Florida governor compares reopening schools to Osama bin Laden raid

Ron DeSantis seems to believe the key to reopening schools is finding the right analogy to help make his policy appear more palatable.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in Apopka, Fla., on July 17, 2020.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in Apopka, Fla., on July 17, 2020.Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
By Steve Benen

Coronavirus conditions in Florida aren't quite as brutal as they were in mid-July, but the state clearly has a long road ahead, with more than 8,000 new cases added just yesterday. What's more, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the number of COVID-19 cases among Florida children has more than doubled over the past month.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), however, remains determined to open school doors next month, prompting the Florida Education Association to take the matter to court.

For his part, the Republican governor seems to believe finding the right analogy will help make his policy appear more palatable.

About a month ago, for example, DeSantis compared school openings to shopping at Home Depot and Walmart. "I'm confident if you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools," the Floridian said.

This was far less persuasive than he seemed to realize: when shoppers go to big-box stores, they tend to walk through spacious aisles and remain in the stores for relatively short periods. When kids go to schools, they tend to sit for many hours in classrooms and walk through crowded hallways.

Yesterday, as the Washington Post reported, DeSantis pitched a new comparison.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday compared the difficulties of reopening public schools for the 2020-21 academic year during the coronavirus pandemic with obstacles faced by the U.S. Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

The governor's office posted a transcript and video online, and he began his remarks this way:

"A number of school districts that launched in-person instruction this week and many more that are planning to open up over the next few weeks. Martin County Superintendent Laurie Gaylord told me she viewed re-opening her schools as a mission akin to a Navy SEAL operation. Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, so too would the Martin County School system find a way to provide parents with a meaningful choice of in-person instruction or continued distance learning. All in, all the time."

In context, DeSantis seems to be attributing this deeply unfortunate comparison to a local school superintendent, but nevertheless, he probably should've stuck with the not-quite-as-ridiculous Home Depot and Walmart analogy.