It was an entrance worthy of Vladimir Putin.
Joe Biden roared his air boat to a halt in the Everglades. Miccosukee war paint smeared his face. Swamp spray glistened on his bare chest. The Veep then tossed a giant, dead Burmese python at the feet of a gaggle of reporters and screamed: "Are you not entertained?"
Just messing with you. Biden's appearance this afternoon at a water pump station near Krome Avenue and SW 8th Street was a boring, shamelessly political plug for local Democrats Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings. He did, however, joke about wrasslin' a gator.
Ostensibly, Biden's 10 minute speech was to tout his administration's efforts to restore the Everglades, in particular on-going construction to elevate the Tamiami Trail and improve water flow. But the broader objective of boosting fellow Democrats Nelson and Hastings and knocking Republicans was clear.
"The Everglades Restoration Project (was) passed in 2000 because of the guys behind me and work started by the governor (Bob Graham)," Biden said with a nod to Nelson and Hastings beside him on stage. "But not one project from that entire Everglades Restoration Project had started when we came into office (in 2008). And since we've come to office, and with the prodding of the men behind me, we made a commitment to investing almost $1.5 billion that's already begun to have a profound economic impact on the state."
Biden didn't roll out any new initiatives, however. The biggest cheers he received came for a joke about wrasslin' alligators with Hummer-driving FWC commissioner Ron Bergeron and for a (not-exactly-new) promise to elevate another five miles of Tamiami Trail in coming years.
Triumvirate of Powdery Old Man Skin: Biden, Nelson, and Hastings
Michael E. Miller
It was an event clearly tailored towards boosting the fortune of Democrats -- Nelson in particular -- ahead of this fall's election. Earlier in the day, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus issued a statement calling Biden's appearance a "taxpayer funded trip to the swing state of Florida (that) demonstrates how worried the Obama campaign is about its chances in November."
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Biden responded by telling Republicans "to come down here and see the good work we're doing."
"It has been this administration that has helped us get things moving," echoed Nelson. "And right here this bridge that's being built that'll let the water flow from the north into the Everglades national park. The proof's in the pudding."
Graham went so far as arguing that the 2011 Florida legislative session was "the most damning to the environment in 40 years." He called the conservative mantra that environmental regulations restrict job growth "a stupid argument." And he dismissed notions that today's event was purely political.
"I'd be happy if Mr. Romney wanted to come and have this type of event," he said. "I'll drive the boat."
If only Graham and Romney went around exterminating pythons together. That would be a bi-partisan job creation plan we could really support.