Like everyone else, I listened to DeSantis’s botched Twitter Spaces launch, but then reached some conclusions about the trajectory of his campaign at New York:
Before long, the laughter over the technical glitches that marred Ron DeSantis’s official presidential campaign launch with Elon Musk on Twitter Spaces will fade. We’ll all probably look back and place this moment in better perspective. Political-media folk (not to mention DeSantis’s Republican rivals and Democratic enemies) tend to overreact to “game changing” moments in campaigns when fundamentals and long-term trends matter infinitely more. Relatively few actual voters were tuned in to Twitter to watch the botched launch, and even fewer will think less of DeSantis as a potential president because of this incident.
It mattered in one respect, however: The screwed-up launch stepped all over a DeSantis campaign reset designed to depict the Florida governor as a political Death Star with unlimited funds and an unbeatable strategy for winning the GOP nomination. The reset was important to rebut the prevailing story line that DeSantis had lost an extraordinary amount of ground since the salad days following his landslide reelection last year, when he briefly looked to be consolidating partywide support as a more electable and less erratic replacement for Donald Trump. For reasons both within and beyond his control, he missed two critical strategic objectives going into the 2024 race: keeping the presidential field small enough to give him a one-on-one shot at Trump and keeping Trump from reestablishing himself as the front-runner with an air of inevitability about a third straight nomination.
To dissipate growing concerns about the DeSantis candidacy, the top chieftains of his Never Back Down super-PAC let it be known earlier this week that they had a plan that would shock and awe the political world, based on their extraordinary financial resources (fed by an $80 million surplus DeSantis transferred from his Florida reelection campaign account). The New York Times wrote up the scheme without questioning its connection to reality:
“A key political group supporting Ron DeSantis’s presidential run is preparing a $100 million voter-outreach push so big it plans to knock on the door of every possible DeSantis voter at least four times in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and five times in the kickoff Iowa caucuses.
“The effort is part of an on-the-ground organizing operation that intends to hire more than 2,600 field organizers by Labor Day, an extraordinary number of people for even the best-funded campaigns….
“The group said it expected to have an overall budget of at least $200 million.”
In case the numbers didn’t properly document the audacity of this plan, Team DeSantis made it explicit. The Times report continues:
“‘No one has ever contemplated the scale of this organization or operation, let alone done it,’ said Chris Jankowski, the group’s chief executive. ‘This has just never even been dreamed up.’” …
At the helm of the DeSantis super PAC is Jeff Roe, a veteran Republican strategist who was Mr. [Ted] Cruz’s campaign manager in 2016. In an interview, Mr. Roe described an ambitious political apparatus whose 2,600 field organizers by the fall would be roughly double the peak of Senator Bernie Sanders’s entire 2020 primary campaign staff.
Clearly opening up the thesaurus to find metaphors for the extraordinary power and glory of their plans, one DeSantis operative told the Dispatch they were “light speed and light years ahead of any campaign out there, including Trump’s.”
Now more than ever, DeSantis’s campaign will have to prove its grand plans aren’t just fantasies. Those doors in Iowa really will have to be knocked. Thanks to Trump’s current lead, DeSantis will absolutely have to beat expectations there and do just as well in New Hampshire and South Carolina before facing an existential challenge in his and Trump’s home state of Florida. And while DeSantis had a good weekend in Iowa recently, picking up a lot of state legislative endorsements even as Trump canceled a rally due to bad weather that never arrived, he’s got a ways to go. A new Emerson poll of the first-in-the-nation-caucuses state shows Trump leading by an astonishing margin of 62 percent to 20 percent. And obviously enough, Iowa is where DeSantis will likely face the largest number of rivals aside from Trump; he’s a sudden surge from Tim Scott or Mike Pence or Nikki Haley or even Vivek Ramaswamy away from a real Iowa crisis.
