by: David Arthur Walters:
Breakfast Club Meeting at Puerto Sagua, a famous Cuban restaurant on South Beach, was packed for the debate between Group 2 candidates Race for the city commission: Michael Grieco, a criminal lawyer and incumbent commissioner; Mark Samuelian, chess champion, wealthy investor and business management consultant; Rafael Valasquez, real estate broker and longtime immigration activist.
Of abiding interest to the audience was the character of the candidates in the wake of the character attacks of former prosecutor Dan Gelber on former prosecutor Grieco and vice versa in the mayoral race before Grieco dropped out of that race to run for his commission seat instead.
Samuelian immediately attacked Grieco’s character upon the discovery that he unexpectedly had the popular incumbent on his hands. He had praised Grieco before Grieco changed horses to run for his commission seat instead of the mayor’s office. He claimed that it was the troublesome revelation that Grieco probably lied that caused him to change his tune.
The usual charge against lawyers and politicians was preferred during the initial course of the campaign, that the candidates were liars, or, at the very least, dishonest.
Grieco had called Gelber dishonest for using an unethical poll called a push poll to defame him. So-called Dishonest Dan aka Pious Dan donned his yarmulke to preach a Torah lesson on the Tenth Commandment, implying that Grieco, who initially denied involvement in a political action committee, is motivated by the root of all evil; to wit: covetousness. Gelber had a handwriting expert find Grieco’s hand on the PAC documents. The state attorney is supposedly looking into that matter among other things in this Race. The mudslinging between the two stopped when Grieco dropped out to run for his own commission seat as if a pact had been made.
Valasquez vehemently declared at the breakfast meeting that Grieco has been a great commissioner, and that the character of a candidate is made obvious by the kind of campaign race he wages, implying that the excretions thrown into the wind by Samuelian against Grieco, to the effect that he is, to wit, a liar if not the Liar himself, have blown back and rendered Samuelian shit-faced, losing him hundreds of votes as he faces off against a candidate noted for getting several worthy things done although Grieco is tainted by his initial lapdog relationship with Mayor Philip Levine, the wealthy developer, and media mogul who “purchased” enough seats in the last race for control on the commission to render him a strong mayor in city with a weak mayor charter.
It was not long, however, before Grieco wised up to the mayor and bit the hand that fed him. He “evolved” to oppose the mayor, often impugned for his egotistical and vindictive behavior. Levine and Gelber were allegedly allies against Grieco the Ingrate, who now had two strikes against him: supporting Levine and opposing Levine.
And more than that, Grieco has not only the new but the old regime against him because he informed the breakfast diners, he is the dissident who went against both, bolstering the theory that there is no such thing as real reform of city politics, just good old boys and now girls, the political bureau of their wealthy peers and sponsors, rotating around the spoils.
Valasquez is not new to the devious human trait believed by some evolutionists to be essential for the survival of the fittest: lying. He was convicted in 2003, in a case that drew national press coverage, of lying to a federal immigration agent about his voting history during his naturalization interview in 2001, and he was acquitted of fraudulently voting as a non-citizen. His appeal failed. He forfeited his law license, served out his home detention and probation sentence, and his rights as a citizen were restored October 2014. He claims he was “crucified” by the federal government for his anti-war activism including organizing marches and calling President Bush, of all things, a “liar.” His participation in beneficent social programs and Democratic Party organizations since then are commendable.
His aspersions against their Texas idol did not sit well with the right-wing Cuban exile community. Lately, he has shouted in the face of Senator Marco Rubio for supporting the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act. He is certainly no friend of President Trump’s xenophobic program. He told the venerable leftist rag, The Miami New Times, that we live in an alarming, racist age that legitimizes the worst of human motives, so we must stand off and fight for the “character” of the community.
Unfortunately for his current campaign, Miami Beach as a community does not possess his ideal, melting-pot, immigration character. That is to say that his constituency is small on the beach, many of them in the country illegally. The powerful and wealthy descendants of immigrants on the beach are Cuban and Jewish, the outcome of a long struggle against naturally prejudiced Anglo-Saxons.
Valasquez, by the way, is of German-Peruvian descent, with the Peruvian meme obviously dominant albeit we could recall a few inordinately passionate German leaders to contest that dominance.
His passionate arguments—Latinos are of course known for their “hot” temperament—drew hardly a smattering of applause at the breakfast meeting although quite a few were amused by his ‘California immigrant’ style. Miami Beach is just too sophisticated for that kind of sincerity and honesty nowadays, even when put forward by a highly educated and intelligent candidate familiar with the local issues.
The electorate is not as keen on issues at it should be, for it votes its feelings rather than what it knows. Valasquez claimed that he has been the only candidate to definitively state on his web page his positions on issues. His page lets it all hang out biographically including his encounter with the law that he once had a license to practice.
Samuelian was smooth in his responses to the questions sent up on 3 X 5 cards by the audience. Those questions were approved of beforehand by former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, who regulated the debate for former Mayor Matti Bower, leaders of the old regime ousted by the Levinites. That preview process was reminiscent of that used by Silent Cal Coolidge, who insisted on answering only questions he approved of in advance. Of course, the regulation of the debate process was necessary because of the tendency of certain attendees to stand up and give long speeches instead of asking questions.
