tv The Presidency Presidential Speechwriters CSPAN July 18, 2021 2:01pm-3:04pm EDT
tv, from the presidential ideas festival at the university of virginia's center, three former white house speechwriters talked about the process of turning a president's policies and politics into a speech. :: john mcconaughey work for george w. bush. was supposed to be or had a comic that kept him up in d.c. we will tells many of his stories as we can remember, quite a few of them. my hope is used half this time to talk about questions that i have got for these two. and then will spend the other half taking any questions you have. this when they happy to go if
the whole session is being a presidential speech writers exactly think it would be on west ring. that is it. [laughter] i'm kidding it is much more like deep. [laughter] so this is a presidential ideas festival. i'll set up with a question for these two about the relationship about ideas and speeches. sometimes what comes off as an idea ends up in a speech but sometimes a speechwriting process starts before you have the idea. so just curious, what do you think about that process and how an idea becomes a speech? >> in a weird way, as speech writers were not coming up with the ideas for their much smarter people in the building for developing those ideas. and away at these ideas actually get -- they do not get crystallized until they get litigated on the page. a lot of ends up being a
process job or your managing the different interests and wanted different ideas per you are helping them kind of shape i going to explain this message and in this process a lot of decisions i have found with bigger policies made to the speech writing process. happening on the page. and present obama the speech might get assigned to us. the first thing reduced talk to the from there we go to the drafting process for the process itself is not help -- often helps crystallize with the ideas going to be. >> working for george w. bush was a unique experience in the sense that when i went to work for him he was governor of
texas. he had gotten elected to that position on a reform agenda, for things he wanted to do for the state of texas was a policy driven campaign. when i joined the bush operation it was full-fledged presidential candidates. that was also a campaign on issues. speechwriting team was our job is much persuadable speech. it's a very good policy operation to give a speech on what ever he proposed very disciplined process that had been underway for some weeks or months prior to the event itself. it is also the case working
with george w bush we found ourselves in many ways a crisis presidency. things kept happening. close the ultimate was the 911 experience. and the them under after 911 the president made the decision who's going to address a joint session of congress or more precisely he was probably going to address the joint session of congress but he wanted to see a speech draft before he made his final decision. [laughter] it was my colleagues, it was our job to do a speech for the president that monday. and he asked that he be given the entire speech for that day. and the assignment came that morning. as much as we protested it was made clear to us that we had to get it done. we got to work it was not as if we were not lacking for subject matter or material in exactly what we needed to
write about. but we did need some policy direction which we did receive, mike talked to that morning. then about 1:00 p.m. that afternoon, we get called over to the oval office to see the president. we had seen them quite a bit since the attacks the previous tuesday. we have not seen him since we got this assignment obviously. we were brought in and he asked how the drafting was going we said it's going just fine mr. president we are not quite there. he looked at us inset americans have questions. they want to know who attacked our country. they want to know why they hate us what is expected of us now, they want to know if we are at a war how we're going going to fight and win the war. from there we had a structure for the speech itself. if you go back and look at the speech to congress the following thursday the president went through those
questions and because i've always thought because he gave us that basic construct at the beginning we were not able to finish the draft that day. we did not have a conclusion ready he allowed us to move that over into tuesday. >> he is a lawyer. i remember he would give you .1a, 1b, how did that work? >> what's interesting about president obama is that he himself is a writer. and if he had time to break the speeches better than we would himself. but the commander in chief does not a time to write speeches. oftentimes that happens you would go in the oval you sit down with him he start ripping and maybe seven minutes in he would say okay, okay so here's what i'm thinking. one, he would give you sort of your opening. one, two, give you the next
paragraph. that one a comical back give you back then he would walk you back to the outline. it was so irritating as a writer. he's sitting in your office trying to cope with a structure for hours. you just spend ten minutes with him it's got the whole thing down. it was both inspiring and incredibly annoying. it's really any elected leader i worked with in the senate. they saw this dynamic which is that you are going from very different event to very different event in the course of a very busy day. he went having a meeting with me right before than he was in a situation with china about people who are way more important than i am then asked that he's going your mind has to very quickly shift.
