Monday, May 18, 2009

Ben Rhodes Working on Obama's Egypt Speech

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s foreign policy speechwriter, is working on Obama's speech that he will give in Egypt June 4. Here's some insight into that process:

The process for the Cairo address will begin this week in the same way it has for other foreign policy speeches Rhodes has written since the Inauguration: Obama will summon Axelrod; Rhodes; Denis McDonough, a deputy national security adviser; and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to the Oval Office.

The president will talk off the cuff for a half-hour or so about what he wants to say in the speech. Rhodes calls it the “download.”

Obama will go back to the speech, almost always by hand, three or four times before he’s satisfied.

“His criticism is more, ‘No, what I really wanted to say is this, and you didn’t quite capture that here,’” Rhodes said. “Generally, if he’s not happy with it, he knows why he’s not, so he gives you a pretty clear sense the first time he talks to you.”

The one thing that gets Obama annoyed, Rhodes said, is “wishy-washy language.”

“He was making changes up to the last minute, which is not unusual, and so I literally had to do those in the back of the motorcade to this site and then find a zip drive that could plug into the teleprompter,” Rhodes recalled in an interview. “He likes to work on things until the end because he likes to get them just the way he wants them. So sometimes that’s easy, sometimes it’s you in the back of a van with a laptop on your knee hoping your battery doesn’t die.”

Said senior adviser David Axelrod: “Everybody here sort of lives with the reality that the president is the best speechwriter in the group.” Read more at Politico