- fictional speechwriter Sam Seaborn
I like speeches. Not sure why. I guess it's the rhetoric, the use of words to inspire and move one's heart and mind. Sometimes I visit American Rhetoric, a site that has a list of the 100 best US speeches, plus movie speeches and even Plato on rhetoric.
It wasn't until I started watching The West Wing series that I realized that most politicians don't write their own speeches. President Bartlet had Sam write his speeches (sometime Toby too).
In real life, Ted Sorensen wrote speeches for JKK, and William Safire wrote for Nixon. The great speech Hillary Clinton gave at the DNC was written by others, and as I mentioned in another post, Matthew Scully wrote the speech Sarah Palin gave the other night. Even Barack Obama, who's written a number of books, uses speech writers, though I don't know if they or he wrote his speech given at the convention ....
Mr. Favreau, the [Obama] campaign’s 26-year-old head speechwriter ...... looks every bit his age, with a baby face and closely shorn stubble. And he leads a team of two other young speechwriters: 26-year-old Adam Frankel, who worked with John F. Kennedy’s adviser and speechwriter Theodore C. Sorensen on his memoirs, and Ben Rhodes, who, at 30, calls himself the “elder statesman” of the group and who helped write the Iraq Study Group report as an assistant to Lee H. Hamilton. Together they are working for a politician who not only is known for his speaking ability but also wrote two best-selling books and gave the much-lauded keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. “You’re like Ted Williams’s batting coach,” Mr. Favreau said. But even Ted Williams needed a little help with his swing. ....
- from What Would Obama Say? in the NYT
Anyway, I missed McCain's speech tonight, but read this about it in a NYT editorial, The Real John McCain ....
[...] Thursday night, Americans mainly saw the old John McCain. He spoke in a moving way about the horrors he endured in Vietnam. He talked with quiet civility about fighting corruption. He said the Republicans “had lost the trust” of the American people and promised to regain it. He decried “the constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving” problems.
But there were also chilling glimpses of the new John McCain, who questioned the patriotism of his opponents as the “me first, country second” crowd and threw out a list of false claims about Barack Obama’s record, saying, for example, that Mr. Obama opposed nuclear power. There was no mention of immigration reform or global warming, Mr. McCain’s signature issues before he decided to veer right to win the nomination.
In the end, we couldn’t explain the huge difference between the John McCain of Thursday night and the one who ran such an angry and derisive campaign and convention — other than to conclude that he has decided he can have it both ways. He can talk loftily of bipartisanship and allow his team to savage his opponent ......
On Wednesday, the nastiest night of the week, Mr. McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, and other speakers offered punch lines, rather than solutions for this country’s many problems — ridiculing the Washington elite (of which most were solid members) and Barack Obama.
“Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights,” Ms. Palin said.
Mr. Obama, in reality, wants to give basic human rights to prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, only a handful of whom are Qaeda members, and shield them from torture. So, once upon a time, did Mr. McCain, but there was no mention of that in St. Paul, or of the bill he wrote protecting those prisoners .....
Americans have a right to ask which John McCain would be president. We hope Mr. McCain starts to answer that by halting the attacks on Mr. Obama’s patriotism and beginning a serious, civil debate.
You can read (or listen to) Barack Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address, The Audacity of Hope, at American Rhetoric's list of the 100 best speeches here