With worries seemingly subsiding that Florida’s health care system will be overrun by COVID-19 cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis was free to riff Tuesday.
The Governor, taking more questions from the Tallahassee press corps than has been normal of late, hearkened back to his days in the Fox News green room.
Hot quote after hot quote came from the podium, where a Governor who had been criticized widely for lacking command presence again came into his own.
A recurring topic: the relatively measured approach DeSantis has taken to the coronavirus crisis, juxtaposed against media members and governments elsewhere in the country whose crackdowns he sees as unconstitutional.
“You know, it’s interesting,” DeSantis said, “I watched the [President’s] briefings and you go back a week or two and he was being badgered by the press there.”
The badgering media, the Governor added, asked the President “why aren’t you shutting down these states? South Dakota doesn’t have stay-at-home, you know, whatever.”
“They were badgering about it and he was saying ‘well, it’s their decision’. Now they’re saying you don’t have the authority,” DeSantis said, regarding opening up the states as President Donald Trump has said.
“You know, it’s one or the other,” DeSantis continued. “Functionally, here’s the thing. So when they extended the guidelines, a state didn’t have to continue with mitigation. A state could have done its own thing.”
“But practically speaking,” the Governor added, “once that happened you were just not going to be in a situation where you could open up, I mean, that’s just the reality.”
“He could get rid of the guidelines … what’s going to start to happen is you’re going to have people move in that direction. Just as the extension led to the continued mitigation,” DeSantis asserted, “if he decides to lift that or do more liberal guidelines, you’re going to see the states inevitably follow.”
DeSantis then offered his take on what authority a Governor has, suggesting he sees stricter limits than many of his critics do.
“Just because there’s an emergency, that does not give a Governor unlimited authority,” DeSantis said.
“You see some of the things going on throughout the country. You have people driving into a drive-up church service. They’re not leaving their car,” DeSantis said. “They’re not coming into contact with anybody.”
“They’re turning up their radio, listening to a sermon, and they’re getting fined,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s acceptable. You cannot deny someone a constitutional right if what they’re doing has no impact whatsoever on this infectious disease.
“If someone drives their car, parks in a parking lot, listens to the good news, and then goes home, that has zero impact,” he added.
“Some of this stuff has been petty tyranny … a huge mistake, and what we tried to do here is respect people.”