It’s Not About Moving A Fence

I haven’t taken a count, but more presidential candidates flame out because of their unforced errors than are knocked out by others. If Ron DeSantis falls short, he has only himself to blame. Characterizing the Ukraine War as a “territorial disput” shows a remarkable lack of knowledge. Would he have said the same thing when Nazi Germany rolled into its Polish neighbor, starting WWII? An unprovoked invasion isn’t a real estate boundary-line controversy. 

DeSantis’ ability to immerse himself in a problem to determine his actions and then defend them against all comers drew me to him. He owes much of his popularity to his hands-on approach to issues. It’s astonishing a leader who put in the effort to educate himself about all aspects of the covid crisis and, based on that knowledge, found the proper path could come up with such a clinker.

A mano-a-mano contest with Donald Trump for the Republican nomination is the best way for DeSantis to win. Trump has an unshakeable hold on about a third 0n Republican voters. If the other 70% is spread among a crowd of challengers, he can ride all the winner-take-all contests to the finish line. A crowded field like 2016 favors Trump.

Starving other candidates of issues and money is imperative for DeSantis to keep the field narrow, so why give his competitors running room? Before this mishap, no one could beat him on governing competence or strength on Republican issues. Why open himself to a foreign policy attack? Placing himself in the space between Trump and all the others by providing Trump credit for the things he did right but pre-empting positions others might take to get some footing makes more sense. 

Up to 70% of Republicans could be looking for someone other than Trump Many of these have a favorable opinion of the Ukrainians, including many of the top donors. Why encourage them to look at the many possible candidates sharing this view. How do I know this is happening? I was supporting DeSantis but am now taking another look at others.

DeSantis’ weak support for Ukraine is a surprise as he previously backed sending lethal weapons to that nation when the Obama administration failed to do so. Why the flip-flop?

 Possibly the Florida governor is convinced Trump will drop out of the race, and he wants to be in a position to take his place in the hearts of his ardent followers. The problem is there is no sign of a Trump retreat. The weak case being prosecuted against Trump by Alvin Bragg in New York makes him a martyr, and Republicans rally around him. 

The Wall Street Journal calls the Governor’s Ukraine stance his first big mistake. When you alienate a prominent conservative news outlet with an ear to the business community, you’re encouraging the media to give more space to your opponents. 

Can DeSantis find a way out of this misstep? He hasn’t asked for my advice, but I’ll give it anyway. He should look back at his initial mistake of closing Florida down in line with the Fauchi and company recommendations. He looked deeper into the data, quickly reversed course, and put his state on its successful path. Once he was hands-on, he saw things differently. 

He needs to do the same thing with Ukraine. Correspondence with Eastern European NATO Allies, followed by a quiet trip to Ukraine, Poland, and at least one of the Baltic states to talk with leaders, allows him to offer knowledgeable opinions.

The failure of both the Obama and Biden administrations to provide timely and effective arms aid is what brought on the war and is prolonging it. The fear of endless war animates many opposing our Ukraine support. 

DeSantis can answer this fear by returning to his original Ukrainian position, sending the nation the arms it needs to win. He can argue this is the only reasonable way to end the war. Any ceasefire now is only a pause giving Russia a chance to regroup before attempting to extend its empire. NATO allies would be next after Ukraine. We will be directly involved with American troops at risk. This way, he gets to hit Biden and differentiate himself from Trump while showing us how to end the war. 

DeSantis finds sound ground in Ukraine or stands an excellent chance to join Rudy Giuliani, Howard Dean, Rick Perry, and others as a historical footnote. 

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