My Take on Trump v. DeSantis, Part 2 (posted 4/18/23)

Before I conclude my thoughts on this contentious topic, I’ve got to compliment the Cautious Optimism community here.

I’ve seen some pretty heated discussions on this topic, and I thought that my first piece would likely bring out some rhetorical rough elbows.  That would be a good and healthy part of the process overall, but I would always prefer that we treat each other with the camaraderie and good humor that this site is known for.

And boy, did you all come through!

More people agreed with me than I had expected to – we’ll all support the eventual nominee, but there’s a lot of conflicting thoughts out there – and even the solid Trumpsters and the uncommitted showed the class and wit rarely seen on political sites. 

My favorite response might have been from the inestimable Don Deere: “Excellent piece as always.  Having said that… #TRUMP2024!”  

That’s the spirit!

As we left off yesterday, I was saying that we conservatives need to be careful about attacks on each other, and save our heaviest fire for the Bidenistas who are damaging our country…

DeSantis has been very slow to attack Trump, which is very smart/Machiavellian: it’s hard to win a slugfest with Trump, and the process gets mud on you too, and RDS will need as many Trump fans as possible to stick with him if he can win the nomination. 

So it’s in his best interest to try to stay above the fray for as long as he can, and then to respond to Trump’s jabs judiciously, with a “more in sorrow than in anger” posture, as the saying goes.   

Trump’s attacks on DeSantis, on the other hand, would also benefit from being less personal and more substantive.  As it is, they’ve too often been personal, petty, and – worse yet – obviously false, and/or leftist talking points.

When Trump found old pics of DeSantis with a couple of young women from a class he taught, Trump turned that into perving on underage girls, then to grooming and infidelity, and possibly even pedophilia!

When he attacked RDS’s record in FL, he just sounded silly.  He claimed that Charlie Crist was a better governor than RDS, thus causing 500,000 spit-takes from Floridians.  (Crist is a turncoat ex-Republican who became and Independent and lost, then became a Dem and lost again.  The guy’s picture is next to RINO in the dictionary.)

He even bashed RDS for opening FL too soon during Covid.  (This repeats the discredited Dem label of “Death-Santis.”)  But Trump is on record several times since then, praising DeSantis’ handling of covid.  Besides which, this is 2023, and NOBODY thinks DeSantis opened FL too soon anymore!

He also claimed that Florida has always done well because of the sun and water and beautiful beaches, rather than because of DeSantis. 

But you don’t have to be a FL resident to know that it’s been sunny here since the end of the last Ice Age, whereas GOP governors didn’t start winning elections by 19 points until the end of last fall.

And it’s really aggravating when Trump uses leftist leftist talking points!  The old “he wants to cut medicare and social security” canard has been a cliched Dem scare line for my entire life, and I winced when Trump used it. 

The fact is that both programs are going broke if they aren’t fixed, and the necessary job of eventually taking that on (I give the Bushie and RINO Paul Ryan credit for even trying) is only made more difficult if our guys are giving aid and comfort to the lying leftists who have mendaciously clubbed us with that attack for decades!

If I could write for Trump, I’d create a still Trumpy but higher-road approach:

“Ron’s done a very good job in Florida.  If you’ll remember, I helped put him over the top in his first, tight race in 2018.  I endorsed him and campaigned with him, and we got him to the finish line together.

Then he governed the way I’d taught the Republican party to govern.  He chose excellent policies – only the best, such great policies! – and then fought for them.  He didn’t surrender when the Democrats attacked him, as so many Republicans so often did before I became President. 

Instead, he became kind of a mini-Trump, and that’s why he won so big for the people of Florida. 

Ron can’t know what I know, and that’s not a knock against him.  But he’s been a great governor while I’ve been a great president, and those are not the same thing.  I’ve been unfairly and viciously attacked more than any president in history – never happened before! – but it’s toughened me up. 

