Everyone knows this kind of politician: a charismatic maverick who goes up against the system and its ways, but thinks he doesn't have to live by the rules. Read more...
Everyone knows this kind of politician: a charismatic maverick who goes up against the system and its ways, but thinks he doesn't have to live by the rules. Through his own experience as the speechwriter for a controversial governor, Barton Swaim tells the story of a band of believers who attach themselves to this sort of ambitious narcissist--and what happens when it all comes crashing down.
The Speechwriter is a funny and candid introduction to the world of politics, where press statements are purposefully nonsensical, grammatical errors are intentional, and better copy means more words. Swaim paints a portrait of a man so principled he'd rather sweat than use state money to pay for air conditioning, so oblivious he'd wear the same stained shirt for two weeks, so egotistical he'd belittle his staffers to make himself feel better, and so self-absorbed he never once apologized to his staff for making his administration the laughing stock of the country. On the surface, this is the story of one politician's rise and fall. But in the end, it's a story about us--the very real people who want to believe in our leaders and must learn to survive with broken hearts.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-04-20
- Reviewer: Staff
Swaim, a writer for the Wall Street Journal and Times Literary Supplement, cut his political teeth as speechwriter for former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. The reflections here follow Swain’s work from 2007 to June 2009, when Sanford, who is today a state congressman, notoriously went AWOL with his Argentine girlfriend. This event became a media sensation and shortly led to widespread censure. Much of the book is an entertaining inside look at state politics and how the wheels of executive office grind. The book’s best passages explore the appeal of charismatic, earnest, and morally challenged souls like Sanford, who invariably devastate their true-believing but self-interested, in-on-the-game handlers and operatives through disastrous public exposure. Demonstrating empathy mixed with appropriate caution, Swaim reflects on how politicians can be corrupted by “the praise, the fawning, the seriousness with which people take their remarks, the gaze of audiences, the way a crowded room falls silent when they enter.” His report on his experiences as a governor’s idea man is a fine, sometimes brilliant foray into the nature of contemporary politics, the charismatic narcissists who seek high elected office, and the enablers who allow them to dance in the spotlight. (July)