Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Getty Images
the national interest

DeSantis Finally Takes Real Questions, But He Won’t Answer Them

It’s a start.

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Getty Images

Florida governor Ron DeSantis abandoned his policy of only speaking to Republican Party–aligned media by giving an interview to CNN’s Jake Tapper. Unfortunately, taking questions is just one part of doing an interview. The other part is answering them. DeSantis conspicuously refused to answer any of the most newsworthy questions posed to him.

Tapper asked DeSantis if he would sign a national six-week abortion ban like the one he signed in Florida: “Yes or no, will you support that?” DeSantis did not say yes or no:

So I’ve said I’m pro-life, I will be a pro-life president, um, and we will support pro-life policies. Um, at the same time, I look at what’s going on in the Congress, and I don’t see them making very much headway. I think the danger from Congress is, if we lose the election, they’re gonna try to nationalize abortion up until the moment of birth.

Tapper asked if he would stop arming Ukraine or stop giving it financial support. DeSantis did not answer that, either. Instead, he framed the question as being about sending American troops there. “A vital national interest means we would send troops to Ukraine.”

He eventually said, “I am not gonna diminish our stocks, and not send to Taiwan, and not gonna make us less capable to exigencies. And you have to care more about your own border than you do about foreign borders.” That sounds like a promise not to continue arming Ukraine, since any weapons sent to Ukraine would by definition come at the expense of domestic weapons stocks. But his answer was evasive rather than straightforward.

Tapper asked if he would push Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to make territorial concessions to end the war, and DeSantis said only that “the goal is gonna be a sustainable peace that does not reward aggression.”

DeSantis’s most overt dodge came when Tapper asked if he thought Jack Smith should indict Donald Trump if he finds evidence of criminality. DeSantis just refused to say:

Tapper: “If Jack Smith has evidence of criminality, should Donald Trump be held accountable?”

DeSantis: “So here’s the problem: this country is going down the road of criminalizing political differences. I think that’s wrong. Alvin Bragg stretched the statute in Manhattan to be able to try to target Donald Trump. Most people, even people on the left, acknowledge if that wasn’t Trump, that case would not have likely been brought against the normal civilian. And so you have a situation where the Department of Justice/FBI have been weaponized against people they don’t like. And the number one example that happened to be against Donald Trump with the Russia collusion. That was not a legitimate investigation. That was being done to try to drive Trump out of office. And so what I’ve said, as President, my job is to restore a single standard of justice, to end weaponization of these agencies. We’re going to have a new FBI director on Day One. We’re going to have big changes at the Department of Justice. Americans across the political spectrum need to have confidence that what is going on is based on the rule of law, not based on what political tribe you’re in.”

Tapper followed up by noting Smith has prosecuted Democrats, too. “Are you saying that if he finds evidence of criminality,” he repeated, “he should not charge Donald Trump anyway?” DeSantis dodged again:

“What I’m saying is that, if you’re going after somebody on the other side of the political spectrum, if you’re stretching statutes to try to criminalize maybe political disagreements, that is wrong. Now, look, this is all speculation. But I think we’ve gone down the road in this country of trying to criminalize politics rather than say, okay, if you don’t like somebody then defeat them in the election rather than use the justice system.

On all three questions, DeSantis chose to answer a different and much easier question than the one he was asked. Rather than say if he would sign a national abortion ban, he said he opposed a national law to protect abortion through birth. Rather than say whether he would send military and economic aid to Ukraine, he said he wouldn’t send troops there (which the Biden administration is also not doing).

And when asked if Smith should prosecute Trump if he has evidence of criminality, DeSantis talked about Alvin Bragg and insinuated Smith is charging Trump because he’s a Republican without directly saying either that Trump is innocent or that he should be immune from prosecution.

Trump is very good at refusing to answer questions. His technique is to ramble incoherently through so many different subject areas that the audience and the interviewer forget what he was asked. DeSantis is cursed with having a normal, functioning brain, so his refusals to answer are painfully conspicuous.

DeSantis Finally Takes Real Questions But Won’t Answer Them