It’s given me the skin of an elephant.  The beautiful, tough skin of the finest elephant – the great animal mascot of our incredible party!  And it’s also taught me things that only a president can know.

Now many people say that Ron shouldn’t run this time around.  I’m not saying that, but I’ve heard it from many people.  Fine people.  “He shouldn’t run yet,” they say to me. “It’s not his time,” they say.

But I disagree.  In fact, I’d be honored if Ron ran with me, as my Vice President.  Together, we’d be a formidable team – so formidable! – and after four years of fighting together to finish the job I started, and truly Make America Great Again – I would happily pass the baton to Ron.” 

3. There’s an old truism that a politician’s two jobs are to make it harder to vote for his opponent, and easier to vote for him. 

Trump’s strong suit has always been making it hard to vote for the opposition. The nicknames, the combative style, the “they don’t hate me, they hate you, and they’re only attacking me b/c I’m in the way” helped him win his long-shot bid in 2016.

But his greatest weakness is the flip side.  While he sometimes uses his charm and authentic magnetism to attract people to him – I thought his visit to East Palestine, OH was a great example of Trump at his best! – he too often makes it very hard for anyone not in his camp to vote for him.  Huge swaths of the electorate hate him, and his smearing of DeSantis makes it harder for even ME to vote for him.

And I’ll crawl across broken glass to vote for him if he’s our nominee!

RDS on the other hand, has been aggressive with the press, but not usually in ways that will needlessly drive away voters.  The only political misstep I think he may have made is the new bill to drop the abortion ban from 15 weeks down to 6. 

The left has an awful, extremist position that most semi-informed voters don’t know about: abortion right up until the moment the baby crowns.  We should highlight that obscenity – demolish their dishonest “women’s rights to healthcare” euphemistic obfuscation – and make it harder for people to vote for that.

At the same time, achieving our ultimate goal is easier if we take a more moderate step first (a 15-week ban with exceptions for rape and incest), and take the wins everywhere we can get them.  Especially if the alternative is to be more morally correct (IMO) by going for a near-total ban that means that we lose what might have been a winnable result, i.e. reducing the number of abortions in the short run, with the possibility of more progress in the long run.     

In addition to his policy successes, DeSantis’ biography gives Dems very little to hit him with: 

He’s smart – having degrees from both Yale and Harvard.  (Sure, those don’t carry the impressive imprimature for conservatives as they do for independents and libs – academia has so besmirched itself over the last 25 years that we now know better – but the libs will have difficulty painting him as a dummy, try though they will.)

He joined the Navy and served overseas.  This is a bigger plus for us and some independents than for libs.  And we shouldn’t over-play it: he wasn’t in a combat role, and he didn’t fast-rope down onto a rooftop in Kandahar from a helicopter, with machine guns in both hands and a combat knife clenched in his teeth. 

But he had a law degree from Harvard and joined the Navy, instead of either joining daddy’s firm or becoming a career pol and sucking at the government teat for the rest of his life, like everyone else in DC. (Cough <Joe Biden> cough.)

His personal life appears to have been impeccable: married to one wife for 14 years and counting, 3 cute kids.  His wife is a cancer survivor (!), and the commercial she taped for him last year almost brought me to tears, and I normally hate that kind of soft-focus, touchy-feely ad.  The soccer moms and independents should eat that up.     

Of course, the left will still try to smear his personal life anyway.  They’ll dredge up a middle school classmate who says she once heard him say the “n” word, or they’ll try to pull a Kavanaugh, and get some unstable loon to say he assaulted her, but she can’t remember when or where, and there’s no evidence that he ever even met her. 

But to any uncommitted voters, those attacks will look super-thin and desperate, especially compared to Biden’s entire corrupt family kicking up 10% to the Big Guy from Burisma and the ChiComs, while
“smartest guy I ever met” Hunter was videotaping himself hip-deep in crack and hookers.  (“[Fredo] was banging cocktail waitresses two at a time!  Players couldn’t get a drink at the tables!”)

