I just finished reading “The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics,” by Barton Swaim, who served in the title role. He worked for a governor of South Carolina whom he rarely names, but you will remember him for his alleged fondness of hiking on the Appalachian Trail when he was actually jetting to Argentina for other reasons.
Mark Sanford was a dreadful person long before he made the Time magazine Top 10 Political Sex Scandal list. He was South Carolina’s Governor and head of the Republican Governors Association and he now serves as Congressman from South Carolina’s first district.
Behind our most odious politicians, there are staff people, who are not necessarily equally odious. There is much to be learned from them.
Should Donald Trump Read This Book? Or would we all be better off if he didn’t?
Ed Rogers writes in The Washington Post, “I hear that the Trump campaign staff might be contemplating a mutiny. It’s a good idea. Staff members should threaten to quit en masse. Perhaps if they did, it would force Donald Trump to agree to some conditions that would be good for the country, for the campaign and ultimately, for themselves.”
“The anecdotal accounts coming from the Trump campaign tell a tale of woe unlike any I’ve ever heard. No one makes decisions, very little authority has been delegated and no one knows what the budgets are for the initiatives they have been tasked with. Inexplicably, veteran operative Ed Brookover was summarily fired this week. Brookover has been a steady hand and a reliable presence in GOP campaigns for three decades. The fact that he can’t operate inside of Trump’s campaign says a lot about the dysfunction that must be present.”
Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman and Daniel Lippman have taken over Politico’s Playbook from Mike Allen and here is what they said yesterday.
“CNN’s Dana Bash, and CNBC/NYT’s John Harwood — are hearing some version of what we’re hearing: that morale is plummeting inside the Trump campaign. @JohnJHarwood tweeted, ‘longtime ally of Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager: “Manafort not challenging Trump anymore. Mailing it in. Staff suicidal.”’ @DianneG , a CNN national correspondent, tweeted, ‘A source tells @DanaBashCNN that some Trump campaign staff are frustrated w/ candidate lately, “feel like they are wasting their time.”’
DEVELOPING — Rick Klein (@rickklein): ‘Priebus “furious,” per @jonkarl. Senior GOP officials “actively exploring” how to replace Trump on ballot if he drops out. @GMA. ‘Although, we think this is a triple bank shot, at this point.’”
“The Trump campaign insists all is well, with the man himself tweeting this morning: ‘there is great unity in my campaign, perhaps greater than ever before. I want to thank everyone for your tremendous support. Beat Crooked H!’”
To put the Trumpland turmoil in context, let’s let Barton Swaim explore the staff’s-eye view of politicians from his own experience as a speechwriter for a similar figure, Mark Sanford.
“You can’t get where he is without being a terrible person. At this level they’re all self-aggrandizing bastards. You should go with us to NGA next time. Watch these guys and their staff. Petty, mean-spirited, vicious little tramps who would step on anyone if it made them look good in front of their boss. Now I grant you some are better at hiding it than our boss but in their dark little hearts they are all just as bad as he is.”
“What had taken me two years to realize, and what I suspect Gil never learned, is that the governor wasn’t trying to hurt you. For him to try to hurt you would have required him to acknowledge your significance. If you were on his staff, he had no knowledge of your personhood.”
“The one thing that changed definitely for the worse was the sheer embarrassment of being a writer for a disgraced politician. One minute you work for a popular and energetic politician, one whose name was frequently mentioned (however tenuously) among those of other presidential contenders, and the next you work for a blubbering emotional wreck of a man.”
“The governor became to us like a drunkard father. He was a monster and a lout, but he was our governor; we could ridicule him, but others couldn’t. So when a variety of opponents and former allies tried to capitalize on his political weakness, we responded from the soul. We disliked him severely already—some of us hated him—so if they had simply ignored him or at least been subtle in their attacks, we would have agreed with them. As it was, they tried to destroy him, and we felt obligated to fight back, hard.”
“Indeed much of the hand-wringing commentary about the loss of trust in government resulting from Vietnam and Watergate is simply, I now think, a failure to appreciate the simple truth that politicians should never have been trusted in the first place. They may be lauded when they’re right and venerated when they’re dead, but they should never be trusted.”
“Acclaim and attention were his highest aim — just as they are every determined politician’s highest aim: the praise, the fawning, the seriousness with which people take their remarks, the gaze of audiences, the way a crowded room falls silent when they enter. When we revere a politician and give him our vote, we do so because we believe his most fervent desire is to contribute to the nation’s well-being or to make the right decisions with public money. That may be a desire, but it is not what drives him. What drives him is the thirst for glory; the public good, as he understands it, is a means to that end.”
I am reasonably confident Donald Trump will not read “The Speechwriter” and that is probably just as well. He might learn just enough to get himself elected though he could never learn enough to be any good at that job.
You, on the other hand, would learn a lot.