for a whole host of reasons present obama as a lawyer lead writer but also somebody is like president buck extremely disciplined was able to kind of shift. i remember working on remarks or when pope francis came to visit the united states and because the pope is the head the vatican we did a proper state arrival. it was a very early morning speech they do the state arrivals on the state law finance seven or eight in the morning so quite early. i had been working on the speech and handed in a draft a couple of days earlier. the process was we would write the draft and the chief speech writer would go around the building to many people for their input and edits this included lawyers and fact checkers. white house had backed checkers. [laughter]
[laughter] [laughter] that's a good one. and policy people and then eventually the draft go to the president very probably spoken to him before he headed out the speech but they don't go to the process and go back to him. and so i sent it into him a couple nights earlier. i got it back only one word was crossed out that this cannot be right. the president loves pope francis. he's excited about this arrival pretty could not imagine he had no edits. and of course i get a call for the president's secretary the morning for the speech that he was not done editing he wants to appear. [laughter] so i go to the overly sitting behind the desk and is very neat handwriting making, and do very bad obama impression. [laughter] cases yes i was not quite done a really want to this section
of a retired crop pope francis emphasis on the least of these, those who are most in need i want to focus on that. it was not supposed to be a long speech which he knew but he went to work on a little bit. he said go work on this semi- draft a look of it over lunch i go back to lunch i work on it i send it back to him i get another call around lunchtime and i am summonsed back. i go into the oval and i do not see him. his secretary says he is having lunch in his private dining room go back there. i had never been back there. i am both terrified and trying to take in everything that's on the walls. as a 22nd walk to the private dining room. he is in there, eating a plate of carrot or something. he has made his edit some student read them and makes writer so he is doing.
nics kinda blown out that section a little more and added a peace about refugees. later on i learned he'd actually been in a meeting related to refugees. you see the evolution of his thinking part he was going to go to something else right after that preeti said go make these edits and send me back a draft. i will take a look at it tonight. so i sent it back at the end of the night around 8:00 p.m. i went to get his edits, what was so interesting about that day was to watch the evolution of his thinking. even others so much else going on, he was able in those two minutes he had to really focus in on the speech and give it the thinking he needed. not that it wasn't influenced by what was going on throughout the day. they have to continually give something its focus and tend to it even though this all
this other stuff going on. >> that is one of the value added to speech writing brings to a president. they have got so much going on , if him something to react to pregiven >> to look at. president bush was not really a writer but he was a real serious editor. very, very confident editor. he had a very logical mind. haven't ate page speech draft, and recite the light of the speech i am not capable of that but he could internalize it preeti called me one morning real early and he was going to give a speech across town. it's one of these speeches you had to cover two things that were not related. they have to connect the two and he was going through this final readthrough before being
taken over to the hilton or whatever. the middle graph? it is 6:30 in the morning or something like that i said well it's in the nature of a transition mr. president pretty said is just words isn't it? i said yes, sir. he said take it out. [laughter] he wanted direct, clear, he could feel in the way sorensen used to he could feel the momentum. giving them something to react to. i've sitting with vice president cheney and the reason i was with him as he had a speech coming up that friday. a speech he always had was i'm not going to go in and say you have a speech on friday what you want to say? i'm going to come minutes that you have a speech on friday, here's what i recommend. and then you can get the gears turning something to react to.
if you have the of a foreign policy speech go-ahead. >> it sounds very familiar to me i had to write a speech present obama game at princeton and historically black colleges in atlanta. kyle has some ideas of what you should say. as in the picture of the time i'm telling him i thought he should say. i'm in a let you finish then i'm going to tell you. [laughter] the more added steve got from present obama the better. >> the better it got. >> if you spent time at night on a yellow legal pad with your drip next to it he was completely engaged radio of edits on the page that was fine but you never wanted to go see note on the top that
said please come see me. [laughter] that starting, you are starting over. >> it's true most of the person to be engaged with the draft. i was going to respond to something john said president bush was looking for that momentum in his speech but here i can represent our colleague taught me you are building an argument to a speak. there is momentum said by the time you get to the end of the audience says obviously this is where you are. you get to the point where it is -- there's an inevitability about it. what president bush saw was a bad transition there is not a sense of inevitability his momentum got broken. he could do the joe biden transition, look folks. but they would not like that.
