TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ newly-released book weaves together parts of his life story with a how-to political manual — but what he leaves out could easily fill the pages of a sequel.
“The Courage to Be Free,” which was released publicly on Tuesday, includes several pivotal incidents but smooths over or skips key moments in his political career and his life.
DeSantis, for example, doesn’t mention his year-long stint as a teacher after he graduated from Yale University and before he attended Harvard Law School. He also doesn’t bring up the death of his younger sister, Christina, who died in 2015 in London at the age of 30.
The 250-plus page volume, like many political autobiographies, is selective with parts of his political ascent. DeSantis, who is expected to launch a bid for president in the spring, recounts door-to-door campaigning during his first bid for Congress but he doesn’t reference his decision to briefly run for U.S. Senate in 2016.
And while he notes that former President Donald Trump boosted his campaign in December 2017 when he praised him as a little-known congressman, DeSantis doesn’t include Trump’s crucial full endorsement in June 2018 that propelled DeSantis to victory in the Republican primary and ultimately to the governor’s mansion. The two men will likely be rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.
Political autobiographies are often considered routine assignments for ambitious politicians seeking higher office, a way for a White House hopeful to highlight their achievements and successes unchallenged. Even by those standards, DeSantis’ book stands out for the limited amount of personal information he gives readers, especially in the era of oversharing.
The book, however, provides DeSantis with an opportunity to tour multiple cities in Florida and as far away as California to boost book sales — and himself. The New York Times also reports that DeSantis will soon be traveling to New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada, all early primary states.
DeSantis does recount several vignettes about his life, including his time on the Yale baseball team, where he got to meet and talk to with former President George H.W. Bush, who like DeSantis was captain of the university’s baseball team. He depicts his initial meeting with his wife Casey DeSantis on a golf course and their eventual wedding at Disney World that included a scramble to get his U.S. Navy dress whites prepared ahead of the ceremony. DeSantis also discusses his wife’s 2021 breast cancer diagnosis.
DeSantis, who told Fox News’ Mark Levin last weekend that he wrote the entire book himself, also details in-depth some of his interactions and decisions, including a chapter focused on his battle with Disney over legislation that bans teachers from leading classroom lessons on gender identity or sexual orientation for students in kindergarten through third grade. DeSantis describes his conversation with then-CEO Bob Chapek, where he told the Disney executive that the outrage over the legislation would quickly pass and that he shouldn’t oppose it.
There are several passages with interactions with Trump, including when DeSantis pressed him for extra federal hurricane relief funding despite the objections of White House staff. DeSantis contends that the Trump administration was angered by his decision to publicize the decision.
But the book contains no real hints of the growing divide between the two men. He has no response to Trump’s framing of the president’s crucial endorsement, including during a recent interview with Hugh Hewitt where Trump contended that DeSantis had “begged” him for the endorsement and that he was “dead” and prepared to leave the governor’s race. “He said, ‘If you endorse me, I’ll win’ and there were tears coming down from his eyes,” asserted Trump.
During a Tuesday radio interview with Brian Kilmeade to discuss the book, DeSantis said that Trump’s attacks were part of the “silly season” that comes with campaigns. But he added that when it came to his book, “I wasn’t really into throwing potshots.”
“He can say what he wants about me,” DeSantis said. “I will also give him credit for the things that he did that were positive. I’m appreciative of a lot of things he did. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything he’s doing lately.”
Yet when DeSantis appeared on Fox News on Tuesday night, he struck a less generous tone: “He used to say how great of a governor I was. Then I win a big victory and all of a sudden, you know, he had different opinions. So you can take that for what it’s worth.”
DeSantis in several interviews promoting the book sidestepped questions about whether he wrote it to outline a potential platform for a presidential campaign, stressing that he wants it serve as a framework and “blueprint” for other states to confront what’s going on in Washington, D.C.
One of the longer sections in the book deals with DeSantis handling of the Covid-19 response, where he resisted lockdowns and vaccine mandates and pushed to open schools in the fall of 2020. DeSantis acknowledges he initially went along with some restrictions in the early days of the pandemic, but he delves into his growing skepticism at the advice being offered by federal authorities and how he began to dive into studies and reports about the virus from other countries.
DeSantis, however, does not go into the behind-the-scenes debate that occurred in his own administration over whether to impose a statewide mask mandate, a move that the governor rejected.
In his book, DeSantis lamented that the first book that he wrote in 2011, “Dreams from Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama,” “did not garner much attention, and it never hit the best seller list.”
During a promotional stop on Tuesday night in the GOP enclave of The Villages, DeSantis remarked that his new book was now topping the Amazon book sales chart.
“Just think every book that’s sold is going to annoy CNN a little bit more and a little bit more,” he quipped.