Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed recovering journalist and all-star panelist Clint Brewer in-studio to discuss the political ramifications of Hurricane Ian for Governor Ron DeSantis and his response to the crisis as viewed on the national stage.
Leahy: In-studio, all-star panelist Clint Brewer. Clint, as a recovering journalist, lots of things to talk about here today. I want to talk about Governor Ron DeSantis and the political perils and opportunities he faces as the point man.
Governor of Florida, five weeks and five days until his election battle with the former governor, Democrat nominee Charlie Crist. But also, this is a major, major natural disaster. It’s the biggest one in Florida, really, in modern history.
Right now, two million people are out of power. Hurricane Ian is downgraded to a tropical storm, but lots of storm surges and all sorts of problems.
So far, you’ve given DeSantis an A-minus. I would agree with that. What are the problems that he faces politically now, over the next 24 to 72 hours?
Brewer: First of all, I can’t believe Charlie Crist is the opponent. I feel like that guy has been around since …
Brewer: … roughly the Revolutionary War.
Leahy: He has a nice tan.
Brewer: He always has.
Leahy: Charlie Crist has always had a nice tan.
Brewer: He’s like the Crypt Keeper, though.
Leahy: He does. He looks like a little Crypt-Keeper-like. (Laughter)
Brewer: Yeah, he does. I think it’s perhaps – I don’t know what the right word is, but people, I’m sure, are asking in the audience right now, why are we talking about politics with a storm? It’s a storm. But I mean, everybody gets graded, right?
Brewer: It’s a big moment.
Leahy: It’s a huge moment, on the national stage, for Ron DeSantis, who is really beloved by the Right and despised by the Left. What is his opportunity here?
Brewer: First of all, the opportunity is to just do the job well: to save lives, to help people get out of a bad situation, to be a good governor.
And in doing so, I think the political opportunity there nationally is to demonstrate competence in a time of crisis. To demonstrate the ability to govern across the aisle – I mean, life and limb as a bipartisan issue. Nobody should assign political meaning to the willingness to save lives.
Leahy: The folks at MSNBC have. But your point is correct.
Brewer: His opportunity here nationally – first of all, I’m sure he is focused on just doing the best job he can for the people of Florida in this moment. But the upside of him doing that, if he can do that – and there are a lot of ifs that aren’t related to his personal performance.
The federal government has got to deliver in a natural disaster. Think about the power grid in Texas. Governor Abbott didn’t build the power grid in Texas, but he certainly got blamed for it during the ice storms.
So anything that’s a systemic problem in your state when a natural disaster or this kind of crisis hits is just going to be accelerated and exacerbated. So there are a lot of variables.
Leahy: I think the number one thing that people are going to be looking at is exactly what you’re talking about. There are about two million people out of power right now.
Brewer: How quickly can you get it back on? And why are they out?
Leahy: So if you’re Governor Ron DeSantis, right now, the thing that I think you’re focused on is, you’re talking to the electric utility guys and saying, what’s the timeline to get it back?
Brewer: What do you need? How quickly can we do it?
Leahy: How can I help you?
Brewer: So the opportunity here is, if everything goes right, if he does a good job, if people do a good job, they maximize the ability to recover. The opportunity here is to appeal to the center of American politics, the moderate middle to the left-of-center, to the right-of-center, and people who are simply not wrapped up in the back-and-forth of the day-to-day political fight.
Leahy: As we are here on this program.
Brewer: And to just demonstrate competence as an elected official, to demonstrate the ability for the government to do its job.
Leahy: To get things done, as opposed to engage in rhetorical back-and-forth:
You’re a jerk.
No, you’re a jerk.
Brewer: It’s your fault!
No, it’s your fault!
Leahy: Joe, you’re a jerk.
You’re a bigger jerk.
That gets tiring.
Brewer: At these moments, no one cares.
Leahy: No one cares about that.
Brewer: And so his opportunity is to manage the state through this and then for the American people to see that, headed into the presidential election.
Leahy: He’s exercised, I think, discipline in terms of his description of his communications with President Biden. He hasn’t said anything. He’s been very positive. He hasn’t really praised Biden, but he said he had a conversation with them, and he’s praised all of the federal agencies that are helping out.
So I think that’s a good move so far. To me, though, the problem is going to be the recovery, because remember now, that people – I don’t even think people have started to vote yet, but they’re about to vote. So you got voting going on, early voting going on.
That’s going to be happening in these areas pretty soon. They’re not capable of even conducting early voting right now in Florida. So you got that going on.
You got the actual administration of the election, and then – so you’ve got step one: restore power and communications. People will be watching that. And he doesn’t necessarily control it all, but he’s got to maneuver to make sure that people can vote.
Brewer: The election is the biggest potential pitfall in a lot of ways, because we’re in this alternate reality now in this country where when anybody loses an election, somehow it’s the other side’s fault for tampering.
So you’ve got Democrats; if they lose, they’re going to say, well, you didn’t restore power in these neighborhoods quickly enough so people couldn’t vote and people couldn’t get around because you didn’t clear the streets quickly enough.
Leahy: Well, you can see that argument coming. The poorer areas didn’t get power enough. You discriminated.
Brewer: Prioritized your voters over our voters.
Leahy: That’s a potential pitfall right now.
Brewer: He’s going to get hit at some point somewhere along the line by the Left. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.
Leahy: He’s already been hit, and the loonies at MSNBC will continue to hit. Seems to be these are not only glancing blows, they probably help him because they point out how partisan the attackers are.
Brewer: MSNBC is kind of like Major League Baseball. Does anybody even watch it anymore?
Leahy: Okay, now, (Brewer laughs) … see, folks …
Brewer: Shots fired. (Laughs)
Leahy: … you know this guy, this soccer fan. We’ll get to the baseball thing in a bit. Thems fightin’ words, brother.
Brewer: In all seriousness, I think the big opportunity here is for him to demonstrate competence and an ability to focus on something that’s insanely important and is not a partisan issue. And I think he can prove a lot to voters in this country about his potential as a president.
Leahy: I think you’re exactly right.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
– – –