Thus far, initial reviews suggest the strategy to selectively embargo pre-release copies may have been because “The Courage to be Free” doesn’t survive close scrutiny from those familiar with the Governor’s political career.
The New York Times wouldn’t be expected to give the book a strong review, but the writeup from Jennifer Szalai leads with an indictment of the book’s clichéd framing.
“As governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis has been casting himself as a (Donald) Trump-like pugilist. But the overall sense you get from reading his new memoir is that of the mechanical try-hard — someone who has expended a lot of effort studying which way the wind is blowing in the Republican Party and is learning how to comport himself accordingly,” Szalai wrote.
The reviewer goes on to blast the catchphrase-laden text that blasts “wokeness” and other offenses, saying “the culture war Mad Libs can’t distract from the dull coldness at this book’s core.”
“Even the title, with its awkward feint at boldness while clinging to the safety of cliché, suggests the anxiety of an ambitious politician who really, really wants to run for president in 2024 and knows he needs the grievance vote, but is also trying his best to tiptoe around the Donald Trump dragon,” Szalai contended.
Comparing the book to a “politician’s memoir written by ChatGPT,” the Times reviewer noted the book failed in its fundamental mission to introduce DeSantis ahead of a 2024 run.
“His new book will leave some supporters, who have encouraged DeSantis to “humanize himself” for a national audience, sorely disappointed. In his acknowledgments, he thanks ‘a hardworking team of literary professionals who were critical to telling the Florida story,’ but presumably those professionals could only do so much with the material they were given,” Szalai snarked.
“DeSantis’s blunt-force wielding of executive power might sound like a good time for hard-core social conservatives, but if part of the point of this book is to float a trial balloon for a presidential run, you can see the gears turning as he tries to make his message palatable for the national stage,” Szalai added, before offering a withering blast of his “bullying sense of superiority” in the close.
The Guardian writeup by Lloyd Green likewise said “The Courage to be Free” isn’t particularly courageous at all: “On the page, the Florida Governor doesn’t show much courage about the man he must beat to be the Republican nominee.”
The “mirthless read,” per Green, is rooted “in sycophancy and ambition tethered to a whole lot of owning the libs,” and is even less interesting than Mike Pompeo’s own book launched at the same time for his own presidential ambitions.
Supplication to former President Trump is central to the narrative, Green argued, with DeSantis again crediting Trump’s endorsement for helping him make the sale in 2018, extolling his “unique star power.”
The subtext of Green’s review is there is little “unique” about DeSantis, and not much “star power” to boot. And that much of his invective about the “fake news media” is likewise a Trump hand-me-down.
“Yet for all of this media-bashing in the name of supposed truth, the governor omits the role of Fox News in propagating fake news about the presidential election and defamation cases brought against the news channel,” Green scorned.
Perhaps the omission is because Fox News is aggressively promoting the Governor’s book, including an hourlong appearance on primetime Sunday with friendly host Mark Levin.