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By Gail Collins
Our topic for today is — who’s worse, Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis?
Nonononofair! There is no way I’m ever going to vote for either one of them! Why should I care?
Hey, knowledge of public affairs is always important.
DeSantis made headlines this weekend when he showed up to campaign in Iowa while Trump canceled a rally because of bad weather.
“Iowa is the Florida of the Midwest,” the governor of Florida claimed at one point in his burger-flipping, speech-giving trek. Now this was clearly intended as a compliment, but Iowans, do you actually want to be the Florida of the Midwest? The weather is certainly great in January, but there’s plenty of downside. Do your Midwestern neighbors ever mutter, “What our state needs is a heck of a lot more floods and sinkholes …”?
DeSantis and his wife/political adviser, Casey, have three small children, who once starred in a gubernatorial election ad in which he demonstrated his devotion to President Donald Trump by showing one of his daughters how to build a toy wall and reading his son “The Art of the Deal.” (“Then Mr. Trump said, ‘You’re fired.’ I love that part.”)
You may be seeing a lot more of little Madison, Mason and Mamie DeSantis in the months to come. But no one’s going to be reading from Trump’s collected works.
Trump has five children counting Ivanka, who’s sorta cut herself off from the clan. And Tiffany, who everybody, including her father, seemed to have forgotten for a very long stretch. And Eric, whom we mainly hear about during riffs from the late-night comics. And Barron, the youngest at 17, who lives quietly with his mom.
Donald Jr. is truly his dad’s kid. He’s off this summer to Australia for a speaking tour blasting “woke identity politics.” Ranting against “woke” is sort of a DeSantis thing, but give Junior a break. He’s spent his entire life trying to please a father who was absent for most of his childhood and who is said to have resisted having his firstborn named after him, in case the kid turned into a “loser.”
Now Don Jr. has five children too! And he’s not shy about putting them in the news either. A while back he posted an Instagram photo of the kids publicizing a Trump-branded leash. (“You can get yours at the Trump Store too.”) Before that, Dad once tweeted that he planned to confiscate half of his then-3-year-old daughter’s Halloween candy “to teach her about socialism.”
Hard to imagine the Trump and DeSantis families getting together for a cookout. But the gap between the two men grows much wider when you look at personal behavior. Only one of them just lost a $5 million verdict from a jury that found he sexually abused a woman in a department store dressing room.
Trump has been trying to insinuate that DeSantis had some shady doings with high school girls in his far, far distant past. And running an ad reminding the world that his probable Republican opponent has a history of eating pudding with his fingers.
But what about the issues? Sorta hard to pin down since Trump is given to, um, free-associating on this stuff. But he certainly has been running to DeSantis’s left, accusing the Florida governor of wanting to slash Social Security and Medicare benefits.
When he was in Congress, DeSantis did vote for Republican proposals along that line. He’s on the no-changes-no-how bandwagon now. But let’s look at abortion — much easier to pin down. DeSantis, as governor, just signed a bill he supported that will bar abortions in Florida after six weeks. By which time many, many women — particularly the very young, very poor, very traumatized — have no idea they’re pregnant.
DeSantis has at least been consistent. A devout Catholic, he’s had the same position for his entire political career. Trump, on the other hand, um, adapts.
Trump made a huge impact by appointing three anti-choice judges to the Supreme Court. But now he’s noticed that voters are coming down very strong in favor of abortion rights, and he’s switched right around. He claims “many people within the pro-life movement” found the new Florida law “too harsh.”
Our bottom line here, people, is that you have two top candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. DeSantis adheres to a strong, faith-based social conservatism. He’s pro-gun, opposed to diversity and inclusion programs in public colleges. And currently having a big fight with Disney, one of Florida’s top employers, over a comment from a Disney C.E.O. that criticized a DeSantis bill to prohibit classroom discussions of sexual orientation in the early grades.
Hard to imagine a Gov. Donald Trump taking the same road.
Unless it would somehow win him an election. Trump’s politics are deeply, deeply pragmatic. If an angel appeared promising him another term in the White House if he killed every puppy in America, those doggies would be toast.
(That is an imperfect example since The Donald hates dogs anyway, but bear with me.)
The bottom line: Would you rather see the Republicans nominate a candidate who had an exemplary family life and an agenda based on longstanding, extremely conservative beliefs? Or a guy with a sleazy personal history who’d probably go anywhere the votes were?
Some days it pays to be a Democrat.
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