DeSantis: Would France fight back if Russia invaded? Probably not

I can’t decide what’s worse, that he’s doing “cheese-eating surrender monkey” shtick that’s 20 years old or that he’s a highly intelligent man who’s playing dumb because he has contempt for his base.

DeSantis isn’t ignorant. He just thinks you are.

France is a nuclear power and has been for decades. Russia will never attack it for that reason. For the same reason, NATO will never attack Russia, Putin’s many self-serving lies to the contrary. If the Russian military made a serious move on Paris, Moscow would glow in the dark within an hour.

How would they even reach France? They’d have to bulldoze multiple NATO countries before they made it to the French border.

Also, has DeSantis spent five minutes following the news about how Russia’s campaign in Ukraine is going? France has the best military in western Europe while Russia’s military can’t keep its vehicles gassed up for an offensive right across its own border. Knowing what we now know about the state of their army, there’s zero reason to think Russia would prevail in a conventional war against France.

Humor about the French running away from a fight is a fine American tradition but (a) DeSantis isn’t joking, (b) he might have to deal with France someday as commander-in-chief, and (c) it’s a cheap shot to take at a moment when France is a key partner in tightening the economic screws on Russia. Macron did more than any western leader to engage Putin diplomatically before the war in hopes of convincing him not to attack. When that failed, he rallied to Ukraine’s side. In fact, Macron addressed his nation today in these terms at around the same time DeSantis was sneering at French cowardice:

Macron, who has led European efforts to avert war by visiting Putin in Moscow last month and mediating over the phone between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the Russian leader, squarely put the blame on hostilities on the Kremlin.

“It is alone, betraying his international commitments one by one, that President Putin chose war,” Macron said in a nationwide address to the French people.

“This war is not a conflict between the West and Russia, as some would like us to believe. There is no NATO base in Ukraine. These are lies. Russia is not aggressed, it is the aggressor. This war is not a fight against Nazism … it’s a lie,” Macron added.

Yesterday his finance minister vowed to wage an “all-out economic and financial war” against Russia over its aggression in Ukraine, a remark that drew warnings of military reprisals from Moscow and complaints about warmongering from some French MPs. The France of 2022 isn’t the France of 2002 or the France of 1940.

And, for the record, the France of 1940 didn’t surrender to Germany without a shot. More than 90,000 French were killed and 200,000 wounded in several months of war before the Nazis overran them, and the French resistance fought on for years. The “surrender monkey” jab has always been overblown.

So why would DeSantis resort to it here, totally gratuitously? I think it’s because he’s always grasping for ways to show cultural solidarity with his base against their enemies even when the situation doesn’t call for it. It’s the same reason he can’t bring himself to admit that he got a booster. To do so would mean siding with “them” instead of “us.” Right now the American right (and left) is cheering on Ukraine’s bravery in resisting Russia, making the war a difficult topic on which to impose an “us versus them” cultural frame. So, to create a “them,” DeSantis reached for a “surrender monkey” dig at the French, the snobby high-culture elites whom God-fearing American patriots have always viewed suspiciously.

Only in our moronic populist-grievance politics of 2022 could simple praise for Ukraine somehow also require calling the French pussies.

His remarks today were preceded by this scene, which is also drawing heat online:

I’m not as bugged by that as some on social media appear to be. He’s half-joking with the kids, needling them a little bit, and he’s right that they’re among the groups least in “need” of masking to protect them from COVID. But he’s spent months defending people’s right to choose which COVID precautions they feel comfortable taking instead of mandating them to do so — and now here he is hectoring the students over their choice. One can logically be pro-caution yet anti-mandate, but DeSantis seems to have let his anti-mandate position lead him into being anti-caution. What if one of the masked kids has an underlying condition or a family member who does, one reporter wondered?

I think this is another example of him worrying about making sure he’s on the right side of the sort of “us versus them” cultural politics that’s required of any would-be national Republican leader. DeSantis knew the kids would be standing behind him during his remarks and probably thought that seeing a masked group in-frame while the governor of the “free state of Florida” speaks might irritate some of the MAGA supporters watching. So he gave the kids a nudge to unmask. He doesn’t want populist Republicans thinking he’s on the side of “them,” ever.

Exit question: When was the last time he needled someone this way to get vaccinated?