Matthew Scully: The only person the speechwriter Michael Gerson made look better than President Bush was Michael Gerson

Roundup: Talking About History

[Matthew Scully, a writer living in Southern California, is the author of Dominion (2002). From July 1999 until August 2004, he served as a senior speechwriter for President Bush.]

Michael J. Gerson, my former speechwriting colleague in the Bush White House, is a talented fellow with a first-rate mind and serious purposes—all of which we can expect to see in his new book, Heroic Conservatism. But reading a few insider stories in the first chapter of the book, which his publisher has sent out for publicity, I was not surprised to find that the personal heroics begin early.

By page 3, a “solemn quiet” has fallen over the Oval Office, and we have one of those crossroads moments that come in every White House memoir. Large and consequential matters were in the balance, “the keepers of the budget” were about to crush the hopes of millions, only truth well spoken could save the day, and guess who had the courage to speak it? The conviction and idealism of his words were so characteristic that, in Mike’s telling of the story, President Bush declared, “That’s Gerson being Gerson!”

The president’s little tribute, however, would much better describe what happened after this incident, when the story of “Gerson being Gerson” found its way into a Washington Whispers item by a friend of Mike’s at U.S. News & World Report. Someone had to tell the reporter about this inspiring moment, and I have a feeling it wasn’t the keepers of the budget. It was always like this, working with Mike. No good deed went unreported, and many things that never happened were reported as fact. For all of our chief speechwriter’s finer qualities, the firm adherence to factual narrative is not a strong point. He has chosen the perfect title for his book, because in his telling of a White House story, things often sound a lot more heroic than they actually were....

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Barry DeCicco - 8/15/2007

Or maybe, just maybe... once upon a time Scully believed Bush. When your belief in somebody's honesty and character are shattered, you don't have much for their speechwriter.

George R Gaston - 8/12/2007

Harry Truman was right about one thing. If Gerson wanted a friend in Washington, he should have bought a dog.

It seems that the extent of Scully's loyality and friendship is depentent on being published in the Atlantic. I hope this at least gets Scully an invite to a Georgetown cocktail party.