Political Writing: The Best Writers of the Republican Presidential Candidates

MicrophonesWow, it was as if the political higher powers heard my cry — “Why, oh why, isn’t there one single location where I can find transcripts to speeches on a single topic by all the candidates? Why must I suffer through websites that have no place to pull up speeches?” (Yes, I’m talking to you, Rudy Giuliani and to you, too, Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter). But a quick Google search on “transcript 2007 Republican candidates” pulled up the answer to my dreams — the blog for the Family Research Council. In its “Washington Briefing” section, the blog offers transcripts of remarks of each of the Republican presidential candidates (McCain, Thompson, Paul, Giuliani, Romney, Hunter, Huckabee) given at the Voter Values Summit held in October, 2007 in Washington, D.C. Huzzah, I say!

Why am I so stringent about the point that I want to read transcripts of speeches rather than watching them on YouTube or the candidates’ websites? Because I am looking at the writing, not the presentation. As with their Democratic opponents, these men are all experienced public speakers, able to make you believe they are talking to you and you alone. There has been many a public speaker who has been able to finesse a poorly written speech simply by the sheer force of his or her speaking skills. Therefore, I want the words.

In case those of you just joining in to the conversation did not hear my disclaimer from the post on the Democrats’ writing, let me repeat it here:

  • I am not — repeat, not — making any candidate endorsement by telling you who I believe the best writer to be. While there have been great Presidents in our history who were also great writers, I do not believe there is any hard and fast correlation between one’s writing ability (or one’s speechwriter’s ability) and one’s ability to lead the country.
  • My criteria for judging the “best” writing from a speech was whether it was able to evoke a true feeling of community or vision. Now, speeches in the primaries are obviously different from presidential speeches for State of the Union or other occasions. We are not going to get “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Primary speeches must set forth the problems of the country and pose solutions, tell the voter why the opposing party or administration is cognitively challenged or morally bereft, and why the candidate poses the best solution.

And now, the envelope please. . .

In my opinion, the award for the Republican candidates for President with the best writing chops (or the best speechwriters) goes to both Sen. John McCain and Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In John McCain’s speech, he ended his speech with a memorable, evocative story from his time in VietNam, about a cellmate of his who had sewn red and white strips of fabric to his blue uniform shirt to fashion a rudimentary American flag, and how he’d been beaten when it was discovered:

As I said, we cleaned him up as well as we could. I went over to lie down to go to sleep, and
as I did, I happened to look over, and in the corner of the cell beneath a dim lightbulb with a piece
of white cloth and a piece of red cloth and his bamboo needle, with his eyes almost shut from the
beating that he had received of course was my friend Mike Christian sewing another American flag.
He wasn’t — (applause) — he obviously wasn’t doing that because it made him feel better, because
he knew how important it was.
Now today, we have another generation of Mike Christians who are over there, fighting for
someone else’s freedom, putting it on the line every single day. And I am most proud — I am most
proud to tell you that they are the best, they are the very best America has ever produced.

This story obviously serves a political purpose by reminding the listener of Senator McCain’s time in captivity. But it also serves as a beautiful metaphor for the American spirit and was an ideal way to end a speech on an inspirational — if somber — note.

The only other candidate in his speech whom I felt referenced the America that I associate with the most stirring political speeches of history was –frankly, much to my surprise– former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In his remarks, he stated:

I see a country that’s committed to building a more civil society based on a spirit of
mutual respect. I see a country that’s committed to restoring the social contract which
says for every right there’s a duty; for every benefit we have an obligation. And I see a
country that is truly committed to promoting a culture of personal responsibility.

and:

It’s been my experience that unless we work hard to reaffirm basic society standards,
civic decay starts to set in. Individual responsibility erodes. That’s why the next
president must work to restore this very basic idea; it’s a core idea of our government and
our society: For every right, there’s a duty. For every benefit, there’s an obligation that
goes along with it.

Finally, a little lighthearted comparisons:

No. of candidates who opened their speech with a lighthearted family anecdote: 2 (Thompson and Hunter)
No. of candidates who referenced the Founding Fathers in their remarks: 6 (all but Hunter)
No. of former Presidents quoted: 3 (Lincoln, Jefferson, and Reagan)

So, let’s have some lively debate. How do your favorite Republican candidates stack up as writers?

Addendum (1/19/08): I received a lovely email from Tracey deFrancesco of the organization Procon.org. She informed me that their website has a page dedicated to the 2008 Presidential election, including speech transcripts of ALL the candidates, Democrat, Republican, and Third Party. So hooray for Procon! And definitely check them out if you’re looking for information about all the Presidential candidates. I only wish I’d heard of them earlier. Sigh.

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3 Responses to “Political Writing: The Best Writers of the Republican Presidential Candidates”

  1. Political Writing: The Best Writers of the Republican Presidential … | Presidential Candidates Watch 2008 Says:

    […] original post here: Political Writing: The Best Writers of the Republican Presidential … best writers, candidates, entertainment, internet, lists, political, politics, presidential, […]

  2. thetowncrier Says:

    Duncan Hunter writes all his speeches, unlike the ghostwriters most of them use get the feeling you didn’t read much of Hunter’s stuff.
    Just 2 examples

    Roy Rogers’ recent death, untimely to millions of Americans who loved him, was, in a tragic sense, symbolic of the death of an era of wholesome television entertainment. Actually, the era of good TV has long since passed.

