11:34 AM, Jul 20, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Terry Eastland reviews Barton Swaim's The Speechwriter for the Wall Street Journal:
Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, was once known for his stalwart opposition to the 2009 federal stimulus package—a position that made him, for a time, a rising star in the Republican Party and, some said, a potential presidential candidate. He is now known for having dashed such high hopes with a bizarre episode of marital infidelity. Barton Swaim had a front-row seat at Mr. Sanford’s rise and fall, serving in his employ for most of the governor’s second term, from 2007 to 2010. “The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics” is a wry and eloquent memoir of those years, offering an inside look at the life of a political wordsmith and, along the way, a portrait of a politician who was his own worst enemy.
Mr. Swaim ended up as a speechwriter by default. Having earned a doctorate in English from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, he returned home to South Carolina but found nothing better than a job in a library where his chief duty “was to attach call number stickers to the spines of books.” He started contributing to the (London) Times Literary Supplement and other outlets but knew that he couldn’t support his growing family as a freelancer. He wondered whether he might trade on his “moderate success” as a writer and get a full-time job “where you turn out copy for somebody else.”
One morning Mr. Swaim saw a newspaper op-ed on the state budget that the governor had written. He began reading the piece but stopped after two ugly sentences, resolving to send the governor his résumé and a cover letter. He recalls writing: “I don’t know that much about state politics, but I know how to write, and you need a writer.” He got the job.
His first speech—to a state military brigade—wowed Mr. Sanford, who told him that it was “fantastic.” Feeling a “surge of self-satisfaction,” Mr. Swaim imagined a future in which he was writing for the president of the United States and was “revered for my skills as a fashioner of words.” But his next assignment, an op-ed on the recently concluded legislative session, brought him down to earth.
Whole thing here.
The collision at the corner of Language and Politics.
Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By JAMES BOWMAN
It’s a pity that The Speechwriter will be judged, both for good and ill, in the light of the media sensation created six years ago by Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Famous for not hiking the Appalachian Trail, Sanford is Barton Swaim’s former employer and the principal character—under the less-than-cryptic pseudonym of “the governor”—in this immensely sad yet very funny book.
A metaphor is like a—well, what, exactly? Mar 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 26 • By BARTON SWAIM
There is something magical about saying a thing is something that it obviously is not. Children know this instinctively. Calling a shoebox a castle, or a pencil a scepter, can elicit momentary raptures of delight in a child: not primarily for the functional reason that it allows him to immerse himself in an imaginary story, and certainly not because he thinks the shoebox is a castle, or the pencil is a scepter, but chiefly because it’s a thrill to think of something in a different way by calling it by another name.
This ‘prescriptive’ is a hard pill to swallowSep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By BARTON SWAIM
In 2007, I went to work as a speechwriter in a political office. Although my boss didn’t care much for my writing, the rest of the staff considered me an authority on grammar and usage. I was the writer, they seemed to reason, so I must understand the deep magic of the English language. Nearly every day my phone would ring and someone would ask, “Is it ‘none is’ or ‘none are’?” or “Can you use ‘impact’ as a verb?” or “Do you capitalize ‘judicial branch’?”
3:19 PM, Jun 13, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
In Thursday's Wall Street Journal, Barton Swaim, a WEEKLY STANDARD contributor and former speechwriter for Mark Sanford, reviews a new ebook about the disgraced-governor-turned-congressman from South Carolina:
The key to success is getting around to it, eventually.Feb 4, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 20 • By BARTON SWAIM
Before reading it, I had already decided to dislike this book. I had assumed, incorrectly, that it must be another clever panegyric on something traditionally thought of as a vice. I’ve grown weary of volumes purporting to reveal the hidden virtues of (to recall a few works from the last decade or so) hypocrisy, bitchiness, gossip, divorce, and melancholy. At their best, these kinds of books can make us reexamine pejorative words and concepts—Adam Bellow’s In Defense of Nepotism did that for me—but by and large they are little more than clever perversity.
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