The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics, by Barton Swaim
- What is it like to select the words a politician will say?
- It might not be as grand a job as we think.
- Often, the political speechwriter must put forth a statement that is purposefully vague or illogical.
- He must figure out how to say less with more words.
Barton Swaim, the speechwriter for Governor Mark Sanford, reveals in his new memoir how a political staffer works in ethical gray areas while continuously dealing with the astonishing absurdities of both his boss’s character and the world of state politics.
Surely the experience of working in Sanford’s administration was not typical, but the day-to-day realities of life behind the scenes may provide some valuable insight into how the political show is manufactured.
Everyone knows this kind of politician: a charismatic maverick who goes up against the system and its ways, but thinks he doesn’t have to live by the rules. Through his own experience as the speechwriter for a controversial governor, Barton Swaim tells the story of a band of believers who attach themselves to this sort of ambitious narcissist—and what happens when it all comes crashing down.
The Speechwriter is a funny and candid introduction to the world of politics, where press statements are purposefully nonsensical, grammatical errors are intentional, and better copy means more words. Swaim paints a portrait of a man so principled he’d rather sweat than use state money to pay for air conditioning, so oblivious he’d wear the same stained shirt for two weeks, so egotistical he’d belittle his staffers to make himself feel better, and so self-absorbed he never once apologized to his staff for making his administration the laughing stock of the country. On the surface, this is the story of one politician’s rise and fall. But in the end, it’s a story about us—the very real people who want to believe in our leaders and must learn to survive with broken hearts.