November 15th, 2008
I like to think of a middle-aged man working into the wee hours. Bent over his paperwork in that greenish desk-lamplight, just getting it right because it’s his job and his job has never been more critical — shit, lives probably hang in the balance. He put his kids to bed six hours before and a little later his wife turned in. Some completely unmemorable music farts its tinny way out of a radio, pure background noise. It makes my heart glad to think this guy is getting up at seven to take the kids to school — because he wants to. So he rouses them, joins his family for breakfast, hustles them into the car. Maybe he forgets the papers — hell, he hasn’t slept much — so he rushes back into the house, and up to his study. He sweeps the printed out sheets into his briefcase, then he drops the kids off. After that he picks up a co-worker who sits down with him at another office and picks the work apart. Back and forth they go, getting it dead-nuts perfect. Then into a space to rehearse in front of his team. March 18th, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, he delivers the speech, “A More Perfect Union.”
W. likes to say, this is hard work. But Obama actually knows it’s hard work. He’s done the work. This is not to completely disparage Bush, because I don’t know of any other presidents, or presidential contenders, who wrote their own speeches — not in the last century, anyhow. I doubt that Obama writes all of his, but he did write the one that made the biggest difference in his campaign. After all, “A More Perfect Union” was the Race speech. His response to the bigots, know-nothings, and mouth-breathers who kept turning up the volume on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright videos.
I do not think we should ever again elect anybody who can’t demonstrate the ability to at least write a coherent first draft. This requirement would thankfully remove certain public figures from our destiny. We all know who they are, thanks, in large part, to the last couple months of Saturday Night Live.
Intelligence and verbal skills. That’s the kind of thing that makes you head of the Harvard Law Review. Oh yeah, that and hard work. But if our fate is to rest in your hands, putting in some late night hours is just as important as watching the NFL playoffs while some thirty year-old speechwriter pounds out high-minded drivel.
We know where that leads.