Biden and DeSantis pause on hurricane resentment
DeSantis, for his part, thanked the Biden administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their quick response to his state’s needs. The administration has 1,300 federal response officers on the ground, prepared 110,000 gallons of fuel and 18,000 pounds of propane, moved generators and has 300 ambulances in the state working alongside local authorities. The federal government also organizes 3.7 million meals and 2.5 liters of water in Alabama.
“I feel like the administration wants to help out,” DeSantis said Tuesday night on Fox News. « They realize this is a very large storm. »
The two leaders have regularly argued over a range of issues including Covid and immigration – most recently when DeSantis unexpectedly chartered a plane loaded with migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. But with less than six weeks to go before a crucial midterm election, the two seemed to rise above political strife with the combined goal of helping Floridians prepare for the likely devastating hurricane. Both DeSantis and Biden will be judged on their responses to the natural disaster, as well as their abilities to set aside partisanship during the aftermath of the state, which could continue for months.
« There’s no politics in that when we’re talking about severe weather, when we’re talking about what we’re seeing right now with a Category 4 hurricane, » the White House press secretary said. , Karine Jean-Pierre, during Wednesday’s press briefing, when asked for more details on the nature of the Biden-DeSantis phone call.
The two leaders have already gone through a disaster together. When a condo building in Surfside collapsed last year, killing 98 people, the president traveled to Florida and received praise from DeSantis during a visit where the two men sat side by side. coast during a briefing.
DeSantis is a likely challenger to Biden in 2024, although he has repeatedly said he is focused on his upcoming re-election when asked if he is running for president.
Biden placed his hand on DeSantis’ arm, and the Republican governor praised cooperation at the local, state and federal levels, saying « you not only supported the federal level, but we didn’t have bureaucracy. »
« I promise you, » Biden replied, « there won’t be. »
Keeping politics out of emergency management is a growing problem on the ground, Tim Frazier, faculty director of the disaster emergency management program at Georgetown University, told POLITICO. Lives are in danger, so there is « no time for fun », he said. Federal and state coordination is vital for crisis management of government resources.
“So everybody has to get along,” Frazier said, calling the cooperation between DeSantis and Biden so far “admirable.”
« In the response phase, there’s usually little politics that comes into play, » Frazier said. « Everyone understands two things – and I don’t mean to be too cynical – but everyone understands that the cameras are rolling, and we actually have to get the job done and save lives. »
This level of cooperation has been demonstrated by former GOP governors. former governor Rick Scott, which faced four major weather events during its tenure, received high marks for its response in Florida. He was also under the microscope for his coordination with then-President Barack Obama, whose administration coordinated with the state through three storms.
Scott, now a Republican senator and a top critic of the Biden administration, has previously spoken positively about the federal response to Hurricane Ian, particularly the efforts of FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.
« I spoke to the FEMA admin yesterday. She’s engaged. A class act. She’s doing a great job, » Scott said on Fox News on Wednesday. I believe they will.
It’s hard to miss the historical context that looms over the DeSantis-Biden response. The tone of communications about their joint efforts — and the level of scrutiny their cooperation receives — is reminiscent of the Scott-Obama era.
After Tropical Storm Debby hit Florida in 2012, the White House said Obama called Scott from Air Force One, offering his condolences and telling the governor his state would have no « unmet needs. » .
In 2016, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in Florida, and just a month later, Hurricane Matthew tore through the state’s coast. Planned political events in the battleground state have been canceled months before the presidential election.
Obama and Scott held separate briefings to highlight preparedness efforts at each level of government, and the couple spoke after the hurricane hit to discuss recovery efforts.
But the bipartisanship amid the crisis might be best captured by Obama’s infamous hug with then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie after Hurricane Sandy hit his state days before the election in 2012. Critics said Christie’s photo moment with the Democratic president and her kind words about Obama at the time likely hurt her standing with Republicans. But even years later, Christie refused to apologize for the hug.
“I was doing my job,” he told Fox News in 2014. “The president came to offer help. If they expected me to play politics and dump on the president, I wouldn’t.
The political stakes were high at the time for Christie, a surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But that’s not what mattered when the storm hit, Christie said.
Speaking about natural disaster response on MSNBC in 2017, Christie recounted speaking with Obama at the time, and how the president wanted to visit New Jersey but didn’t want it to be politically awkward for the Republican governor.
« And I said, ‘Mr. President, you are the President of the United States. We want you to come to New Jersey,” Christie said, noting that Obama’s visit was two days later. “We walked around the affected areas. I showed him so he could see for himself, both in the air at Marine One and on the ground in Brigantine, New Jersey, the effect of what was happening, the devastation. And I think that set the tone for his attention going forward.
Christie also said Obama’s visit helped solidify his cabinet’s relationship with the federal government, which he sees as key to ongoing stimulus efforts.
“There are going to be a lot of bumpy times, regardless of administration, regardless of what party you are, for the recovery to happen,” he continued. « It makes a difference that the President of the United States is there and sees it for himself. »