Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has been on a whirlwind foreign trip to Tokyo, Seoul, Jerusalem, and London this week, which was meant to elevate his credentials as a statesman and heavyweight, while taking him away from the hurly-burly of a fledgling presidential campaign. However, his words have been parsed and compared with those of rivals and previous presidential hopefuls, and his facial expressions have been examined. Senior Republicans have continued to move towards Donald Trump, and the head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, Senator Steve Daines of Montana, recently endorsed him. Mr. DeSantis’s position in Republican primary polls has slipped, and the largest employer and taxpayer in his state, Walt Disney, has sued him. Mr. DeSantis needs coverage from conservative media if he hopes to cut into Mr. Trump’s lead, but it has largely ignored his travels. Despite this, Mr. DeSantis also got much of what he wanted, including meetings with the prime ministers of Japan, South Korea, and Israel; news conferences with an international backdrop, and an address at a Jerusalem conference for Israel’s 75th anniversary.
Mr. DeSantis is a pugilistic governor known mainly for domestic fights with corporations, educators, and Democrats over social policy. For him, the trip has been a chance to discuss foreign policy, although not without some controversy. In Japan, he criticized Germany for not doing enough to bolster Ukraine’s self-defense, while raising the prospects of a bloody stalemate in Ukraine with echoes of the Battle of Verdun during World War I. He praised the U.S.-Japan alliance to which Mr. Trump was at times hostile, and took some voter-pleasing jabs at China. However, the statecraft choreography was left mainly to Thursday’s leg in Israel, which came at a fraught moment. Israel’s new government, the most right-wing in its history, has drawn tens of thousands of protesters to the streets and alienated many American Jews. Mike Caruso, a Republican Florida state representative, said that he rushed a bill through the Legislature in Tallahassee this week to increase criminal penalties for antisemitic and other bias crimes so the governor could sign it ceremonially in Jerusalem. Mr. DeSantis also took a swipe at the Biden administration, saying, “They are very woke, they are very pro-censorship, and you can’t even have a conservative conversation anymore.”
The coverage of Mr. DeSantis’s foreign trip shows both perplexity and burstiness. His trip was meant to elevate his credentials as a statesman and heavyweight, but he has come under scrutiny, with his words parsed and compared with those of rivals and previous presidential hopefuls, and his facial expressions examined. At the same time, Mr. DeSantis got much of what he wanted, including meetings with the prime ministers of Japan, South Korea, and Israel, and news conferences with an international backdrop. The statecraft choreography was left mainly to Thursday’s leg in Israel, which came at a fraught moment, but Mr. DeSantis has been able to discuss foreign policy, although not without some controversy.