Refereeing Trump v. DeSantis on COVID - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Refereeing Trump v. DeSantis on COVID
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in “Results” ad, Sept. 6, 2022 (Ron DeSantis/YouTube)

When we (meaning the editors here at The American Spectator and yours truly) were discussing the topic of this column Tuesday afternoon, I groaned at the subject matter below — because there is no emerging unscathed from an attempt to find cohesion among the factions of the MAGA/revivalist/America First movement once the conversation turns to Donald Trump versus Ron DeSantis.

I keep saying the obvious, which is that if we’re going to fix the ugly mess the Bush Republicans, the Deep State, and the hard-left Democrat machines have made of America, Trump/DeSantis isn’t an either/or proposition. We need both of them, and a whole lot more than just those two. We need an entire movement of fearless, passionate, smart, and ruthless conservative patriots — an army of strong men and sane women — if we’re going to touch off the American revival this country must have in order to save itself.

That means that either Trump or DeSantis can be the GOP’s nominee in 2024, and the activists, donors, and supporters of the movement should be prepared to happily throw in behind either one — or if it’s somebody else who can credibly argue he or she is worthy of bearing the standard, then perhaps him or her as well. Perhaps more importantly, we need revivalist Republicans on the ballot and bearing the standard in every race below president — in this fall’s midterm cycle, which so far seems to be a qualified success particularly down the ballot in a lot of places, but not a perfect one, and in many cycles to come.

But while a spirit of harmony inside the movement should prevail, that harmony should be based on truth and a plan. And this requires a sober, dispassionate analysis of what’s going right and what’s going wrong, and how to fix the latter.

And when the topic of the COVID-19 response came up late last week and over the weekend, it provided a very good opportunity to conduct such an analysis.

How did it come up? Well, DeSantis is running for re-election in Florida against the testosterone-challenged trans-Democrat Charlie Crist, and this was the latest ad his campaign popped out onto the airwaves:

The replies under that ad are pretty indicative of the late word that some 80 percent of Twitter utterings are the work of bots, which is something Trump and DeSantis seem to have in common — they both are invaluable for their ability to bring forth the reality about their opponents. The ad demonstrates the flop-sweat DeSantis induces in today’s Left just like Trump’s very existence seems to do with the Deep State and all of its various organisms.

But along with the cacophony of hate-tweets and “fact-checks” issued by basement-dwelling losers came something of an interesting discussion about the ad. Specifically, here’s something Ben Domenech said, which touched things off:

So chalk Domenech up as a DeSantis backer, I guess.

The thing is that Ben Domenech is very much an America First revivalist. Is he a particular Trump supporter? Not really, but neither is he David French. Let’s not forget whom Ben Domenech is married to, and let’s recognize you aren’t getting full-on MAGA from him if he values his domestic tranquility.

But that isn’t the point. Domenech’s critique of Trump here comes from the right — in the sense that what he’s saying is Trump took a weak line against the Fauci-fascist takeover of the federal government that COVID-19 brought on.

And in this, while there’s a counter-argument which also deserves examination, Domenech isn’t wrong.

To acknowledge this is not to back DeSantis over Trump or to say Trump disqualified himself for 2024. It’s simply to say that one of the main reasons Trump lost re-election, or that the 2020 election was close enough in so many states that it could be stolen from him if that’s how you prefer to frame it, was COVID.

I would argue, and have, that COVID was the primary reason 2020 happened the way it did. If nothing else, the government’s alarmist/wacko overreaction to the virus, complete with lockdowns, mandates, school closures, and other abject stupidities created the atmosphere within which the Democrats were able to pollute the electoral process with mail-in ballots, drop boxes, and the rest. In several states they did it without so much as the color of law by getting the state legislature’s assent, making the election in fact a questionable affair in terms of the Constitution.

And pointing this out doesn’t make you a conspiracy theorist or a terrorist. If it did, we could round up half the Democrats on Capitol Hill who have contested every Republican presidential election victory this century.

I’ve also argued that the original sin of Trump’s COVID response was not lustily firing Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx the minute it became obvious they were bent on wrecking the U.S. economy in an election year obviously for the purposes of destroying the Trump administration. Birx essentially bragged about it in her ridiculous, unhinged recently published memoir, and it’s fairly clear by what documents have leaked on Fauci that he’s been engaged in a partisan war against Trump and his supporters largely from the first and certainly since various revivalist Republicans on Capitol Hill began sniffing around his activities.

When I argued those things it aroused the ire of the more loyal Trump partisans. I’m not taking the position Domenech takes: that those folks are suckers. They’re defensive of Trump, and it’s not a character flaw to be so, given the villainy of the forces that have been aligned against him. What I will say, though, is that because of that opposition Trump has a very high bar to clear if he’s going to be successful. He — and the movement — has to beat:

  • the federal government;
  • Hollywood;
  • Big Tech;
  • the medical/pharmaceutical complex; which controls
  • the legacy corporate news media (or don’t you notice who advertises on the local and network news?); and
  • academia.

America’s institutions are almost universally corrupt, which is why the country is in such declining shape. We’re not finished, not by a long shot, but we have some massive reform and reinvention to do. And that can’t be done in a half-assed, sloppy way. We can’t make mistakes if we’re going to get where we need to go.

