Welcome back, Crazy Joe!
Deep down, we knew you hadn't really changed. We knew it was just an act . . . behaving like a semi-sane and responsible person all those months while Miami was on the brink of financial ruin.
But, hey, it worked. You kept the governor from seizing control of the city government. You convinced the financial oversight board that you were vaguely in touch with reality.
People were actually talking about the new, ``mature'' Joe Carollo, the one who selflessly put the well-being of the community above his own petty political appetites.
You were slick, Joe. You really had 'em going.
But deep down, we knew you were still the same paranoid fruitcake you've always been. We knew it wouldn't take much to unhinge your wobbly brain pain and, sure enough, the Elian episode did the trick.
Your indignant assertion that the police should have tipped you off in advance of the INS raid is so marvelously preposterous that we want to thank you, Joe. Thank you for making us laugh out loud again after so many grueling, heart-wrenching months.
And then, to target the two most convenient Anglos . . . Police Chief William O'Brien and City Manager Donald Warshaw . . . well, what can we say? It was a special moment, Mr. Mayor. It was then we knew for sure that you'd never really left us at all.
You were back to being your old lying, back-stabbing, vote-grubbing self. No one could be more elated than your future opponents in next year's election, including ex-cuckoo Mayor Xavier Suarez.
Another happy camper is Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas. Thanks to your antics, Joe, people might finally stop talking about Penelas' flaky pre-raid ultimatum to Janet Reno, which brought him national scorn and more than a few embarrassing mental-health inquiries.
It's no contest, Joe. You're the king of the crazies.
You turned on Warshaw not because he wouldn't fire O'Brien, but because you wanted to cash in on the post-Elian pain of the exile community. You wanted a head on a stake.
The press conferences are vintage Carollo: Warshaw is power-hungry! A ``mini-dictator''! An ``extortionist''!
That's what a shrink would call projection, Joe, but don't you dare go seeking psychiatric help now. Don't be a party pooper.
It's like old times, watching you stand at the microphones . . . rambling, white-knuckled and accusatory. You've still got the magic, Joe. You've still got that glazed, petrified expression of a three-legged gerbil in a python pit.
Now you've ordered another investigation of Warshaw's use of credit cards from a police pension fund and a charity, back when he was police chief. One tab was $16,775 for season tickets to the Panthers, a sum Warshaw has stated he repaid.
But some important records and credit-card receipts remain missing . . . though it didn't seem to concern you seven months ago, Joe, when you publicly declared Warshaw innocent of any wrongdoing.
Of course, that was when you wanted him as an ally at City Hall. Now you want him out, and you're looking for any excuse besides Elian. The credit-card flap will have to suffice.
As for the whacked-out accusation that the city manager tried to ``extort'' you, it's pretty wild . . . but you can do better, Joe. We've got faith.
For instance, why not accuse Warshaw of being a spy for Castro? Better yet: It was Warshaw himself, dressed in drag and disguised as the female INS agent, who snatched Elian from the home of Lazaro Gonzalez!
Freebies, Joe. Use 'em if you need to. And you might need to, in light of the sly move that Warshaw pulled on Monday. He appointed a Hispanic, Assistant City Manager Raul Martinez, as Miami's new police chief.
We know you're dying to can the guy already, Joe, to spite Warshaw. But you're in a pickle, aren't you? If you go after Martinez, you risk alienating the only constituency you've got left . . . hardline exile voters, not all of whom are loyal Carollo fans.
With Miami wracked by ethnic turmoil, it would take a certifiable loon to trash the first Cuban-American police chief that the city has ever had.
Only a destructive, self-deluded egomaniac would even consider such a thing.
Go for it, Joe. You the man.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald.