Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t like reporters, except if they’re from Fox News: He appears more often than some regular contributors on the network where he built much of his promising public profile. Last Wednesday, the day on which the hurricane Ian made landfall in the southwestern part of the peninsula with category four and winds of 250 kilometers per hour, connected live with Tucker Carlson, star presenter of conservative television: “As you say, Tucker, we live in a very politicized time,” admitted DeSantis . “But, you know, when people are fighting for their lives, when other things are at stake, when you’ve lost everything, it’s bad if you can’t put politics aside.”
The Republican president, the only one who today could aspire to overshadow Donald Trump in his party’s presidential primaries in 2024, was confident that he would receive from the enemy, Joe Biden, a help that was granted to him: the declaration of disaster (maximum) and full Government funding during the first 60 days of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) rescue efforts. “Amen,” Carlson said, “That’s the spirit.”
This Wednesday, just a week after Ian began his devastating journey through large areas of southwest, central and northeast Florida, Biden has arrived accompanied by his wife, Jill Biden, in the area with the death toll, at least 109 victims, still unfinished. On Monday he visited Puerto Rico: the island is still convalescing from the last hurricane, Fionawhich arrived without giving the population time to recover from the previous one, Maria.
The presidential couple arrived in Fort Myers, one of the most devastated areas, and Biden and DeSantis shook hands. Afterwards, the Bidens flew over the area in a helicopter for an hour, and the governor warned them that nothing was comparable to seeing the tragedy “on the ground.” Afterwards, the president appeared before the press with a written speech in which he said: “We have one job and one job only: to make sure that the people of Florida get everything they need to recover fully and once and for all. We are the United States of America for a reason; and I underline the word ‘united’. At the end, he added: “What the governor has done is quite remarkable.”
The harmony of the last week between Biden and DeSantis, who have spoken several times on the phone and have praised their mutual predisposition to collaborate in the tragedy, is unprecedented, but both seem convinced to bury the hatchet in these complicated moments. In the case of DeSantis, the exercise is accompanied by symptoms of selective amnesia: when he was a young congressional senator back in 2013, he opposed the approval of a federal bailout for the New York region after the hurricane. Sandy. He viewed it as irresponsible waste, symbolic of “that charge-it-all-credit-card mentality” that, as an elected official, he was determined to oppose from his position in Washington.
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The truce between governor and president comes shortly after the last notorious disagreement. The two have gotten entangled many times in the past (over vaccines, over the mandatory use of masks…), but perhaps not as much as when DeSantis paid three weeks ago with public money from Florida to send two planes with 48 Venezuelan immigrants, who were tricked into flying from San Antonio to the island of Martha’s Vineyard, a Democratic stronghold and vacation spot for Presidents Kennedy, Clinton and Obama. It was DeSantis’s way of denouncing the failed policy of the Biden Administration on the matter and the migratory pressure of the States that share a border with Mexico.
The governors of two of them, Arizona and Texas, have been sending buses with irregular immigrants to cities like Chicago, New York or Washington for six months (some, to the door of Vice President Kamala Harris’s house), but DeSantis’ coup, that a Fox News writing team could have written, had a far greater effect. Biden called the move “simply wrong,” “un-American” and “reckless.”
On Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre did not tell reporters if the two would be seen together on the visit, beyond the “briefing”: “We know the governor has a busy schedule as he is dealing with with the consequences of a catastrophic storm. So I can’t talk specifically about where he’s going to be at any point in time on Wednesday.”
It is true that DeSantis has not stopped: he has distributed waffles in Punta Gorda and hamburgers in Port Charlotte, he has ridden in an airboat to visit the residents of the flooded areas in the center of the peninsula and has flown over the damage in the region since a helicopter. He has also made it clear to Orlando drivers who cares about them during tough times. Since last week, the huge signs that cross from side to side the six-lane highways of the ring roads of the city, which was also affected, have lights that say: “Free toll by order of the governor.”
We must not forget that he is campaigning for re-election in November, a campaign with few incentives in which he faces Charlie Crist (who was a Republican governor between 2007 and 2011 and aspires to be the first Democrat to hold the reins of the State since 1994). The polls give DeSantis a clear victory. AND Ian It has been an opportunity to show himself close to his loved ones, something he does not always achieve (those who know him they assure that he shares with Richard Nixon, allergic to personal relationships, something more than conservative ideals). Also, to prop up, by way of moderation, his presidential profile.
The meeting between the two enemies was held in the area that got the worst of it, in Lee County, where Trump won in 2020 with 60% of the vote. For Crist, a visit from Obama, which included a hug, cost him money at his party. And in St. Augustine, the last place in the state where Ian vented his fury, one of the houses in the flooded area received this week the visit of the current governor with a giant sign that said: “Let’s Go Brandon” (forward, Brandon), a coded message for “Fuck Joe Biden” (which fuck Joe Biden). The phrase has transcended the joke to become the watchword of the American right that is most dissatisfied with the performance of the president.
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