No one is closer to the president than his speechwriter.
Peter Robinson, President Ronald Reagan’s speechwriter, and Don Baer, who wrote speeches for President Bill Clinton, visited a group of twenty or so today at Dartmouth, and I attended the event. The linked article shares Robinson’s thoughts on the effects of the most famous speech he wrote for Reagan: the “tear down this wall!” speech in 1987, directed at Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union at the time.
I’d never thought much about how close the relationship between a president and his speechwriter has to be, but it makes sense. Think about it. The speechwriter is literally putting words in the president’s mouth, and those words have to sound completely natural. You can’t do that unless you’re literally inside the head of the president – and that doesn’t happen unless you’re virtually best friends.
Maybe the most revealing moment of today’s visit was when both Baer and Robinson did impersonations of Clinton and Reagan. It was absolutely uncanny: they were spot-on. They might as well have been professional impersonators.
But I guess if you can write someone’s words for them, you shouldn’t have trouble speaking those words yourself.