‘A Paradise Of Scandals’

‘A PARADISE OF SCANDALS’….Having been born and raised in Miami, I feel it’s my duty to point out reports that help to show just how bizarre a place Florida really is. Take, for example, last night’s 60 Minutes interview with Carl Hiaasen. (C&L has video.)

Whether he’s writing fiction or journalism, Carl Hiaasen’s main character is always Florida, that axis of weirdness that gave us the sagas of Elian Gonzales, and dimpled “chads.” It’s also where developers build homes around gravel pits advertised as “lakefront property,” and where marijuana falls out of the sky.

This is how Hiaasen describes Florida: “The Sunshine State is a paradise of scandals teeming with drifters, deadbeats, and misfits drawn here by some dark primordial calling like demented trout. And you’d be surprised how many of them decide to run for public office.”

Still true? “Yeah, very true. More true than ever I think. The opportunities for corruption are many here,” says Hiaasen. “But the one thing about Florida politicians, the crooked ones that I still find somewhat heartwarming, is that they’re not very sophisticated.”

Of course they’re still true. Hiaasen novels deal with fictitious characters and scenarios, but locals know that there’s nothing in his books that couldn’t, or hasn’t, happened in real life. Hiaasen shared some anecdotal gems with Steve Kroft — I’m particularly fond of the South Florida mayor who tried to hire City Hall workers to kill her husband — all of which are hilarious, or depressing, depending on one’s perspective.

I have this theory that almost all the bad things that happen in this country have an almost direct connection to Florida. The Elian Gonzalez controversy, the 2000 election debacle, the original anthrax letters, the flying lessons for the 9/11 terrorists, the Terri Schiavo matter, the Abramoff deals, the worst drivers in the country … what else am I supposed to think?

I now invite residents of California, Texas, or (enter your state here) to tell me how Florida can’t hold a candle to the insanity you’ve seen. Given Florida’s record, I’d say you have a tough case to make.