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A Florida Lawyers Arrest and the Presidential Elections


Politics is often more like “politricks”. It can be a dirty game that makes vicious sports like professional football seem timid in comparison. Opportunitists look for any sign of weakness and pounce on their opponents using the media as their weapon.  Presidential candidates, state senators and even those daring enough to run for local political office learn very quickly how to fight back or be eaten alive. Welcome to the political jungle.


Gary Ostrow, a Ft. Lauderdale criminal attorney, was arrested in Tallahassee, FL where he was filing papers to challenge incumbent Howard Finkelstein, well known for his “Help Me Howard” segment on a local television station, for the Broward County Public Defender’s Office. Police in Florida’s capital city arrested the prominent lawyer on cocaine possession charges but failed to provide an arrest report or give additional information regarding the crime. In the state of Florida, cocaine possession is a third degree felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison. Ostrow has defended high profile clients like Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams when he tested positive for marijuana and was suspended for violating the NFL’s drug abuse policy.


The arrest of a Florida lawyer running for a local political office is relevant on a national level because it exemplifies an underlying problem with voters in the 2008 presidential elections. Ostrow, like any political candidate, has been charged with an alleged crime by the criminal justice system and convicted by the media. No human being has led a perfect life and everyone has done something stupid that they regret. If we as voters, allow both mainstream and alternative media to dissect every minute aspect of a candidates life in order to benefit their ratings or increase their page views then we are not focusing on the important issues. Campaigns begin long before the actual elections and media of all types needs to fill this time with so called news worthy items in order to keep our attention.


Personal privacy has become an important issue since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the information sharing practices of individuals internet use. At the same time that the public demands that our personal information remains private we expect more transparency and intrusion in the private lives of individuals who run for public office on all levels. If this expectation continues qualified candidates will refuse to seek public office.


Clinton, McCain, Ostrow and to a lesser extent Obama have been in the public eye for years. Obama’s albatross is the Reverend Wright, Ostrow has his recent arrest and McCain and Clinton have their own skeletons in the closet. As voters, we can’t let a single transgression, alleged activity or behavior that we may not agree with determine which candidate is really most qualified for public office. If perfection is the standard for political office not even Mother Teresa would be a qualified candidate.


Politics has always involved compromise. If a member of Congress or any other public office wants to obtain the most benefits for their constituency, pass a bill or remain in office they need the cooperation of fellow politicians who expect the same in return. Earmarks and pork barrel politics wasting taxpayer’s dollars are the result of these negotiations.


Voters may feel that they do not want a politician who practices politics in public office but they would not hire a plumber to repair their car.


Most politicians have law degrees. Lawyers by trade are well paid negotiators who give something to get something in return. Obama, Clinton and McCain have all done this at sometime in their political careers. Change can only be achieved by convincing other politicians to do what is best for the entire country rather than their own limited interests.


Medias primary interest is to attract viewers not tell voters who to support or provide fair and balanced information.


Obama, Clinton, McCain, Ostrow and most other political figures have all done many admirable things that have helped many people and may have gone unnoticed. Hundreds of good deeds can be cancelled out and forgotten by one negative allegation. If media needs news for the day there is always something it can dig up to appeal to our taste for gossip or feed our paranoia. When candidates or politicians become fearful of how media will react to their private lives or how they vote on every issue then the United States on every level will be governed by the same media many of us seem to distrust.


Forget about Cindy McCain’s personal taxes, Rev. Wright and Ostrow’s recent arrest. It’s all just white noise and chatter that takes away from the issues that matter most.


Media of all types has a responsibility to present facts in a fair and balanced manner. Once a newsworthy item is viewed by the public little can be done to change perceptions even if the reporting is inaccurate, biased or just a plain invasion of the privacy we all deserve. Gary Ostrow is now being sued after a former client read in the Sun-Sentinel that he intended to use $200,000 of his own money to run against Finkelstein for the Broward District Attorney’s Office. This is just another example of why political candidates are wary to release personal information.


Take what the media says with a grain of salt. Vote and judge perspective candidates on positions, platforms and issues that determine who is really the most qualified individual for their position in public service or political office.


Sometimes even an attorney needs someone to defend their rights.


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