Thursday, May 04, 2023

I Thought DeSantis Was Supposed to Be the Smart One?

So apparently Trump's lawyers won't be presenting any witnesses in his defamation trial, I guess just relying on the spectacularly ineffective cross-examination of E. Jean Carroll to make their case. Maybe the plan is to get the verdict overturned on appeal, on the basis of incompetent counsel? I mean, there must be a plan, right?
And then there's Ron DeSantis, described as "Donald Trump with brains", possessing "a formidable intelligence". Now there's a guy who knows what he's doing.

Except...well, this was my reaction after skimming the Disney complaint last week: I'm no lawyer, but my general understanding is that when you're doing illegal things, it's considered sub-optimal to tell the world at large, repeatedly and unambiguously, about the illegal things you're doing. Yet Mr. Formidable Intelligence has been doing exactly that. Here are a few excerpts from the complaint (emphasis added):
[In his book] Governor DeSantis recounts thinking that “it was a mistake for Disney to get involved” and telling Disney’s then-CEO, “‘You shouldn’t get involved[;] it’s not going to work out well for you.’”
On March 29, Governor DeSantis said that he thought The Walt Disney Company’s March 28 statement had “crossed the line” and pledged “to make sure we’re fighting back” in response to Disney’s protected speech.
During a September 15, 2022 speech, Governor DeSantis said of Senate Bill 4C: “We took action” after Disney made “the mistake” of opposing the legislation.
Governor DeSantis authored an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal that explicitly connected House Bill 9B to Disney’s speech about House Bill 1557. Criticizing what he called “left-wing activists working at [Disney’s] headquarters in Burbank,” Governor DeSantis focused on Disney’s opposition to Florida’s House Bill 1557 and said: “When corporations try to use their economic power to advance a woke agenda, they become political, and not merely economic, actors....Leaders must stand up and fight back when big[e] their economic might to advance a political agenda. We are making Florida the state where...woke goes to die.”
On April 20, Governor DeSantis sent a fundraising email warning that “Disney and other woke corporations won’t get away with peddling their unchecked pressure campaigns any longer” and that he would “not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state[.]”
Governor DeSantis also posited that the new board could stop Disney from “trying to inject woke ideology” into children. As Governor DeSantis put it, “I think all of these board members very much would like to see the type of entertainment that all families can appreciate.”
Yesterday Greg Sargent expanded on this point:
Numerous quotes taken from “The Courage to be Free” appear to support the company’s central allegation: that the Republican governor improperly wielded state power to punish Disney’s speech criticizing his policies, violating the First Amendment....

This is unusual, says Scott Wilkens, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute. In such lawsuits, Wilkens notes, you “often have to make inferences” about the motives driving government officials....

“You have pretty clear statements from Governor DeSantis that he is seeking to punish a corporation for its speech,” Wilkens told me. “That’s prohibited by the First Amendment.”
And in response to Disney's allegations that DeSantis was targeting them for political retribution, yesterday the Florida legislature...passed another bill targeting Disney:
HB 1305, a broader transportation bill, targets Disney through an amendment that says the state shall create safety rules and perform safety inspections for “privately owned and or operated fixed-guideway transportation systems” located in special districts that have boundaries in two counties.
There is exactly one such system in Florida: the Disney monorail. Three words: First. Amended. Complaint.

Maybe DeSantis figures it's not his own money on the line, so there's no tangible downside if (or, as seems likely, when) Disney wins, and plenty of upside for demaguoging on a currently-hot right-wing obsession. (How's that working out for ya, Ron?)

But it seems more likely to me that this is just another side effect of the right-wing bubble. When your base doesn't care about anything but performative bullshit, and the right-wing news media cover your performative bullshit as if it were substantive policy and real accomplishment, you tend to assume everyone sees it that way. As Greg Sargent observes, "When you start with the thrills you hope to inspire in the Fox News audience and build policy around that, the results tend to collapse once the lack of a real policy rationale becomes widely understood."

And while politics often rewards the empty performance, litigation is a lot less forgiving.

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