Courage to be Free book cover and Ron Desantis headshot

Ron Desantis: Courage to be Free

What can a campaign book say that a candidate can’t on a campaign trail?

I read them when I want to hear from a serious candidate with whom I am not especially aligned. Daily campaign reporting follows minor crisis. I like to understand how these candidates want to be packaged.

That’s why I read Florida governor Ron Desantis’s new book Courage to be Free. It isn’t especially well-written (no ghost writer?), and there’s plenty of trite talking points (lots of Fauci bashing). But there are a few worthwhile criticisms.

Below I share my notes for future reference (and plenty of questions he leaves unaswered).

My notes:

  • Author says this is a blueprint for governance and his first clearest goal is that more Republicans than Democrats moved to Florida from all states during his tenure: he was the “most Republican” governor he seems to imply
  • In disparaging Anthony Fauci and pandemic-era public health generally, he writes “No sane person should ever ‘trust the experts’ ever again.”
  • Of his eventual wife Casey, he writes: “She was dressed in classy golf attire, and was generating an impressive amount of clubhead speed”
  • “Because the media had such a field day with Abu Ghraib, largely to further its partisan attacks against the administration of George W. Bush, the detainees themselves knew that they could claim’ abuse.”
  • Criticizes Bush Yale commencement speech for being “Wilsonianisn on steroids”
  • He slept in his office in congress “ I was also not there to socialize;” Said he was one of 80 of 435 members of Congress who did that he said
  • Desantis self funded a book and sold it on the road which built momentum and network
  • House Majority leader Eric Cantor’s 2014 loss was a prelude to Trump in which populists, not “beltway Republicans,” rose around Obama era
  • The House Freedom Caucus and IRS scandal: why was first NYT story about IRS scandal about how Republicans would use this, rather than the scandal itself?
  • Experts said the Trump-era 2018 Tel Aviv embassy move would cause a disaster; Author said it wouldn’t
  • He wants term limits for members (research suggests lobbyists entrench more power when that happens, but Desantis counters that “I can say from experience that staffers and lobbyists already play a major role in the legislative process in Washington; I am not sure that they could be even more influential.”)
  • Argues Trump picked up a Reagan populism lost since 1989
  • The summer 2017 shooting at congressional baseball practice: Desantis had left early
  • Author tells a story of telling Trump that Hurricane Matthew would hit Trump voter-country and got him to authorize 100% or an extra $500m in hurricane relief
  • Desantis officer recruiter strategy after BLM protests: attracting police from other states
  • “Corporate media”
  • Lincoln: the constitution and our laws would “become the political religion of the nation”
  • Carter-Baker 2005 report on election integrity, warned of vote by mail limitations
  • Banned “zuckerbucks
  • What did his election integrity unit accomplish?
  • How well did Florida do against Covid?
  • Hunter Biden and lab leak theory and masks: did we suppress real ideas in “corporate media”
  • Claims big tech benefited some ideology: isn’t that provably untrue?
  • Was it a mistake to let China into the WTO as “most favored nation”
  • Madison: “The powers delegated by the proposed constitution to the federal government ask you and defined… Those which are to remain in state governments are numerous and indefinite”
  • Florida outbound immigration: laboratories of democracy, people vote with their feet
  • Florida “spends conservatively and regulates reasonably”
  • Is Florida’s budget smaller and more effective?
  • Florida beaches remained free and open during the pandemic?
  • “Florida proudly served as America’s West Berlin”
  • Why did AOC visit Florida during pandemic lockdowns?
  • How has Florida education performed? They kept schools open despite union legal action
  • Name checks Fauci more than anyone
  • Says Covid reminded of Eisenhower’s warning of a “scientific technological elite”
  • Author believes 15 days to slow the spread was forcibly extended by Fauci and Birx until “zero Covid” whereas evidence it wasn’t as bad and waves were self flattening
  • Desantis looked back at pre-Covid epidemic advice, which was void of partisanship, for example, 1006 article, entitled disease, mitigation measures in the control of pandemic, influenza written by Donald Henderson, who cited his “overriding principle “was that “experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events, respond best, and with the least anxiety, when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong, political and public health leader ship to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided or critical elements. If either is seem to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.”
  • “Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice,” read the title of an April 29, 2020 article in The Atlantic.
  • Experts and corporate media: “They frequently acted as if not closing restaurants was the same as ordering people to eat in crowded indoor restaurants.”
  • Why were mass protests ok ? Why couldn’t others make a cost benefit analysis?
  • “On an age adjusted basis more than 30 states had higher COVID-19 mortality than Florida, and nearly 40 states had a higher per capita mortality among senior citizens, who are the focus of Florida’s targeted protection strategy” argues the author: Florida also protected people’s livelihoods better too, he claims.
  • Why did media use the term “Don’t Say Gay” for a bill, author asks: biased by activists?
  • Disney and “Don’t say gay,” and the Georgia voting act with Delta and Coca-Cola: were these corporates duped into partisanship they didn’t need to be?
  • Author doesn’t clearly explain why he blocked private companies from requiring masks or vaccines, saying it was for individual freedom
  • Argues many Republicans once ran on the free market but were really corporatists; argues for economic populism
  • Why corporates have gone woke? Their employees have found it works, and some CEOs like the power
  • A 60 Minutes piece critical of Desantis was criticized for its divisive editing
  • Feuded with the AP on their Regeneron story
  • Was the Trump Russia collusion investigation totally bogus, like Desantis argues? (Despite winning Pulitzer?)
  • “By every measure, the younger generation of corporate journalists, educated in our elite universities, are even more agenda driven than their predecessors. Imbued with woke ideology, and believing that their role is to transform America into a progressive utopia these partisan journalists will try to do through the creation of manufactured narratives what they could never achieve if they ran for office, as they would be unelectable. Concocting these narratives is the only way that they can wield real power.
  • “Wherever the real power in a government lies, “James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “there is danger of oppression… Wherever there is an interest in power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done, and not less readily by a powerful and interested party, and buy a powerful and interested prince. “…
  • “If men were angels,“ Madison wrote in the Federalist number 51, “No government would be necessary.”
  • Florida’s line item budget veto for governor
  • “I rejected using polls as a guide for Governance, because Leadership is about shipping public opinion, not merely reacting to it.”

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