There’s something rum about Florida governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, says Helen Lewis in The Atlantic. For one thing, he’s desperate to hide his impeccable elite credentials – he captained the baseball team at Yale, graduated magna cum laude, then went to Harvard Law School – under “lashings of bronzer and highly choreographed outrages”. Moreover, compared to the “full sugar rush” of Trump, there’s something anodyne and “bloodless” about him, like a kind of “synthetic, lab-grown alternative”. But beneath the stiff and awkward exterior, there seems to be an unpleasant streak too.
Teaching at the private Darlington School after college, DeSantis once dared a student who had been bragging about how much milk he could drink to prove it. “The student threw up in front of his classmates.” Then as a navy lawyer in 2006, he spent Christmas at the military prison in Guantánamo Bay. One former prisoner remembers DeSantis laughing as he was force-fed. “I looked at him,” the inmate later recalled, “and he was actually smiling. Like someone who was enjoying it.” There just seems to be something missing in DeSantis. During his inauguration as governor, the pledge of allegiance was read by Felix Rodríguez, an 81-year-old CIA veteran of the Bay of Pigs incident. When the old man stumbled over the words, it was obvious what a natural politician like Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan would have done: “walk over, take Rodríguez’s arm, and create a viral moment of human connection”. Instead, rather tellingly, DeSantis just stood there, “rigid and stern”.