[laughter] >> we are all speech writers but not all speeches are the same and not always the president gets their message across is the same. you have the union, major address, press conference, social media. when you feel they are best and whether or not is good? was there a good or bad example there? >> it was pretty good and all the settings. the issue of authenticity comes up and nowadays you hear people say well it is more authentic if somebody just tweet something off the top of their head. ports more authentic after doing an interview or something more off the cuff and that sort of thing. it can be your authentic self. but you also are authentic when you're saying what you want to say in the best way you know how to say it. i saw ambassador eric ate them
in here at this conference he's writing an essay on reagan's address at moscow state university back in 1988. that speech, the reagan speech of the berlin wall remembered by everybody. it was worked on very, very closely by a speech or writer secretary of state was involved the president himself. there is not a spirit word, extra word in these speeches very carefully will run speech known as going to say that was not authentic was not standing there what just popped into his mind. there is nothing more authentically reagan than that. >> is being respectful of your audience too. >> respectful of their time. i was not on the trip but i thought on c-span or something.
he did but he said at the time i had no idea as opposed that long. it would not have a paired speech who tells don't waste your time do not give a prepared speech for the first couple minutes of a town hall. he was make his own notes about things he wanted to say. and by notes i would say tax plan, public schools, freedom. [laughter] always freedom. i also felt his secret weapon was a press conference. because the late-night comics were always making fun of george w. bush is a word stumbled specially as reading a speech, pronouncing a name, something like that. they would catch him than they would run these things
constantly. everybody in the course of a point is going to see the president or hear him in a situation, it is the only thing they can listen to. when there's a press conference that's interesting or something. you listen to bush and a lot of people thought he was very well-informed, very well spoken. this is not what i was expecting. most people are busy with their lives print these rare moments here about 15 minutes or so would sound pretty good so i said to secret weapon. it's really funny. >> you did not have to write jokes you tried. [laughter] came up with the best ones. >> ob curious, we know president obama's reputation as somebody who gives these soaring speeches with a lot of oracle flourish. some of the seminole speeches in the last ten years -- 15
years are some he's gave at really critical moments it was a 2008 philadelphia speech these are speeches he was saying the thing he wanted to say that he was prepared to say. but it also think you guys felt this, as first-term app and then second term, his presidency filed the growth of social media. as a whole other opportunity to communicate and a new way and also screw up in a new way. but to really reach audiences in different ways. i think you really followed mrs. obama's lead on this. so on the cutting edge, she was always getting to young
people through whatever social media channel they were using. she went on alan all the time because she knew those hit audience of women who watch alan were people she really wanted to reach with their policy ideas. and often to shift the culture around with college access. healthier food for children. she was really good about that. she is not above any of that. i think that helped also inspire the president's team to get more bold about social media two. is between two funds a video some of you may remember it. [laughter] encouraging people to sign up but we also did things, he did facebook live video to encourage young people to sign up for facebook. then it turns out young people are not on facebook to than he is snapped at her kimber what it's called now something like that. remind young people to fill out the fafsa form pretty went to places where they were. at one point we had a day were
here's interviewed by bunch of youtube stars and i did not at the time know what a youtube star is. these are young people who have these shows on youtube that have millions of followers. your traditional journalists were extremely angry he was doing interviews with these young people who are not serious journalists and were not looking to "face the nation" or whatever. he really felt this was an opportunity to reach young people. their pitfalls to all of this by felix throughout his years he was really good about finding ways, he is every medium at his disposal to get the message across. it did not always work but he tried. >> a couple quick points about bush. he was very funny as you said. he is the first page of his speech he would take acknowledgments it would just
be names he would not write these acknowledgments pretty ripped off the names and that's where a lot of humor came from in a speech. he wanted to thank the person who introduced him and the local dignitaries, and the bands, everybody. and then he would come up with, somebody asked him the story somewhere maybe around the time of the lincoln movie are one of the books about lincoln, some president said this out lincoln's ghost have you ever seen lincoln's ghost? he said no i stopped drinking in 1980. [laughter] but cheney has a great sense of humor, very, very low-key delivery. very good timing. he called me one time, it was in the morning. i picked up the phone it was that deep voice of dick cheney said john got us into some trouble. i said oh? [laughter] he said yes the presidents
going to europe and is not going to go to the tv correspondents dinner. so i've got to go me funny for ten minutes. and then he i don't do funny. [laughter] but the truth is, he does. my colleague matthew scalia and i sat down and hurriedly put together a speech for him. i was for the next night i think it was buried and he did a great job. he was very good at that. >> i went to ask this question i don't know the answers but the way the correspondent center works as a usually is a lead writer who is it funny speech writer. but everybody else can submit jokes to that person and they will take some. i don't spend a lot of time on the page or two of jokes and given to john who is our funny speech writer. he's very nice about it would maybe choose one. [laughter] do you have any they were accepted? >> can't remember think maybe.
