I say this as someone who writes political speeches for a living. They're mostly a fucking joke, especially the State of the Union. Truly great political speeches are the exception, not the norm, and a bulk of the time they arise from national tragedies, major historical moments or off the cuff remarks.

Does anyone remember a truly stellar, moving State of the Union? (President George W. Bush had his Axis of Evil moment, but that's not because it was the State of the Union. He could have dropped that word at the Tallapoosa County Republicans Fish Fry, and it wouldn't make a difference.)

Gawker made a fantastic case for why the State of the Union sucks, namely that the White House farmed out that task to a privileged white dudebro, Cody Keenan, who joined forces with another privileged white dudebro, Benjamin Rhodes, to take all the credit. (The blame on a drooling Aaron Sorkin is certainly deserved.)


Here's how I know they're lying. Every year on the day of the State of the Union, 3-5 White House staffers come to Capitol Hill to brief the President's currently political party on what is expected in the speech. They all worked on it, but none of them are aching to take credit in the New York Times. Cody Keenan (I refuse to use the nickname "Hemingway") is the equivalent of every fraud in your classroom group work assignment who did the bare minimum, talked the most and the loudest, and convinced the class he did all the work.


The fact that these two pretentious clowns are desperately trying to take credit should make you question the substance of what they're trying to take credit for.

Why is political speech writing a joke? Aside from the fact that the bulk of them aren't memorable, it's the idea and process behind it.


The idea is that a politician is asked to give his thoughts in front of a select audience on a particular topic. That's on par a college term paper. Content is carefully researched and crafted for the audience. Anything groundbreaking would be dropped at a press conference or statement not at the National Association of Porcelain Teapot Manufacturers Annual Conference. The audience and the event hosts are expecting the politician to say specific things so the speech meets those bland expectations.


The process isn't much better. A minimum of ten staff and at least 50 bazillion drafts are required. The Boss puts off proofreading until the day before, and then reviews 10 bazillion drafts out of the original 50. Then 12 hours before and after a few ridiculous conversations, the Boss will panic and scrap the whole thing with helpful comments like, "I hate where this is going. Give me a new draft without any of this in it."


After much angst, the Boss gives the speech to a barely awake audience who is more interested in their phones, laptops, and Hulu on mute.


That's quite a painstakingly difficult, cumbersome process for unremarkable content that no one listens to anyway. There's a reason not many people do speech writing for a living and why bragging about it is a mark of incompetent staff who can't do much else.

Reserve political speeches for the truly rare and historic moments. I welcome a return to the original format of the State of the Union: the letter.