Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 28, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE NEW VISION....Do Democrats need some of that old JFK magic? Failing that, how about some magic from JFK's speechwriter instead? We asked Theodore Sorensen to try his hand at writing a convention acceptance speech for the winning Democratic nominee in 2008, and the result is in our July/August issue. Here's a piece:

In this campaign, I will make no promises I cannot fulfill, pledge no spending we cannot afford, offer no posts to cronies you cannot trust, and propose no foreign commitment we should not keep. I will not shrink from opposing any party faction, any special interest group, or any major donor whose demands are contrary to the national interest. Nor will I shrink from calling myself a liberal, in the same sense that Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, John and Robert Kennedy, and Harry Truman were liberals — liberals who proved that government is not a necessary evil, but rather the best means of creating a healthier, more educated, and more prosperous America.

For more about the art of presidential speechmaking, also check out this issue's Editor's Note from Paul Glastris, formerly a speechwriter for Bill Clinton. The words matter, he says, but the person matters even more.

Kevin Drum 12:42 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

There's no such thing as the "national interest." It may be a nice phrase, but it's utterly meaningless.

Posted by: Joe Klein's Murdered Conscience on June 28, 2007 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

I see you've finally popped up here. There is no such thing as the national interest because the politicians killed it.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on June 28, 2007 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

Let me try my hand. "If elected, I will bring the troops home and use Mafiosi from Chicago, New Orleans, and Florida to assassinate leaders I don't like. The Outfit is superb at intimidating husbands who don't like being cuckolded also. Ha, ha. I will offer no posts to cronies you cannot trust, as my relatives are the best qualified in the nation, like JFK and his brother. I know the people want royalty and Camelot, and are eager to serve me, so I say, "Ask not what I can do for you; ask what you can do for me." Ick bin ein Baghdader.

Posted by: Luther on June 28, 2007 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

Nope. You failed.

Posted by: Kenji on June 28, 2007 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

No, no, nor, not, not, no, no.

No thanks, Mr. Sorensen.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on June 28, 2007 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK

You'd think a guy named "Luther" would know how to spell in German.

Posted by: Disputo on June 28, 2007 at 3:07 AM | PERMALINK

Nancy Irving: "No thanks, Mr. Sorensen."

Did the big bad liberal scare you? Then run to Daddy Bush and Uncle Dick -- they'll protect you from those nasty, bleeding heart tax-and-spenders.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on June 28, 2007 at 3:47 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure I buy that anymore. People want you to speak on a common level now, not a wishes are fishes ideal level. It's the idealistic speeches that divide this country, not unite it. Speaking to the owners always makes money, but it's the same damn cynical thing every time and I'm not going to celebrate it, because you're basically lying to everyone else.

Posted by: Jimm on June 28, 2007 at 5:00 AM | PERMALINK

>[I will] offer no posts to cronies you cannot trust

Loyal Clinties on the other hand...!

Loyal trustworthy Obamies, Loyal trustworthy Edwardsies, Loyal trustworthy richardsonites, Loyal trustworthy Kucinichlings?

In other news, there is a strong open source webserver/political party correlation.

Posted by: rty on June 28, 2007 at 5:21 AM | PERMALINK

One thing I think we can learn from JFK is the importance of electing a president who has a functioning brain in his skull in times of change and crisis.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 28, 2007 at 5:54 AM | PERMALINK

I thought that was all very nice, except for this part:

I do not favor further widening the nation’s wounds, now or next year, through continuous investigations, indictments, and impeachments.

That's a pity. At least we may hope that, on this side of the pond, judges like Spain's Garzon will ensure that Bush, Cheney et al. are as limited in their choice of holiday destinations as is Kissinger.

Posted by: Mrs Tilton on June 28, 2007 at 6:26 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Ted's speech will include the line "I will not take credit for writing a book that someone else has written, as JFK did for Ted Sorenson's "Profiles in Courage.""

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on June 28, 2007 at 7:52 AM | PERMALINK

alan.....if true that was wrong...

of course...who believes bush wrote "a charge to keep"...

i bet at least jfk read "profiles"....

Posted by: mr. irony on June 28, 2007 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

What Mrs. Tilton said at 6:26 am. The alliteration is nice, but I would prefer a President who will dispense heaping bowls of rich, creamy justice, including topping off the inaguration ceremony by packing Bush and Cheney off to The Hague.

That aside, though, I've long admired Sorensen. His book Why I am a Democrat is useful reading.

Posted by: Gregory on June 28, 2007 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

That Theodore Sorensen is just horrible. I'm a Democrat, and I wouldn't believe any Democrat who said it. It's like Bush I's No New Taxes on steroids.

How about...
I will bring the troops home from Iraq because the war is bankrupting us and strengthening the terrorists.
I will protect the Homeland because I believe parents shouldn't have to live in fear for their children's future.
I will make sure that everybody receives health insurance, and the insurance industry can kiss my old fat ass. Here's your money back, and it's the last check you'll ever receive.
I will assist schools so that states and localities can lower taxes and so that schools can serve the needs of students rather than the needs of bureaucrats.
Republicans will steal your money and your spouse, screw your son, and poison your water. They hate you and your country, and they believe that the voices in Pat Robertson's head are God. They claim to support everybody's families, but they don't even support their own families. Some of them even believe the stuff Al writes.
God Bless America. Thank you and good night.

Posted by: reino on June 28, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Can I ask a question? There was a meme floating around a few months ago (see Paul Krugman, Mark Kleiman, etc.) that the Veterans Administration had this brilliantly administered health care system that was a model for government-sponsored health care. Now it seems--Sorensen's speech is just one example--that the VA system is a disaster that needs major repair. What happened?

