Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted triumphantly this afternoon that he rejected the Biden administration’s request for states to send National Guard troops to Washington, D.C. ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union speech.
DeSantis didn’t explain why he was rejecting the National Guard request for additional security forces ahead of the State of the Union, and his rationale for said rejection was not immediately clear on Monday.
But DeSantis has made several calculated moves in the last few weeks to make a Big Show of his enduring support for the anti-vax truckers and anyone in the U.S. riled up by vaccine mandates. For example, when the crowd-sourced fundraising website GoFundMe announced it was removing the “Freedom Convoy’s” fundraising page from its platform, DeSantis declared that he would be launching an investigation into the matter.
While trucker-aligned groups in the U.S. have seen their plans to shut down the Super Bowl with similar “freedom convoy” protests earlier this month — and a handful of other copy cat demonstrations in the U.S. — fall flat, talk of descending on the Capitol ahead of Biden’s address fueled authorities’ requests for additional security measures, according to multiple reports. There’s been a significant amount of online chatter from Trumpian, anti-vax crowds and other far-right groups in the U.S. sympathetic to the Canadian protesters’ cause. And inevitably, there have been a slew of reports in recent days on far-right organizers aligned with the movement and their plans to bring demonstrations to D.C. during Biden’s first address to the joint session of Congress tomorrow.
And so, the Florida governor’s very public rejection of a standard request for military aid to defend the Capitol during a large scale national event in D.C. appears pointed. And it left me with some questions: did the National Guard even ask Florida for reinforcement in the first place?
Major Matt Murphy, the media relations officer for the National Guard Bureau clarified that when a request for troop deployment is approved by the Pentagon and sent out from the requesting unit, the appeal goes out to all 50 states and U.S. territories.
“It all depends on who chooses to respond,” he told me. “When a request for assistance goes in, it’s sent from our computer system and each state governor can look and see if they have the equipment and the availability (and can) respond or not respond accordingly.”
The “or not respond accordingly” was a meaningful clarification for me. Murphy said that DeSantis’ rejection was “normal,” but said “in most cases” governors “don’t even have to respond if they don’t have anyone.”
It feeds into my theory — that he’s making a show of this rejection for political clout.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the deployment of 700 unarmed National Guard troops to the area last Tuesday night. According to recent reports, 400 of those troops will be local to Washington, D.C., while an additional 300 will be coming (or, in some cases, are already in place — deployment began on Saturday and will continue into Tuesday) from other parts of the country. Per NBC Washington the other troops include: 100 Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers, 100 from New Jersey National Guard and about 80 from West Virginia.
So, while Florida is clearly not the only state in the union to reject (or not respond) to requests for additional support ahead of Biden’s address, DeSantis’ loud Twitter rejection is dripping with 2024 intentions.
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