Thursday, April 26, 2012

Impressions of Miami

Years ago, I thought I'd discovered paradise on earth in Locarno and Lugano, Switzerland, which enjoyed the benefits of Italian culture and Swiss efficiency.  Beautiful people rode trains that ran on time.

I experienced something similar last week in Miami, which is considered the capitol of Latin America.  Happily, it is in the United States where things mostly work correctly, and opportunity (traditionally) abounds.

I knew I'd love the place when checking into the Conrad Hotel in the financial district and I heard Salsa pumping through the speaker system.  By the time I reached the reception desk on the 25th floor, they were playing El Cantante by Hector Lavoe.

The beautiful view of Key Biscayne from that high up didn't hurt my impression either.  Everyone had good skin and spoke Spanish as well as English; the place absolutely pulsated with ritmo.

It wasn't much different wherever I went.  The music, the bilingual chatter, the outrageous heels and hopeless hairdos, the men with shirts opened to the third button; this was definitely a Latin city.

The weather ranged between 72 and 84 degrees (fahrenheit) the entire week, and skies were azure with an occasional cloud.  Between the weather, palms, towers, and sleek architecture, Brickell Avenue felt like a cross between Barcelona and Chicago.

I imagine that my impression would have been less positive during the summer when the weather turns oppressively hot and steamy.  But, then, there's always the beach.

The parks and outdoor spaces were inviting and filled with joggers.  Palm trees grew everywhere, even on the 25th floor.  So, what's not to like?

Altogether, it was a very pleasant experience, although I can see how the place would irritate someone who didn't speak Spanish, like Latin culture, or bear the sun well.

The one blight on my visit was a pair of conversations I had with taxi drivers, my men-on-the-street sources for information about how locals think.  Much like every taxi driver in NYC is seemingly from the Middle East or Asia Minor, every cabbie in Miami is a Cuban refugee.

When talk turned to politics, neither of them particularly liked President Obama or the Democrats.  But, they absolutely vituperated about President Bush.

I couldn't grasp their problem with the much maligned W.  One said that he'd stolen the 2000 election, to which I responded that no recount--even ones done by Liberal newspapers--verified that claim.

He didn't need proof, and none would dissuade him.  That Al Gore moved to invalidate military ballots while railing to count every vote didn't bother him either.

The other driver said that President Bush destroyed the economy, to which I answered that Democrats, not Republicans, pushed banks for decades to lend to people who couldn't afford to pay the loan back.  It was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--Democratic citadels--that set sub-prime quotas on lenders, just as HUD's Henry Cisneros and Andrew Cuomo-- Democratic luminaries--had set quotas on the GSE's.

Maybe the President's re-election strategy will work: blame it all on Bush, and deflect discussion about his record.

It was a bad anecdotal sign for the Republicans.  If they can't win over Cuban immigrants, who reject Statism in their DNA, Florida might be lost.

It would serve Republicans right for sitting on their hands while the Left indulged in an eight-year hate fest towards President Bush.  They hadn't read their Saul Alinsky: "The Thirteenth Rule: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

The media demonized President Bush so effectively that at least two Cuban-American taxi drivers still hate him for no reason they could explain coherently.  Republicans would be well advised to remind the electorate that President Bush isn't running this year.

They might also argue, as they should have in 2008, that his policies had less to do with causing the financial crisis than did Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and the Democratic Party.  At the very least, if President Bush is to blame, then President Clinton is even more so.

With respect to Miami, I left after my first visit with a very positive impression.  If you've never been there, you might want to consider it.

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