so david redden tyler wren that speech writing process for that product can't remember. there was sort of this pressure to get jokes. but people sent jokes and unsolicited and solicited from the outside too. so whoever was running with lead pen on the correspondents dinner was getting all kinds of e-mails from everybody suggesting jokes. but also might reach out to comedians, comedy writers and others for help too. it was a big huge undertaking. state of the union is a hard speech to write cody would grow a beard during state of the agencies then shave it. there was so much pressure. like president bush, president obama is pretty funny naturally. and so he saw that delivery, saw that timing you could trust them to deliver but the
pressure to really pull off these speeches which is so great. >> we set about compartmentalizing in the present was really good at that, this is something you may have heard read there's a correspondent center i think a few years into his presidency when there's a joke and it really do not know this republican politician whose middle name is osama. and he went into final edits for this correspondence and is a do know what? i think i'm going to cut this part out. we are going to make it so some other name. generally the republican was? the okay that works. turns out that was the day they had the mission to kill bin laden and he just come from a meeting in the situation room. later the night there action going to do it. he did not let on he said let's just not do this is in the joke speech. >> that famous photo is the
day after the correspondents dinner pre-but the speechwriter did not know that. in his book david writes about how annoying he was it wasn't as funny. but of course you have to switch gears. >> or the tough jobs of a speechwriters to reach different audience member of congress, members of the public, press. i should think about a speech about which audience you're talking too and how to reach that specific audience? >> that's always the first question i asked, what does the audience it is an exaggeration paid been a certain center halfway there enough of the audiences. is it your friends? is it the young persuaded? is it an academic audience? is it the shipment of the naval academy is it the chicago world affairs council of the veterans of foreign wars? is it the republican club of cedar rapids? you find out what your audience is and then you know
probably how you're going to get into the speech, what the general tone of the presentation is going to be. and things of that nature. however, if the president is speaking and therefore as he always told us, everything is important. we were to think of is a small rose garden teacher of the year was an important event it was part of the full volume of statements he made as president of the united states. also, he was always after us to never skip a step in making a case. even if you are speaking to an audience of people who are likely to be in agreement with what you are saying do not skip the logical step because the president always has a broader audience. if he making his case for social security reform and he skips over the hard part and
only place the great things that are going to happen a person disagrees and maybe a person who has not done a lot of thinking about is going to feel well now you skip this step. he was always after us to explain things regardless of who the audience was. >> you can get bogged down in the fear of the audience. like a said the audience is the world for really any speech. you never know who's paying attention but i would have relatives in india say one of the president speeches was reported on a paper there. you just never know. and then by the time we came into office i would do this sometimes a speech i worked on i'm watching it on tv and watching twitter at the same time. it's a really great way to lose her mind, right? because you can see how any given news outlet will filter pieces of that speech through
