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As President Barack Obama's speechwriters struggle with how, where and what to say as these dismal mid-second term congressional elections come to a close, I know exactly how they must feel. I was there — only it was 56 years ago, and the president was Dwight Eisenhower.

Throughout the Republican ranks that year writers were instructed to attack the Democrats as "the party of gloom and doom." Gloom-and-doom. Gloom-and-doom. It was so damn monotonous.

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The president's last campaign speech was to be in Baltimore on Friday night before election day.

We gathered in the White House East Wing office of chief speechwriter Malcolm Moos to review what we were offering the president. Words didn't wander into an Eisenhower draft. A team of lawyers was there to ensure the honesty of our production. They were great lawyers, not great literary critics. I was the principal author of that draft. I was 25, recently retired as a private first class in the U.S. Army, and now was on the president's staff only because I had been Mac's favorite student at Johns Hopkins. Thus I was hardly in a strong position to defend my words. Having grown ill on gloom-and-doom, I substituted the word "gloomdoggler" for the president. If "boondoggle" is defined as creating unnecessary work, then surely "gloomdoggle" means creating unnecessary gloom.

The White House lawyers hated my invention. I was saved at the last minute when Mac's ebullient wife Tracy burst into the meeting and made an impassioned case for my word. (She had arrived early from Baltimore for a dinner party.)

Ultimately, Ike liked the word, and the staff got on a bus to Baltimore. Leaving the arena after the speech, newsboys were shouting the 8-column front page headline of the Baltimore Sun: "IKE CALLS DEMOCRATS 'GLOOMDOGGLERS' IN SPEECH HERE CLOSING HIS CAMPAIGN."

Voters clearly were not impressed; you can't fight recession with a new word. Three days later 10 Republican incumbent senators were defeated and the Democrats won both seats in the new state of Alaska. For Ike's party, it was the largest Senate loss in history.

Stephen Hess is a veteran staffer of the Eisenhower administration and adviser to Presidents Ford and Carter. He is also the author of The Professor and the President: Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Nixon White House (forthcoming December 2014). Both Moynihan's deputy and Nixon's biographer and speechwriter, Stephen Hess is now a Senior Fellow Emeritus in the Governance Studies program at The Brookings Institution.

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