Joel's Florida Diary
Big Game Hunters for Giuliani
BLUFFTON, S.C., 9:30 a.m. -- Have found a quiet spot in the library of Pinckney Hall, in the town center of Sun City Hilton Head, a gated community for the over-50 set, nicely braided by golf courses. Mitt Romney will shortly appear, hoping to maintain momentum after his smashing victory last night in Michigan. Sun City is in the southernmost corner of the state, conveniently only a couple of hours from Rudy Giuliani's last stop Tuesday night in Florida, at one of the strangest political venues you'll ever see on the campaign trail.
To get there you had to drive north from Jacksonville for about half an hour, right to the St. Mary's River at the border with Georgia. The directions took you to a dirt road that led into deep woods. It was very dark. It was by initial appearances a part of the planet inhabited only by vegetation and insects. But up ahead one could discern the flashing lights of a couple of troopers, guarding a dirt driveway with a sign overhead: "Thistle Dew Lodge."
The driveway led for a mile, through land cleared of underbrush. Under the canopy of live oaks, animals appeared in the headlights: Deer. But fake deer. Plastic, or maybe stone.
Beyond some floodlights, so close to the river you could smell its murky water, stood the destination, the lodge, a brawny, three-story edifice, the ultimate man-cave, with a cavernous main hall lined with stuffed animal heads. Half a bear, preserved mid-snarl, guarded one doorway. The chandelier bristled with antlers. The mayor (already finished and out of sight by the time I arrived from Jacksonville) had spoken beneath the protruding head of a titanic 14-point elk. His audience comprised some 130 members of the Safari Club International, North Florida Chapter.
Big game hunters.
"But I also enjoy duck hunting," stipulated Tyrie Boyer, 83, a former judge. "I've taken everything from an elephant to a squirrel." He said he liked Giuliani's position on guns, small government and taxes, and "just about became convinced tonight."
A quick reconnaissance suggested that the club members are characters straight out of Tom Wolfe's "A Man in Full" -- successful men, vociferously conservative. They're part of the Republican elite in North Florida, folks that don't take kindly to anything that smacks of liberalism. These are the people who still love the president. "I'm behind Bush 100 percent. I think he's doing a hell of a job," said David DeBerry, the club treasurer, as a TV behind him played a DVD showing hunters posing with prone animals -- elephant, water buffalo, hippo, warthog, etc.
Investment adviser David Foster, who six months ago felled a rhino in South Africa with a dart to the sternum, said, "I bet there's a gun in every vehicle here."
He said Hillary Clinton is a "wacko" and the Rev. Jesse Jackson a "hatemonger." He has no love for the "liberal media," Democrats, socialists, communists, Islamic radicals, etc.
"What was that lunatic's name -- Al Gore -- can you imagine Al Gore in 9/11?" Foster said as he waved an Opus X cigar.
He might vote for Giuliani. Mitt Romney? Probably not.
"He's too much of a slickster, too much of a Bill Clinton slickster," he said.
Posted at 11:29 AM ET on Jan 16, 2008
Joel's Florida Diary
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