Modesty and Megalomania in the White House

Interesting interview with Ted Sorensen, J.F.K.’s counselor, advisor, and speechwriter of 11 years, in this week’s NYT Magazine. He refuses to take much credit for Kennedy’s words, either in his new book, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History, or in the interview… which is in pretty stark contrast to a more recent generation of presidential wordsmiths, David Frum, Matthew Scully, and Michael J. Gerson. Between Gerson’s claim-staking on Bushisms in his book Heroic Conservatism and Scully’s pan of Gerson’s account of their work in last September’s issue of the Atlantic Monthly, the idea that insiders would actually let a President take credit for anything got lost somewhere in the scrum. Which is interesting, despite the fact that there aren’t too many out there who believe in Bush’s ability to craft a coherent sentence, much less the kind of rallying rhetoric that played out post-911. Setting that aside, one would expect a fair degree of megalomania, but there’s something downright wrong-headed about a coterie of speechwriters trying to take credit for this particular U.S. administration’s presidential verbiage.

Kudos to Sorensen: old school.

Solomon, Deborah. "The Speechwriter." New York Times Magazine (27 April 2008). 

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