As Hurricane Ian devastated parts of Florida, America’s national political spotlight shone brighter than ever on Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor, rising star of the hard-right and likely presidential candidate in 2024.
Since his election in 2018, DeSantis has made a name for himself as a ruthless culture warrior as he has become an ally of Trump and perhaps his most serious rival in any presidential nomination race.
DeSantis has embraced an extremist agenda, on everything from immigration to electoral integrity, positioning himself as Trumpist on politics but more mainstream on personality and temperament. He has championed ‘don’t say gay’ legislation in Florida schools and this month used taxpayer money to send a plane full of migrants from the southern Texas border to Massachusetts, a Democratic-run state .
This latest move caused a blizzard of anger and outrage. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said DeSantis was “hurting people to get attention”. But such opprobrium has not deterred a governor from playing on a Trumpist basis. For his next move, DeSantis suggested, he would send his next planeload of unsuspecting asylum seekers to Delaware, where Joe Biden has a weekend home.
But then Hurricane Ian hit. And like ambitious Republicans before him — most famously New Jersey’s Chris Christie, whose photo ops with Barack Obama after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 hurt him in the 2016 primary — DeSantis realized that he had to talk to the president.
On Wednesday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson asked, “Given how politicized things are right now, are you sure you’re getting the federal support Florida needs?”
DeSantis said: “So I spoke with the president and he said he wanted to be helpful. So we submitted a refund request for the next 60 days at 100%. is a major storm.
“…We live in a very politicized time, but you know, when people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they’ve lost everything, if you can’t put politics aside for that, that you’re just not going to be able to do.
“So I will work with anyone who wants to help the people of Southwest Florida and our entire state.”
Critics were quick to return to Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast 10 years ago, and how DeSantis then approached the issue of federal aid.
DeSantis was elected to Congress in November 2012, becoming a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, the far-right House group that would grow into the nest of Trump supporters and election deniers it is today.
Sandy struck in late October, unusually far north, wreaking havoc in New Jersey and New York and killing more than 100 people in the United States. Months later, in January 2013, DeSantis was one of 67 Republicans to vote against a $9.7 billion federal aid package for victims of Sandy.
He then said: ‘I sympathize with the victims of Hurricane Sandy and believe that those who have taken out flood insurance should have their claims paid. At the same time, allowing the program to increase its debt by another $9.7 billion without planning to offset spending with reductions elsewhere is not fiscally responsible.
“Congress should not authorize billions in new borrowing without offsetting spending in other areas. If a family is maxing out their credit cards and facing the need for new spending, they are forced to prioritize cutting spending in other areas…that “put it on the credit card” mentality is part of the reason we’re down to almost $17 billion. indebted.”
The weather is changing. Now DeSantis — who has budgeted $12 million, from federal Covid relief funds, for efforts to move migrants to Democratic states — faces “one of the biggest floods we’ve ever had. and knows he needs federal help.
“Dear Mr. President,” began his official plea for help. “I ask that you issue a major disaster declaration for the State of Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and authorize and make available all categories of individual assistance and public assistance.”
Ironically, in light of his comparison of helping Sandy’s victims to irresponsible home economics, DeSantis also said that since Ian would “impede local activity…federal help through the Individuals and of households will contribute to alleviating these household budget deficits”.
Journalists noticed it. Responding to The New York Times, a spokesperson said DeSantis was “completely focused on hurricane response” and added, “As the governor said earlier, we don’t have time for politics or pettiness”.
The late-night comedians, however, had plenty of time to point out DeSantis’ hypocrisy and pettiness.
Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show on CBS, put it perhaps most concisely: “If you can, stay out of the storm’s path. Worst case scenario, tell Ron DeSantis you’re Venezuelan, maybe he’ll take you to Martha’s Vineyard.