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Condemning ‘authoritarian rule,’ DeSantis slams allies, not Russia

As an authoritarian adversary sparks an international crisis, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis admonished U.S. allies, not Vladimir Putin.


It’s no secret that Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t just running for re-election this year; the Florida Republican also appears to have national ambitions. With this in mind, the governor’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday generated some interest, in large part because of the timing.

After all, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has created the most serious security crisis in Europe since World War II, and if DeSantis is serious about demonstrating national leadership skills, this was an opportunity for the Republican to step up and prove he’s ready for prime time.

That’s not what happened.

Pandering to the far-right crowd with juvenile rhetoric, DeSantis referred to the Biden administration as “the Brandon administration,” boasted about his state having “defeated Fauci-ism,” and lashed out at the free press as being responsible for a “blizzard of lies.”

Eventually, the Republican reflected on those “chafing under authoritarian rule all over the world.” It seemed DeSantis was finally prepared to take note of the crisis gripping the world, but he wasn’t. As the Sarasota Herald Tribune reported:

As Russian dictator Vladimir Putin sent troops into Democratic Ukraine, Gov. Ron DeSantis took the stage Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando and attacked authoritarianism not in Russia, but in democratic Australia, Canada and Europe. DeSantis touted his efforts to fight COVID-19 restrictions and slammed nations such as Australia and Canada that enacted more restrictive public health measures.

Yes, when DeSantis see people “chafing under authoritarian rule all over the world,” he’s not thinking about Russia. In fact, the governor ignored the international crisis and made no mention of Russia or Vladimir Putin.

Instead, the governor believes Canada and Australia are examples of “authoritarian rule,” because officials in those countries took steps he didn’t like to protect their citizens during the deadly pandemic.

Or put another way, as an authoritarian adversary launches a military offensive, threatening to destabilize a large part of the world, DeSantis criticized his own country’s White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, his own country’s journalists, and some of the United States’ closest allies, but not Vladimir Putin.

Making matters just a bit worse, The Orlando Sentinel’s report flagged a related gem:

DeSantis said Biden “just hates Florida,” claiming the president was trying to “take our medication,” a reference to the Food and Drug Administration dropping two antibody treatments for COVID-19 that he championed, even though the drugmakers themselves conceded they are ineffective against omicron.

In case anyone needs a refresher, the FDA announced about a month ago that the monoclonal antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly should no longer be used to treat Covid-19 patients infected with the omicron variant. The drugs had received emergency-use authorizations, but because they don’t work against the omicron variant, federal health regulators decided revoking the authorization was the obvious move.

Both drugmakers endorsed the policy change, agreeing that the infusion treatments aren’t effective against omicron.

In theory, that should have effectively ended the conversation. In practice, Florida’s GOP governor responded to the news by throwing a fit and accusing the Biden administration of “pulling the rug out from under people.”

At a press conference, DeSantis went on to tell reporters “Early this morning, thousands of Floridians woke up to news that their appointments to get treatment for Covid-19 infection were canceled by the administration, which revoked, outright revoked authorization for two very popular monoclonal antibody treatments.”

Of course, their “popularity” was irrelevant. The treatments didn’t work. Everyone involved in the process recognized their inefficacy. DeSantis was fighting to provide people with medical treatments that wouldn’t help patients at all.

As ridiculous as this was, the Republican governor is still whining a month later, telling people that Biden took patients’ medication away, as proof that the president “hates” Florida.

So much for being ready for prime time. CPAC can be strange, but DeSantis was embarrassment to himself.