Bermuda, a cuckoo kind of place . . .
There are times when you can well understand why Bermuda so appealed to David Letterman’s highly developed sense of the absurd.
The late night talk show host, who signed off earlier this week after a 33 year career on NBC and CBS, famously deconstructed and then rebuilt the stale format he worked in, reinventing it for a new generation in his own appealingly off-the-wall image.
Following a holiday at Bermuda’s Pink Beach Club shortly after his NBC programme debuted in 1982, Mr Letterman launched an occasional segment in which he would telephone the hotel’s then manager to catch up with local news, gossip and weather conditions.
Apropos of entirely nothing, the random Bermuda updates were as silly as they were hilarious.
These characteristic Letterman non sequiturs even spawned a theme jingle written by the show’s music director Paul Shaffer titled, predictably enough, Bermuda. The lyrics to this catchy ditty included the imperishable lines: “Bermuda!/It’s a cuckoo kind of place/A nutty, nutty kind of space/Bermuda!”
The song, which ended up being performed more often than any other number on the NBC iteration of Mr Letterman’s show, retains a kind of timeless relevance in the Island which inspired it. For just in the last few days there have been any number of well-publicised instances of the peculiarly Bermudian kind of nuttiness it references.
Consider the matter of taxi driver Paul Trew. The poor man managed to bring down the wrath of the aesthetics police upon his own head for having the temerity to demonstrate some old-fashioned Bermudian friendliness.
His tasteful one-man campign to promote the upcoming 2017 America’s Cup in his cab resulted in the Transport Control Department using entirely disproportionate bureaucratic force to quell his initiative.
Of course the fact Sir Russell Coutts, CEO of Cup defenders Team Oracle USA, had been a passenger in the taxi and praised the type of grassroots community buy-in for the event being demonstrated by Mr Trew cut no slack whatsoever with the authorities.
TCD’s overkill was as unnecessary as it was unfortunate given engaging public interest and generating community involvement in the yachting championship are essential prerequisites to Bermuda hosting a successful Cup series.
Then there’s the political arena where, despite a contrived air of refinement and high-mindedness, you all too frequently encounter the type of behaviour worthy of vicious little street hoodlums.
Earlier this week an Opposition delegation jetted off to London to petition the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the proposed public-private partnership to redevelop Bermuda’s airport.
The Opposition is fully within its rights to question both the background to the deal and whether or not such a massive undertaking in infrastructure investment will actually deliver value for money to the taxpayer.
But it also has an obligation to ask the right questions, not to engage in what amounts to an indiscriminate scattershot approach seemingly predicated on the belief that if enough accusations are made at least some of them will stick.
And the public is certainly entitled to hear the answers to a number of highly pertinent questions involving the structuring of the airport deal. While failure to engage in competitive bidding on the airport contract doesn’t amount to “malfeasance” or “corruption” as alleged by the Opposition, it does speak to a certain high-handedness on Government’s part.
Not only did Government fail to go the public consultation route before announcing the airport redevelopment as a fait accompli, it has been singularly tardy with the release of specifics since the project was unveiled.
This Government was elected to office, in part, based on its commitment to restoring transparency and accountability to public financial management.
But so far there have been no cost/benefit analyses, no business plans and no compelling demonstration of the actual need for such a massively scaled new facility.
And quite why an independent appraisal of the procurement process was not commissioned prior to Government committing to this major public-private project suggests a bemused disregard for public opinion and due diligence.
The Finance Minister says there are still opportunities to “close the gaps” in the process identified in the newly completed Deloitte report before any final contracts are actually signed.
But such after-the-fact housekeeping measures could and should have been avoided in the first place. Prevention is always preferable to damage control.
And all of the current brouhaha could have been prevented if Government had demonstrated some sensitivity to both the public mood and the likely political ramifications of ploughing ahead with such an enormous and costly project in such a clandestine manner.
In politics, as in other areas of life, there can be no sympathy for self-inflicted injuries.
And in this instance the Government’s self-administered wounds go well beyond the usual scrapes and lacerations legislators cause to their own reputations in the knockabout farce that is Bermudian public life.
They were sufficient to cause damage to the Government’s credibility and to raise questions about its ability to respond to legitimate public concerns in a timely and forthright manner.
Bermuda, a cuckoo kind of place, indeed.