Prior to the start of Thursday’s Jan. 30 Tiger Bay Club of Polk County luncheon, its president, Al Dorsett, announced that February’s possible guest could be Florida Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Parkland, from Broward County; his appearance dependent upon whether the legislature might be called into session.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had two Democrats back-to-back,” quipped Dorsett. His remark prompted laughter and applause. However, following Thursday’s appearance by U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, Dorsett might want to rethink that second invitation.
Grayson, who arrived late, shortly after emcee S.L. Frisbie began addressing attendees, was introduced as someone who worked as a janitor while he earned a law degree from Harvard University.
“In some circles, going from janitor to lawyer is considered an advancement,” joked Frisbie in his patented trademark style of humor. It would stand in stark contrast to the stabs at humor Grayson made, which basically consisted of jabs at Republicans, such as when he spoke about marriage. In that, he mocked both Mitt Romney and Romney’s father, the late George Romney, and their being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
“He told Mitt that marriage was a sacred institution between a man and four women,” said Grayson. His joke was met with almost total silence, save for the exception of people seated at several tables up front who earlier made no bones they were Grayson supporters and who laughed, cheered and applauded both every dig the congressman made against Republicans as well as any accomplishments Grayson claimed credit for having achieved.
For those not familiar with how Tiger Bay of Polk County luncheons are conducted, a guest is given up to 10 minutes to talk. Afterward, members of the audience who submit questions that are then read aloud to the guest speaker by Frisbie. Grayson, however, departed slightly from that format at the beginning, instead asking the audience what they thought members of Congress do. The only people who responded were those openly affiliated with Grayson. From there he launched into a laundry list of what he had accomplished in the short period of time he has served in Congress.
“I’m going to brag a bit. I’m entitled to,” he said. Among his accomplishments, Grayson said he introduced more than 40 bills. Plus he passed many amendments. “More of my amendments passed, more than any other congressman.”
He further boasted that Slate, an online magazine, rated him the most effective congressmen. Grayson failed mentioning that Slate is a liberal-based online publishing entity. Other accomplishments included getting a brain-injured individual who was stranded in Germany back to the U.S., claiming he succeeded where Sen. Marco Rubio and former Congressman Horace West — both Republicans — had failed, and his success keeping seven regional airports from shutting down, whereas those that were not kept open were those in districts represented by Republicans.
The more he spoke, the further it appeared he alienated the majority of Tiger Bay members, a number who either sat stone-faced or glared. Others shifted their attention to their smartphones. At least one person walked out.
But some comments resonated and evoked laughter and interest, among them his support for increasing the minimum wage.
“It’s called the ‘Catching Up to 1968 Act,” joked Grayson, and he presented hard data on his contention. He called for the minimum wage to be raised to $10.50 an hour. He pointed out that in a number of nations, both developed — such as Australia, in which he said the minimum wage is $16 an hour — and developing, such as in the middle east, workers there are paid higher than many Americans.
Grayson did concede that in his opinion what the President has done has proven sufficient in combating unemployment, but again he used the opportunity to castigate Republicans.
“I think in all honesty the President hasn’t done enough,” he said. “I don’t think the Republicans have let him.”
Grayson argued that it was not a “slippery slope,” that abortion would lead to euthanasia.
“I don’t think abortion implies ‘Soylent Green,’” he said. His reference was to the 1970s movie that starred Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson, in which a future world is overpopulated, polluted and with limited resources. People subsist on processed food called Soylent Green, which actually happens to be made of human beings.
When queried about why gun control efforts has stymied following events such as Sandy Hook and a recent rash of shootings in other schools and public areas, such as movie theaters and shopping malls, Grayson said the answer was simple.
“I can answer that with three letters: NRA,” he said. He linked it with AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) as the top two lobbyist organizations in Washington, D.C.
Many attendees did not remain very long after Grayson finished speaking. Most of those who did were those who were associated with the congressman, and who posed with him in several group photos.
However, Cindy Rodriguez was more generous in her assessment of Grayson. She cited his biting wit. She wrote basically the same on her Facebook page.
“Whether you love this guy or just can’t stand him … he DOES have a killer sense of humor. It’s been an interesting convo.”
That prompted at least two responses, the first from Glenda F. Mink, who wrote, “Had to get up (sic) an leave. Interesting???”
Scott Wilder, with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office public information office, did not think highly of Grayson, commenting, “Interesting. The guy has sarcasm to spare.”