its own view. and then slice and dice it and reinterpreted however you want. it appears on twitter the very different way than what you intended. all the ways you can lose your mind but i agree i think you have to think about who the primary audience is. one of her colleagues who would always say he once said to me when is working on a speech for memorial day you could get bogged down all the potential people who pay attention paid to focus on the emotional heart center of this speech. who is the person whose heart you are most trying to touch? start with that than you can work out. for the memorial day speech at the fallen soldier. start with that person and then move broader. that was a really helpful way to stay focused and not lose sight and not let twitter ruin your life. [laughter] >> only ask him a question and if you want to line up with that microphone right there will start taking questions
from the audience. my last question there's a big difference when ryan a ford and policies speech in a domestic speech. could you talk a little bit based on what we see her college different. >> units start? >> i was a fortune i'm a lawyer by training but i am not an expert on any kind of a policy area. i have had the right speeches and in many cases had not much thinking about. but only great things about working at the white house as you have policy experts. and they love tongue but their area of expertise and they're very good at it. so i was always toggling back and forth between the foreign policy/military stuff, the domestic and all the other things that fall into that umbrella. president bush his signature was education reform he wanted
to be the signature issue of his presidency. and that was ted kennedy and john weiner co-author the legislation bush signed it was really a big part of what he wanted to accomplish. the president of course it fell far into the background. but we could never make them happy within education speech he simply knew too much of the granular level of detail it speechwriters could never get pretty go to the staffing process and every thing was fine then we get to the president said you don't get it you don't have it. [laughter] so one time it was in 2004 in the middle of the reelection complaint a lot is going on. i said to mike and matthew my colleagues, said the president did not like the last education speech we have another into do let's take the one he didn't use and look at the transcript of what he actually said and use that.
and so we did we took that transcript of that last speech, we cleaned it up and put in some current local references and current facts and data to freshen it up. and i thought this is what he wanted to say and clearly it was the rare event he had a speech in front of him and did not use it. it was education he wanted to do something. we took a transcript put that in a speech draft, but that would stipulate that the word comes back he loves it. [laughter] we asked him when he wanted because he wrote it. [laughter] >> it is my understanding from colleagues who work with bill clinton is that previously speechwriters were all in one kind of shop. and then when sandy was national security advisor for clinton he really wanted the
foreign policy speechwriters under his purview. they moved technically over too nse to the national security council bird even what we were in the white house on a focus when you're in the white house too, but when we were in the white house a colleagues who wrote foreign policy speeches, their e-mail while e-mails or msc. not like ours were there technically part of the edit even though they were on our team. they had a different level of clearance and everything. it's a very different process. but the few times i did have to work with staff and work on foreign policy realized it's a different ballgame. foreign leaders and populations of foreign countries are really looking to the president of the united states and what he says pouring over every word that no one is pulling over our economic speech. there is a level of care not
the were not careful. be going back and forth various members who wanted something said in a very precise way but did not sound like human english. [laughter] you be going back and forth trying to get to a place it's accurate in a way you need to be precise in a way that needs to be needed. without a speechwriters a policy person was helping one of his bosses with remarks she was giving somewhere. and in the speech drafted something that we are going to do this for the american people. which is of course ridiculous.
