"It was a surreal end to what will go down as a surreal episode in American history, and a somehow fitting one. On a literal level, it’s the story of a woman who, for reasons still unknown, lost it in a very public way. But as a metaphor, oh boy. Grabbing the place reserved for the president, briefly holding the room hostage and spewing incoherent, paranoid and heavily Christianity-inflected nonsense? Gee, where have we seen this before?"
-- Salon's Mary Beth Williams on last night's strangely not-at-all-strange outburst by House Stenographer Dianne Reidy following the vote to reopen the government
A little story for you...
Back when I lived in Miami it was widely known -- and still is -- that almost every member of the local government was under indictment, under arrest, or under investigation. I'm not exaggerating. For a while there the political corruption within the city and county ran so deep that it felt like if you combined Chicago and New Orleans together they still wouldn't come close to being as crooked. What's always made Miami and Dade County stand out among the pack was the willingness of their electorate to keep rewarding and reelecting the same rotten people over and over again, often despite the knowledge that they live neck-deep in scandal or have even done time for legitimate crimes. The stench of corruption is so prevalent that after a while, like all bad smells, you forget it's there and just learn to live with it.
Engage in voter fraud during a mayoral election? Not only will we forgive you, we'll vote your son into office years later. (That's after you show up at the home of the mayor who replaced you late at night, reportedly armed with a gun and demanding your office furniture back.) Granted, the guy who set the whole voter fraud deal in motion will go to prison for a bit, but while he's caught in the middle of the scandal he'll win another election. In South Florida, an admittedly slimy potential congressional candidate can even be indicted on racketeering, extortion and conspiracy charges and the U.S. attorney who filed the charges can be forced to resign because it turns out his wife was planning all along to run against the guy. (The wife, by the way, will eventually be elected to Congress several times over.) Also, as expected, that slimy candidate can go on to win election after election. It's a place where dead people can vote, where cops can be better drug dealers than the actual dealers they're supposed to be arresting, and where a county commissioner can get busted in a crack house then vanish into thin air, only to finally materialize in Australia years later.
This is Miami. This is South Florida. It's happened before so many times. I guarantee it will happen again. Just you wait.
I bring this up because back in 2005, when I was in New York City at CNN, something came across the national wire that caught my eye. It was the story of a former Miami-Dade commissioner named Art Teele who had been removed from office by Governor Jeb Bush, as he was under investigation and federal indictment in a far-reaching case that involved money laundering, mail fraud, drugs, and a transvestite prostitute. On July 17th of 2005, with scandal swirling around him, Art Teele walked into the lobby of the Miami Herald building, pulled out a gun, and shot himself in the head.
It was tragic and sad, no doubt about it. And yet all I could muster as I read it was, "Of course."
Why? Because it made perfect sense. A spectacular suicide in broad daylight was the last thing that needed to happen -- the final piece of the puzzle to complete the portrait of sheer fucking insanity that was, and still is, Miami politics. It was like putting an exclamation point on all that had come before it and all that would no doubt continue after it.
That's what Dianne Reidy's rant last night was. The exclamation point. The snapshot. The final act to climax and to perfectly encapsulate the fucking lunacy of what we'd witnessed over the past few weeks -- the past few years. It was the crazy we've come to expect. And unfortunately, as in Miami, it isn't going to end anytime soon.
Update: As usual, when I think it's gotten as crazy as it can get, I turn out to quickly be proven wrong. Here you have it, the real quote of the day, from Dianne Reidy herself on why she did what she did last night.
"For the past 2 and 1/2 weeks, the Holy Spirit has been waking me up in the middle of the night and preparing me (through my reluctance and doubt) to deliver a message in the House Chamber. That is what I did last night."
And with that, we roll credits.