Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted President Joe Biden Wednesday after he announced states that have banned the implementation of mask mandates in schools could face lawsuits from the Department of Education.
“You have all the stuff going on with Afghanistan – obviously all the stuff at the southern border … one of the biggest border disasters in the history of our country, inflation, gas prices, and what does he do?” DeSantis groused on Fox News’ “Hannity.”
“He is obsessed with having the government force kindergartners to wear masks all day in school,” said the governor. “In Florida, we believe that that’s the parents’ decision. Joe Biden thinks the federal government should come in and overrule the parents and force these young kids to wear these masks.”
In remarks from the East Room of the White House earlier Wednesday, Biden said he had directed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to use “all of his oversight authorities and legal actions, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators.”
Cardona responded by raising the possibility of using the department’s civil rights arm to fight bans on mask mandates in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah, all led by Republican governors. The secretary said in a statement that he had sent letters to all eight states saying such prohibitions may violate the American Rescue Plan by preventing schools from developing required safe reopening plans.
“These states are needlessly placing students, families, and educators at risk,” Cardona wrote. “Yet in each of these states, there are also educators and others who are taking steps to protect the health and safety of their school communities.”
On Wednesday night, DeSantis responded with a broadside against Biden, who did not take shouted questions from the press corps about Afghanistan for a second time in three days.
“I mean, you gotta wonder, where are your priorities that you’re so obsessed with this issue and so obsessed with taking away parents’ rights?” the governor asked. “And you’re letting Afghanistan burn, our border burn, and so many other things in our country fall to pieces.”
Before the Taliban’s advance across Afghanistan stole the headlines, DeSantis and Biden engaged in a war of words over mask mandates in schools, with the governor accusing the president of wanting to implement a “biomedical security state” and the president responding by calling DeSantis “Governor Who?“
DeSantis, considered a top contender for the Republican nomination in 2024, went on to accuse Biden of being “asleep at the switch” on Afghanistan. He added that though he supported the withdrawal of US forces from that country, “how you do that matters.”
“When you’re leaving thousands of Americans to fend for themselves behind enemy lines, that matters,” said the governor, who is also a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve. “When you’re leaving billions of dollars in military equipment for our enemies to just take, that matters. It’s going to make that area a disaster.”
“All of our adversaries are taking the measure of Joe Biden, and they see that this is not somebody who’s capable of leading with conviction and leading on the world stage,” he continued. “So they are going to do everything they can, as long as he’s president, to take advantage of that, and I think we’re in for a rocky three-and-a-half years as long as he’s president.”