Door knocking aside, a focus on Iowa, with its base-dominated caucus system and its large and powerful conservative Evangelical population, will likely force DeSantis to run to Trump’s right even more than he already has. The newly official candidate did not mention abortion policy during his launch event on Twitter; that will have to change, since he has a crucial opportunity to tell Iowa Evangelicals about the six-week ban he recently signed (similar, in fact, to the law Iowa governor Kim Reynolds enacted), in contrast to Trump’s scolding of the anti-abortion movement for extremism. DeSantis also failed once again to talk about his own religious faith, whatever it is; that will probably have to change in Iowa too. He did, however, talk a lot during the launch about his battle against the COVID-19 restrictions the federal government sought to impose on Florida even during the Trump administration. That will very likely continue.
The glitchy launch basically cost DeSantis whatever room for maneuvering he might have enjoyed as the 2024 competition begins to get very real — less than eight months before Iowa Republicans caucus (the exact date remains TBD). He’d better get used to spending a lot of time in Iowa’s churches and Pizza Ranches, and he also needs to begin winning more of the exchanges of potshots with Trump, which will only accelerate from here on out. All the money he has and all the hype and spin his campaign puts out won’t win the nomination now that Trump is fully engaged, and it sure doesn’t look like the 45th president’s legal problems will represent anything other than rocket fuel for his jaunt through the primaries. So for DeSantis, it’s time to put up or shut up.
The problem that Obama has is that the realities of the Afghanistan war do not meet Obama’s own descriptions of a just, necessary war that leads to a just peace. Some of his problem is reflected in more complete quotes from the speech as opposed to selective quotes as in the article cited. For example, a more complete quote is:
“But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their [King, Ghandi] examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaedas leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”
Most of the underlying rationale of the speech is a defense of his recent decision/choice to escalate (rather than rapidly decrease) the US presence in Afghanistan as just and necessary for the defense of the US and will produce a just peace that nonviolence could not produce. That is a multipart argument, all parts of which must be valid.
Let’s agree that non-violence is Afghanistan would not produce a just peace and that the war as begun 8 years ago was initially just in that we responded to an attack on our soil that originated in Afghanistan. However, those stipulations still leave open the question of the necessity of this war for our national defense and a resulting just peace.
Obama in the speech repeatedly cites the need to eliminate al Qaeda in Afghanistan as the necessary reason. He makes no mention of the Taliban [and, in fact, they threaten citizens in Afghanistan, not US citizens on our soil]. Take him at his word(s).
To defend the US against al Qaeda, Obama requires 100,000 troops to fight 100-200 al Qaeda on behalf of a corrupt regime that just stole an election and that has little support of the Afghan populace. That’s a definition, in Obama’s own words, of a dumb war. There are more al Qaeda (and members of similar terrorist groups) in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia…. you fill in the blanks. They are almost certainly planning more evil with more resources than those al Qaeda in caves in Afghanistan.
Perhaps even further from reality is the contention that combat troops from the US (or Christian Europe) are appropriately required to fight terrorist “evil Muslim gangs” wherever?? That’s another definition of a dumb war whether applied to Afghanistan — or whatever other country you wish to use that strategy to fight terrorism. [Has no one read and understood Clausewitz or Santayana?]
And to what end in Afghanistan?? A just peace?? After how many decades of occupation? At what cost to the citizens of Afghanistan and America. Does anyone seriously believe we will build an Afghan nation in several years.
Yes– there are just wars followed by just peace. Mark my words: Afghanistan will not be one of them.. and the costs to the Afghani’s and Americans and Obama will be high.
I suspect I will not be here to see the unfortunate end game for Afghanistan and Obama. I did see a distressingly similar end game for Vietnam and LBJ who was a man of action and of little eloquence.
LBJ, in my opinion, did more for civil rights [after Lincoln] and health care than any other President. However, his personal and political legacy was ruined by the devastating costs of Vietnam. A costly, un-winable, non-necessary, dumb war escalated in far better economic times than now and continued by Nixon for 5-6 additional years. To what just end? Obama’s legacy is may well be heavily determined by an un-necessary, un-winable war in Afghaninistan that has little chance to produce a just peace..
Take this as a screed written by gdb from Austin, TX, channeling LBJ with much sadness using a pen warmed up in Hell.