And yes, 2020 — the response to COVID and what it did to our electoral processes, I mean — was a big setback on the way to the American revival.

What would actually be a great moment would be if Trump, through an interview or by some other means, would engage a candid discussion of that experience and why and how things happened the way they did.

I think he can do that without it sounding like a weepy, pandering apology. It certainly doesn’t need to.

It doesn’t need to because Trump actually had all the right instincts about COVID.

Seriously, he did.

  1. Trump knew that COVID came from a biolab in Wuhan, which had ties to the Chinese military, and while the virus wasn’t a bioweapon per se (or at least we don’t have proof of that so far), the way the Chinese government handled itself following the release out of that lab looked a whole lot like it came from somebody’s biowarfare playbook. The telltale sign of that was the fact the Chinese government shut off domestic travel out of Wuhan but the airport there stayed open for international flights for weeks.
  2. Trump was reticent to spread panic among the population about the virus, so much so that the Democrats who did spread that panic made him out not to care about the people who were dying from it (while they encouraged thousands of those deaths by pushing “solutions” like bringing COVID patients into nursing homes). Eventually the panic over the virus was overwhelming and he felt he had to give ground to it, which was a mistake.
  3. Trump also wanted to go after COVID and beat it rather than lock the country down. He agreed to “two weeks to slow the spread” and give the hospitals and medical sector an opportunity to scale up a response to the virus. The problem was that the public heath bureaucracy both at the federal level and the state level was exposed as a dysfunctional, corrupt mess, which had wasted billions of dollars spent supposedly on emergency preparedness and didn’t even have stockpiles of gear. The response of that bureaucracy to COVID was to pay hospitals exorbitant sums to put patients on ventilators, which killed them in droves, and we’ve yet to conduct a real ethical audit of that practice.
  4. Finally, Trump had the correct instinct about the virus, which was that it was better to treat it and get herd immunity through people having recovered from it. The problem with that was it flew in the face of Big Pharma’s profit motive, because widely available and dirt-cheap antiviral drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin showed amazing properties in treating COVID — a recent study showed a 92 percent success rate for ivermectin, for example — and had Fauci and Birx done their jobs and implemented Trump’s choices rather than subvert and sabotage them, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved. That’s not my opinion, it’s the sworn testimony of Dr. Harvey Risch, professor of epidemiology at Yale.

I bring all of this up because once he got some on-the-ground information about COVID, the four things above encompass DeSantis’ response to the virus.

And the trolls of the left say Florida had the third-highest number of COVID deaths. Well, assuming that number isn’t a lie, of course it did. Florida has the highest number of retirees and old people in America, and therefore the highest at-risk population. There was no way to avoid a big COVID death toll in the Sunshine State, but it could have been infinitely worse if DeSantis hadn’t stepped in with a surge of monoclonal antibody treatments and other attempts to treat the virus rather than lock the state down.

Florida also did a massive voluntary campaign to vaccinate its at-risk population, which was what Trump wanted to do nationally and didn’t get the chance.

Of course, the jury is definitely out on whether COVID vaccines work all that well, which could be a sore spot for Trump on something he’d like to take credit for. Operation Warp Speed was certainly an achievement in the sense that it was a successful mobilization of government and industry for a specific purpose, though what we know after about 100 years of such efforts being periodically undertaken is that they rarely produce the desired effect without ugly collateral damage, and we’re just starting to see inklings of the vaccine craze’s blowback.

Had vaccinations been voluntary and targeted to people with COVID comorbidities rather than every American three years and up, we might be in a better place.

The point of all of this is to say that yes, DeSantis’ COVID record is better than Trump’s. And yes, DeSantis managed to make successful policy despite some major headwinds. He had to fight the same federal public health bureaucracy that Trump did, and he pulled it off for the most part.

But DeSantis’ successful COVID response mostly came after Trump had lost re-election. It was 2021, more than 2020, when Florida began to emerge as an oasis of sanity and freedom. And it does seem easier to create such an oasis at the state level than if you’re in the White House and having to bed down with the snakes of the Deep State each evening as Trump had to do.

He didn’t think he had the power to fire the people who truly created the failed federal COVID response, which is a structural problem whichever Republican is able to succeed in toppling Team Biden or its remnants in 2024 will have to address in January 2025. And that’s too bad.

There are a lot of dead Americans, and a lot of others still suffering from the lingering effects of long COVID, and millions of our kids whose educations have been disfigured thanks to the COVID response, and countless business owners and others crushed by the economic devastation that response needlessly inflicted, who might have escaped harm otherwise.

The GOP should own up to all of this and pledge never to let it happen again. That Democrats will never do that, and in fact will double down on tyranny at their next excuse, should give the American people a clear and obvious choice how to move forward. That’s true regardless of whether it’s Trump or DeSantis bearing the standard.

Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics, and, a national political news aggregation and opinion site. Additionally, he's the author of the new book The Revivalist Manifesto: How Patriots Can Win The Next American Era, available at He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott's other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits - check it out here.
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