If you miss those days when you had to preface every other statement with "Yes, I know President Bush says he's a free market guy but he's just confused," former White House speechwriter Matt Latimer provides some useful support in his new book, unimaginatively titled Speechless: Tales of a White House Survivor. ("Survivor"? Is White House speechwriting one of those risky jobs like commercial fishing or driving a cab?)
Byron York makes the book seem pretty intriguing with this anecdote from the drafting of Bush's 2008 CPAC speech:
"What is this movement you keep talking about in the speech?" the president asked Latimer.
Latimer explained that he meant the conservative movement—the movement that gave rise to groups like CPAC.
Bush seemed perplexed. Latimer elaborated a bit more. Then Bush leaned forward, with a point to make.
"Let me tell you something," the president said. "I whupped Gary Bauer's ass in 2000. So take out all this movement stuff. There is no movement."
Bush seemed to equate the conservative movement—the astonishing growth of conservative political strength that took place in the decades after Barry Goldwater's disastrous defeat in 1964—with the fortunes of Bauer, the evangelical Christian activist and former head of the Family Research Council whose 2000 presidential campaign went nowhere.
Now it was Latimer who looked perplexed. Bush tried to explain.
"Look, I know this probably sounds arrogant to say," the president said, "but I redefined the Republican Party."
Is it really possible that the head of the Republican party thought of Gary Bau–Gary BAUER???–as the leading light of Goldwaterism in 2000? Of all the things that drove me nuts about Bush, the one that drove me the nutsiest was that he was always so off. Off in a way that just left you with no way to respond. And that was his genius.
But he's right about one thing: He redefined the Republican party, just like the iceberg redefined the Titanic.