Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hit back at President Biden Friday after the commander-in-chief snarked “Governor who?” when asked about the Republican’s mask and vaccine policies a day earlier.
“I guess I’m not surprised that Biden doesn’t remember me. I guess the question is ‘What else has he forgotten?’” DeSantis said at an event at Chipola College in Marianna, in the Florida Panhandle.
“Biden’s forgotten about the crisis at our southern border, I can tell you that,” the governor continued. “Biden has forgotten about the inflation that’s biting the budgets of families all throughout our country. Biden has forgotten about the demonstrators who are fighting for freedom down in Cuba. Biden’s even forgotten about the constitution itself, as we saw with what he did with this moratorium.
“I can just tell you, I’m the ‘Governor who’ protects parents and their ability to make the right choices for their kids’ education,” DeSantis riffed. “I’m the ‘Governor who’ protects jobs and education and businesses in Florida by not letting the federal government lock us down. I’m the governor who answers to the people of Florida, and not the bureaucrats in Washington.”
Washington and Tallahassee have been locked in a war of words since Tuesday, when Biden criticized governors, like DeSantis and fellow Republican Greg Abbott of Texas, who have banned mask and vaccine mandates.
“If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it,” Biden said. “I say to these governors, ‘Please, help.’ But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”
DeSantis fired back with both barrels Wednesday, accusing Biden of trying to “single out” Florida over its rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
“This is a guy who ran for president saying he was gonna ‘shut down the virus’. And what has he done?” DeSantis asked during remarks in Panama City. “He’s imported more virus from around the world by having a wide-open southern border”
The governor also accused Biden of wanting to emulate New York City’s sweeping vaccine mandate and said America faces the choice between remaining a free society or a “biomedical security state.”
“If you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way. I’m not going to let you get away with it. If you’re trying to deny kids a proper in-person education, I’m gonna stand in your way and I’m gonna stand up for the kids in Florida,” DeSantis said. “If you’re trying to restrict people, impose mandates, if you’re trying to ruin their jobs and their livelihoods and their small business, if you are trying to lock people down, I am standing in your way, and I’m standing for the people of Florida.
“So why don’t you do your job? Why don’t you get this border secure, and until you do that, I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID from you,” the governor concluded.
When Biden was asked Thursday if he had a response to DeSantis, he dropped the “Governor who?” line before adding, “that is my response” and walking away.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was in a more expansive mood Friday.
“Our message continues to be that if you don’t want to abide by public health guidelines, don’t want to use your role as leaders, elected officials, then you should get out of the way and let public health officials guide localities, schools, universities to do the — or local schools as well — to do exactly the right thing.”
When asked about the possibility that funding could be withheld from Florida school districts that issue mask mandates in defiance of DeSantis’ recent executive order, Psaki answered: “As a parent myself of two young children … I want public health officials to make decisions about how to keep my kids safe, not politicians. And not only is Governor DeSantis not abiding by public health decisions, he’s fundraising off of this.
“So, my view is that — and our view, as an administration, is that parents in Florida, parents across the country should have the ability and the knowledge that their kids are going to school and they’re in safe environments,” she added. “That shouldn’t be too much to ask.”
The ongoing spat could be a preview of a presidential campaign. DeSantis is widely considered to be a top contender for the GOP nomination in 2024 — especially if former President Donald Trump does not run.