As Florida hospitals fill, DeSantis tries changing the subject
It was on Tuesday afternoon when President Joe Biden sent a not-so-subtle shot across the bow of two
prominent Republican governors, noting that Florida and Texas alone account for one-third of the nation’s new
Though he didn’t name names, the president added, “I say to these governors, ‘Please, help.’ But if you aren’t
going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) had a full day to come up with some kind of response. Evidently, the Republican
couldn’t think of anything good, so he went with this.
In a message intended for the president, the governor went on to say, “I’m standing in your way” with regards to
proposed mandates and guidelines intended to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
He also marveled at Biden’s willingness to “single out Florida over COVID.”
So, a few things.
Right off the bat, it’s worth emphasizing that Biden didn’t single out Florida; Florida singled out Florida with its
intensifying crisis. As NBC News reported, “The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus,
accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S.”
In fact, roughly a year and a half into the pandemic, conditions in Florida are effectively as bad now as they’ve
ever been, which is bound to get noticed, whether the governor of the Sunshine State likes it or not.
But more broadly, what we saw from DeSantis was a clumsy effort
But more broadly, what we saw from DeSantis was a clumsy effort, not to defend his record, and not to help
protect his own constituents, but to dramatically change the subject. The COVID crisis isn’t the story the
Republican wants to talk about, so the governor, embracing “what aboutism” to an absurd degree, tried to shift
the focus to a story he likes better.
Forget the pandemic; forget Florida’s maxed out hospitals; forget rapidly rising infection tallies; forget lagging
vaccination rates. Ron DeSantis would prefer to talk about immigrants and the U.S./Mexico border.
In fact, the ambitious GOP governor’s political operation even sent a fundraising letter to his supporters
yesterday, suggesting “migrants” are responsible for climbing COVID numbers.
At this point, we could explain that the border is not, in reality, the problem. We could also explain that Florida is
one of the hemisphere’s largest peninsulas — it’s largely surrounded by water — and it shares a border with Georgia and Alabama, not Mexico.
But there’s ultimately no real point in even taking DeSantis’ rhetoric seriously as a substantive argument, because
it’s not. The governor doesn’t have a plan to deal with his state’s intensifying public-health crisis; he opposes
policies that might help for purely political reasons, and he’s on the defensive after the president helped expose