Florida governor, and U.S. presidential hopeful, Ron DeSantis talks to a crowd Monday in Tega Cay, S.C.

Florida governor, and U.S. presidential hopeful, Ron DeSantis talks to a crowd Monday in Tega Cay, S.C. (Tracy Kimball)

(Tribune News Service) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday became the first Republican presidential hopeful to file as a candidate for the South Carolina GOP primary election, as he also unveiled his “Mission First” military policy at a Columbia airport hangar.

While touting his plan to “rip” wokeness out of the military, DeSantis was asked about the breaking news that former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP primary race, announced he expects to be indicted in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

“Criminal charges is not just because you may have done something wrong. It’s did you behave criminally?,” DeSantis said.

His trip to Columbia to file for the primary and tout his military policy was in the aftermath of a hectic weekend for the DeSantis campaign, after firing roughly a dozen mid-level staffers across several departments, according to NBC News reporting. The firing followed the departures of two senior staffers last week, David Abrams and Tucker Obenshain, reported by Politico.

In addition to the campaign staff shakeup, on Thursday, an NBC News article leaked a Family and Friends campaign memo labeled “confidential” that laid out DeSantis’ campaign strategy. The last page of the memo included a “No Excuses” policy timeline that listed “The Border: Stop the Invasion” in June and “The Economy” in July and August.

The memo then followed up with, “More to come in the fall of 2023... including woke military, the deep state, school choice and beyond.”

At his 8:30 a.m. Tuesday filing, DeSantis was asked if there was a reason he decided to talk about the military today instead of the economy as listed in the leaked memo. DeSantis said he didn’t know what was being referred to regarding a memo, but planned to discuss his economic policies “a lot” in the ensuing weeks.

“I don’t know what the NBC memo, I don’t know what you’re talking about, so we talk about the economy every day,” the candidate said.

He then listed a number of policy proposals including “spending discipline” and utilizing resources such as oil and gas to be energy independent.

When it comes to beating South Carolina’s presidential candidates, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, in their home state, DeSantis said, “Well look, I think people have looked at this, I mean the former president has got a lot of support and then I’ve got a lot of support. When we go out and do things with folks, people know that I’ve been a good governor, they know Florida’s good, they get that, but they don’t know a lot about me.”

The campaign stop ensued with S.C. Rep. Joe Bustos, R-Charleston, praising DeSantis’ connection to the armed forces and taunting President Joe Biden’s steps that have made the military “woke.” Bustos said, “no one wants to hear about pronouns” in the military.

DeSantis unveiled his plan to “rip” so-called wokeness out of the military. His “mission first” policy included steps to cut out diversity initiatives in the military and “restore” high military standards.

He recounted his time serving in the Navy and his respect for the Armed Forces, then lamented what he described as unacceptable ideology in the Armed Forces.

“When China sees the Navy using drag queens to recruit people, they are laughing in our face,” DeSantis told a crowd of veterans, families and supporters. “The more and more you inject this type of agenda into the military, you are giving China the advantage.”

He added that a lot of the “woke standard” started under President Barack Obama and was reignited by Biden.

A video released Monday by the DeSantis campaign touted his military policy, including clips of DeSantis talking about the military at campaign stops and saying how much he “appreciated wearing the uniform,” in addition to social media clips of Armed Forces leaders and soldiers talking about “white rage” and hormone therapy.

“On day one, we rip it all out of the military, all the Obama, Biden nonsense is gone,” DeSantis says in the video. “We’re restoring it to its glory.”

DeSantis was a former Navy officer and served in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) in Iraq. In late April, he lashed out at a reporter when asked about his time at Guantanamo Bay and disputed the accusation that he was present when a prisoner was force fed.

“Do you honestly believe that’s credible? It’s ... 2006, I’m a junior officer, do you honestly think that they would’ve remembered me?” DeSantis said at the time.

Tuesday wasn’t DeSantis’ first time targeting military conversations in South Carolina. In April, before he announced his bid for the 2024 election, he and his wife, Casey DeSantis, visited a Summerville coffee shop to speak with military veterans and law enforcement.

State Sen. Josh Kimbrell, a Spartanburg Republican and one of 15 SC lawmakers who are endorsing DeSantis, said he checks all the boxes that South Carolianians want in a candidate.

Columbia is home to Fort Jackson, the Army’s main production center for basic combat training, which trains roughly 50% of all soldiers.

Kimbrell said while DeSantis had to come to Columbia to file, it made sense to roll out his military policy in a place with so many active Armed Forces members and supporters.

©2023 The State.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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