After Ian, DeSantis goes from provocateur to crisis manager

Florida governor Ron DeSantis battled her way through the nationwide conversation this month, first by putting migrants on planes or buses to Democrat strongholds and then to a more traditional crisis manager role as one of the crisis managers strongest hurricanes ever to have met the US invading his state.

Opposite a election in November that could be a precursor to a presidential campaign, the approach was awkward in places. In one of his state’s darkest moments, DeSantis, a Republican, must work with a Democratic president he has humiliated for nearly two years. He’s also readily accepting of the kind of federal disaster relief and assistance that he dismissed as wasteful when he was a member of Congress.

But taken together, developments over the past two weeks offer a glimpse of how DeSantis might govern if he wins another term as governor or advances in a 2024 presidential contest. He is poised to use — and potentially surpass — his office’s raw executive powers to heed America’s most thorny divisions on issues like immigration. In a sudden moment of disaster, however, he is able to strike a more unified tone than former President Donald Trump – once a close ally and now a potential rival for 2024 — rarely proven.

“Ultimately, I look at this as something that you people in need have, and at the local, federal and state levels we need to work together,” DeSantis said at a briefing late Thursday, in a far more forgiving tone of an administration he bitterly criticized just days earlier He expressed his appreciation for FEMA’s approval of every request for help he made and said he welcomed the agency’s director to travel with him to see the destruction.

The tone shift is almost certainly temporary. When a 12-story condo building in Surfside, Fla., collapsed last year, killing 98 people, DeSantis appeared with local officials, including Democrats who praised his help. He sat next to it President Joe Biden during a briefing with first responders and local officials in Miami. However, within months he returned to partisan brawls.

In the face of yet another tragedy, DeSantis didn’t answer questions this week about meeting with Biden and said he wasn’t sure about the president’s travel plans. At a FEMA briefing Thursday, Biden also wanted to put hostilities aside, saying he would visit Florida when conditions permit and meet with DeSantis “if he wants to meet.”

Biden and DeSantis both said they spoke more than once. And at the request of DeSantis, Biden on Thursday declared a major disaster in parts of Florida, freeing up additional federal aid to state and local governments and individuals.

“We’re going to rebuild it with state and local government,” Biden said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre tweeted that Biden and DeSantis spoke by phone again Friday when the FEMA Administrator is on site in Florida.

DeSanti’s embrace of federal aid is a change from his early days as a congressman, when he voted against a federal aid package for New York and New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. This drew criticism from some New York-area officials and other Democrats this week, who described the about-face as a move from cruel to hypocritical.

Richard Conley, a political science professor at the University of Florida, said DeSantis is doing what he has to do, pragmatically and politically. While DeSantis is popular in the dependable Republican area of ​​southwest Florida, which was hardest hit by Hurricane Ian, he said people will inevitably get frustrated when it’s taking too long to get help and will start looking for someone to help they can blame.

“He just has to do his job,” Conley said. “The question will be: Does he look very statesmanlike in the future? Will that help him in an eventual run in 2024? I don’t know, it remains to be seen.”

DeSantis has been associated with Trump since his early years as a gubernatorial candidate. DeSantis was a relatively obscure third-term congressman when he announced his run for governor — and a Trump endorsement — on Fox News in 2018. He repeated some of Trump’s favorite lines as he championed a campaign, such as promising to “drain the swamp” in Tallahassee. Trump credited the win, though their relationship is said to have cooled during the 2024 call.

As governor, DeSantis has addressed issues that upset the conservative base and used his resources and the power of his office to do things his way, even when it pushed the limits of his legal authority.

During the COVID Pandemic DeSantis insisted Florida would remain open. He avoided the guidance of federal health experts and once said about Dr. Anthony Fauci that someone should “throw him over the Potomac.” He also withdrew funding from school districts that implemented mask mandates.

This spring, DeSantis signed it into law Disney deprived of a special arrangement that allowed the theme park to govern itselfafter the company criticized a new state law the critics “Don’t say gay.

DeSantis was also suspended an elected Democratic prosecutor in Tampa for testimony about not prosecuting criminal charges relating to abortion, transgender rights and certain low-level cases. The prosecutor has since filed a federal lawsuit alleging freedom of speech against the governor.

For the past few weeks, Florida has been paying under DeSantis’ direction two migrant flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis was the last GOP governor, frustrated by the federal government’s response to policing the southern border to transport the migrants to Democratic cities.

DeSantis defended the move to make immigration a “front burner” before the midterms. Critics questioned the legality, and his Democratic opponent for governor said it represented a new low level of prudence.

“I find it amazing what he is willing to do for pure political gain,” said Charlie Crist, his gubernatorial challenger.

Conley, who has written a book on Trump and populism, said he understands the comparisons between the two men, both of whom are often provocative Republicans. However, he noted important differences, including that DeSantis is more disciplined and reserved about statements on social media.

“He may say controversial things, but I don’t think he’s going to be sitting around at 3 or 4 in the morning thinking about how to get back at[Senate GOP leader]Mitch McConnell or something,” like Trump would, said Conley.

Trump also drew criticism for his responses to natural disasters, which often lacked empathy.

After Puerto Rico was flattened by Hurricane Maria, He flew to San Juan and threw paper towels at the crowd, withheld help and asked if the Democrats invented a death toll in the thousands to make him look bad. On a trip to Houston after Hurricane Harvey, he was criticized for not meeting with storm victims. When he returned days later, Trump urged people at an animal shelter to “have a good time.”

Natural disasters have in the past put US political leaders in dire straits.

Years earlier, President George W. Bush appeared to overlook the devastation of Hurricane Karina in New Orleans as he flew over the city upon returning to Washington from vacation. He later praised FEMA Director Michael Brown as “a hell of a job.”

Both New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, and Democratic President Barack Obama felt the political repercussions of a friendly welcome after Hurricane Sandy. The image may have helped Obama project a moderate, bipartisan front days before his election for a second term, but conservatives mocked Christie for what they called a “hug.”

At Thursday afternoon’s briefing, DeSantis spoke of surveying the damage, from a wiped out dam between the mainland and Sanibel Island off Fort Myers to destroyed homes and hundreds of people rescued.

“These are resilient people,” he said. “They will recover, but we just want to make sure we can pave the way for them.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. After Ian, DeSantis goes from provocateur to crisis manager

Sarah Y. Kim

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