One question sent to Gonzales and not debated by the candidates was whether they would replace current City Manager Jimmy Morales so he could run against his current boss, Mayor Levine, for governor of Florida.
Samuelian, who has the support of many prominent members of the old regime, again raised his “troubling” doubt about the conduct of his most formidable opponent, Grieco, whom he must suspect of being, in a word, a habitual or pathological liar, because he evidently lied or was not forthcoming about his involvement in a PAC in a way that is prohibited of sitting commissioners. And what about the $200,000, which the PAC chairman said he would return but has not been returned?
“PAC” was a dirty acronym when Mayor Levine was legally raising money for one during his re-election campaign race, before the prohibiting ordinance was passed. Incidentally, there is a strong argument that PACs are paper tigers, that the hullabaloo over them is irrelevant nonsense designed to change the perceptions of fools. That is, it is not the PAC money, but what is said about PACs that influence outcomes.
Grieco responded to Samuelian’s debate question, stating that, first of all, he had no control over the $200,000, and, if he did, it would have already been refunded. Secondly, he said that he, like Matti Bower, would take donations from anyone, but he would nevertheless vote his conscience, and he proudly said that he had indeed voted against special interest donors many times.
Grieco did not respond to my follow-up email as to whether or not he had betrayed any donors, a question that also goes to character. On the other hand, if one becomes clearer on an issue that a contributor advocates, is changing one’s mind a betrayal? There are no guarantees, so what major contributors want to buy is access to the candidate to make their arguments. Still, if he broke a definite promise to a contributor, it is only fair for the contributor to call him a liar.
Samuelian was not satisfied with Grieco’s response. He wanted a straight answer to whether or not Grieco lied about the PAC, and he said he did not get one.
Grieco at one point was almost moved to tears. He referred to attacks on his dear family, apparently initiated by a vindictive opponent in his previous campaign for his commission seat, an apparently virulent attack on his marital status.
Grieco is well known as a devoted family man, and whether or not he is formally married to his partner is of no moment to anyone of note, including Samuelian, who denounced the attacks on Grieco, and stated, in a follow-up email, that he does not take issue with couples living out of wedlock because that is a matter of personal choice, i.e. a personal right.
Grieco did not respond to a follow-up email, as to whether he would announce his engagement or get married in advance if he ever ran for governor of the conservative state of Florida. Former Governor Crist married before elected. Mayor Levine recently announced his intention to run for governor and his engagement and expectation of a child.
Sometime after the breakfast meeting, Samuelian circulated a “troubling” statement along with a link to a publication that smeared Grieco with an accusation that he left town for Hurricane Irma instead of staying to help.
Grieco responded to the inference that he was a self-seeking coward with an admission that he took his family upstate for safety’s sake, and then returned to help the community. One can hardly blame a man for looking out for his family first of all, even though hardcore patriots put country before family. His Facebook advertisements and his boosters displayed photographs of him helping people in the wake of Irma, and for his birthday it was announced on Facebook that he made a donation to the dogs of Key West. His conspicuous beneficence and charity is appreciated inasmuch as it undoubtedly motivated his many followers to follow suit.
A political personality named “Janis Saxon,” whose Facebook profile was a picture of a dog and now is a Mark Samuelian political poster overlaid with a Dan Gelber political portrait is rumored to be a sitting commissioner in drag and an attack dog for Mayor Levine and the source of many personal attacks on Grieco.
Samuelian did not respond to a follow-up email noting that he may have been made a fool of by an online drag queen. Neither did he respond to the suggestion that attacking his opponent’s morality and ethics is costing him votes and that he would be better off questioning his opponent’s ability to predict the course of hurricanes.
Samuelian might have focused more on his business success, which could have been better emphasized and repeated at least three times at the breakfast meeting instead of talking about the alleged failings of his opponent, who has, after all, sponsored several projects of great benefit to the community.
Samuelian mentioned his early experience in a beauty shop and is known to be a very wealthy man. A simple storyline might have been drawn; for example, that he got his start sweeping up hair; he saved that hair to stuff in pillows to sell, and invested the proceeds from pillow sales in a sofa company; he sold the company and made a fabulous fortune in the stock market; and so on, from rags to riches, and therefore his involvement in conspicuous charitable works with the money he could have wasted, that being a platform for political offices that would allow him to employ his talents to save the world.
The bottom line is not who lied. Again, politicians and lawyers are popularly characterized as professional liars. Carl Schmitt, the fascist doctor of jurisprudence and political science whose works were highly esteemed by intellectual members of the Bush Administration, pointed out that, given the diverse conflicting interests of a large population, a political leader must lie to get anything done.
The bottom line depends on the personal likes and dislikes of individuals with differing perspectives and prejudices, the majority of whom individually do not have enough true information to make a wise decision yet somehow as a crowd has more than their collective ignorance, the wisdom to pick the best candidate. Still, the more people know the better if intuition is going to work well for them.
Samuelian has a video of the breakfast meeting on Facebook. He has been asked to contact the owner and request it be uploaded on YouTube for everyone to watch to form their own opinion on.