Ron DeSantis’ Mushy Foreign Policy

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, currently the highest-polling potential challenger to Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is trying to work out a foreign policy platform in public. The NYT devotes two articles today—both with bylines by Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan—to his most recent effort.

DeSantis Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal,’ Clarifying Earlier Comment on Ukraine

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida this week clarified his description of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” and said that Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, was a “war criminal” who should be “held accountable.”

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican who is expected to announce a presidential campaign in the coming months, made his latest comments in an interview with the British broadcaster Piers Morgan, who shared them with The New York Post and Fox News, both owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Last week, Mr. DeSantis made one of the most significant statements of the 2024 presidential campaign to date, to the influential Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has criticized the Biden administration’s approach to Ukraine. “While the U.S. has many vital national interests,” Mr. DeSantis said in his statement, “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.”

Mr. DeSantis did not mention Mr. Putin then and criticized President Biden’s policy as a “blank check” to Ukraine with no clear objectives, one that distracts from U.S. problems.

The line about a “territorial dispute” was heavily criticized by foreign policy hawks, as well as Republicans in Congress and, privately, some Republican donors. It also put Mr. DeSantis’s views more in line with those of former President Donald J. Trump.

But Mr. DeSantis used an apparently lengthy interview with Mr. Morgan early this week to clarify his statement to Mr. Carlson.

“I think he is a war criminal,” Mr. DeSantis said of Mr. Putin, for whom the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant related to war crimes. “I don’t know about that route,” he said of the arrest warrant, “but I do think that he should be held accountable.”

To Mr. Morgan, Mr. DeSantis insisted that his comment about a “territorial dispute” had been “mischaracterized,” but he acknowledged he could have been clearer.

“Obviously, Russia invaded” in 2022, Mr. DeSantis said. “That was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014 — that was wrong.”

The change appeared not to have been lost on Mr. Carlson. Just hours after Mr. DeSantis’s new comments about Mr. Putin were made public, Mr. Carlson attacked what he said were people who give in to the news media, asserting that they are forced “to repeat whatever childish slogan they’ve come up with this week.” In a mocking voice, he said, “Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.”

While he was a congressman from Florida, Mr. DeSantis faulted President Obama’s administration for not doing more, as Russia annexed Crimea.

“What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now, which is that eastern border region, Donbas, and then Crimea,” Mr. DeSantis said. He added, “There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there. So, that’s some difficult fighting, and that’s what I was referring to, and so it wasn’t that I thought Russia had a right to that, and so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it.”

But he added, “I think the larger point is, OK, Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government or certainly to threaten NATO. That’s a good thing. I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement. I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified” in invading is “nonsense.”

He added that he did not believe that the conflict would end with “Putin being victorious. I do not think the Ukrainian government is going to be toppled by him, and I think that’s a good thing.”

Mr. DeSantis’s stance on Russia has been of significant interest to Republicans looking for an alternative to Mr. Trump. A large swath of Republican voters have come to say that the U.S. is providing too much support for Ukraine.

Stipulating that DeSantis is an opportunist, even by the standards of politicians seeking to be President, I tend not to be overly harsh of contenders’ clumsy early attempts to formulate and articulate a foreign policy agenda. With the exception of those with long service in that sphere, most candidates either stumble along early in the journey or articulate an incredibly simplistic agenda. Interestingly, the other piece (by Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Kitty Bennett) argues that DeSantis is in the former camp:

The DeSantis Foreign Policy: Hard Power, but With a High Bar

When Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida made headlines recently by undercutting U.S. support for Ukraine, Republican hawks, many of whom cling to him as their only hope to defeat former President Donald J. Trump, wondered if they had misread him as an ideological ally.

Mr. DeSantis ditched his previous backing for Ukraine to align himself with the increasingly nationalistic Republican base, which he will need to win the 2024 presidential primary if he runs. But he was never the committed internationalist that some old-guard Republicans had wanted or imagined him to be.

Until now, Mr. DeSantis served as a Rorschach test for Republicans. There was, conveniently, something in his record to please each of the party’s ideological factions, and he had every incentive to be all things to all Republicans for as long as he could get away with it.

Hawks had claimed Mr. DeSantis as their own for his fervent support of Israel and his denunciations of China, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. And restraint-oriented Republicans had claimed Mr. DeSantis for his 2013 decision, as a congressman, to break with Republican hawks and oppose President Barack Obama’s requests to intervene militarily in Syria.