Posted by: y81 on June 28, 2007 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with Mrs Tillman, that sentence just jumped out at me. "I do not favor further widening the nation’s wounds, now or next year, through continuous investigations, indictments, and impeachments." The biggest mistake Clinton made was not insisting on investigations and indictments for the 12 years of Republican misrule that preceded him. Now the problem is even worse. We have to hold them accountable, roust the ones left in government, and brand them all with a scarlet T (for traitor) so they can never sneak back into government.

Posted by: masaccio on June 28, 2007 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Terrible speech, I'm sorry to say -- too many "nos" and "nots." The package is positive, but the wrapping makes it look negative.

Posted by: Stefan on June 28, 2007 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

"cronies you cannot trust"

I guess that means only cronies we can trust. May want to rephrase that one.

Posted by: smiley on June 28, 2007 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Glastris wrote:

"Bill Clinton will surely be remembered as one the greatest speech givers ever to occupy the Oval Office."

This is unadulterated bullshit. Clinton was verbose, smarmy and utterly soporific in every speech I ever listened to. I usually sat down eager to watch his SOTU speeches, and went back to doing the dishes after about seven minutes (i.e., in the first tenth of the speech).

Just because Clinton was followed by the worst President in America's history, a man who can't string more then three two-syllable words together at one time, does not make Clinton a great President, or a compelling speaker. He was neither.

Let's kill the Clinton revisionism now. The people, like Glastris, who had a hand in Bill Clinton's presidency, didn't do well enough to deserve a second chance. They had their opportunity, and they did not meet expectations. Buh bye.

Posted by: brewmn on June 28, 2007 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Now it seems--Sorensen's speech is just one example--that the VA system is a disaster that needs major repair. What happened?

I can name that tune in on note:

Iraq.

The VA has had stagnant funding and not bolstered staff numbers because of it, and they are inundated with war wounded.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 28, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

One thing I think we can learn from JFK is the importance of electing a president who has a functioning brain in his skull in times of change and crisis.

It helps if you're old enough to remember the Bay of Pigs. From the way history is treated here, I wonder if anyone on this board is over 25.

Posted by: howell on June 28, 2007 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Just shows you can always win an election if you can blow enough smoke up the voter's skirts. Go through that speech and think about what all the flowery phrases mean in real life.

A lot of things have changed in the Democratic Party since JFK. Not for the better.

Posted by: MarkF on June 28, 2007 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Now it seems--Sorensen's speech is just one example--that the VA system is a disaster that needs major repair. What happened?

We left it in the hands of Bush and the Republicans, who steal money from veterans' healthcare to line their own pockets. Next question?

Posted by: Stefan on June 28, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK
....It helps if you're old enough to remember the Bay of Pigs.... howell at 11:41 AM
If you really remember the Bay of Pigs you would know that it was a holdover CIA op from the Eisenhower government. Like many Republicans, Ike was fond of covert ops such as restoring the Shah in Iran and the action in Guatemala and Indonesia. The Eisenhower's U2 overflights of Russia was another covert op that lead to fiasco.

...The presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953–61) marked the “golden age” of covert operations. More than any other chief executive in the postwar era, Eisenhower made covert action a major part of his foreign policy. The CIA, led by Allen Welsh Dulles, undertook a variety of clandestine activities at presidential direction, including the successful overthrow of unfriendly governments in Iran and Guatemala, and a failed attempt to topple the government of Indonesia. During the Eisenhower Dulles era, clandestine collection and covert action accounted for 54 percent of the CIA's total annual budget.
Although the disastrous attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 painfully revealed the limits of the CIA's capability for cover paramilitary action and led to the dismissal of Dulles, presidents during the 1960s continued to utilize covert operations with undiminished...

Posted by: Mike on June 28, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

The amount budgeted for veterans benefits and services in 2008 is double what it was in 1998, and about 15 percent higher than 2007.

Budget History, Table 4.1

Posted by: Ein on June 28, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Mike.Even the best Republicans are worse than the worst Democrats.

Posted by: brewmn on June 28, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

You've got to be kidding me. I count six double negatives and one triple negative. "I will not shrink from opposing"? This guy gets paid to write speeches? I will not shrink from not thinking he gets paid too little.

In this campaign, I will make no promises I cannot fulfill, pledge no spending we cannot afford, offer no posts to cronies you cannot trust, and propose no foreign commitment we should not keep. I will not shrink from opposing any party faction, any special interest group, or any major donor whose demands are contrary to the national interest. Nor will I shrink from calling myself a liberal, in the same sense that Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, John and Robert Kennedy, and Harry Truman were liberals — liberals who proved that government is not a necessary evil, but rather the best means of creating a healthier, more educated, and more prosperous America.

How about making a positive statement instead of refusing to shrink from opposing a negative one?

Posted by: treetop on June 28, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Eisenhower made him do it?" Good Lord.

Posted by: howell on June 28, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

If the Bay of Pigs lasted five years, it would be fair to compare Kennedy and Bush.

Posted by: reino on June 28, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Howell. JFK did make the fatal mistake of trusting in the competency of Republicans and allowing the BoP operation to proceed as planned and scheduled.

Posted by: Disputo on June 28, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

C'mon Sorenson, you're old and experienced but where's the beef?

No mention of Iraq -- the false premises of going to war, the utterly incompetent re-building effort. No mention of squandered Mid-East and North Korean diplomatic opportunities. No mention of the incompetent Katrina response. No mention of the GOP's usurpation of the Constitution. No mention of the GOP's failure of NCLB, their foot dragging on global warming, their inability to develop a comprehensive health care policy.

The GOP is vulnerable on every major one of their core priorities. It's time to take the gloves off.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on June 28, 2007 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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