Hurricane Ian has exposed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for the small, mean political animal that he is.
In fact, he could learn something from someone who in the hurricane’s aftermath is doing more to reassure all Floridians and the rest of the country. That someone would be President Joe Biden.
Biden knows that crises are the test of a country’s unity. And on Thursday, he knew exactly what to say.
“My message to the people of Florida and the country is at times like this, America comes together,” Biden said from FEMA headquarters. “We’re going to pull together as one team, and one America.”
Biden mentioned how he called DeSantis right away and offered the “fullest federal support.”
He wasn’t playing divisive political games. Not like what DeSantis is known for lately.
Over the next couple of days, when the Florida governor appears at news conferences, look at DeSantis and remember the 50 migrants whose lives he toyed with.
You’ll recall DeSantis just weeks ago bared his anti-immigrant soul by sending those handpicked migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
He said he was just trying to help them get to a sanctuary state, as he took credit for the deed. But everyone knew it was just a cruel grandstanding political prank.
DeSantis, the man who wants to further his presidential ambitions, was simply fluffing up his sense of xenophobia for Fox News viewers to cheer.
In doing so, he misrepresented the asylum seekers as “illegal,” even though the 50 he picked on were totally legal. They were people escaping the communist dictatorship in Venezuela, and now living in crisis, waiting for the backlog of more than 471,000 asylum cases (including some from Asian countries) that could take close to five years to get through.
DeSantis did the asylum seekers no favors. He exploited them to score political points. He played them like a hurricane whipping through a trailer park.
When you see DeSantis, think of those migrants. And think of how it really pinpoints a disturbing racist trait in the Florida governor.
And to think, if he had only waited, he could have shipped the migrants not to Martha’s Vineyard but to Florida to help rebuild the state. Many asylum seekers waiting for cases to be heard are allowed to work.
But DeSantis wasn’t trying to help in a time of crisis. He was just scoring political points.
Now, he’s acknowledging that the federal government through FEMA has stepped up with assistance. And that President Joe Biden was one of the first to call with aid for Florida.
DeSantis is thanking people profusely. Because that’s what a desperate politician in need does when a hurricane has humiliated him. Mostly, he’s thankful that no one pulled a DeSantis and played politics.
No one said no to Florida.
“We have had 26 states provide support,” DeSantis said at his first update on Thursday. “We really appreciate it. And we will make good use of it.”
Twenty-six states, most of them not even close to Florida. But that’s what Americans do. We pitch in and help.
He’ll surely take all the federal money he can get, even though he’s a small “g” government conservative. And he wasn’t above pitching for money to the public, although money can get lost by Florida politicians. I’d be wary about giving directly to the state.
Of course, DeSantis still isn’t above playing politics. He was quick to brag on Thursday how Florida has a big surplus, even though his state has no personal income tax. So maybe Florida doesn’t need help?
Their governor sure does.
By comparison, Biden knows in time of crisis, you cut through the politics.
“I’ve spoken with members across the state, both Republican and Democrat,” President Biden said. “Whatever you need, I told them to call me directly.”
President Biden also reassured Puerto Rico, an early victim of Ian, that he was “committed” to the recovery of the island. “We’ll stand by you for however long it takes to get it done,” the president said.
And then just so you know he has everyone’s back, Biden reiterated a message to oil and gas executives.
“Do not use this storm as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American public,” Biden said. “My experts informed me the production of only 160,000 barrels a day has been impacted by this storm. That’s less than 2 percent of our country’s daily production.”
Biden said that small impact “provides no excuse.” He added he expects the oil and gas folks to do the right thing and not gouge.
That’s what leaders say and do in times of crisis.
Quite the opposite of Gov. Ron “Martha’s Vineyard” DeSantis.
Frankly, I didn’t expect much from DeSantis after that Martha’s Vineyard stunt. But as Ian proves, it was a more significant tell for a man with presidential ambitions.
It was a self-disqualifying act.
After Ian, DeSantis deserves to get to higher ground. Just not higher office.
NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com.