Last week, President Biden came to Florida to survey the damage from Hurricane Idalia. Nowadays it’s almost a job requirement of the president, regardless of party, to make the trip to the scene of a devastation, either natural or man-made, talk to the local officials, promise all sorts of aid, and then get out so that the security measures taken by the local police and Secret Service don’t interfere with the actual clean-up and repair. Budgeting for a presidential visit is practically a line-item, and it’s an event when the president and his entourage don’t actually come.
It also is a political event, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not, especially within shouting distance of an upcoming election, which is all the time now. So along with the president, you would expect the local officials, regardless of party, would consider putting in an appearance with the chief executive for a photo op and maybe even live coverage on the state-wide news media. If the president is your party leader, it’s not only expected, it’s in the job description, and to not show up is a huge signal to the world. And if the president is not your party leader, showing up demonstrates your magnanimity — “this is not a time for political posturing; these people need our support.” And if you’re running for president and against the incumbent, it’s a perfect opportunity to prove that you’re both magnanimous and that you actually give a damn about the people whose lives and possessions have been blown away.
Well, guess who decided to be someplace else last week when President Biden came to Live Oak, Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis chose to stiff the White House in Live Oak even though his office apparently sent signals earlier that he would be there, boots and all. Instead, the gov went to another scene of devastation a few miles down the road and did the obligatory tour and chatted up the locals and FEMA. His office told the press that showing up with President Biden would be “disruptive” and a “distraction.”
He’s right: it would have been disruptive to the campaign narrative that he’s a cold fish and devoid of the simplest form of human empathy. It would be like asking Chat GPT to write a sympathy card, and above all, it would prove once again that not only does he not really care about the people of his state that can’t send him interesting sums of money for his moribund presidential campaign, he’s deathly afraid of being seen as going against the grain of the other candidate he’s trying to topple in the race; the other Florida man. We all know how well he did dealing with natural disasters such as a hurricane in Puerto Rico where he withheld funds because of “corruption,” and when he did go, all he could do was toss rolls of Bounty paper towels.
Gov. DeSantis, by skipping a routine photo op with President Biden, proved once again he’s both a bully and a coward.
PS: Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) did accompany President Biden in Live Oak. I’d like to think that he did it out of concern for the citizens of Florida, but the cynic in me suggests that there’s no love lost between him and DeSantis who, once his presidential ambitions flame out, will more than likely challenge Scott in the next Senate race.