A speech writer's take on important speeches, and the craft of writing for an audience.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
When asked by a reporter - “Would you be against lobbyists who are working for your program?,” President Harry Truman replied, “We probably wouldn’t call those people lobbyists. We would call them citizens working in the public interest.”
How a politician defines who is and who isn’t a lobbyist, is as likely to depend on where the lobbyist’s clients stand with regard to the politician’s own agenda, as any other factor.
So it should come as little surprise that President Obama devoted a significant portion of his Wall Street Reform speech to attacking lobbyists.
It’s a classic political strategy - don’t engage the opposition directly, find a convenient third party to attack. During the health care debate, his target was insurance companies.
Now, with a new battle joined, his speech resorts to military terms - “we have seen battalions of financial industry lobbyists descending on Capitol Hill, firms spending millions to influence the outcome of this debate.” Battalions! Indeed.
It’s an attempt to control the debate by controlling who takes part in the debate. So he demonizes lobbyists - “despite the furious effort of industry lobbyists to shape this legislation to their special interests.” He frames the debate as being one between House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, versus the evil “special interests.”
Lobbyists are an easy target, because few people know what lobbyists actually do. More than that, few people realize lobbying - the right to petition for a redress of grievances- is the oldest right contained in the First Amendment. It dates back to the Magna Carta in 1215.
It is a right exercised on both sides of almost every issue. To match those who oppose new Wall Street regulations, there is another cadre who promotes them. What makes lobbying such an important right? It keeps the well-intentioned people in government, from doing things which have unintended consequences.
A veteran writer, researcher and lecturer, with more than 25 years experience in politics, political communications, and public relations. I’ve studied speech writing at NYU, and authored a number of published articles on the practice of lobbying as well as topics in American history.
My lecture on the War of 1812: 1812 – Uncle Sam’s First War, is now a lecture in the New York Speakers in the Humanities bicentennial commemoration series.