When speechwriters speak
August 17, 2016
Donald Trump's speechwriter Stephen Miller doubles as a rousing warm-up speaker on the stump—a role rare, but not unprecedented.
Speechwriters are usually behind the scenes. But sometimes they're profiled—and sometimes they actually speak.
Donald Trump’s speechwriter is Stephen Miller, 30. “I remember saying a few years ago to friends that I hoped Donald Trump would run for president,” Miller told The Wall Street Journal last month. “The clarity with which he talked about trade and immigration, and the sense that he alone had the power to disrupt the special interests and give government back to Americans, made clear to me that he was the leader we needed.” The speechwriter also performs as a rousing warm-up act for some of Trump’s stump speeches, according to a long profile at Politico. An excerpt:
In Las Vegas that June night, Miller ended the speech at a fever pitch. “And to the question I have for all of you,” he began his crescendo, “I want you to shout so loud, so that everyone who betrayed you, everyone who let you down … everybody who ignored your cries and pleas for help. I want you to shout so loud that it quivers the conference tables in Washington, D.C.”
A dramatic pause. A wag of the finger.
“Are you prepared, folks, to elect as president a man who will put America first, last, and always!” He too is shouting now, jabbing with his finger, bouncing in his knees, his face beatific with righteous anger. His eyes are finally smiling. “Are you prepared to elect Donald J. Trump as president of these United States! Are you prepared to take back your country!” The crowd is whistling, screaming. “Are you prepared for real change on behalf of America! God bless all of you, god bless this state, and God! Bless! The United! States! Of America! Thank you!”
In case you think Trump’s is the first speechwriter who also spoke for his client—nope, the late John McLaughlin paved the way. As a speechwriter to President Nixon, according to the talk show host’s obit in The New York Times this week, McLaughlin, a Jesuit priest who became known as “Nixon’s Priest,” “gave frequent speeches in defense of the president’s conduct of the Vietnam War, including bombing missions into Cambodia.
As the Watergate crisis deepened, Father McLaughlin became one of the president’s most visible supporters. At one news conference, he dismissed Nixon’s use of profanity as “emotional drainage.” Less than two weeks before the president resigned, Father McLaughlin warned in a speech at the National Press Club that the nation would face a “parade of horrors” should Nixon be impeached.
Most speechwriters of course, take the attitude of the Clare Doody, the 28-year-old "Secret Voice of America’s Power Players,” according to the headline of a recent profile at Ozy.com. Doody frustrated the profile writer by refusing to name any of her clients. She apologized for her discretion: “It’s kind of like the professional equivalent of saying, ‘I have a girlfriend in Canada,’ right?”