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Ruben Navarrette: DeSantis tried to make a point. Instead, he made a spectacle.

From the commentary: Given the size of the egos involved, there was never much of a chance that Gov. Ron DeSantis and former president Donald Trump would wind up sharing a ticket. But now, they might end up sharing a cell.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS)
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SAN DIEGO — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is angling for a new job. In fact, the brazen self-promoter has already begun to reel in supporters.

Ruben Navarrete column logo
Ruben Navarrete column logo
Kit Grode / Tribune graphic
From the commentary: From all the reporting I've done about the Latino vote over the past three decades, along with the experience I've had for nearly 40 years as a Latino voter, there are a handful of factors that determine whether Latinos — who tend to register Democratic by 2 to 1— are at least open to voting for a Republican.
From the commentary: Cartoonist Dick Wright draws on Donald Trump's attacks on other Republicans.
From the commentary: The poor guy. Biden always sings the same song. He is convinced that he's doing all the right things, and he can't understand why he is not getting credit. So, he reasons, it must be because the messaging isn't working. The American people just don't know everything he's doing. Biden thinks his problem is communicating. It's not. It's competency.
From the commentary: Who says Republicans and Democrats can't cooperate? When it comes to offending Latinos, the parties inadvertently come to each other's aid by saying or doing something boneheaded just as the other is floundering.

Apparently, DeSantis aspires to be the human trafficker-in-chief. He is a natural. He enjoys preying upon poor and desperate people who have been traumatized. Unencumbered by consciences or hearts, he and his surrogates make false promises to migrants and transport them across state lines. All the while, DeSantis profits by getting attention and earning praise from MAGA supporters, including White folks who seem to delight in seeing people of color humiliated.

It was a thirst for humiliation that, in the spring of 1962, inspired white southerners to trick black Americans into boarding buses headed for northern cities with false promises of jobs and housing. The segregationists dubbed these bus rides "reverse Freedom Rides." They were poking fun at the courageous Freedom Rides, where civil rights activists seeking to desegregate interstate travel were beaten by white mobs in the South for riding on Greyhound buses in defiance of the color codes of Jim Crow.

Real human smugglers usually move migrants on the ground and foot the bill themselves by charging exorbitant fees; DeSantis chartered two private planes to fly 50 Venezuelans to Martha's Vineyard, and he used public funds to pay for the trip to Massachusetts.

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In fact, DeSantis might have misused those public tax dollars. So much for Republicans being the fiscally responsible party.

The state funds were intended to remove migrants from Florida, but DeSantis poached migrants from a shelter in San Antonio. When asked why, the governor said, "the problem is, we're not seeing mass movements of them into Florida … It's just coming in onesie-twosies."

Just to be clear, according to DeSantis, Florida is not being invaded by illegal immigrants. And that's a problem?

By the way, Venezuelans are perfect recruits for the Republican Party. They are fleeing socialism and a repressive regime. So why would a Republican governor send these future voters to a blue state?

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DeSantis set out to make a point, but he did it in such a sloppy manner that he crossed a line —several, in fact.

Everything that comes out of the governor's mouth, in trying to justify the stunt, is either false or foolish.

From the commentary: Perhaps the ultimate point is that Pompeo’s attack on Weingarten and teachers must do just that. Pompeo’s demagogic words must bring together all the sane patriots who still call themselves Republicans. They must unite to condemn his message — and tell Americans we must work with our teachers to help them build the infrastructure that will be America’s ultimate bridge to tomorrow.
From the commentary: Ocasio-Cortez has a long record of pushing primary challenges to Democrats deemed insufficiently radical. These attempts are almost always unsuccessful though draining to the incumbent.
From the commentary: This fetish with identity started as a tic of the left, which tends to believe that voters want candidates who represent certain groups, as opposed to certain ideas. What it should have learned by now is that Republicans are perfectly capable of running their own candidates of color, witness their support in the Georgia senate race of the unintelligible Herschel Walker, a Black football player.
From the commentary: Still, as Biden quietly marked his 80th birthday on Nov. 13, the basic Democratic dilemma remained: Will it be best for the party — and the country — to renominate the nation’s oldest president, even if the alternative is chaos?
From the commentary: We have become hyphenated Americans with too many clinging to their native land in language and culture. No nation can be sustained in its character without controlling who is allowed to enter. Other nations have far more restrictive immigration laws and paths to citizenship than ours.
From the commentary: The question becomes: How much further can we keep expanding the number of domestic birds that are grown and slaughtered? How much longer can this vicious cycle continue before it explodes?
From the commentary: Americans want better results. They want a government that’s efficient and effective and improves their lives. They expect and deserve elected leaders who will fix the damn roads.
From the commentary: Those kinds of cross-party relationships don’t exist in today’s hyper-partisan world, so McCarthy will be pretty much flying solo.
From the commentary: It's a safe assumption that fear of crime is what flipped several suburban New York congressional districts to Republicans. The fears may not match the reality, but elected officials should not add fuel to them with careless talk. Kathy Hochul was lucky this time.
From the commentary: In his new book "So Help Me God," Pence quotes Trump as pressuring him to overturn the results of the 2020 election by rejecting electoral votes from the states. When he refuses, Pence says Trump told him "you're too honest." It was cynicism at its worst and what so many people hate about Washington and politics.

  • He frames the issue as illegal immigration, but all the passengers on the soon-to-be-bankrupt DeSantis Airlines were in the country legally, because they had turned themselves into authorities, to apply for asylum.
  • He says that the migrants volunteered to get on the planes, but he leaves out that many of them claim they were lied to and told they were going to Boston to get jobs only to be stranded on an island.
  • He claims that he wanted to send the migrants to a "sanctuary destination." But Martha's Vineyard has no such sanctuary status, and neither does Massachusetts.

Besides, DeSantis is a mediocre communicator with terrible social skills. I haven't seen an elected official this smug and unlikable since Al Gore left politics. The great ones love people. DeSantis only loves DeSantis.
You know who I bet isn't too keen on the Florida governor right about now? Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who invented this stunt of shipping migrants to cities run by liberals — New York, Washington D.C., Chicago. That's all Abbott's handiwork. A former Texas Attorney General, he seems to have been a lot more careful than DeSantis.

The Florida governor was trying to horn in on Abbott's gimmick. But he did it clumsily and made mistakes. He is giving all demagogues a bad name. Expect Abbott — and other Republicans — to distance themselves from DeSantis as more details emerge.

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The heat is on. First, there is a criminal investigation by Bexar County (Texas) Sheriff Javier Salazar into whether DeSantis committed any crimes in victimizing the migrants — perhaps fraud. Second, there is also a federal class-action lawsuit by Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, in conjunction with the nonprofit Alianza Americas, on behalf of the migrants. Third, Massachusetts state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, whose district includes Martha's Vineyard, wants the Department of Justice to launch a federal investigation into whether DeSantis engaged in human trafficking. And fourth, California Gov. Gavin Newsom — a potential candidate for the 2024 Democratic nomination for president — has asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to look into whether transporting individuals under false pretenses constitutes kidnapping or another federal crime.

When I first heard the words "trafficking" and "kidnapping," I scoffed. Not anymore. There is something here. And, in the 2024 White House sweepstakes, that something could disqualify DeSantis.

Given the size of the egos involved, there was never much of a chance that DeSantis and former president Donald Trump would wind up sharing a ticket. But now, they might end up sharing a cell.

This commentary is Ruben Navarrette's opinion. He can be reached at ruben@wctrib.com.

© 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group

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