Senator calls Ron DeSantis a 'power-mad tyrant' after Martha's Vineyard stunt
Gov. Ron DeSantis (Photo via Saul Loeb for AFP)

WASHINGTON, DC — After he cast a late morning vote on the Senate floor Thursday, Tim Kaine was in his signature satisfied smile – the one he regularly seems incapable of controlling on his noticeably unhurried strolls through the hurried-to-hectic United States Capitol – as he descended into the dregs of the Capitol. Before reaching the trams at the bottom of the landing, where a rotating cast of reporters all but reside, he stopped to field our questions. After answering an election question, the former governor of a formerly purple Virginia went out of his way to defend many members of the GOP from charges they’re all lawless disciples of Trump (“Not everybody who is a Republican is in that camp, but, sadly, an awful lot are”).

In the next question, “DeSantis'' came up as an easy, almost piñata-like example of a broader trend. One mention of the Florida governor’s name was too much, even for the perpetually nice – “Virginia is…” annoyingly, at least half the time… “for Lovers” – and decent former Democratic vice-presidential nominee.

“You know what? Let me just say this about Ron DeSantis,” Kaine told Raw Story as his eyes welled up with tears and his voice quivered with pain. “Somebody who would round up Venezuelans who have fled one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world and then use them for a political stunt has no business ever holding any political office.”

Our southern neighbors – stretching throughout the Americas – have maintained a special place in Kaine’s being since 1980. That’s when he checked out of Harvard Law School for a year to serve as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras. His time there has stuck with him, which was evident as the mild-tempered Democrat sardonically mocked Florida’s governor for his latest naked appeal for clicks and adoration from the far-right wing of the GOP he’s perpetually courting.

“’So let's see, ‘who do I want to use for a political stunt? Why don't I pick on people who have already been abused by a power-mad tyrant?’ And they fled that, and they fell into the hands of another power-mad tyrant,” Kaine said in pained disgust.

When former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez started implementing his nationalistic reimagining of his homeland, a massive migration crisis took root in Venezuela. That steady flow of desperate humans – known to many as the Bolivarian Revolution – has yet to stop. Upwards of four million Venezuelans fled the impoverished nation from 1999 to 2019. Losing roughly 13 percent of their population makes it the worst migration crisis recorded in the Americas to date.

“You think about who Venezuelans are – I mean, this is the second largest humanitarian crisis in the world and the US is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people, both inside the country and out,” Kaine bemoaned, questioning whether DeSantis has any foreign policy chops.

In Massachusetts, local leaders are also appalled that DeSantis turned people into nakedly partisan pawns.

“It's pathetic. DeSantis is using vulnerable human beings for his own personal political gain,” Sen. Ed. Markey (D-MA) told Raw Story as he rushed through the Capitol Thursday. “But Massachusetts will embrace these families, and we will take care of them.”

Throughout the governor’s first term, DeSantis has gained a reputation through consistently manufacturing and embellishing made-for-Fox NewsMax controversies. Critics across the political spectrum say shipping refugees to an East Coast island – especially after they were reportedly told they were headed to Boston – was a step too far, even for him. Many have questions for the GOP White House-aspirant.

“I was wondering whether there was some kind of kidnapping? Like, what did they tell them to get on the plane?” Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH) wondered to Raw Story as she headed to the Capitol for the House’s last votes of the week.

DeSantis has successfully used the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee to vie for former President Trump’s base and donors, but Kuster predicted this latest ploy will backfire.

“What I'm really proud of is the townspeople stepping up. That's our motto: Democrats care, communities care,” Kuster continued. “It's entirely irresponsible for the Republican governor to approach it that way. But we do care.”

DeSantis’ political stunts are getting old to some of his own party. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) served as the 89th Speaker of the Florida House Representatives before being sent to Washington in 1998. Just last month, he beat back a primary challenge from the fringe-right as he squeaked out a narrow victory over alt-right, anti-immigrant provocateur Laura Loomer.

When Raw Story asked Webster’s reaction to DeSantis’ move to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, it became clear the former Florida GOP leader is no cheerleader of the state’s current governor.

“I haven’t been following it,” Webster replied when asked about the two planes DeSantis sent to Martha’s vineyard.

“You haven’t seen it?” I ask, surprised, as it was on all the channels.

“No,” the six-term Republican replied deadpan.

Not to be outdone by his potential presidential primary opponent, a day after DeSantis’ move, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent 2 busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ Washington residence. More than 100 asylum seekers were abandoned at her home, including children.

While Republican governors work to portray President Joe Biden – and the entire Democratic Party through him – as weak on immigration, many Democrats say it’s all smoke and mirrors. They support secure borders, but, they say, just not inhumane ones.

“We need to solve immigration and security at the border, not play cheap political stunts, and that’s what that is,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) told Raw Story on her way to a Senate vote. “That stuff doesn't help anything.”

As for whether these episodes are a new low for GOP governors?

“There’s always more new lows,” Duckworth replied.

Clicks, likes, and TV play are one thing, critics argue, but human beings are another.

“I think it reflects an utter disregard for the humanity of other people,” Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) told Raw Story as he was about to enter the Capitol. “I understand we have to address the challenges we're facing with people at our borders – there's no question about that – but we need to do it in a way that reflects our values as Americans.”

Echoing Tim Kaine, the four-term congressman also accused DeSantis of being out of touch with America’s most foundational – even sacred – core values.

“We are a country that has long welcomed the oppressed and benefited from immigration throughout our history,” Schneider continued. “We need immigration reform that includes addressing our outdated laws and addressing our border security, but what the governor is doing is using people for his own political purposes in the most deplorable way.”