Ron DeSantis is a whining, peevish horror show of a politician across multiple issues, as we’ve discussed in detail in this space. But I think his statement about Ukraine yesterday — and to whom he chose to make that statement — is worth highlighting because it confirms something most of us already suspected: DeSantis doesn’t care about democracy and is in fact actively hostile to it. From the Times:
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has sharply broken with Republicans who are determined to defend Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, saying in a statement made public on Monday night that protecting the European nation’s borders is not a vital U.S. interest and that policymakers should instead focus attention at home…
The venue Mr. DeSantis chose for his statement on a major foreign policy question revealed almost as much as the substance of the statement itself. The statement was broadcast on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” on Fox News. It was in response to a questionnaire that the host, Mr. Carlson, sent last week to all major prospective Republican presidential candidates, and is tantamount to an acknowledgment by Mr. DeSantis that a candidacy is in the offing.
On Mr. Carlson’s show, Mr. DeSantis separated himself from Republicans who say the problem with Mr. Biden’s Ukraine policy is that he’s not doing enough. Mr. DeSantis made clear he thinks Mr. Biden is doing too much, without a clearly defined objective, and taking actions that risk provoking war between the U.S. and Russia.
To underscore why it matters that DeSantis chose Carlson’s show as his venue for this statement, recall that as Putin began his failed attempt at a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year — as the world waited for Russian troops to roll triumphantly into Kyiv — Carlson was “just asking questions” on Fox News: (WaPo)
“It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much?” he said on his Tuesday night show. “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”
“These are fair questions, and the answer to all of them is ‘no.’ Vladimir Putin didn’t do any of that,” he said. “So, why does permanent Washington hate him so much?”
In 2019, Carlson said, ” Why shouldn’t I root for Russia? Which by the way I am.” (Twitter link) So at least he’s been consistent. Since then, Ukraine inspired citizens of democratic countries around the world with its heroic stand against a much-larger aggressor, Russians have killed and wounded countless Ukrainian civilians, and Russian troops have committed horrifying war crimes.
Carlson’s show remains a Putin regime favorite, with clips rebroadcast in Russia, so it makes sense for DeSantis to stake out his anti-Ukraine position on Carlson’s show. Who knows, maybe the GRU will transfer its allegiance from Trump to DeSantis.
Samuel Johnson said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Here’s a 2023 U.S. politics version, “When a candidate doesn’t give a shit about Ukraine, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about democracy.”
Predictably, the Times coverage linked above covers the DeSantis statement as a foreign policy split within a horserace framework, describing Trump and DeSantis as candidates who are against “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia” (as DeSantis put it) on one side vs. “internationalists and Republican hawks” (as the Times put it) on the other.
It’s much deeper than that, and I wish our broken political media had the wit to perceive it and the courage to name it. These statements point to a schism within one of our two viable political parties where the power center resides with leaders who are against democracy itself, as demonstrated not solely by their attitudes toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but their domestic policy agenda too.
I’m so damn sick of every goddamn election being “the most important election of our lifetime,” but here we go again.