a peace of tribute when the president of the united states goes abroad, all have his public remarks he's going to make on that trip whether it's two days or ten, those are all done and cleared and approved before air force one leaves united states. it's a real crunch for speechwriting before. >> i would like to hear you elaborates on his decision to sing amazing grace. >> do you know cody sorry about that? oh four. >> will tell her boss a story. is not involved in writing the charleston speech and i was not there. telling the story on the plane heading down there and the president said there is a
50/50 chance i will sing. i think it was probably the moment he felt it was the right thing, he felt it. >> wrote that. >> caller: may never would've imagined suggesting he sing it. [laughter] think you should just break into song. >> thank you. >> to what extent do you try to speak in the voice of the president? to mimic his phraseology arsenic something he himself would say where is that too far? >> that's a huge part of the job the hardest part of the beginning phase is getting somebody's voice and writing and speaking like they would speak. >> does not get from knowing them well or what? >> is a good way to overcome the initial hurdle of how my going to sound like a 55 real black men of the free world is
to think about how that voice, the idea of how someone speaks , getting in some as voices how they think. if you start there you'll figure out what they like and what they gravitate toward. went to understand his heart of the approach the world how to the approach problems? at least for me you had a lot more time with president bush they certainly had with president obama. but i forgot the white house assumes i got the job offer immersed myself in everything that i could about him. i read his books. i read every speech he had given perna watch when he was on jimmy failla. just spent a lot of time immersing myself in the mind and soul of barack obama which is kind of creepy. [laughter] that's how you start to get to the point we wake up in the morning you think i'm not thinking what you think about happening in the world? what is barack obama think about it? >> there's a few months there and after words as writing
e-mails. it was hard to get out of. >> i imagine many of the president speeches are rewritten and rewritten endlessly and clarified dozens and dozens of people. mechanically, how do you control -- how do you note the draft is at given moment a and the practical what happens to all the drafts? are they shredded are they erased are they in the archives or what? >> everything for us was comments in the speechwriting office usually on the same day the draft went around nobody was given, during the staffing process known as given an electronic copy of the speech.
everybody likes to grade papers. we insisted on edits on a hard copy print they would come into us and we had a stack of them. >> i really wish we would have done that. [laughter] there is no other way to do it. you get it in their hand and also when someone has to take the time to write something that is thinking too. rather than just dashing something off. the idea of having all these electronic copies of our speech coming a redlined and all that just made our job so -- it made it miserable. but you go through them, if you worked on the speech your name and phone numbers on the bottom of the last page. in the president always made clear and the vice president you are accountable for the speech, which means you have the power to make sure the
speech still works as a whole, that does not mean you can overrule the national security advisor on a question of wording or whatever. but it does mean when you get all of these multiple suggestions from people who have not done a lot of thinking about the speech, maybe commenting on the flight may be do not feel strongly about the suggestion they are making for it all this factors come into play pay but it's your responsibility to go through those edits, comedy the changes, laugh at the ones. [laughter] [inaudible] become annoyed, with people who do not appreciate your artistry and all of that. but that is only to answer the question that is the only got to have a process you got to stick to it. otherwise it becomes chaos. and then the final thing is what happens to the drafts? they are all in the bush library. >> all of those papers.
two sets of eyeballs were on it became a record. >> i feel it going forward given where we are in the world, you should know they cannot just throw things out. every record must be kept it is a federal a lot to that effect. i was just going to say we unfortunately did not have people do hand written edits as surely wish we did. think everybody had a different method. similarly we would ask for them by 5:00 o'clock today recirculated. i think most speech writers i know about version control. have an elaborate system of how i name my files make from looking at the right version. when i got a light at edits at print out all the edits i got so i could check off that i've gone through all of them. often times i might be getting a bunch of edits from members of the same team, say the economic policy team. i would ask them to combine
them all, litigate among themselves what they wanted to send me i would not accept 20 different edits from people on the same team. >> is also a mental list of people you had to take edits and people he could kind of ignore. [laughter] but yeah. >> thank you for coming first of all. he mentioned early elections in writing the speech cannot just be her own. they overruled tennessee there certain to take into consideration are the voice of the reader of the free world that takes a certain weights. my question as to what extent did you feel you have influence over policy as a speechwriter? >> you know i do not know i personally did not feel couple of her colleagues were also policy people had been roads was very instrumental i did
feel like i had some influence i felt like i could help the president be more vocal about his feminism. and so i used various opportunities hand culminating in a speech he gave at a conference of the white house health called the united states of women in 2016. i could kind of build up and sort of help him find voice, give voice to what i knew he truly believed. and that i could push it and see whether he pushed back in away. i worked on a team of men and i thought i had the ability to do that. enter kind of challenge a little bit.
by the time he gave that speech he got up on the stage in front of thousands of people and said this is what effeminacy looks like. it took's moving us towards that direction. stuff that is putting an idea into his head, something he already had. i helped him find a voice in getting a voice. >> must imprint that writing for a president, a president you like is, and a vice president need to say as well as that the reasons you like you write for, you want the whole country to see what you like about the person. you think about that when you are writing. i do not consider that as having influence on policy so much as giving him confidence in expressing his best thoughts.
