Why 'opportunist' Ron DeSantis’ 'silence' on Ukrainian president’s speech speaks volumes: conservative
Like so many other Republicans in the MAGA movement, far-right Gov. Ron DeSantis often makes a point of drawing attention to political stunts that are carefully designed to fire up his base, whether he is sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, railing against Dr. Anthony Fauci or attacking Disney. DeSantis, his critics often complain, is a glaring example of performance over policy.
One of those critics is Jonathan V. Last, a Never Trump conservative and a columnist for the conservative website The Bulwark. In his scathing December 22 column, Last argues that DeSantis’ response — or lack thereof — to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s December 21 visit to the United States speaks volumes about the Florida governor’s priorities and underscores his lack of substance.
On December 21, Zelensky met with President Joe Biden in the White House and gave an English-language speech during a joint session of Congress. English isn’t Zelensky’s native language, but the Ukrainian president had no problem getting his points across about the war in Ukraine and his relationship with the United States. During the speech, Vice President Kamala Harris and outgoing House speaker Nancy Pelosi stood behind him and held up a Ukrainian flag in solidarity with Zelensky’s war-torn country.
Some Republicans joined Democrats in applauding Zelensky’s speech, while far-right MAGA Republicans echoed Kremlin talking points and attacked the Ukrainian president. But DeSantis and his office, according to Last, were “silent” (at least at the time Last’s Bulwark column was published).
Describing the December 21 activity in DeSantis’ Twitter accounts, Last observes, “On his personal feed, DeSantis just decided to take the day off. So did his @TeamRonDeSantis account. His @DeSantisWarRoom account was also dark yesterday. No posts.”
Last continues, “DeSantis’ mouthpiece, Christina Pushaw, had lots to say yesterday: About people being fat; about Twitter and Elon Musk and the liberal media; about masking and COVID and groomers all across the country. But about Zelensky’s speech and the question of whether or not the United States should be continuing to provide military and economic aid to Ukraine? About whether Zelensky is an agent of liberalism fighting for the democratic order or a track-suited strip-club manager? Pushaw didn’t voice any opinions on that stuff.”
If President Ronald Reagan or Sen. John McCain of Arizona were still alive, Last argues, they would have applauded Zelensky’s speech.
“You know who would have loved Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Congress yesterday? John McCain,” Last writes. “All through it, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Zelensky’s speech might as well have been a Johnnie Mac special — one of those rousing, it’s always darkest before the dawn, let freedom ring numbers. I suspect George W. Bush loved it, too. And Reagan? Man, the Gipper would have been all over that bad boy…. McCain and W. and Reagan would have stood by Zelensky until the gates of hell froze over. And it's why Donald Trump, Jr. and Lauren Boebert and Benny Johnson and Thomas Massie and so many other Republican elites spent yesterday insulting Zelensky.”
DeSantis is often mentioned as a possible GOP presidential candidate for 2024. So far, he hasn’t officially entered the race. But as Last sees it, someone as ambitious as DeSantis should be speaking out when an important foreign leader visits the White House, meets with the president of the United States and gives a speech before members of both branches of Congress.
“Ron DeSantis is an opportunist,” Last writes. “His team is happy to pop off about the omnibus spending bill, or masking policies in Philadelphia — or anything really — if they think it helps him with Republican voters. So, this strategic silence is a clear indication that DeSantis sees Republican voters as, at best, split on Ukraine and Russia. And so, he wants to sidestep the issue until the pendulum comes to rest and he can see where Republican voters settle.”
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