“Floridians’ lives are in danger,” tweeted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s rapid response director Christina Pushaw as Hurricane Ian bore down, “so of course CNN is rooting for the hurricane.”
Pushaw was responding to CNN reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere, who had earlier admonished DeSantis for having “put himself at odds with many local government officials” and “looking for fights with a president he may end up running against.” The governor was “playing politics,” suggested Dovere’s colleague Steve Contore, who covers Florida politics for CNN, surmising that “he is urging residents to heed advice from the same local leaders” whom DeSantis supposedly said to “ignore during COVID.”
Since DeSantis came to office, he has diligently followed state directives to streamline and improve the effectiveness of hurricane responses that were put in place after Hurricane Irma devastated parts of Florida in 2017. In the week before Ian made landfall, the governor placed all of Florida under a state of emergency. He also mobilized 7,000 National Guard troops from Florida and other states, and readied 28,000 linemen to restore expected power outages. When the hurricane increased in strength to a near-Category 5 storm, DeSantis mobilized an additional 14,000 linemen and delegated evacuation protocols to local authorities in at-risk areas.
When Ian arrived last Wednesday, DeSantis immediately did what any state governor should do: he placed calls to President Joe Biden and the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA). He was active on the ground meeting with local officials and, dare one say, acting positively presidential as he focused on the storm rather than his political fortunes. Biden, who did not initially accept DeSantis’s call, did eventually talk to him, and DeSantis publicly thanked him for extending federal disaster relief. The president will not visit Florida until October 5, however, a week after Ian impacted the state. Nevertheless, more than two thirds of power outages were restored within 72 hours. Some 70 people, mostly those who failed to evacuate, were killed. This is a tragic figure, but far fewer than the “hundreds” eagerly predicted by hostile media as the storm came through.
Yet it wasn’t just CNN that had set its sights on the Florida governor. Two weeks after dismissing DeSantis as a “stuntman” over his airlift of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Politico’s Jack Shafer offered mock praise for the governor. Shafer sneered that DeSantis was now acting like a “normal politician” instead of an “excitable boy,” “red-toothed biter,” “political opportunist,” and “loon.” Shafer dismissed actions that have saved thousands of lives and eased the suffering of millions as merely “the latest example of [DeSantis’s] opportunism,” “a hurdle to clear on his way to reelection,” and “a tryout for the White House, a position he so clearly lusts for.” The savvy Beltway reader, he intoned, should realize that this “temporary adjustment” will “return to culture warfare once Ian’s waters recede.”
Shafer must be a lot of fun at parties. Elsewhere, Joy Behar, a paranoid hysteric who claims to be a comedian and co-hosts ABC’s wine mom-centric The View, claimed that DeSantis bears personal responsibility for the hurricane because of his skepticism of climate change. Perhaps it wouldn’t have happened if he’d recycled more. Behar further supposed that DeSantis is a hypocrite for accepting federal disaster assistance, lazily equating public funds for emergencies with the socialism she presumably favors but that DeSantis opposes. As usual, her harping in a time of crisis was tasteless and mean-spirited, but no one could call it funny.
Another joyless Joy, namely Joy Reid of MSNBC, tried to “own” DeSantis by comparing Floridians evacuating storm areas to illegal immigrants. It is “a bit ironic,” she said of the prospect of law-abiding evacuees, “having to pour over the borders and go north…in the exact same crisis we have been talking about on a trolling level in that state.” In fact, most hurricane evacuees remained within the state, for Ian’s path blocked egress to the north while Florida’s east coast was only mildly affected. A week earlier, and with equally little mirth, Reid compared DeSantis’s deprioritization of masking in schools to violent attempts to preserve segregation in the Jim Crow South. MSNBC’s ratings, it should come as no surprise, are even lower than CNN’s.
If anyone has botched a hurricane response, it is DeSantis’s opponents. Yet even his Democrat gubernatorial opponent, Charlie Crist, in a rare display of political acumen, has remained conspicuously neutral in his public comments.
President Biden kept the ball of partisan pettiness rolling when he failed to call DeSantis in advance of the storm, which is standard protocol when a hurricane strikes. Instead, Biden telephoned the mayors of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, Florida, before discussing state-level needs with DeSantis, whom he has called a “semi-fascist” and presumably considers a threat to democracy due to his support for former President Donald Trump. Biden gaffed further when he called Coast Guard rescue swimmer Zach Loesch to thank him for his “heroic work,” only for it to be revealed that Loesch is soon due to be kicked out of the service at Biden’s orders because he is unvaccinated.
In a characteristically awkward speech, Vice President Kamala Harris stated that federal aid distribution would be guided by principles of “equity,” meaning that “communities of color” would receive preferential treatment over white hurricane victims. Pushaw corrected her, observing that FEMA resources were already available on a non-discriminatory basis to all.
As Florida faced the morning after Ian on September 30, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi obliquely criticized DeSantis’s Martha’s Vineyard airlift of illegal immigrants by suggesting that Florida farmers “need them to pick crops down here.” She may have had a point about Biden-induced labor shortages, but in our charged racial climate, her “pick crops” line came off horribly.
DeSantis wisely rose above his critics, telling Fox News host Tucker Carlson that “when people are fighting for their lives, when their livelihood is at stake, lost everything, if you can’t put politics aside for that, you won’t be able to.” Untouchable in his private life, in his career before politics, and now in his highly competent handling of his first major natural disaster, DeSantis’s critics are only embarrassing themselves. They know it, and it is driving them crazy. Call it DeSantis Derangement Syndrome, and expect to be entertained as 2024 approaches.