putting all you can into it to ensure the qualities you like and admire are there for all to see. i quickly add the bush/cheney white house the chief speechwriter for the president for more than half the administration was a senior policy advisor. and so, he had real standing on the white house staff. that was a good influence because he's very good at what he did. >> another point is why people care about something a member trying to pass healthcare print that was important because he spoke on it a lot. we really had to persuade people including members of congress to not only approve this law but to sign up. and we ended up going through all of the letters present obama received thousands of letters read ten everyday including from people who were saying this is what i'm dealing with, this is what i've been to this is what's really important.
there why this medicine who's really going to make a difference. >> also my good friend just basically put together much eloquent version of the question i had. [laughter] sorry about that. >> a middle bit of scramble right now. i think of us to shift the perspective a little bit on how speechwriters have an influence and think something that's been taught about this festival are willing and able to respectfully disagree and hold discourse and with him or her whenever we get a female president. i think were the questions i had was, any time you guys was speechwriters were there moments were you able to challenge the president on a way he was approaching certain topical issue or perhaps even the topic itself. were there places you were able to have that discourse with him and kind of is a
different path towards your originally think? >> not many times. i will say there's something you felt really strongly about that i wanted to say to president bush about policy could i grab a first second? i remember talking to a deputy chief staff about something that i had a strong opinion on. i knew this a be presented and i did not care if he said whose thought it was. and the vice president you could be a little more fruit than vice president cheney, is not the man in the oval office but he was a chief of staff to the secretary of defense. he was a serious guy. i never lobbied or anything like that. i member raising couple things
with him and he was the kind of guy you would not hesitate to do that. but you'd also want to make sure you have done some serious thinking for you talk about it. he respects anyone who is talking to him. but you need to respect his time. don't cook the half-baked idea or something like that. but, then in terms of speeches you always have to tell yourself this is his speech. this is not me, is not my work,. >> that the really important point. it was a great speech is that lousy speech by barack obama pretty happy really cognizant of that. i don't if ever challenge him on policy is certainly never did. my understanding was those who work on policy through very robust discussions about
policy happening in front of him or his experts were disagreeing with each other is really great accounts of that conversation happening during a financial crisis. during the transition they took office when they did. in ending the conversation transition was really smooth, largely due to president bush's magnanimous personality. i think during that transition there is a really robust conversations people have written books about of this point. i think he wanted that. from a writing perspective we were giving him our best in a draft and then the edits would come from him. i've never had an experience where as a i could come up with something better than the at you gave me. more often than not he would cross that two of your words and come up with one better one. >> i had a story that robert chose longtime democratic operative national parks germany said it big problems he talked about going into
sleep president johnson determined to tilt johnson's on the wrong track at all whomever saying saying something mr. present your the greatest man who ever lived. [laughter] and he said he left the office and was still angry at himself he made a vow to himself that if he would ever speak to present again he would tell them exactly what was on his mind. he maintained that he kept that he ended up on the cabinet during the carter years and maintained ever after he had stayed true to that. i was in a meeting in the oval office one time it was brent hubbard one of the economic advisors who later on became the dean of the columbia business school. do not run for what the issue was. but glenn was there, i was there so obviously a speech is being talked about. i remember there was a loose consensus forming around some idea. the president looks at doctor hubbard's is what you think of
that? is it mr. president found under that at all. i have never forgotten that. i mentioned to glenn hubbard over the years was one of those moments you hoped would actually happen. the president asked their opinion and they tell them a set of holding back. that was kind of the tone i always felt even though i never felt in a position where i needed to say i disagree with something i just never happened. >> it's hard to overstate how hard that is for the first time i was in the oval office i forgot the complete thing i don't even walking out. you're just there it's like i'm in the room it's so bright when rated by hands? it is hard to get used to it. >> and the impeachment of andrew johnson were the articles of impeachment in both speech writing.
