Italian ice, gum, dog days of Ron DeSantis

We’re in the dog days of summer, and Florida Gov. and Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis appears to be in the dog days of his campaign.

While at the Wayne County Fairgrounds in Iowa recently, Charisma Ron shook hands with folks who either purposefully (technically possible) or accidentally (more likely) came upon his campaign stop. He suddenly spotted a kid eating what looked like an Italian ice, more appropriate than DeSantis wearing long sleeves and a fleece vest in 92-degree weather.

“Oh, what is that?” Ron squeaked out, wrinkling his nose at the frozen treat. “An Icee? Yeah. That’s probably a lot of sugar, huh?”

Whoa whoa whoa, buddy! You’re taking over for Michelle Obama as chief of nutrition police now?

It’s funny because, no matter how many changes he makes to Florida schools’ curriculum, teaching kids that slavery wasn’t all bad, DeSantis can’t defeat his most powerful opponent: himself.

His campaign keeps making unforced errors, like the other day, when a DeSantis super PAC’s prep for the Republican primary debate got leaked. It showed the questionable strategy of attacking Vivek Ramaswamy for having nuanced political beliefs while defending fellow primary candidate and four-time indictee Donald Trump.

It’s hard to tell who’d be worse for the country, DeSantis — who appears to have been created by a Fox News AI chatbot — or Trump — who’s being chased by an invading Mongol horde of criminal indictments.

Conservatives, meanwhile, are busy chasing their favorite unelected bogeyman: Hunter Biden.

At the risk of tipping Republicans off to better campaign issues, I’ll quote James Carville: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

I’ve been told economic figures show everything’s peachy, but my chewing gum tells another tale.

“What does gum have to do with anything?” you’re probably asking, and, well, fair enough.

Gum packets used to have a handy pull tab to help open the plastic overwrap. But now, in what I can only assume is some obscene cost-cutting measure, the tabs are gone. You instead must gnaw at the corners to get the wrapping off.

“Don’t use your teeth as a tool!” my kids shout at me.

They say it because I say it, and I say it because when I was a young reporter and hurrying to get to bond court on time, a courthouse security guard told me my work badge could be used as a weapon.

“A weapon?” I asked incredulously. He reached over and pulled on the badge, extending the elastic cord from the lanyard. He mimicked wrapping it around his neck, pantomiming the ease with which I might be able to jettison journalism in favor of a career as a mafia hitman.

“I’ll be back,” I ground out, heading to my car to remove the badge from its deadly retractable cord.

In a fit of pique, I bit on the metal tab to open it, taking out a nice little chunk in the middle of my front teeth. I could have used the hole to whistle through, but instead I just got it filled at the dentist. Now, I’m forever telling my kids not to “use your teeth as a tool.”

And they listened (to that).

It’s just an example — I’m sure you can think of others — but it’s a long way of saying a short thing: the issue that matters is one Republicans ignore. Maybe because they, like most Democratic politicians (one must admit), are disgustingly well-off and therefore trust economic data. They assume that because billionaires have so much money they build spaceships just to spend enough of it, middle-class Americans are doing great, too.

I, however, am a middle-class American, and everyone I know feels nervous and ill-prepared. People my age are under pressure to stockpile millions of dollars for retirement, bills that won’t be paid by pensions or Social Security checks. Meanwhile inflation is up, wages are stagnant, and we suspect the entire financial system is rigged.

But if DeSantis wants to continue along his merry way, shaming children for frozen treats instead of talking about real issues, that’s fine.

Joe Biden probably won’t complain.

And me? I’ll just be over here, trying to open my gum.


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