White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters

Robert Schlesinger, Author . Simon & Schuster $30 (592p) ISBN 978-0-7432-9169-9

Even George Washington relied on others for ideas and words for his great state papers. But Schlesinger, who teaches political journalism at Boston University, starts this snappy history, the first on its subject, with FDR, who inaugurated the modern practice of employing others to craft important policy statements. Administration by administration, the author takes us through a lively, often unforgettable cast of characters who both enlarged their presidents' visions and suffered from White House infighting and policy battles. He emphasizes how changes in the media (radio, television and the Internet) altered the settings and presentation of presidents' words. He ends with the current administration, its ghostwriters the first to step from the shadows and claim the limelight. Schlesinger's coverage is wide, his research comprehensive, his pace fast, his prose light. But surely there's much more to say about the way pre-FDR presidents went about conceiving and writing their major speeches, about what we may have lost (while also gaining) from the intervention of outside wordsmiths. And one wishes the author had sprung free of his material and ended with his own thoughts about what he's written, for no one knows more about this subject than Schlesinger. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Apr. 15)

Reviewed on: 02/11/2008
Release date: 00/00/0000
Paperback - 581 pages - 978-0-7432-9170-5
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4165-6535-2
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