- Thursday, September 29, 2022

Hurricane Ian made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Florida on Wednesday as a wicked Category 4 monster with winds of up to 150 miles an hour. Residents had known of Ian’s impending arrival, but now they begin the daunting tasks of first avoiding and surviving the gale and floods, and then recovering from the damage.

For many in the media, however, the hurricane is like Christmas in September, because the governor of Florida is Ron DeSantis, the current office-holding Republican they hate the most. Look for reporters to find ways to target Mr. DeSantis as the storm rages and passes, and as the rebuilding commences.

Some got a head start.

“DeSantis faces leadership test as Hurricane Ian comes bearing down on Florida,” read a CNN headline above a story that was mostly a political analysis of Mr. DeSantis’ position as he faces voters for reelection in November while considering a run for president in 2024.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid actually compared Floridians fleeing the hurricane to migrants illegally entering the country, and made what appeared to be a reference to illegal immigrants being sent from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard.

“It’s a bit ironic now that you might have Floridians having to pour over the borders and go north and get out of the state of Florida in the exact same crisis we have been talking about on a trolling level in that state for a long time,” Ms. Reid said. “Be careful about attacking people who have to move to save their own lives and safety, because you never know … when it’s your people who have to migrate, when it’s your people who have to get on that road.”

Politico thought so much of the Ian vs. DeSantis construction that their main account tweeted a story claiming that, to this point, the governor “still hasn’t faced one of the toughest challenges a Florida leader can encounter: a hurricane.”

Which would be interesting if it were true, but it’s not.

Florida has sustained damage and fatalities from several hurricanes since Mr. DeSantis has been governor, most notably from Hurricane Sally in 2020 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

Although Ian will likely be the strongest storm to hit Florida directly during Mr. DeSantis’ time in office, Politico was still forced to amend its story to at least include Sally in the history.

Not to be outdone, the Daily Beast used the advancing hurricane to revive one of the media’s favorite attacks on Mr. DeSantis: That he was — and remains — a villain for choosing freedom over COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates in 2020 and 2021.

Their headline complained, “DeSantis Cares About Deaths From Hurricane Ian. Just Not From COVID.”

And the scholars on ABC’s “The View” weighed in, yukking it up over a clip of Mr. DeSantis praising the quick response of the Biden administration in declaring a pre-landfall disaster.

“Isn’t it socialism when the government helps you?” co-host Joy Behar smugly asked to laughter from the studio audience.

“That’s what they say,” said co-host Sunny Hostin. “Like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and things like that?”

“Yeah, and the fire department’s gotta come and the police… I mean, socialism,” Ms. Behar concluded with a smirk and a gesture of mock fear.

Leftists do this a lot, but it’s intellectually lazy to argue that because conservatives oppose actual socialism, it means they oppose any government whatsoever. And it’s astoundingly vapid to suggest that Republicans should oppose police departments as socialist when it’s been Democrats who can’t escape the “defund the police” cries from their own base supporters and many elected officials.

But despite Politico’s initial attempt at erasing other hurricanes that have affected Florida on Mr. DeSantis’ watch, the media has been down this very road before.

Three years ago, as Hurricane Dorian approached, the Daily Commercial newspaper out of Leesburg, Florida, ran a story with the title, “Storm could shape DeSantis’ political future.”

Though Dorian stayed mostly east of the state, there were problems to deal with. If Mr. DeSantis had not fulfilled his duties well then, we’d be hearing about it from the media today.

So, let’s be clear about this: It’s perfectly fair to monitor and report on the performance of elected officials during natural disasters. It’s one of the most important responsibilities public servants have.

What’s not appropriate is using a storm as a political weapon, even before it arrives, with scarcely concealed glee.

Watch the media closely over the coming days as they frame the situation as “The Hurricane vs. Ron DeSantis” and see if you can detect if some of them are secretly rooting for the hurricane.

And if that’s the case, it’s just sad.

• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist and the founder and principal of Line Drive Public Affairs, a communications consulting firm where he advises political candidates and corporate clients.

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