Why couldn’t Gov. DeSantis bring himself to stand next to Joe Biden? | Column
The president was in Florida to tour areas damaged from Hurricane Idalia.
President Joe Biden speaks in front of a home in Live Oak destroyed by fallen trees and debris from Hurricane Idalia.
President Joe Biden speaks in front of a home in Live Oak destroyed by fallen trees and debris from Hurricane Idalia. [ JULIO CORTEZ | AP ]
Published Sept. 7, 2023

Spoiler alert! In the following paragraph you will not find a single detail you will be able to associate with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

During his long public career, Bill Richardson travelled the globe meeting with all manner of thugs, despots, goons, murderous sociopaths, tyrants and malevolent dictators in the dogged pursuit to free scores of imprisoned Americans.

Daniel Ruth
Daniel Ruth [ Tampa Bay Times ]

Richardson, who died days ago at 75, was relentless and unafraid to confront brutal warlords and the likes of Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin to secure the release of American hostages.

The legacy of Richardson’s diplomacy stands in stark contrast to our sniveling governor too afraid to be seen in the same ZIP code with the president of the United States who had come to Florida to lend his support and the full weight of the federal government to aid the victims of Hurricane Idalia.

DeSantis is running (and not very well at that) to become the next commander-in-chief. He would have you believe that if he ever gets his pudding-smeared fingers on the nuclear codes, he would bring a steely determination to the job in staring down folks like Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, the Taliban and all manner of the world’s evil-doers. But he couldn’t bring himself to be seen standing next to President Joe Biden? In Florida? Really.

The crack gofers populating the DeSantis presidential train wreck offered up the political piffle, wrapped in balderdash, enshrouded in malarkey that the security considerations associated with Biden’s visit and his own $14 million worth of guys with sunglasses and ear pieces would have been too cumbersome. But Biden has travelled to other disaster sites, most recently Hawaii, without any noticeable upheaval.

Rather, it makes more sense to suspect that DeSantis simply didn’t want to run the risk of being vilified by the chowderhead wing of the Republican Party for (ahem) doing his job by shaking hands with the leader of the free world. No doubt the governor feared suffering the fate former Gov. Chris Christie experienced after he warmly greeted President Barack Obama when he showed up in New Jersey to give the state gobs of money in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Christie was vilified as a RINO for merely welcoming a man to New Jersey who wanted to give him millions of dollars to help residents in distress. Oh, the treason of it all!

Or perhaps DeSantis was thinking about the blowback then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist endured after his ill-fated man hug of Obama when the president visited Florida to promote his $787 billion economic stimulus package during the Great Recession in 2009. The political future of Crist, an exceedingly polite and gracious man, was forever doomed — at least in the GOP axis of lickspitters.

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What does it say about our political climate when engaging in what should be nothing more than a benign act of good manners is turned into a weapon of mass incivility?

Whatever it says isn’t very good.

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell experienced a concerning health event days ago, freezing up at a news conference and unable to momentarily speak, Biden called him and later described the man who has shown no reluctance to stab him in the back at every opportunity, “my friend.”

What is the bare bones expectation we should require of a political leader? Maturity, perhaps.

If Gov. Run Away! Run Away! had instead shown up in with Biden, he could have said something like:

“Look, I’m a candidate for the presidency and if I win the nomination (stop laughing) President Biden will be my opponent. We’ll have ample time to debate the issues before the American people. But for now, I’m grateful that President Biden and the First Lady have come to Florida to see for themselves the devastation of this horrible storm.

“I would also add that for those in my party who want to accuse me of some sort of twisted disloyalty because I just shook the president’s hand, you people are complete nitwits.

“The late John McCain once told a campaign rally that Barack Obama was his political opponent with whom he had many differences. But he was not his enemy.

“And I feel the same way about President Biden.”

Well, one can always hope.

DeSantis has shown repeatedly he has at best a passing familiarity with the U.S. Constitution. And “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” too.