White House Ghosts by Robert Schlesinger
Presidents and Their Speechwriters

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Synopsis

In White House Ghosts, veteran Washington reporter Robert Schlesinger opens a fresh and revealing window on the modern presidency from FDR to George W. Bush. This is the first book to examine a crucial and often hidden role played by the men and women who help presidents find the words they hope will define their places in history.

Drawing on scores of interviews with White House scribes and on extensive archival research, Schlesinger weaves intimate, amusing, compelling stories that provide surprising insights into the personalities, quirks, egos, ambitions, and humor of these presidents as well as how well or not they understood the bully pulpit.

White House Ghosts traces the evolution of the presidential speechwriter's job from Raymond Moley under FDR through such luminaries as Ted Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., under JFK, Jack Valenti and Richard Goodwin under LBJ, William Safire and Pat Buchanan under Nixon, Hendrik Hertzberg and James Fallows under Carter, and Peggy Noonan under Reagan, to the "Troika" of Michael Gerson, John McConnell, and Matthew Scully under George W. Bush.

White House Ghosts tells the fascinating inside stories behind some of the most iconic presidential phrases: the first inaugural of FDR ("the only thing we have to fear is fear itself ") and JFK ("ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country"), Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" and Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speeches, Bill Clinton's ending "the era of big government" State of the Union, and George W. Bush's post-9/11 declaration that "whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done" -- and dozens of other noteworthy speeches. The book also addresses crucial questions surrounding the complex relationship between speechwriter and speechgiver, such as who actually crafted the most memorable phrases, who deserves credit for them, and who has claimed it.

Schlesinger tells the story of the modern American presidency through this unique prism -- how our chief executives developed their very different rhetorical styles and how well they grasped the rewards of reaching out to the country. White House Ghosts is dramatic, funny, gripping, surprising, serious -- and always entertaining.
 

About Robert Schlesinger

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Robert Schlesinger is a veteran Washington reporter. Formerly political editor of the insider publication The Hill and a Washington correspondent for The Boston Globe, he has written for The Washington Monthly, Salon.com, The Weekly Standard, and People. He teaches political journalism at Boston University's Washington Journalism Center. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
 
Published April 15, 2008 by Simon & Schuster. 596 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Schlesinger (Political Journalism/Boston Univ.) confidently assesses the diverse contributions made by speechwriters toiling thanklessly on behalf of presidents from FDR to G.W. Bush.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of White House Ghosts: President...

The New York Times

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Robert Schlesinger’s valuable and painstakingly researched book charts the history of presidential speechwriters from the age of Jackson to our age of spin.

May 02 2008 | Read Full Review of White House Ghosts: President...

Publishers Weekly

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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

Feb 11 2008 | Read Full Review of White House Ghosts: President...

Bookmarks Magazine

Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars"Mr. Schlesinger, who interviewed more than 90 speechwriters and other White House aides, has written an evenhanded account of the speechwriting for presidents, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to George Walker Bush, with a chapter devoted to each presidency.

Apr 29 2008 | Read Full Review of White House Ghosts: President...

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