Saturday, November 04, 2006

David Frum

I already blogged the Vanity Fair Piece. Kevin Drum notes a comment by David Frum that I had also thought particularly noteworthy but for different reasons. [The Washington Monthly]

"I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything."

Drum's take is 'so what did you expect with this president'. Having written speeches for others my take is 'since when was policy decided by speechwriters?'.

The role of a speechwriter is to communicate policy, not to make it. If a speechwriter for Kennedy or Clinton had attempted to 'persuade the president to commit himself to certain words' they would have been shown the door very quickly.

The risk is that policy will be decided by which course of action allows for the greatest rhetorical flourish. As a speechwriter Frum was responsible for the phrase 'Axis of Evil', probably the single most disastrous phrase used by any US President. Effectively a declaration of war against three countries at once the phrase Axis of Evil ensured that Iran and North Korea would ensure that they acquired nuclear weapons at sany cost.

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