I heard the president’s speeches over the July 4 holiday, and I knew he didn’t write them. So, who did?
Presidents have had speechwriters for years. Americans have been inspired by the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, without stopping to think that the inspiration often began in the minds of others and was developed with the craftsmanship of professional writers.
Abraham Lincoln was perhaps unique in his ability to say much with few words. George Washington is said to have called on Alexander Hamilton, among others, to craft his speeches.
FDR’s rolling cadenced calls to national action in the face of a depression were seasoned with the inspired talents of Samuel Rosenman and the actor, Orson Welles. Kennedy’s most memorable lines were written by Ted Sorenson and Arthur Schlesinger, whose credentials became legends.
Of course, the hired wordsmiths usually shared the ideals of their bosses.
You can hear Pat Buchanan in Nixon’s speeches; and you can hear Nixon’s thinking in Buchanan’s public comments. But Ben Stein also wrote for Nixon (Bueller? Bueller?), and so did William Safire.
Reagan was an actor portraying his greatest role, President of the United States, and he stuck to the scripts of his handlers, who hired a stable of at least 10 speechwriters, including news columnist Peggy Noonan.
Noonan also wrote for President George H. W. Bush. Michael Gerson wrote for the Bush known as “W”, but history shows us that most of the narrative came from the likes of VP Dick Cheney and the players in the back rooms that Eisenhower warned about in his final speech — the conservative military/industrial voices who would drag America into wars around the world.
So we have had shadowy interests feeding their messages through the titular leaders through the years, justifying or making excuses for adventures in Cuba, Vietnam, Central America, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa.
President Obama’s speeches were sometimes written by others, including Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett and Sarah Hurwitz, but he projected his own ideals and class.
The man who writes most of the policy, let alone the speeches, of Donald Trump is Stephen Miller.
You’ve probably heard of him. He has been controversial for years. Even in college, he had a reputation for arrogant intolerance of anyone who disagreed with him. He was and remains anti-immigration, justifies racist actions as necessary resistance to crime and social disarray. He was an associate of the ultra-conservatives who coined the name, “Alt-Right” and became versed in the polemics of supporters of eugenics (genetic engineering for purity), and white nationalism conspiracy theories. He arrived in Washington looking for work with a label of a “provocateur,” known for targeting non-white children, their parents and supporters.
Miller was hired as press officer for Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He joined the Trump election team as an advisor. He’s the policy wonk who has pushed the idea of building “the wall.” He’s the architect of the administration’s immigration policies, including the reversal of the protections for “Dreamers,” children raised here and protected from deportation. His work is seen in the separation of children from their parents at the border and the coldly efficient, privatelyr un detention centers who get paid an average of just under $70 per day per detainee. He was a significant advocate for getting James Comey removed from the FBI’s investigation of alleged interference in the 2016 elections. He is a hunter of enemies.
Miller is accused of being the force behind raising fears about voter fraud, leaking false and damaging information about adversaries to sympathetic conservative media, redirecting the narrative from any controversies that might embarrass Trump or his camp and turn the attack on liberals, Democrats, and those referred to as thugs, vandals, etc.
Miller has praised the writings of Jean Raspail, author of a dystopian novel, “The Camp of the Saints” of violence against non-whites and immigrants. Raspail wrote in 1982 that, “Our ... totally blind ... whites (live) in a world become too small for its inhabitants ... and is now a minority.” He warned that white people would become extinct within the century “if we hold to our present moral principles.”
That was Trump on the news, but Stephen Miller in the politics.
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Dean Minnich writes on Thursdays from Westminster. He is a retired newsman and served two terms as a county commissioner. His column runs every Thursday. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.