Politics can be so cruel sometimes. Small situations can be blown out of proportion. I, however, will not fall prey to the base instincts of some partisan political commentators who invent faux outrage to advance their candidate. I can rise above that.
For example, I do not think it should be highlighted that Mitt Romney held a campaign event Monday evening at a Miami juice shop owned by a convicted cocaine trafficker. That would imply guilt by association, and that should be beneath our dignity in a civil society. If Mitt Romney chooses to appear at El Palacio de los Jugos, which is owned by Reinaldo Bermudez, a man who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in 1999 and served three years in federal prison, that is his right. It is not even worth reporting so I will refrain.
Some could try to smear Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio (he was there, too) by insinuating without saying directly that there must be an illicit connection between the candidate and a known drug pusher. This would be completely unfair and I will not join in the cynical mob mentality. Romney was filming a campaign ad at the juice shop, aides said, so how mysterious could this clear connection to the convicted Miami drug lord be?
The Romney campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Phone calls placed by The Associated Press to the juice shop weren't answered, and there is no reason these questions should be answered. No one should be asking them in the first place. So let me be the first to say that no one should ask about Romney’s benefactor and close confidante or the massive shipments of cocaine that he smuggled onto our shores for kids to snort. That kind of stuff is off limits in my book.
Bermudez told the Miami New Times that "Here in Miami there are a lot people with money who have had problems with the law. Thankfully, we all have the opportunity in this country to re-enter society when we've done something wrong**." That’s the message that we should focus on – people with money and drug convictions should be allowed to support the candidate of their choice, and even run for the Presidency regardless of past drug use and distribution. That’s a message of inclusion. Frankly, any attempt to tie Bermudez’ conviction to Romney and his ‘alleged’ tax evasion and ‘alleged’ tax fraud is just plain wrong. I denounce it!
In media reports in November 1997, Bermudez was identified as one of 12 people accused in a Colombian drug smuggling operation. The arrests followed a seven-month investigation led by the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Agents seized about 2,850 pounds of cocaine at three South Florida ports over several months.
Agents first seized 430 pounds of cocaine at the Port of Palm Beach in July 1997 and then 117 pounds in late September at the Port of Miami. Those shipments were concealed in containers filled with fish imported from Trinidad, an island in the south Caribbean. The largest and final seizure came in late October at Port Everglades, where officials found 2,304 pounds of cocaine in a container of soap imported from Venezuela.
These are the kind of sordid details that have nothing to do with Romney’s plan to fundamentally reshape America. The implication that Romney relies on a seedy criminal element to fund his campaign should be ignored. If anything, he is unequivocally on record against redistribution, and I assume that includes grams of white powder.
I will do my part in cleaning up the political discourse. I will not take advantage of Romney’s choice in associates. Let the man run on his own merits, and not be judged by the criminals that surround him. It’s the least I can do.
** - As a convicted felon, Bermudez wouldn't be eligible to vote in Florida unless the governor and the Cabinet restore his rights, but I have a feeling Republican Governor Rick Scott will be filled with compassion and the spirit of leniency in this case.