Yet, despite his policy shifts and inconsistencies — this week, he said he had failed to make himself clear on Ukraine and called President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a “war criminal” — Mr. DeSantis’s worldview is not a mystery.

Unusually for a governor, Mr. DeSantis, whose spokeswoman declined interview requests, has a long paper trail on foreign policy. A close reading of more than 200 of his speeches, votes, writings and television commentaries over the past decade, as well as interviews with his peers, reveal the makings of a DeSantis Doctrine.

‘Just a Jacksonian’

Tucked between the campaign boilerplate in Mr. DeSantis’s new book, “The Courage to Be Free,” is a short chapter describing how his service in Iraq, as an officer in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, reinforced his doubts about former President George W. Bush’s “messianic impulse.”

“Bush sketched out a view for American foreign policy that constituted Wilsonianism on steroids,” Mr. DeSantis writes, referring to former President Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic liberal internationalism after World War I. He recalls his reaction to a line in Mr. Bush’s second inaugural address: “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.”

“I remember being stunned,” Mr. DeSantis writes. “Does the survival of American liberty depend on whether liberty succeeds in Djibouti?”

Mr. DeSantis’s analysis of Mr. Bush’s attempt to use the military to “socially engineer a foreign society” is the sort of thing one hears from conservative elites who call themselves Jacksonians, after President Andrew Jackson, the 19th-century populist. Though The New York Times could find no public record of the Florida governor describing himself as a Jacksonian, the word kept coming up in interviews with people who know Mr. DeSantis.

“I think he’s kind of dead-center where Republican voters are, which is to say that he’s neither an isolationist nor a neoconservative, he’s just a Jacksonian,” said David Reaboi, a conservative national security strategist whom Mr. DeSantis has hosted at the governor’s mansion.

Mr. Reaboi was referring to a 1999 essay by the academic Walter Russell Mead, “The Jacksonian Tradition and American Foreign Policy,” which is still in heavy circulation on the intellectual right. It defines a Jacksonian as having a narrow conception of the U.S. national interest: protection of its territory, its people, its hard assets and its commercial interests overseas.

A Jacksonian does not dream of implanting “American values” on foreign soil. He or she believes that if the U.S. military is to be deployed, it should use as much force as necessary to achieve a quick, clearly defined “victory,” with as few American casualties as possible. A Jacksonian cares little about lopsided casualty counts — so long as they’re in America’s favor — or about international law.

Unlike Mr. Trump, a fellow Jacksonian but one who operates on pure instinct and would never dream of suffering through a foreign policy treatise, Mr. DeSantis has read deeply and has formed a philosophy about America’s place in the world. But you will rarely hear Mr. DeSantis invoke abstract values to justify the use of force — as some of his potential 2024 rivals and current party leaders have done.

He has not framed the Ukraine war as a battle for “freedom,” as former Vice President Mike Pence has done, or as a mission to defend the post-World War II international security framework, as Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, has done. If Mr. DeSantis is elected president, there is unlikely to be any more Biden-esque talk of “autocracies versus democracies.” In Mr. DeSantis’s framing, these are the idealistic mutterings of a “Wilsonian.”

More than two decades ago, Walter Russell Mead argued that there are four impulses that have governed American foreign policy over the years , all of which compete for control. Two of them, Jacksonian and Wilsonian, are described above. The other two are Jeffersonian—essentially, the peacenik version of the Jacksonians, eschewing foreign entanglements because it will corrupt Americn democracy—and the Hamiltonians, who are the Realist counterpart to the Wilsonians, promoting an active foreign policy to further US economic power rather than spread American values.

It may well be that DeSantis—who, despite his many flaws is an educated man who has had plenty of occasion to think about US foreign policy—is instinctively Jacksonian. A tendency toward isolationism and non-interventionism if let alone combined with responding with righteous fury when crossed is not uncommon among Southerners who have served in the military. It is not, however, a foreign policy agenda.

None of the four themes in Mead’s model are, by the way. Like it or not, the United States is a global superpower and has been for more than a century. It has competing interests all over the world that require complicated trade-offs.

