Thursday, July 09, 2015

What it’s like to write speeches for a rude, rambling and disgraced politician

"The Speechwriter" by Barton Swaim, on his time working for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, will become a classic on political communication

By Carlos Lozada July 8, WashPost

THE SPEECHWRITER: A Brief Education in Politics
By Barton Swaim
Simon & Schuster. 204 pp. $25

You don’t need to be a speechwriter to realize that the phrase “I won’t begin in any particular spot” is a wretched way to start a public address. Yet those were the opening words of one of the more remarkable political spectacles in recent years: Mark Sanford’s rambling and teary news conference of June 24, 2009, in which South Carolina’s then-governor confessed that rather than hiking the Appalachian Trail, he’d been hooking up with his Argentine mistress.

In the crowd that afternoon at the statehouse rotunda in Columbia, S.C., was the man responsible for crafting Sanford’s speeches. People still ask Barton Swaim, “Did you write that speech?” He can’t even answer. “I just chuckle miserably,” he explains.

No, Swaim didn’t write that speech, but now he has authored something just as revealing and unusual: a political memoir that traffics in neither score-settling nor self-importance but that shares, in spare, delightful prose, what the author saw and learned. “The Speechwriter” feels like “Veep” meets “All the King’s Men” — an entertaining and engrossing book not just about the absurdities of working in the press shop of a Southern governor but also about the meaning of words in public life.

(More here.)

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