the tour of the country his version of reconstruction and had apparently been so crude, so offensive so un- presidential on his criticism of their publican that they wrote that as a reason for his removal from office part is it possible for a president to say something, write something or tweet something that would justify removal from office? >> justify the removal of the writer? [laughter] that's what you live in fear of. [laughter] carthy did not have writers so impeachment. >> legally, i cannot answer that question. i think if he says something where he perjured himself then yes. [laughter] >> seems like we confuse assignment actual crime. >> there are questions about
whether whether she's in violation by viewing certain things. i said one things a speechwriters living here of his being wrong. writing something, but we live in fear of is being incorrect. so hence the fact checkers hence the lawyers to make sure what we said is not in violation of anything. i'm johnson did not have that. there's lots of other reasons they impeached him. [laughter] >> so for all of us perspective speechwriters what are you doing now? >> i write speeches for private clients but and work with a former white house named matthew scalia. >> i also have my own sort of one woman shop and i do
speeches and all kinds of writing but also message strategy, communication, coaching for different clients. >> i graduated from uva and 2008. i may fact checker. i move back about a year go out for jim ryan in the president's office. yes i also write some speeches. [laughter] yes this president not that president. [laughter] >> i'm just curious active all the words on the paper how much time did your perspective president spend practicing or did they just have the ability to read it a few times and really be able to deliver in a way that with the appropriate pauses and all that goes into really communicating that? and is that the kind of thing and doing it night in front of a mirror? >> that is a good question and
i do not know the answer. i do not know how much time they spend on it. now and then, we gave them the speeches 23-point type he usually read them on cards about two thirds assize of sheet paper produced big type he could read it without his glasses. on occasion i would ask the staff secretary to give me the president's reading copy i went to look and see what he had done, and the last moments what changes he had made, but had cross outs, editions things like that. they were not terribly, but they did occur and i wanted to see you then. a point is i would notice he would underline words for emphasis. he would mark out where he wanted to stop and pause. he would not write notes to himself but he would put signals. he would underline. and so that suggests there was at least a one serious
practice of the speech. been in the oval office when he reads an entire speech allowed for the small audience sitting around the desk. that is when he is doing typically when he was doing his first major edit of the speech. if it was -- if it would go off to a city in the heartland and read a speech there would not be a practice session. there be practice sessions in the family theater, in the east wing of the white house. the family theater so as deep as this room and half the width may be set up like a little movie theater. they would set up the teleprompter and everything. heat use the teleprompter to president obama used it out and president bush probably use it for five times a year. but he would practice, he would practice. and sometimes edit while reading the speech from the teleprompter. stay there with us while we he
did it. in the ordinary course of things i know there are some i just do not know -- i never really asked him how much time you spent with it. >> my understanding is the speeches the president, president obama hers were white house correspondents dinner, state of the union, the convention the ones he's kind of doing regularly. i think the president so used to delivering the speeches. and because he had prepared the speech and spent time with that, the use of a teleprompter for the really is a better way to deliver the speech. you're looking at the audience, or putting it down, you are prepared, you know what you want to say. he just got accustomed to doing that. and he is really terrific order and is able to do that. the first lady is always prepared. does homework early.
and i know she would rehearse her speeches because she wanted to make sure she got it right. she wrote about this in her book. she knew that little kids were listening to every word she said. people were hanging on every word, what she said matters so she wanted to put a lot of thought and how she said it. she really took her role as mom seriously and wanted to be very prepared. i don't think president oh, took it serious i don't think he rehearse the way she did. >> she's not a politician. >> also one of the stories quickly the only speech and hearing about him really practicing in 2071st campaign is in the jefferson jackson dinner and state the sages round there's no podium nowhere for notes pretty had to memorize it. there's about 20 minutes speech.
you got to memorize issues got to start learning it. he's like yes, i will get to it. i started memorizing it. here members walking by the door to his hotel and blessing on tv. he's in the bathroom talking to himself in the mirror trying to memorize his speech. he did not want people to hear it. he apparently hated doing that. [laughter] [laughter] >> we are out of time thank you all so much for coming. [applause] [applause] : : :