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The battle of the governors

Forget the possibility of war breaking out in the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan Strait, or Persian Gulf. The next outbreak is likely to involve Brooklyn and Boca. The governors of New York and Florida are in a war of words over the coronavirus crisis. This has simmered for months, ever since Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had ordered visiting New Yorkers to quarantine themselves on arrival since he thought they might infect his state.

As the coronavirus cases declined in the Empire State and climbed in the Sunshine State last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo turned the tables. He unveiled a possible quarantine of Floridians entering New York. DeSantis decided to jab back and said “just please do not quarantine any Floridians in the nursing homes in New York.” This marked a not so subtle criticism of Cuomo for coronavirus deaths among the elderly population in the nursing homes and rehabilitation centers across New York.

Cuomo then gathered a show of force. He enlisted the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut in announcing they are considering region wide quarantines for people coming from “states with the highest transmission rate.” That of course would be Florida and other southern states like Texas that have restarted sooner than others. Democratic political analyst Basil Smikle has aptly described Cuomo as a leader built for war, shown by his performance during the coronavirus crisis. This is a guy whose idea of “backing down” is putting in reverse the car he used to run you over.

DeSantis is also no shrinking violet. My favorite cringeworthy campaign commercial in the last election showed him reading a story to his infant son, who was cradled in his arms. The book is “The Art of the Deal,” and DeSantis lovingly recited “you are fired” to his baby. In the same ad he is shown supervising his daughter as she piles colorful blocks, instructing her to “build the wall.” Why do I suspect that some media consultant had to be talked out of suggesting that DeSantis play hide and seek with his kids and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in tactical garb?

We do not know when this battle will end. Perhaps there will be a ceasefire negotiated by the National Governors Association, which is kind of like a United Nations for the governors. Or maybe it continues and erupts into a full scale war between the states, with Florida retirees riding into combat in golf carts and Upper East Side liberals rallying the troops on National Public Radio. As always, the real victims, the collateral damage in all this, will be the innocent. Specifically, it will be the massive numbers of New Yorkers who rush to their Florida havens at the first autumn breeze and return when the first bead of sweat pops on their leathery brows.

Meanwhile, I have a warning for Florida. New Yorkers know how to fight. We captured Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. We had the grand Battle of New York in 1776 and the Battle of Alligator Creek Bridge in 1778. You had the Battle of Thomas Creek in 1777. We had not one but two pivotal Battles of Sackets Harbor in 1812 and then once more in 1813. We have the Statue of Liberty. You have the Frontierland Shooting Arcade in Disney World.

Most know that waging war against Cuomo is a mistake. The governor of the Sunshine State should read the words of Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu. “Know yourself and know your enemy.”

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years and was the chairman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Coronavirus Economics Government Pandemic Ron DeSantis

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