Here’s how Mickey Mouse outplayed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis | Column
The governor underestimated the Disney Corporation, showcasing an “entirely new level of stupid,” writes columnist Daniel Ruth.
Cartoon [ Cagle Cartoons ]
Published April 6, 2023

Perhaps you might want to think about this as the corporate equivalent of a classic Three Stooges pie fight. Right there in the center of it all stands Gov. Ron DeSantis looking like a veritable Abominable Snowman of custard from head to toe, artfully delivered, of course, by the cute as the dickens Mickey Mouse.

Daniel Ruth
Daniel Ruth [ Tampa Bay Times ]

Did the governor really believe he could interfere with the Walt Disney Company, the most powerful entertainment entity in the world and the company would simply roll over like a beagle getting its tummy rubbed?

Apparently so, which certainly should disqualify anyone possessing this level of denseness from ever getting anywhere near the nuclear codes. Good grief, you wouldn’t want DeSantis anywhere near a grocery store bar code.

During his 2018 run for governor, DeSantis never pouted about Disney’s 50-year-plus special taxing district status, otherwise known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Not a peep. Not a whimper. Now even a harrumph.

The arrangement essentially established Disney as its own government overseeing Disney World, EPCOT, hotels and other venues on its 39-square mile property in Central Florida.

The special status benefited everyone — Disney, the state and surrounding communities, which have enjoyed the vast multi-billion-dollar economic growth the Magic Kingdom created.

The governor never raised any concerns throughout most of his first term. It was only when Disney exercised its First Amendment rights to criticize the governor’s homophobic Parental Rights in Education Act — better known as the Don’t Say Gay bill — that prohibited classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in some grades.

That’s when DeSantis and his bootlickers in the Florida Legislature moved to replace Reedy Creek with a new board of flunkies picked by the governor to make decisions about future development.

“There’s a new sheriff in town,” DeSantis preened. Alas, the new sheriff was Barney Fife.

While the governor and his toadies were busy towel snapping each other over their take down of Disney, the company very quietly put the wheels in motion to do to DeSantis what Donald Trump is going to do to him in the Republican primary.

The Disney controlled taxing authority — during a publicly-noticed meeting in keeping with Florida’s Sunshine Laws — approved a new, legally-binding set of provisions that transferred the authority of Reedy Creek to Disney, giving the company control over all future construction, while also retaining all rights to the Disney brand into perpetuity. The board DeSantis created? It’s newly appointed members are free to bring coffee and doughnuts to their meetings where they have very little power to do anything.

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Apparently, it never dawned on DeSantis that Disney wouldn’t simply acquiesce to the efforts of a tin-horn, third-rate pol with alarming dictatorial leanings to undermine a business that generates $82 billion in revenues?

This takes stupid to an entirely new level of stupid.

Brian Aungst, Jr., one of DeSantis’s appointees to the new Reedy Creek board, fulminated that Disney’s actions were a “… subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the governor. It completely circumvents the authority of the board to govern.” One can only hope so.

It’s not clear what Aungst was crying about. There was no measure on the 2022 ballot asking voters if they wanted to shaft Disney. And what a board this was going to be, including Ron Peri, who has argued drinking tap water could turn people gay.

Bridget Ziegler, another DeSantis lackey, accused Disney of arrogance. But what you call a governor who set out to punish a valued corporate citizen for committing free speech? Arrogance? Or lunacy?

No surprise there.

You know what’s scary? I know more about Ukraine than the governor does. My left rear hubcap knows more about Ukraine than the governor does.

You know what’s scary? It took a hapless governor several days, after having his head handed to him by dismissing the war in Ukraine as a mere “territorial dispute,” to finally suggest that maybe Russian President Vladimir Putin might be a war criminal after all.

You know what’s scary? This governor wants to ban books, but has no problem pushing through a law that will allow every Gomer, Goober and Gonzo dufus to carry a weapon without the burden of a permit and/or firearms training.

You know what’s scary? This silly little man would rather feud with Disney than fix the property insurance crisis swallowing the state.

DeSantis plans to fight Disney. He will lose. And it will cost you millions of dollars to pay for the governor’s ignorance. That’s scary. Goofy, too.