DeSantis published his first memoir, “The Courage to Be Free,” on Tuesday
The book is widely viewed as laying the groundwork for a presidential run.
But it also leaves out several aspects about DeSantis’ life, relationships, and work.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis rarely opens up about his personal life while traversing his home state of Florida.
In his first memoir, he’s just as guarded.
At 256 pages, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival” leaves a lot of unanswered questions about the Florida governor, a man who has become one of the most famous Republicans in America and is widely expected to mount a 2024 presidential run against former President Donald Trump.
Writing a book before running for office is a rite of passage. For Floridians familiar with the governor, “The Courage to Be Free” is in line with many of the speeches DeSantis has given in the Sunshine State against “wokeness” and explaining why he believes the state has the authority to impose its will against businesses and localities.
But it also leaves out what could wind up being crucial details about DeSantis’ motivations, relationships, and even his policies.
While such omissions are not necessarily atypical for a political memoir, these are the types of gaps that get filled in during a primary election — a time of intense scrutiny on presidential candidates as journalists dig into their lives and enemies create piles of opposition research.
Here are six takeaways Insider identified as missing from “The Courage to Be Free”:
Descriptions about DeSantis’ family, friends, and team
DeSantis describes his parents in his book as having “Rust Belt values” but never quotes his father and mother directly. It’s not clear what types of life lessons they imparted on their son or what their parenting style was.
DeSantis mentions his sister, Christina, only once, early in the book, but doesn’t share whether they were close, or that she tragically died from a sudden illness at the age of 30 while in London.
According to CSPAN footage from 2013, Christina DeSantis came to her brother’s swearing-in ceremony for the US House in Washington, DC, along with his parents and in laws.
DeSantis also doesn’t provide names of his friends while at Yale University, Harvard Law School, or in the Navy.
Descriptions about his team — both political and official — are scarce. DeSantis has a reputation of being aloof and a social misfit, and some of his former congressional staffers told Politico they were scarred by the experience of working for him.
DeSantis mentions a best man at his wedding, but doesn’t name him. DeSantis is close to Adam Laxalt, his roommate when he was in naval officer training, who lost a US Senate race in Nevada during the 2022 midterms.
The person DeSantis reveals the most about is his wife, Casey DeSantis, though he doesn’t share seminal moments in their courtship, including how he proposed, or dive into specifics about just how integral she has been to his political success.
He instead opens up about how the two met at a golf range, calling her “a beautiful young woman,” and shares how frightened the couple was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. His wife is now in remission.
“The entire ordeal was a reminder to both of us that there are no guarantees in life,” he wrote.
Filling in the years at Harvard and Darlington
DeSantis writes negatively about his time at Yale, where he majored in history. As someone who was working his way through school, he writes, he often felt out of place among people who’d arrived at the Ivy Leagues institution from millionaire families and prep schools.
DeSantis doesn’t mention his gap year between Yale and Harvard, when he taught at the elite Darlington School. The New York Times wrote a scathing story about DeSantis during that year, with some students accusing him of going to parties with high school seniors, or recent graduates, where alcohol was served.
Trump seized on the story this month, reposted a photo of DeSantis on Truth Social that appears to have been around the time he was a teacher. “That’s not Ron, is it? He would never do such a thing!” Trump wrote sarcastically.
DeSantis also says little about his time in law school, including whether he was influenced by any professors or driven by certain concepts he learned there.
Why and how DeSantis decided to enter public office
DeSantis writes in his memoir that after being in the Navy he decided to write a book. “Dreams from Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama” was self-published and would take him to various small events where he’d talk about his political philosophy.
That was when people would tell him that he should run for office, he writes.
But if his desire to go into politics started earlier, it doesn’t appear in the book. According to the Tampa Bay Times, he did have dreams of attaining higher office as a child, one he even shared with his team mates in Little League.
“I always knew he was going into politics,” Brady Williams, a childhood friend of DeSantis who is now the Tampa Bay Rays third-base coach, told the Tampa Bay Times in 2020. “His goal was to be the president of the United States. Was that far-fetched? A lot of things we talked about that summer were far-fetched. And a lot of them happened.”
Legislative victories blunted by legal challenges
DeSantis’ actions in Florida have garnered him significant attention from the media and top donors. DeSantis writes extensively about his legislative victories in his book, but not about the legal battles that have ensued.
Should DeSantis mount a presidential campaign, his GOP opponents for the nomination would be likely to raise such challenges when questioning his effectiveness in Florida.
For instance, a 2021 law he mentions in the book, which would block Facebook and Twitter from deplatforming politicians, was ruled unconstitutional by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals. The case may go before the Supreme Court.
In November, a judge temporarily halted the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, or Stop WOKE Act, which would limit race-based teachings in schools, and the way that private companies carry out mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings.
DeSantis also writes about removing Tampa prosecutor Andrew Warren from his post.
Warren challenged the decision and Tallahassee federal Judge Robert Hinkle found DeSantis violated the prosecutor’s First Amendment rights. In this case, however, the decision came in January, when the books edits had likely wrapped up.
Spilling the tea on Trump
Readers looking for gossipy tidbits about Trump in “The Courage to Be Free” won’t find them. DeSantis writes nothing about the January 6 attack on the Capitol to overturn the election results, nor does he address Trump’s false claims about election fraud.
He mentions that he asked Trump to endorse him on Twitter, but doesn’t share quotes from that conversation or what it was that he said to persuade Trump. (Likewise, DeSantis doesn’t detail how he got top Republicans to endorse him during his first successful run for the US House, in 2012, or how he convinced top donors to give to his 2022 reelection campaign.)
DeSantis also credits a debate performance, rather than a Trump endorsement, for his GOP primary win. He writes that Trump’s endorsement appeared to hurt him during his 2018 general election 2018 race for governor.
“It seemed like everyone in Florida who hated Trump hated me,” he writes.
He also, without naming Trump, writes about “the dangers of truning over the country to the likes of Dr. Anthony Fauci” during the pandemic. In recent months, DeSantis has been positioning himself to the right of Trump on pandemic policy.
Benefiting from Fox News
DeSantis devotes an entire chapter of his book to blasting the media, including a run-in he had with CBS 60 Minutes that accused him of playing favorites with COVID vaccine distribution.
He describes the “national legacy press” as “the praetorian guard of the nation’s failed ruling class, running interference for elites who share their vision and smearing those who dare to oppose it.”
But DeSantis has also benefited from the corporate press, particularly Fox News. In 2021 the Tampa Bay Times used public records to detail just how mutually beneficial the relationship between DeSantis and the network has been.
The conservative outlet receives exclusives of major announcements, and the relationship goes far back. When DeSantis first joined the House, he told aides he wanted to be on Fox News as much as possible, Insider reported.
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