The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has resolutely refused to condemn President Donald Trump’s controversial words and actions — including some that have undermined DeWine’s own efforts to get people to protect themselves and others against coronavirus.
On Thursday, the governor seemed to say that Trump’s nominations of conservative judges and his economic policies justify all the other things about the president that DeWine won’t talk about.
“Everybody I’ve voted for for president, there’s some things I might not have agreed with them on,” DeWine said in a Zoom press conference with reporters. “Everyone has to make a choice. I’ve spelled out very clearly some of the things I think Donald Trump has done exceedingly well.”
Since DeWine began holding regular press conferences as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March, he’s steered clear of directly criticizing a president famous for going after members of his party who question him.
To be fair, for the better part of a year the governor has been between a political rock and a hard place. His mostly unenforced requirements for mask use and mostly expired restrictions on business activities have earned him a torrent of Twitter abuse, with some calling him a fascist and blaming him for destroying Ohio.
But Trump’s words and deeds have complicated DeWine’s task as he’s tried to position himself as a responsible leader who has the best interests of all Ohioans at heart.
Last week, he criticized a presidential debate in which Trump was widely criticized for, among other things, repeatedly talking over former Vice President Joe Biden. But the criticisms were carefully aimed at both candidates on the debate stage.
DeWine also declined to criticize Trump’s continued refusal to say he’d accept the results of the election or the president’s refusal in the debate to condemn a far-right group that supports Trump and promotes violence. In general terms, DeWine said violence and disrupting elections were wrong, but he passed — twice — when asked if he believed Trump’s statements were wrong.
“Press conference after press conference, I get asked about different comments made by the president or somebody else,” Trump’s Ohio co-chair said. “I’m not here to answer every single thing the president says.”
On Thursday, DeWine was asked if he was trying to have it both ways: praising those of Trump’s statements and actions he supported, but trying to stay mum on those that had stirred the most extreme controversy.
After saying he’s never completely agreed with anybody he’d voted for, DeWine listed the things Trump has done that he does agree with.
“I’m very happy with who Donald Trump has put on the courts,” DeWine said. “He made a commitment to people in Ohio and the country, to many people who voted for him the first time, he’s kept that commitment. He’s put people who believe in the Constitution, who know they’re not legislators, very qualified individuals… His last Supreme Court nominee (Amy Coney) Barrett certainly fits that as well.”
DeWine also praised Trump for what he called “tough” economic negotiations.
Then the governor went about as far as he has in criticizing the president. Referring to his constant urging for Ohioans to wear masks and all the heat he’s taken for it, DeWine said, “Donald Trump has not taken those same positions, obviously. He and I don’t agree on some of those things. Those things I think are obvious.
“But I think like every American, in the end, I’m voting for one of two people and I’m very happy to be voting for Donald Trump for the reasons that I said.”