The ongoing feud between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Joe Biden continued this week as the two politicians attacked each other. DeSantis slammed Biden for his handling of the pullout in Afghanistan and said the president is "obsessed with having the government force kindergarteners to wear masks all day in school."
During an appearance on Fox News' "Hannity" on Wednesday, DeSantis blasted Biden for the turbulent withdrawal from Afghanistan.
"Well, he's asleep at the switch," DeSantis said of Biden's withdrawal from the now Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
"When you're leaving thousands of Americans to fend for themselves behind enemy lines, that matters. 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."
"Obviously, Americans are at risk," DeSantis told Fox News host Sean Hannity. "And Sean, you know, who's looking at this? China, Russia, North Korea, 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. 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."
"He was on vacation; they had to ply him off of vacation to give a kind of a half-cocked statement on camera that he said wasn't taking questions," the Republican governor added. "Then he goes back on vacation, and he is obsessed, while you have all this stuff going on with Afghanistan, obviously all this stuff at the southern border — which you and I have talked about, one of the biggest border disasters in the history of our country — inflation, gas prices, and what does he do? He is obsessed with having the government force kindergarteners to wear masks all day in school."
DeSantis questioned Biden's fixation on mask mandates for schoolchildren. "And you got to wonder, where are your priorities that you're so obsessed with this issue and so obsessed with taking away parents' rights? You're letting Afghanistan burn, our border burn, and so many other things in country fall to pieces."
DeSantis was referring to Biden's address earlier Wednesday, in which the president never mentioned Afghanistan and didn't take a single question from the press corps. What President Biden did talk about was taking "legal action" against states that enacted bans on mask mandates in public schools.
"Today, I am directing the secretary of education — an educator himself — to take additional steps to protect our children," Biden declared from the East Room of the White House. "This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal actions, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators."
"As I've said before, if you aren't going to fight COVID-19, at least get out of the way of everyone else who is trying," Biden said, referring to Republican governors like DeSantis who have implemented bans on mask mandates for students. "We're not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children."
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has raised the possibility of using the department's civil rights enforcement arm to fight bans on mask mandates.
"We cannot sit around. We have to do everything in our power, including civil rights investigations and even referring matters to the Department of Justice for enforcement if necessary," Cardona proclaimed.
"I've heard those parents saying, 'Miguel, because of these policies, my child cannot access their school, I would be putting them in harm's way,'" Cardona said. "And to me, that goes against a free, appropriate public education. That goes against the fundamental beliefs of educators across the country to protect their students and provide a well-rounded education."
"The department has the authority to investigate any state educational agency whose policies or actions may infringe on the rights of every student to access public education equally," Cardona noted.
The New York Times explained, "If state policies and actions rise to potential violations of students' civil rights, the department could initiate its own investigations into districts and investigate complaints made by parents and advocates who argue that prohibiting mask mandates could deny students' right to education by putting them in harm's way in school."
Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Tennessee enacted orders prohibiting school districts from imposing mask requirements. Arizona passed a ban on mask mandates in schools, but it doesn't go into effect until Sept. 29.
"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."
Cardona wrote letters to the seven states with bans on mask mandates that threatened to cut federal funding to states that block school districts from enacting "science-based strategies."
"The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP Act) requires each school district that receives Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to adopt a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services," Cardona wrote in a blog post. "As I wrote in the letters, actions to block school districts from voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the CDC may infringe upon a school district's authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by Federal law."