White House speechwriting story too geeky to believe

I bet Aaron Sorkin would call b.s. on this New York Time story. In fact ...

The following is from Vital Speeches editor David Murray's highly unprofessional and journalistically suspect live blog of the State of the Union Address, on his personal blog Writing Boots. —DM

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BREAKING: Writing Boots has learned that Aaron Sorkin just read this passage in The New York Times story about how SOTU writer Cody Keenan consulted with White House speechwriting colleague Ben Rhodes when he was stuck with the speech …

Mr. Keenan had spent 15 days holed up in a hotel room in Honolulu as the president vacationed nearby, and seven more in a windowless office in the basement of the West Wing trying to turn a blank computer screen into a 6,000-word State of the Union first draft. The lonesome process had finally gotten to him.

So the burly 34-year-old former high school quarterback left his White House office and trudged in the freezing rain to the nearby apartment of one of his closest friends in the administration, Benjamin J. Rhodes.

It was after midnight, but Mr. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser and the writer of many of the president’s foreign policy speeches, was up reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” to his 4-week-old daughter. The two men poured two single-malt Scotch whiskies and, with the baby resting quietly, began triage on Mr. Keenan’s prose. By 5 a.m., a more succinct draft was on its way to the president.

It was after midnight, but Mr. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser and the writer of many of the president’s foreign policy speeches, was up reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” to his 4-week-old daughter.

… and Sorkin called bullshit.

In fact, he called bullshit on three levels.

First, Sorkin said that no one has ever spent 22 days "holed up" writing any 6,000-word document, let alone a list of policy proposals for a president who has already done this five times. Figuring 12-hour days (the minimum to meet the definition of "holed up"), that means young Cody spent 264 hours writing these 6,000 words. "That's 22 words an hour," Sorkin said. "I fart 22 words an hour."

It also strained Sorkin's rubber credulity that, finally lonely after 22 days of solitary confinement, Keenan staggered out into the freezing rain after midnight. "Some schlock," said the creator of Sam Seaborn, "I will not eat."

And then young Keenan finds young Rhodes "reading To Kill a F—ing Mockingbird to his four-week-old daughter?" shouted Sorkin incredulously. "No wonder the kid was 'resting quietly.' She was probably pretending to be asleep, lest these goody two-shoes geeks start reciting 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.' God help me, what have I done?"

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