles’ claim to fame is a 2015 House bill to regulate use of the public potty that, thankfully, didn’t go anywhere. The bill was payback for Miami-Dade’s passage of a Human Rights Ordinance he opposed because he’s also a homophobe.
He needs anger-management therapy, not another term in office.
But he’s a useful fool to the alliance of conservative Cuban-Americans from Miami with conservatives from North and Central Florida, the kind of powerful coalition that gave rise to Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott, and Donald Trump.
And so, instead of profusely apologizing to the African-American community and to the women of Florida for Artiles’ comments, future House Speaker Rep. Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes compounds our shame by throwing a lifeline to his buddy and Tally roommate.
He’s trying to shift attention from Artiles’ wrong-doing to the Senate investigation of his actions and possible expulsion.
“His comments are reprehensible,” Oliva told a Herald/Times reporter. “But it’s not that he acted stupidly, the issue is how can he be judged by the people he injured?”
Likewise, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, head of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation, bemoans that more time has been spent on Artiles than on “what we’re going to do as a state for the next 20 years in gaming….I think we’re all ready to move on.”
After all, they can count on Miami-Dade voters forgiving and forgetting.
Just ask Arza, who bills himself as “a trusted political advisor and strategist” and friend of Rubio’s. He was on the presidential campaign trail in religious Iowa preaching the gospel according to Marco.
The legislators throwing a lifeline to Artiles are missing nothing.
What you’re seeing is the good old Republican Cuban Boys Club in action.