DeSantis nails it on "15 days"

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Ron DeSantis didn’t miss this opportunity: he held a lengthy press conference on COVID policy, taking advantage of the 3rd anniversary of Trump’s infamous “15 days to slow the spread” press conference.


His courageous stand on COVID policy is one of DeSantis’ strongest proofs that he can lead in the face of political headwinds, and COVID policy is also Donald Trump’s worst blunder. The contrast couldn’t be starker.

DeSantis, as is his wont, was very smart about his tactics. He didn’t use the press conference to criticize Trump. The targets of his ire were Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx.

Fauci and Birx, of course, derived all their power and prestige during the pandemic from the president himself, and Trump was careful to join himself at the hip to their credentials. Trump was worried that he wouldn’t be credible as a leader on a public health issue, so he wanted the prestige of Drs. Fauci and Birx to back him up.

To be fair to Trump, COVID was an enemy he was ill-equipped to defeat. Nobody can defeat a respiratory virus, and Trump lives in a binary world where there are only winners and losers. He didn’t want to be a loser.

Trump’s arena is sparring with people. He is very good at it and has finely honed skills when it comes to taking on people he sees as enemies. He wins more often than he loses and survives losses that would crush other people. But you can’t bully, cajole, negotiate with, or insult a virus. It is going to do what it is going to do and is utterly indifferent to your opinion.


So Trump punted. Knowing that he was not equipped to fight this battle, he handed the power to his experts. His experts told him to promote lockdowns, so he did. And he criticized anybody who didn’t agree.

DeSantis at first looked to Trump and took his advice, but quickly concluded that the president was following a disastrous path. Many of Trump’s proxies have been claiming that DeSantis was just as bad as Trump on COVID policy, but what they leave out is that DeSantis’ initial missteps were entirely due to trusting Trump’s judgment. He learned quickly that was a mistake.

As soon as he realized Trump was wrong, he reversed course. Smart move.

Even today Trump is very prickly about his mistakes, often defending them as the right call, or blaming his mistakes on others. DeSantis took his own path when he realized that the one he was being led down was a bad one.


As I wrote in my VIP column yesterday, the elevation of Fauci and Birx and all that flowed from that should be laid squarely at Trump’s feet. Trump accomplished a great deal while president, and I enthusiastically voted for him over Joe Biden. That was a no-brainer if there ever was one.

But he completely blew it on COVID policy, and a great deal of the mess we are in today has its roots in the decision to allow Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx to steer the ship of state when it mattered most.

Even I didn’t realize how bad they would be on medical policy. Initially, I just worried that they wouldn’t balance the societal costs against the medical benefits of their advice. But in fact, they proved to be awful on public health and every other issue. They were total disasters, and we will pay the price for their power for decades.

There was a point where it was blindingly obvious that we were being gaslighted, yet Trump still refused to reverse course. I have no doubt that Trump understood that he made a bad mistake by then, but he refused to admit it and fire Fauci. He had hitched his wagon to Fauci, and so he stuck with his mistake.


Trump even toyed with the idea of firing Fauci. He implied that he would do so on Twitter, but when asked about it he did an about-face and endorsed the good doctor as a medical genius. That was unforgivable. Acknowledging today that Fauci was a bad guy does nothing to make up for the fact that he considered firing the guy and blinked. He had the chance and blew it.

It’s easy to understand why Trump made the choice to stick by Fauci. He was in the midst of a campaign for reelection, was under constant fire from the media and was out of his depth on the issue. Almost everybody was. No matter which way he turned he would take fire and get blamed for the bodies.

Trump still gets blamed for COVID deaths, despite 5x as many people dying under Biden’s watch than Trump’s. Neither president could do anything to stop the disease. Trump decided to embrace the fight as his war–he called himself a wartime president, remember–and then hired awful generals to lead the battle. The media was determined to blame him for everything bad that happened, and he walked into their trap.

DeSantis is no magician. He, as with everyone, made mistakes early on. But he recognized and corrected those mistakes, and has come out looking like a leader. He faced the same criticism for his actions as Trump. He just didn’t buckle under the pressure.


Trump did, and we are still paying the price.

Here is the complete press conference if you want to watch it. It is long.

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