Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book Review: Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor (2009) by Matt Latimer.

This book won’t be a script for a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

It could be one, however, for: Mr. Latimer Leaves Washington in Disappointment, Disillusionment and Disgust.

Latimer begins the story describing his idealism. For example, he was actually an enthusiastic supporter of Bob Dole's 1996 campaign; yes, he was the one. Among other things, Latimer went to the convention held that year in San Diego, collected autographs from various political celebrities, and otherwise demonstrated his zeal for politics.

A self-professed conservative, Latimer made his pilgrimage to his dream job in the White House by serving a conservative Congressman, a few Republican Senators, as a speechwriter for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and eventually as a speechwriter in George W. Bush's White House.

Through this varied experience, Latimer becomes more and more disappointed, disillusioned and disgusted with Washington generally, and the Republican Party, as it was conducting itself, in particular. The only ones receiving consistent praise were Secretary Rumsfeld and Senator Jon Kyle of Arizona. The others? Pretty much skewered.

Of President Bush, Latimer writes: "I thought he was a good person who meant well." (p. 179.) Faint praise indeed. Latimer concludes his book with sharper criticism: "[H]aving my eyes opened to the president's willingness to abandon core conservative principles, I realized, sadly, that I didn't care about the administration anymore. The president was not the evil person his enemies made him out to be nor was he a dummy, but he also wasn't the leader I'd thought he was. I have no doubt that he meant well, that he tried to do good..., but he simply was not the president I wanted. He wasn't a conservative in the mold of Reagan or Thatcher.... If anything he seemed to be adrift." (251.)

Along with Latimer's dispiriting conclusions, he provides many funny anecdotes (even if some are hearsay) about the folly of our so-called leaders. But, in the end, is that really humorous or pathetic?

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