Clip: Biden and DeSantis put political feud on hold to deal with hurricane response in Florida

Sep. 30, 2022 AT 4:58 p.m. EDT

Political feuds are put aside to coordinate the response to Hurricane Ian. But with the midterm elections less than six weeks away, the flow of negative political ads continues to air in Florida.

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Yamiche Alcindor : This evening, millions of Americans remain impacted by one of the worst disasters in Florida's history, Hurricane Ian unleashed 150 mile per hour winds and unprecedented flooding. And, as Ian continues its devastating path, a state of emergency has been issued in four other states, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas. The storm has leaders putting party politics aside at least for now. Florida's Governor Republican Ron DeSantis, and President Biden, are keeping in touch on the state's recovery.
Ron DeSantis : He said all hands on deck that he wants to be helpful, and he said ask whatever you need, ask us.
Joe Biden : This is about saving people's lives, homes and businesses. I've talked to him four or five times already. And, it's not a matter of my disagreements with him on other items.
Yamiche Alcindor : But, with the midterm elections less than six weeks away, political television ads continue to air in Florida.
Joining me tonight in studio, all four of them, to discuss this and more. Yasmeen Abutaleb, White House Reporter for "The Washington Post"; David Sanger, White House and National Security Correspondent for "The New York Times"; Ryan Reilly, Justice Reporter for NBC News, and Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent and Co-Author of POLITICO Playbook. And, some breaking news for Eugene, from 2024 to 2025, he will be the President of the White House Correspondents' Association, so, congratulations so much, Eugene.
I mean, since your president now, of course, we're going to start with you, because why not?
Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent, POLITICO, & Co-Author, POLITICO Playbook : Only fair.
Yamiche Alcindor : It's only fair. So, of course, Hurricane Ian has forced President Biden and Ron DeSantis, two people who have criticized each other, to work together. Tell me what your reporting has revealed about their efforts to try to actually respond to this hurricane, but also the political calculations here.
Eugene Daniels : Yes, because one thing that is really important to President Biden is to make sure he is seen as a president for all people. We've heard him say that since he was running for the presidency. And so, being able to put aside their kind of petty differences or the big differences that they have between each other, and the knife throwing that has been happening for months and months and will continue at some point, putting that aside is what every aid talks about when you ask them how the president feels about what's going on right now.
And, I will say that will go away at some point, right? President Biden, at some point, is probably going to go to Florida. He is probably going to have to talk to and be seen with the governor, and will we get a moment, like in 2012, when President Obama kind of hugged Chris Christie and a lot of people looked at that as this was the hug that launched a reelection campaign or cement to President Obama's re-election, probably not. But, they do need to be seen as doing that. I think from the American people, it's good to see that politicians can put aside the nastiness at some point.
Yamiche Alcindor : What about the political risk here for Ron DeSantis? What do you think he risks in being seen as possibly too friendly with President Biden?
Eugene Daniels : This is what happened with Chris Christie, right? One of the things that people criticized him for, something Mitt Romney was a little upset with Chris Christie about, is you have to walk this line of thanking them for the money and the resources, but also still making it clear that you don't like them. It's an odd place to be as a governor, but that is something that he is going to have to do so far. And you saw him say it that this isn't a time for pettiness. This is a time for people's lives and lives and lives, livelihoods are at stake, and that's probably going to continue. That's the best way to handle these types of situations.
Yamiche Alcindor : And, David, talking about sort of odd places to be and sort of odd places to find yourself, we have to point out that as a freshman Congressman in 2013, Republican Ron DeSantis, he opposed aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy. He is now in a position where he has had to reverse the idea of aid for places that are hit by hurricanes. What do you make of this change in stance within the governor?
David Sanger, White House and National Security Correspondent, "The New York Times" : Well, all politics are local. And it sounds like there was a time for pettiness, and it was 2013, right? You'll remember that Hurricane Sandy came up right through New York, right up through the New England states. It was pretty devastating all the way around, and you didn't hear the same kind of we all need to work together. You heard a, well, they should - terribly sorry that happened, but not a use for federal funds.
So, I think in some ways, it's a place to Biden and the sort of bipartisan look, because if he does show up down in Florida and I'm sure he will, and the two of them were together, it's going to be pretty clear that one of them is doing this despite the differences, and that DeSantis sort of stands out here.
Yamiche Alcindor : And, as we play the political ads, it shows sort of in some ways that the midterms are still top of mind for people as they're running, even as they're responding to the hurricane. What's your reporting about the White House's strategy on midterms? And also, what do you make of these political ads running given sort of what's at stake for both of these parties?
Yasmeen Abutaleb, White House Reporter, "The Washington Post" : I mean, I think we're five or six weeks out from the midterms, which is probably why the ads are still running in Florida, and Florida has a number of very, very tight closely watched races, not least of which is Governor Ron DeSantis who everyone thinks is perhaps using this to launch a potential 2024 presidential bid.
In terms of the White House, we've seen President Biden become much more aggressive in his messaging over the last couple of weeks. He sort of came in saying we can't attack Republicans too harshly because that'll alienate people. But, you've seen him say, OK, well, the time has passed for that. And, he tries to make this distinction between MAGA Republicans and the Republicans he says he can work with. Of course, you have members of the GOP saying Biden, well, is calling us all fascists now. But he has become much more aggressive in his messaging.
So, you've seen the president use political events to hammer home this message of Republican - MAGA Republicans pose a threat to democracy, a threat to rights like abortion, and then to use his sort of more standard presidential events to tout the infrastructure law or the Inflation Reduction Act. But, he has become much more aggressive, and you've seen a number of Democrats across the country adopt his messaging.
Yamiche Alcindor : And, speaking of aggressive messaging, Ryan, law and order, crime, that was part of the political ads, you told the reporters that GOP is impossibly trying to have it both ways. Tell us a little bit about the politics of this. I know you're be obviously has to deal with crime and national security.
Ryan Reilly, Justice Reporter, NBC News : Yes. I mean, you've seen a lot of these Republican attacks on the FBI, which don't sort of line up with what you see Republicans trying to run on. They're trying to make this all about law and order. But then, at the same time, they're attacking the FBI. They've got a number of conservatives within the FBI who are basically running to Republican Congress people and telling these stories and basically saying that they're thinking that people are being too tough on January 6 defendants.
And, a lot of these January 6 cases are pretty open and shut in terms of crimes on video. It's not very difficult to prove many of them, a lot of the people, filmed themselves committing crimes and posted about that publicly online. It's pretty easy layup cases they make. And, the idea that you shouldn't charge these individuals is sort of, I think, outside of the main here, but it's what some of these people within the FBI have been saying.
And, I should - the FBI is a generally conservative leaning organization, which is something we've lost in the past six years. Like, there is this ongoing beat against the FBI. But, if you look at the filters that go into the FBI and you look at the backgrounds of the folks that go into there, and just generally law enforcement overall, it's a conservative leaning organization. So, I think that's something we should keep in mind despite all these attacks that we see from Republicans.
Yamiche Alcindor : It's interesting that you talk about sort of the prosecutions because your Twitter feed reminds me every day just exactly how important January 6 is and what the sort of blatant crimes, frankly, were that people committed and that they're being found guilty of.

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