PLAGIARIZING FROM HISTORY….I don’t generally link to articles that aren’t available online, but I was fascinated by one particular passage from Matthew Scully’s bitter takedown in this month’s Atlantic of former chief White House speechwriter Mike Gerson:
With each speech you could always predict which models he would turn to. When it was a speech on race, in would come Mike with a sheaf of heavily underlined Martin Luther King Jr. speeches. For speeches on poverty, it was time for more compassionate-conservative fervor, drawn secondhand from the addresses of Robert F. Kennedy. For updates on the war against terrorism, we could expect to see Mike’s well-worn copies of JFK and FDR speeches plopped on the table for instruction, and for imitation that when unchecked (as in the second inaugural) could slip perilously close to copying.
Hmmm. Does anyone else notice an odd pattern here for the chief speechwriter to a conservative Republican president?
David Kuo, another Bush White House apostate, has a different take on this passage:
Here we have the Bush presidency — the desire for the grand story, the great narrative, the huge arc, regardless of fact. This isn’t policy-making by speechwriting, it is leadership by plagiarism.
Great moments in history and great visions drive great words — think RFK standing in the back of a truck one April evening in 1968 telling the assembled crowd in Indianapolis that MLK had been assassinated. But this was not the Bush way. The Bush way was to fit what it was doing into a narrative established and given credibility by other people, other great leaders.
Well, Gerson has an op-ed spot at the Washington Post that (so far) he fills mostly with banalities, and they don’t. They’re probably just jealous.