Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign launch on Twitter obviously didn’t go according to plan. But the Fox News interview the Florida Republican gave soon after wasn’t exactly a great success, either.
The far-right governor equated climate change with “the politicization of the weather”; he complained about the U.S. military; he made weird references to a “woke mind virus”; and he falsely suggested that infanticide is legal in California.
But in the same interview — conducted by Trey Gowdy, who was DeSantis’ GOP congressional colleague for several years — the Florida Republican also said he would fire FBI Director Chris Wray on his first day in the White House. DeSantis added that, as far as he’s concerned, the FBI is not “independent,” and he intends to change the bureau’s direction.
The comments were, in and of themselves, rather provocative: The FBI has literally never had a Democratic director. Democratic presidents have either appointed Republican directors to lead the bureau or kept GOP-appointed directors in place. Evidently, according to DeSantis, this isn’t quite good enough.
But yesterday, this story got a little weirder. Axios reported:
Responding to DeSantis’ vow on Fox News last night to fire FBI director Christopher Wray on day one of his presidency, the Trump campaign tweeted out a screenshot from 2017 of DeSantis praising Wray as “talented, capable & highly respected.” The problem? DeSantis was responding to a tweet from Trump — conveniently cropped out — announcing he was nominating Wray, whom he praised at the time as “a man of impeccable credentials.”
In other words, Team Trump yesterday slammed DeSantis for endorsing Trump’s own nominee six years ago.
Trump announced that he’d chosen Wray to lead the FBI; DeSantis praised the move at the time as “an inspired choice”; and now the former president’s campaign is acting like the governor’s support for Wray should be seen as controversial.
This came a week after the Trump campaign released a list of GOP candidates who “flopped” after receiving the Florida governor’s endorsement. The key flaw in the statement: Trump endorsed many of the same failed candidates.
A Washington Post fact-check report this week also noted that Trump has admonished DeSantis for having embraced the same positions on Social Security and Medicare that Trump has held.
The broader dynamic is as unusual as it is bewildering: The frontrunner for the Republicans’ presidential nomination believes his most competitive rival is vulnerable because he’s agreed with the frontrunner.
In theory, primary voters would see this, scoff at the absurdity, and look askance at Trump. In practice, GOP voters have been watching the former president engage in similar behavior for years, and they’ve never much minded.