Florida Governor Ron DeSantis failed to meet with President Joe Biden during his visit to the Sunshine State to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Idalia. His failure to meet with the president has prompted some to question the motivations behind his choice.
Biden’s Presence Could Disrupt Recovery Ops From Hurricane Idalia
According to a statement from DeSantis’ office, there were concerns that President Biden’s presence could potentially disrupt the ongoing recovery operations in the affected regions.
However, some speculated that DeSantis’ decision to avoid Biden was politically motivated, as the two men are trying to clinch their party’s nomination in a bid for the White House.
DeSantis has been a sharp critic of Biden’s policies, as he tried to establish himself as a staunch conservative by implementing stringent policies on abortion and immigration and changing the way Florida teaches Black History.
Biden Has Been Supportive of the LGBTQ Movement, Immigration and Women’s Reproductive Rights
On the other hand, Biden has been vocal in his support LGBTQ movement. He also adopted a more lenient approach to immigration and has supported women’s reproductive rights.
As DeSantis’ controversial policies have raised eyebrows across both parties and alienated minorities, some political pundits wondered whether DeSantis would draw too much of a stark contrast standing next to Biden on the same stage.
“The Security Preparations Alone That Would Go Into Setting up Such a Meeting Would Shut Down Ongoing Recovery Efforts”
The president talked to DeSantis multiple times this week and said on Friday that he and the Florida governor would meet in person during his visit to the state.
But DeSantis’s spokesperson said on the same day that there were no plans for such a meeting, adding that “the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts.”
“We don’t have any plans for the governor to meet with the president,” DeSantis’s spokesperson, Jeremy Redfern, told CNN in a statement.
“If There’s Anything Your State Needs, I’m Ready To Mobilize That Support”
On Friday, the White House said that the president, the first lady, Jill Biden, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, Deanne Criswell, will travel to Florida on Saturday.
The visit was “planned in close coordination with Fema as well as state and local leaders to ensure there is no impact on response operations,” according to the White House statement.
“As I’ve told your governor, if there’s anything your state needs, I’m ready to mobilize that support,” Biden said during his visit to the affected areas. “Anything they need related to these storms. Your nation has your back, and we’ll be with you until the job is done.”
“He May Have Had Other Reasons…”
Asked if he was disappointed that DeSantis did not join him during the visit, Biden said, “No, I’m not disappointed.”
“He may have had other reasons… But he did help us plan this,” Biden told reporters. “He sat with FEMA and decided where we should go where would be the least disruption,” he said.
A day before his visit, Biden said he and DeSantis had been in contact about the hurricane. “There should be a direct dial, the two of us – Governor DeSantis and I,” Biden said.
DeSantis’ Unwillingness To Meet Biden
Still, DeSantis’ unwillingness to meet Biden during the visit earned him some criticism from Florida Democrats.
“By refusing to meet with President Biden, he’s proving again what we’ve known for years – Ron will always put politics over people,” Nikki Fried, the Florida Democratic party chair said.
FEMA said Biden and DeSantis’s failure to meet will not affect recovery efforts.
Declaring an Official Disaster Ahead of Time
Deanne Criswell, the head of FEMA, said her agency finished rescue operations and focused on restoring power to affected regions. She said less than 1 percent of Floridians were without power as of Saturday. However, that figure was significantly higher in some areas directly affected by the hurricane.
During his visit to Live Oak, Biden received praise from Republican Senator Rick Scott for declaring an official disaster ahead of time.
“That Was a Big Deal. It Helped All These First Responders”
“Can I just say something real quick about what the president has done? First off, the president did a great a job with the early declaration before the storm hit the coast,” Scott said. “That was a big deal. It helped all these first responders.”
The president praised Scott and DeSantis. “The governor was on top of it,” Biden said.
Politics hung over the response to the disaster, as DeSantis is trailing former President Donald Trump and looking to clinch the Republican nomination – and potentially oust Biden from the White House.
The Danger of Extreme Weather Patterns
DeSantis met with Biden when the president traveled to Florida last year after Hurricane Ian, before the Florida governor had formally announced his White House bid.
The White House has requested an additional $4 billion to address natural disasters as part of a supplemental funding request to Congress. That would bring the total to $16 billion and highlight the danger of extreme weather patterns, which come at increasingly higher costs for US taxpayers.
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Source: The Guardian