Few people other than Tampa political junkies know of the terrible event that took place under a city highway overpass in November 2000.
Hillsborough’s state attorney, Democrat Harry Lee Coe, shot himself.
The body was barely cold when, a week later, one of his up-and-coming prosecutors, Pam Bondi, switched her party registration from Democrat to Republican. Curiously, the man widely expected to defeat Coe in the next election, and who did indeed become state attorney, was a Republican.
Now consider this story about Florida’s attorney general.
She once hired a criminal defense attorney for a fight over a dog.
The dog, a St. Bernard, had committed no crime. Apparently, in Bondi’s view, his Louisiana owners had. For Master Tank, as his original family called him, was malnourished and sick when, separated from his family in Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he landed in Florida. Bondi adopted him to replace another St. Bernard she’d had that died.
In case Master Tank’s family hadn’t suffered enough in the storm, Bondi refused to return him.
Where Bondi’s heart was then, or now, is anybody’s guess. But her ambition is front and center.
She is among the gaggle of Republican attorneys general suing to block President Obama’s health care law. She might even argue the case before the Supreme Court. It’s a shame the court doesn’t allow cameras. It would make for one heck of a photo op.
Now she has joined several Republican state attorneys general fighting the law’s requirement that employee health insurance plans cover contraceptions, even though Obama agreed to exempt health plans offered by religious institutions. Bondi says the law is a threat to religious liberty.
Because Bondi was once the spokeswoman for the Hillsborough state attorney -- she even appeared on national news shows -- many Tampa reporters thought they knew her. They knew, for instance, that she had little involvement in Republican politics before getting elected in 2010. Nobody thought that Bondi, that dog lover, would one day become a pit bull for the Obama-hating extreme right.
The reporters, those supposed cynics, were naïve. So is Planned Parenthood, which stated the other day on its website: “As the only woman on the state cabinet, (Bondi) should be looking for ways to expand access to reproductive health care, not take it away!”
Virtually all American women have used contraception sometime in their lives. Perhaps even Bondi. But the woman has conveniently, opportunistically, forgotten other women.
The words of left-of-center social critic Barbara Ehrenreich seem apt: “A uterus is not a substitute for a conscience.”
Mary Jo Melone, former columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, is a writer in Tampa.
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