Live from Music Row, Wednesday 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 national political correspondent for One America News, Neil W. McCabe, to the newsmaker line to discuss how Governor Ron DeSantis is getting things done after Hurricane Ian and what’s expected of a meeting with President Biden today.
Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line by my very good friend, Top Gov tracker for One America News Network – he reports on all things Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida – Mr. Neil W. McCabe. Good morning, Neil.
McCabe: Michael Patrick Leahy. So good to be with you. Crom, good morning to you, sir.
Carmichael: Good morning.
Leahy: Now, Neil, are you traveling with Governor DeSantis today? I guess he’s going down to Sanibel Island today to tour the west coast of Florida. And at some point, he and President Biden, are they going to hold a joint press conference today in Florida?
McCabe: Yes, Biden wanted to meet the man who could take his job. (Leahy chuckles) It’s been five or six days, so I guess that’s enough time. The struggle was, how is the White House going to work its way into this hurricane, because Governor Ron DeSantis has the entire state completely locked down and spinning like a top.
I talked to some local officials in Naples yesterday who are just over-the-top impressed with the way the governor is engaged, the way he’s responding. He just gave the order yesterday to fix that causeway that connects Sanibel Island to the mainland.
And as you said, he’s flying out there today, this morning, to check out what’s going on in Sanibel. He was in Pine Island yesterday. And Pine Island is one of the smaller coastal islands.
And while he was there, he looked around, he says, you know what, we’re going to fix this bridge, too. We’re going to fix the electricity. He’s giving the orders. He’s making things happen. It’s really quite impressive.
Leahy: He’s getting it done. And he’s not being political about it, is he?
McCabe: No, it’s really apolitical. It’s one of those sort of Jeffersonian moments, right? Jefferson wanted us to have a government as close to the people as possible, so that you didn’t get into the factions. And of course Hamilton would argue that Jefferson is the one who invented factions. But that’s not really what we’re talking about here, Mike.
What we’re talking about is keeping politics out of the situation when you’re actually dealing with people. So, like, the people listening now know at the local level, there’s no conservative or liberal position on whether we should fix that streetlight, you know. Should we plow the street? Should we take out the garbage? Yes.
And so this is the kind of stuff that the governor is doing and it’s really the sort of hands-on stuff that a governor and a mayor have to do. And that’s what makes these guys different than, say, senators and congressmen, who basically give speeches and votes.
Leahy: The hurricane hit the west coast of Florida, I guess, a week ago today. At its peak, there were about two and a half million people without power. That number is down now to less than half a million, I believe.
Flooding is still there. They’re starting to rebuild. Fatalities are in the neighborhood of 100-plus. But during this entire week, governor Ron DeSantis has been on top of everything and, it appears to me, getting things done and actually talking with Joe Biden on the phone.
Where will Joe Biden be today? Will Joe Biden and Governor DeSantis be in the same room and have a joint press conference at some point today?
McCabe: Yes. As it stands right now, the FEMA director and Biden are going to be meeting with DeSantis in Fort Myers. And – hold on, we’re coming up on a checkpoint. Let’s see if they let us in. And so they’re supposed to meet together. The governor is focusing on Southwest Florida.
Fort Myers is really the place that got rocked because that has the concentration of population. A lot of these other places, like, say, Naples, they’re seasonal, so they just didn’t have the people there.
Unfortunately, Naples had a concentration – and people are afraid of looters and robberies, so that’s why they don’t want to evacuate.
Leahy: Where will Biden be today, and will he be with DeSantis for a period of time?
McCabe: Yes. The way it’s working out right now is they’re supposed to meet, and then the question is whether the president will actually go around separately with the FEMA director – will he try to federalize this. Earlier last week, the FEMA director made some kind of noise that the governor was not being responsive, that it was the governor’s fault that Biden and the governor hadn’t spoken. And so they knocked that down.
DeSantis got on the phone, they called each other whatever. And so that’s sort of the tension right now. Remember, the governor is also running for re-election. A poll came out this morning saying that DeSantis is up 11 points over Charlie Crist. But Florida is a very important state, and so the Democrats aren’t just going to walk away from it.
And so the question now is, what will Biden do to help Charlie Crist? Marco Rubio’s also up, running against Congresswoman Val Demings. So there’s a lot of stuff in play here.
What is it? Florida has 30 electoral votes and it’s gone back and forth. You go to the last eight presidential elections, it’s gone back and forth. I believe Obama won Florida twice.
Leahy: Crom Carmichael has a question for you, Neil.
Carmichael: Neil, I guess the question for me is – because everything that you have said is true about the way DeSantis is handling this catastrophe. And I mean, it’s a catastrophe of immense proportions, and DeSantis is just performing a great job. How can Biden possibly take advantage of this situation politically without looking like a fool?
McCabe: The two openings that the Democrats and Biden have are that, one, on the evacuations: were the evacuation orders properly given out and with enough time, and should they have been more forceful before the hurricane hit? DeSantis said, this is a free country and we’ve given the orders; the counties and local governments are in charge of affecting those orders.
But he didn’t want to see state troopers pulling people out of their homes. And there’s a culture here, especially on the coastal islands, of people riding out these hurricanes. And so that’s the question there.
The second one is insurance. There were some insurance reforms that were done on DeSantis’s watch, bills that he signed, basically saying that insurance companies don’t have to pay replacement value on roofs.
And there are also exemptions for what’s called wind-driven rain, which is the water that comes in through your windows and doors. And in the next week or so, people are going to start looking at their insurance policies and a lot of them are going to start getting berserk when they find out how little is actually covered by those insurance policies.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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