On August 25, with a Category Hurricane Storm potentially bearing down on the Northeast, incumbent Florida Senator Bill Nelson spoke to a packed house at the Forum Club in West Palm Beach. It was the first of three stops the Senator made that day, with an event at a temple in Boynton Beach that afternoon, and a private reception in Ft. Lauderdale that evening. It clearly was the opportunity for the Senator to reconnect with his constituents after serving them for such a long time. Nelson is facing a tough re-election campaign with several potential candidates vying for that seat. The event was held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center rather than the Kravis.
Forum Club President Sarah Alsofrom introduced Senator Nelson by talking about the “storms” brewing in Washington, which were not entirely related to the weather, and what she called “partisan posturing” taking place in Congress.
“In the summer months, Floridians are concerned about hurricanes,” said Forum Club President Sarah Alsofrom in her introduction prior to the Senator’s speech. “This summer, Washington had its own type of hurricane in the form of a budget deficit and crisis. Senator Nelson is here today to discuss the upheaval in Washington, including the financial crisis, entitlements, unemployment our fourteen trillion dollar deficit and partisan posturing.”
Senator Nelson agreed there clearly was something going on in Washington, and cited both the earthquake and then a potential Category Three Hurricane as well as the toxic environment in the nation’s capitol. With the partisanship and turmoil in Washington, the turmoil of the two storms spoke to the temper of our times, he said. He could not recall, he added, seeing such “sharp elbows” from legislators that had served since he had begun serving there himself decades ago. He said that everyone realized something was amiss, and it was not related to the weather.
“We gather at an important time,” said Senator Nelson, “and apparently, judging by the turnout today, even with the bad weather, we realize that something is amiss. I have never seen politics with such sharp elbows. I have never seen the lack of collegiality that I see now. Is it any wonder we have gridlock. You have the excessive partisanship, the excessive ideological rigidity, and put on top of that, the Senate rules, where we can’t pass anything unless we break a filibuster. It’s going to take a lot more than just talking about changing the Senate rules. It’s going to take a change of attitude. You can’t deal with someone if somebody is unwilling to deal.”
Nelson, in his remarks to the attendees, also gave a brief history of the budget surplus, and the spending that had taken place related to the economy, health care and the intelligence network designed to protect the country from other attacks such as 9/11 and homegrown terrorism.
Senator Nelson first spoke of the events taking place on 9/11 when the country was targeted by terrorists, and the realization that two large oceans could not protect the United States from being attacked. Nelson spoke of the changes in intelligence community with better working relationships among different agencies and the bringing down of Osama bin Laden months ago with a mission that advisors said had forty percent chance of succeeding. When President Obama pressed advisors by saying the odds were not very good, said Nelson, Obama was told ‘that’s all we got.’ Nelson also spoke of what sparked the “Arab spring” in the Middle East, and how it was going to spread even more in the months to come.
“Over time, you will be reading about some of the intelligence activities that have occurred in Libya,” said Nelson. “You have seen that there is a new world over there. What started in Tunisia, went to Egypt, and then to Libya, and ultimately it will happen in Syria. Assad will probably have to leave by the end of the year.”
Nelson also spoke of how the United States had acted on false information of the presence of nuclear weapons, taking out the power of Saddam Hussein in Iran, and then finding out that the whole invasion was based on falsehood and misinformation. He further spoke of the rise of the nation of Iran, and how that nation’s leader was seeking to destroy the nation of Israel.
“You can start to see the influence of Iran in Iraq,” said Nelson, “and whose leader has sworn to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”
Nelson brought up the abrupt financial changes in Wall Street, with the financial system on the verge of collapse, and how the solution to that situation came with both Democrats and Republicans working together. The only bad note of the whole thing was that bank executives still got their bonuses with so many people out of work, but it saved the country from financial ruin and collapse.
“But it saved the financial structure of this country,” said Nelson. “But it cost money. You had the transition and cooperation between a Republican administration and a new Democratic administration, and also trying to stimulate a very sour economy that is really in the doldrums with a stimulus bill. Four and a half billion dollars came into Florida to prop up the Medicaid program. Another 2.2 billion dollars came into Florida to save 26,000 teachers jobs. That money bypassed the State Department of Education, and went straight into the school district. That stimulus money was good for only two years. But you are seeing the results not only just in Florida, but in a lot of states where there are significant cuts.”
Nelson had praise for the Super Committee, which was comprised of Democrats and Republicans, which had been charged to cutting spending, and would return with a full report by the end of the year on the recommendations of where to cut. Nelson also spoke positively of the news of a number of business executives deciding they would turn off the fundraising efforts until the political players in Washington promised to get along better. Many people, he said, were sick of the hyper partisanship going on in Washington, D.C., and wanted both sides to put it aside and work together. He closed his remarks by sounding a positive note.
“If I were not an optimist,” said Nelson, “it would be hard. I think this is an opportunity. I hope you all feel as strongly as I do about this. People are tired of the bickering, the partisanship and the rigidity. This is an exceptional time.”
For more information about the Forum Club, contact them at 333- or check out their website at http://theforumclub.net. The next speaker for the Forum Club is Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, who will be speaking on Monday, September 12.