Thursday, August 26, 2021


Before we learned about today's awful events in Afghanistan, one of America's top stories was about COVID and domestic politics.
As Florida faces record covid-19 deaths, DeSantis says Biden should follow his lead
Yes, DeSantis said that.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said President Biden has failed to “end covid” and should follow his state’s lead, even as Florida experiences record-breaking cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

Florida is now reporting an average of 227 covid-19 deaths each day — a state record and by far the highest count in the nation. The daily death count in Florida, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant, has increased by 613 percent in the past seven days....

But in a Wednesday interview with Fox News, DeSantis defended his response, saying Florida is seeing “great success” in treating covid patients with monoclonal antibodies — an effective, widely available therapy that few people are receiving....

“You know, he said he was going to end covid. He hasn’t done that,” DeSantis told Fox News host Jesse Watters. “At the end of the day, he is trying to find a way to distract from the failures of his presidency.”
DeSantis is failing miserably on COVID -- failing as a matter of deliberate strategy -- but he learned this approach to criticism from Donald Trump, who learned it from Roy Cohn: never apologize, never explain, double down. DeSantis and Trump are also creatures of Fox News. This was Roger Ailes's strategy for dealing with critics, too.

I thought about this story later in the day when we learned of the attacks in Kabul and the thirteen dead U.S. servicemembers. The mainstream press wants President Biden to acknowledge error, wants him to say that the withdrawal of U.S. forces has been a failure. Biden won't. He points to the tens of thousands of evacuees and insists that there's no longer any reason to maintain a U.S. troop presence in the country. He says there's no point trying to do the kind of nation-building we were trying to do for twenty years.

He's explaining, but he's not apologizing. You could say he's doubling down. But it doesn't have the same impact.

The press has liked Trump's style for forty years, and seems fascinated by DeSantis's. Not Biden's. What's the difference? Even before he was in politics, Trump always had an enemy, and the press loved watching him beat that enemy up. Once Trump's enemies became exclusively Democrats (and insufficiently loyal Republicans), Fox News reveled in his attacks, and a number of mainstream journalists, many of whom see the GOP as Big Men on Campus whom they want to impress, had a similar response. Fox and quite a few mainstream journalists enjoy watching DeSantis pound on his enemies as well.

But while Biden is critical of Trump, he doesn't focus his Afghanistan comments on Trump-bashing. And it wouldn't help him much if he did -- the press never delights in a Democrat's attacks on Republicans the way it frequently does when the parties are reversed.

That's the extra ingredient that makes "never apologize and double down" work: you need an enemy you can blame instead, and you need an audience that will eagerly agree with your blame-shifting. That's never been a problem for Trump and DeSantis. Biden isn't so fortunate.

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