Ron DeSantis apparently isn’t content with being the most combative governor in Florida history. He seems to aspire to being the most crude as well. Two recent examples:
— He chose the Tampa suburb of Brandon to sign anti-vaccine and anti-mask bills that the obedient Legislature just handed him. The audience predictably chanted “Let’s go, Brandon,” a euphemism for an obscene reference to President Joe Biden.
— His campaign website markets golf balls, two at a time, in boxes labeled “Florida’s Governor Has a Pair.” The crude reference to manhood belongs in a high school locker room. It would be interesting to watch DeSantis, a father of three, try to explain this to a room full of third graders.
This sophomoric stuff is far beneath the dignity of the office of governor of the third-largest state. The golf balls join the campaign’s other fundraising gimmicks designed to annoy Democrats, like beer koozies emblazoned with “Don’t Fauci my Florida” and “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”
He wasn’t always like this. In a visit to Fort Lauderdale this week, the old DeSantis was back. At a press conference where he announced two appointments to the Broward County Commission, he showed the graciousness that marked his first year in office. He wished all Floridians a happy Thanksgiving and expressed appreciation for prayers and thoughts for his wife, first lady Casey DeSantis, who’s battling breast cancer.
Every day, the governor sets the tone for civil discourse and serves as a role model for leaders in government and business. DeSantis has been too hostile too often, and he’s not always well-served by his staff.
Press secretary Christina Pushaw apologized for a recent tweet criticizing strong masking and vaccination requirements in the nation of Georgia, where she once worked. Pushaw cited a visit to Georgia from an executive of the Rothschild banking company, attempting to link it to Georgia’s announcement of strong measures against the virus that causes COVID-19.
Pushaw said she didn’t know that the Rothschilds have been targets of antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes ever since the Russian czar’s secret police forged “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which purported to reveal a Jewish scheme for world domination.
To her credit, Pushaw admitted the reference was ill-chosen and expressed regret. But this was a very bad look for a top aide to the governor of a state who claims to be a strong ally of the Jewish community. This is from what Pushaw emailed to the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board:
“I’d only heard the family name “Rothschild” in the context of memes poking fun at stereotypical conspiracy theorists. I was not familiar with the actual contents of those conspiracy theories. The morning after I posted that Tweet, a friend of mine who happens to be Jewish, wrote to me directly to share information about what those conspiracy theories actually allege and why they’re so offensive to Jewish people. After learning those details, I regretted that tweet and took it down. I abhor antisemitism and would never want to inadvertently promote it. I am proud to work for a governor who has always been a steadfast ally of the Jewish community, as well as the State of Israel.”
She said she and the Anti-Defamation League had a “conversation in good faith” so that “I do not make the same mistake again.”
Her statement was refreshingly rare in that it did not include the shopworn phrase, ‘If anyone took offense … ” Other politicians take note.
Perhaps it will set an example for the governor himself, whose questionable conduct appeals to the Donald Trump constituency that DeSantis transparently hopes to inherit for his own presidential ambitions. His persistent attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, are notably spiteful.
“A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. A recovery is when Fauci loses his,” DeSantis told a West Palm Beach crowd earlier this month, according to a report on Floridapolitics.com. Spectators shouted, “Let’s go, Brandon.”
Florida hasn’t had a governor this confrontational since Claude Kirk Jr., the first post-Reconstruction Republican, who served from 1967 to 1971. “Courage!” was the theme of his unsuccessful reelection campaign in 1970, but even then he eschewed the sexual innuendo so prominently displayed on DeSantis’ online campaign store.
Every other governor, Republican or Democrat, has shown a proper respect for the dignity of the office. What’s disconcerting about DeSantis, the holder of two Ivy League degrees, is that he doesn’t seem to care.
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