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- iHaveNet.com: Politics
by Robert Schlesinger
The growing frequency of presidential speeches has necessitated staffs of
You say that you found out why President Bush's speeches were often not very good.
My first day at the
Does that say more about Bush or his staff?
It's a disservice to the president to say that was his fault. Especially as you get toward the end, the whole focus in the
How involved was he in speechwriting?
When he was interested in a speech, he had a lot of edits. He would call the speechwriters in and go through line by line if necessary. He was comfortable with certain turns of phrase that he liked to use repeatedly: "We have to fight them there so they do not fight us here at home." He would ask us to insert that if it wasn't in there. He loved to talk about the "gift of freedom to all mankind" kind of stuff. But there wasn't a lot of--at least from my experience--a lot of give-and-take. It was, he gave us instructions, and then he told us what he didn't like.
You say that the media would often see grand strategy where it didn't exist.
There's very little, in my estimation, of strategy behind most of the speeches. It wasn't really "Here's what our goal is with this speech, and here's what we're trying to accomplish, and here's how this adds to our broader message." It was just sort of "The speech is coming up. Let's just say something." So that leaves you a hostage to whatever the media decided you were trying to do.
Is Karl Rove the supergenius villain that many people think he is?
I so wanted him to be the evil genius everybody said he was, because he was our evil genius. I wanted that evil genius. I found him to be in a lot of ways someone who maybe was overstaying his welcome. He was in feuds with a lot of people at the
Rove thought the president should be speaking every day. President Obama is criticized for speaking too much. How much of a danger is that for a president?
Presidents now--President Bush had to do this, and President Obama has to do it--have to go out, or at least are being pushed and pressured to go out every single day to talk about all the big issues. I've heardPresident Obama talk about a new, shocking, alarming, or fascinating speech on healthcare that was going to come. This is going to be a brand-new speech--and it isn't. It's the same speech over and over again. So people have just stopped listening. And it's a real problem when the presidential voice is diminished like that.
Why should Obama read your book?
One of the lessons of the book, I hope, is: Here's what happens when people go to Washington. They all come thinking they're going to make a difference and they're going to change everything, and they're not going to be the same old Washington crowd. And they're not going to get into the power games and all this stuff. And then everybody goes to Washington saying they're not going to change, and then they all change.
Where does the
What's next for you?
I'm thinking I'm going to write more. I like to say that I'm completely disillusioned with politics, but I'm not. The reason why the book came across as disillusioning at the end was because I was so hopeful, and I suppose I still am.
Available at Amazon.com: Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor
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