What Was It Like to Be Edited by Barack Obama?

Adam Frankel in Literary Hub:

After the 2008 election, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reported that Obama had told his incoming political director, Patrick Gaspard, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

For all the eye-rolling that quotation induced on the speechwriting team—and it induced quite a lot, both at the time and later—I never felt Obama was being unfair or inaccurate. He was a better speechwriter than any of us.

I got a closer look at Obama’s writing in the White House, where he was a short walk away, than I’d had on the campaign, where edits usually came in a quick call or email.

“Something about this draft just doesn’t feel right.” That, or something like it, is probably the most frequent feedback a speechwriter ever receives, and it is typically accompanied by precisely zero suggestions on what to do about it.

I never heard Obama utter those words. In fact, I was always struck by the precision of his edits.

More here.

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