DES MOINES, Iowa ― Four months after getting tripped up in a Tucker Carlson questionnaire about Ukraine that forced a quick backtrack, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday at the 2023 Family Leadership Summit dealt with the same topic by the same inquisitor with seven minutes of non-answer.
DeSantis talked about his time spent in Iraq as a Navy lawyer, about the Mexican border and how many migrants are crossing illegally, about how fentanyl traffickers would end up “stone cold dead” if he were in office, how it’s humiliating that the United States is running low on ammunition, how the real threat was China, and how in Florida they have banned the purchase of land by the Chinese communist party.
“I think the goal should be to have sustainable peace in Europe. OK, we don’t want there to be war breaking out. There have been a lot of people who have been killed, displaced. It’s a horrible thing. But you have to provide an articulation of where you’re going to go to get there. My fear right now is they’re basically doing an open-ended conflict. This is going to be a multi-year quagmire. There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to die, and there’s not going to be much facts changed on the ground,” he said in one stretch during a candidates’ forum for the 2024 GOP presidential candidates.
“It’s not all peaches and cream out there,” he added at another point. “I wish the D.C. elites cared as much about our border as they care about the Ukraine-Russia border,” he said and then pivoted to China. “We can have a situation where our kids or grandkids are memorizing 37 different pronouns in Mandarin.”
In March, DeSantis filled out a questionnaire that Carlson had sent to all the GOP presidential hopefuls. DeSantis responded by calling the invasion a “territorial dispute” ― which he walked back the following week and stated that he should have been more clear that Russia did not have the right to do what it did.
Carlson, who with previous candidates at the Family Leader Summit, had expressed clear opposition to U.S. support for Ukraine, started by asking DeSantis why he flip-flopped initially and then continued pushing him on what he would do should he win the presidency.
“The goal should be to bring it to a conclusion,” DeSantis said of Russia’s invasion but offered no details on how it would happen other than to make European nations bear more of the burden. “We cannot have American troops in Ukraine. That’s a total non-starter.”
The Republican Party has been riven in recent years on the American approach to Russia after former President Donald Trump began siding with Putin over America’s traditional allies in Western Europe. When Putin first invaded in early 2022, Trump called him a “genius” for doing so, and that pro-Putin sentiment has remained entrenched among a significant percentage of the Republican voting base.
Earlier Friday, when former Vice President Mike Pence stated his strong support for Ukraine in its self-defense against Russia in response, the lifelong evangelical Christian was booed ― twice ― by the evangelical Christian audience.