Master Magician Steve MacNamara Gets to Leave Like He's Lamented -- Why?
Around the State
Steve MacNamara leads a charmed life.
In the first place, how does the governor's ethically challenged, $189,000-a-year chief of staff get to stick around this long after he was fi... uh, after he resigned in May? I can't recall where any of the state employees MacNamara dispatched with a pink slip over the years were allowed to stay on as long after the hatchet.
His bizarre farewell reception in the middle of a tropical storm Monday night -- complete with a special award -- only serves as a reminder that life in the state capital is one rickety roller coaster ride after another.
Some 150 of Tallahassee's heaviest hitters past and present gathered at the Old Capitol to say good rid..... uh, goodbye to the man who apparently has helped hims... uh, who apparently has served 10 Florida governors' administrations.
As a friend who has been around Tally for a long time reminded me, Rick Scott is not known for being all warm and fuzzy toward liberal Democratic superlawyers and anthropology education advocates, especially people like former Florida State University President Sandy D'Alemberte who has sued his administration. But there they were, paying tribute to Steve MacNamara.
Respected Republican lobbyists were there, too -- folks like Pete Dunbar and Van Poole, who served with distinction in the Legislature alongside Democrats like D'Alemberte, in an era when -- as my friend reminded me -- "lawmakers did their own work without the 'services' of flacks and fixers."
Apparently, this was Rick Scott's party and, yes, he can cry if he wants to. I just don't understand why he wanted to.
The governor presented his errant first lieutenant with a "triple crown," a plaque recognizing Mac's distinction as the only person to serve as chief of staff to a House speaker, a Senate president and a governor.
Nice thing to do, certainly. But Mac was no sweetheart along the way. He was a man given a pile of power and he used it -- often to further his own ends. And now and then, as invariably happens when powerful men forget they're not entirely invisible, his actions backfired like an old Datsun with a banana up the tailpipe.
MacNamara, remember, was the free-wheeling COS who grossly embarrassed his boss before an angry South Florida Cuban community and alienated Attorney General Pam Bondi's office at the same time. Following Scott's ceremonial signing of the law cracking down on firms that do business in Cuba and Syria -- under advisement of MacNamara -- the governor issued a letter that called the law he signed unenforceable, unconstitutional, an infringement on foreign trade.
Not only did Scott notice, so did his supporters. So did the rest of Florida, following a relentless shelling of newspaper stories about MacNamara's indiscretions, particularly the stories from Gary Fineout, Mary Ellen Klas and Marc Caputo.
The jig was up for the master magician. Finally everybody knew: MacNamara walled off the governor from others, played agency heads against each other, hired loyalists at six-figure salaries (paying them more than women in the same jobs), forced out his rivals and helped out his buddies.
All of a sudden, there it was for all to see -- the story of the ultimate insider with the mentality of a bouncer, who "rewired a political system" to wring money out of it.
The governor was wise to hook MacNamara out when he did. History is pocked with public officials who, like Charlie Crist with Jim Greer, coddled and excused the friends they put in office and lived to regret it.
But letting Mac stay until the bitter end? Throwing him a party with a plaque and flowery speeches? Putting a microphone in his hand and giving him the last word? Ouch, Governor, that's Tallahassee insider stuff. Rickety roller coaster stuff. That's not you.
This very public wet kiss in the Old Capitol Monday night allows Steve MacNamara to save face in this town, to let time fade the truth and to tell the world he left of his own accord -- to unselfishly save Rick Scott from scurrilous press attacks.
But, as one in-the-know political consultant told me on Tuesday, "All the parties in the world can't change the fact that he got caught and was asked to leave."
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.