(Semi-obscure yet appropriate Godfather reference? Check.)

One other bonus for RDS: as far as I can tell, he’s not made any mortifyingly bad hires or appointments.   I’m sure that it will come out that some assistant to an Ag commissioner somewhere got a DUI, but his high-profile appointments have all been solid and even boringly competent.

I don’t blame Trump too much for his bad appointments as prez, because every POTUS has to rush to staff so many positions that mistakes are inevitable.  And that process was bound to be even tougher for an outsider like Trump, who had no deep connections and layers of networking to rely on when hiring.

But it’s still a fact that most of the administration figures he ended up firing and/or lambasting — the Mooch, Steve Bannon, Michael Cohen, Pompeo, Sessions, Bolton, Barr, even Mike Pence – were all people he either picked, kept or elevated. (I don’t even dislike all of those guys.  But Trump does, and he picked them all!)

I think it would have been politically tough for him to fire Fauci by mid-summer or so, when it was clear that he was a dishonest, self-serving hack.  But he kept him in place, and allowed him free reign all through the election season.

Having said all that, I don’t want to overdo it on praising DeSantis.  (“Too late,” many of you may be thinking.)  He’s a fallen man like the rest of us, and a politician, and I’m sure that time in the national spotlight wielded by our corrupt media and political elites will highlight all the flaws that are there. 

And as good conservatives, we shouldn’t be putting too much faith in any politician anyway. (“Put not your trust in princes,” the Psalmist says.)  We’re in the “let us run our own lives as much as possible” business, not the “putting pols on pedestals” business.

But DeSantis has made the fewest unforced errors of any politician I’ve seen.  And I salivate at the thought of him in a debate with Joey Gaffes, or Ken Doll Newsom, or any of the other dullards who might rise to the top of a Democrat nomination process.

By contrast, I always went into Trump debates knowing that he would probably land some haymakers – and Oh, how I loved those! – but also fearing what might come out of his mouth.  I can’t imagine being that worried before a DeSantis debate.

I’ll end this with my biggest election fear: the Dems use serial illegitimate and unfair indictments to maneuver us into defending Trump (as we should) and giving him the nomination, after which they capitalize on Trump hatred and fatigue in much of the nation to get the same results they got in ‘20 and ‘22.

I’m as concerned about voter fraud and a rigged election as all of you are, and I don’t have any confidence that we are doing anything now – or maybe even that there is anything we CAN do, considering corrupt Dem control over the states in question – that will prevent a repeat of ’20 in ’24.

The only way I see to overcome that is to win by so much that they aren’t able to steal it.  And I’m really sad to say this, but I don’t think Trump can do that.  I think he might be able to thread the needle and narrowly carry enough close states to just barely win, as he did in 2016.

But my gut tells me that that is exactly what happened in 2020.  And we all know how that turned out.

As a newcomer – with discipline that Trump doesn’t have, and with opposition that is not as hardened and immovable against him as Trump’s opposition (unjustly, IMO) is – DeSantis gives us the best chance to win by an “outside the margin of fraud” vote total.

Ugh – that was too gloomy of a note to end on. So I’ll close with a throwback to one of my favorite politicians in history: Cato the Elder (234-149 BC).

Roman soldier, senator and historian, Cato lived during a century-plus period when Rome’s great rival was the city of Carthage.  Cato was so focused on the threat posed by Carthage that he ended every speech – no matter what the topic – by saying, “Carthargo delenda est!”  (Carthage must be destroyed!)

That’s how I feel about the necessity of beating the Dems in 2024.  For the next year we’ll have our primaries and tout our favorites (and live our lives and try to give politics little room), but in the end our focus has to be on defending this great country from the leftist hordes who are doing so much damage.

Say it with me, people: “Biden delenda est!”

“Dr.” Jill Biden/Other Terrible Choice, 2024!

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