    But the black and white clips of Roy Rogers’ Hollywood in this week’s memorial reviews, provide a jolting look at how far we have slipped.

    Roy Rogers was wholesome. His episodes never offended decency. Any child could watch Roy Rogers without a nervous parent monitoring the show to quickly “click off” the bad parts as is so necessary with TV today.

    Roy used good language and was never profane. In his films, he unfailingly demonstrated his own fidelity to courage, honesty, and the Christian value of helping one’s neighbor.

    Roy’s weekly mission of “rounding up the bad guys” was always altruistic; self-reward was noticeably absent. His treatment of women was always courteous and respectful. The frontier image of manhood was effectively reflected by Roy Rogers in such a way that any boy emanating him would receive an “A” in civility from his mom.

    This in contrast to the recent newspaper headline which read: “11-Year-Old Who Raped 5-Year-Old Says He Learned Sex From Cable TV.”

    Roy Rogers has been criticized by today’s film makers as unrealistic. “Filthy words, savage attacks on women, and selfishness as the primary human motivator,” they argue, “represent the real America and are box office winners.”

    This is, at once, the real lie of Hollywood and its dereliction of duty.

    “America is great, because America is good,” wrote the Frenchman Alexis De Tocqueville several hundred years ago. His assessment of American character has since been validated a million times: The nation that left 38,000 Americans dead and wounded in one day at Antietam Creek to free the slaves; MacArthur’s G.I.s walking the streets of a defeated Tokyo and, instead of returning the brutality of Tojo’s forces, handing out Hershey’s bars to Japanese children as prelude to massive humanitarian aid; tens of thousands of American service clubs, charities, churches, and individuals, giving help, food, medical aid and comfort during every major disaster this century.

    Indeed, Americans give more in charitable donations than all the other nations of the world combined.

    Who is right, Roy Rogers or the cynics? The undeniable, historic record of the “good America” of Roy Rogers justifies the next question: Which qualities are the more appropriate model for our TV-viewing children, Roy Rogers’ or the cynics’?

    Roy Rogers’ America did exist and still does.

    Every time a boy addresses a woman as “Ma’am,” an elder as “Sir,” every time there is an act of kindness, every time honesty is practiced, every time one fights valiantly for what is right…Roy Rogers’ America exists. And we win.

    Happy Trails Roy.
    http://www.house.gov/hunter/news_prior_2006/jul10-98.htm
    GodVoter.com Endorses Duncan Hunter
    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1945598/posts

    Duncan Hunter answer the “BIBLE” Question – RE: CNN/YouTube debate

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 5, 2007

    San Diego, CA – Presidential candidate and U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) took the opportunity today to respond to a question posed to candidates at the CNN-YouTube Republican Presidential debate that occurred last week that he did not have an opportunity to answer. Holding a Bible, Joseph Dearing from Dallas, Texas, asked the candidates, “Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?” Congressman Hunter has sent Mr. Dearing the following letter in answer to his question:

    December 3, 2007

    Dear Mr. Dearing:

    At last week’s CNN-You Tube debate, you asked the question of all of us “Do you believe in every word of this book?” meaning the Bible. As you know, the moderator called on my fellow candidates Governor Romney, Mayor Giuliani and Governor Huckabee to answer, but I myself was not given an opportunity. Allow me to respond directly to your question now. Do I believe every word of the Bible? Yes, by faith.

    I find the center of the Bible to be these words: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life,” John 3:16. If you believe in this promise, which so obviously is not scientifically provable, then is there any other event in the Bible that God’s hand cannot accomplish?

    On June 28, 1787, at the Constitution Convention when the delegates appeared to be hopelessly deadlocked, old Ben Franklin made a speech, the central sentence being the following: “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”

    Following this statement, Franklin made a request resulting in the delegates approving a motion by James Madison to open every session with a prayer. The U.S. Constitution was thus born and this document, which delivers to every American the freedoms we enjoy, was produced by men of great faith and who very strongly believed in the Bible. Our further freedoms have been defended by American soldiers, 619,000 of whom were killed in battle during the last century, and a vast majority I feel believed the Bible.

    I am sending you a book which I hope you will find instructive and persuasive, “A Third Testament” by Malcolm Muggeridge, chronicling the lives of great intellectuals in history who became followers of Christ and who believed in the Bible.

    When I am asked by those who pride themselves on the reliance on provable scientific facts regarding the validity of the scriptures, I answer with one such set of facts. There are an infinite number of atoms on the head of a pin, each of which are circled by electrons. Who placed those electrons there? I hope their attempt to answer this question helps them to understand my three-word answer to your original question. Do I believe every word of the Bible? Yes, by faith.

    Thank you again Mr. Dearing for your question. Sincerely, Duncan Hunter

  3. toddiedowns Says:

    Wow. I am humbled. Thank you so much for your post as well as for your impassioned defense of Duncan Hunter. I admittedly used a very limited sample for my blog posting; so truly, to be completely specific, my title should have read “The Best Republican Writers on the basis of their Family Research Council Remarks.” But I am pleased beyond words to know that Rep. Hunter writes his own speeches, happy to include him in the pantheon of good writers, and honored that you took the time to write.

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