I couldn’t place President Biden into one of the four camps. Indeed, like most Presidents, I think he sees foreign policy as a distraction from his domestic agenda. His general foreign policy instinct—going back to at least the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait—has been a cautious reluctance to intervene. We’ve seen that in his slow ratcheting up of support for Ukraine pursuant to last year’s invasion by Russia. While I have quibbles with his decisions on that score, his overall handling of that crisis has been masterful—serving Wilsonian “world order” goals, Hamiltonian economic ones, and Wilsonian “smiting the enemy” goals nicely. Only the Jeffersonians, who kvetch that this plays into the hands of the military-industrial complex and takes money that could be distributed to the poor, are upset.

There is certainly a Jeffersonian strain among the Republican nominating electorate, just as there is among the Democratic nominating electorate. Indeed, the latter is historically larger. Part of what we’re seeing here is simply the increasing tendency of both parties—but especially the GOP—to reflexively oppose the policy of the other party’s President.

Elon Musk Reportedly Admits He’s Taken a $24 Billion Haircut on Twitter’s Valuation Since He Bought it Six Months Ago

Elon Musk has reportedly told Twitter employees the company which he paid $44 billion to acquire just six months ago is now worth only $20 billion.

According to The New York Times , Musk sent an email to Twitter employees Friday night in which he said the company is now worth $20 billion. He argued “radical changes” were necessary to avoid bankruptcy.

“Twitter is being reshaped rapidly,” Musk wrote.

Musk made the valuation claim in an email outlining the company’s new stock compensation program. Twitter employees will receive stock in X Corporation, which is the holding company the Tesla CEO used to by Twitter. The Times reports the stock will be awarded to employees at the $20 billion valuation.

Times correspondents Kate Conger and Ryan Mac detailed their futile efforts to try to get Musk and Twitter to weigh in on their reporting.

“Mr. Musk did not respond to a request for comment and an email to Twitter’s communications department was returned with a poop emoji,” they wrote.

The post Elon Musk Reportedly Admits He’s Taken a $24 Billion Haircut on Twitter’s Valuation Since He Bought it Six Months Ago first appeared on Mediaite .

Joe Exotic Lays Out His 2024 Presidential Platform in Jailhouse Phoner With Fox News: ‘Somebody Has to Start Asking Some Real Questions’

So because we’ve accepted the 2024 election will be another strange chapter of American politics — or at least, that there’s no escaping it — Fox News embraced our inevitable reality by interviewing Tiger King star Joseph Maldonado-Passage about his interest in running for president from prison.

The infamous former zookeeper known as Joe Exotic spoke with Fox’s Lawrence Jones over the weekend while he continues to serve a 21-year prison sentence for wildlife charges and plotting a murder-for-hire conspiracy against rival conservationist Carole Baskin. While some people might think being confined to prison would make it difficult to pursue the Oval Office, the Tiger King announced earlier this month that he wants to run for president, and Jones got the scoop on it with an interview over the phone.

When asked about those who see his presidential ambitions as a “big joke,” Maldonado-Passage retorted “It’s my Constitutional right to do this.”

“It doesn’t matter what people think. This ain’t a joke,” he continued. “Things have to be changed in our country, in our political system, in our Justice Department, our prison system. Somebody has to start asking some real questions for the people that work their butts off in this country to pay the bill for these politicians to just keep peeing this money away.”

After Maldonado-Passage brushed off his rejection from the Libertarian Party, Jones asked him what he would do differently if he was president.

His answer:

First of all, we have to quit policing of the world, okay? And we have to quit funding everybody else’s culture. It’s not the working people of America’s problem to take care of the rest of the world.

We’re sending billions and billions of dollars to other countries for gender identity, for their wars, for their crap, and we’re cutting grandma and grandpa’s social security in America. And we have homeless vets, and it’s just ass-backwards. We have President Putin just has warrants for his arrest for war crimes. We have President Trump under the possibility of an indictment and other criminal charges. We have Hunter Biden and President Biden under investigation for money-laundering making bad deals.

What is the hell is the difference in somebody in prison that sees the system for what it really is, and exposing this and trying to fix it?

Watch above via Fox News.

The post Joe Exotic Lays Out His 2024 Presidential Platform in Jailhouse Phoner With Fox News: ‘Somebody Has to Start Asking Some Real Questions’ first appeared on Mediaite .