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Reagan's Writers

Plenty of speech writers like to take credit for this or that speech that a President, in particular, gives. Often it is not deserved, for major speeches are the products of more than one hand. And one of the hands belongs to the President himself.

But the speechwriters of Ronald Reagan are a special case. Tony Dolan, who has an historically significant article in this morning's Wall Street Journal about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, ran a presidential speech writers staff that was famous in its day and deserves to be called great by any measure.

Almost all the team members were fiercely loyal to the President, self-effacing, truly smart, able craftsmen and serious in-house diplomats. A group of them went off to found the White House Writers Group (Clark Judge, Josh Gilder, et al.) Novelist and Hoover Institution fellow Peter Robinson has helped lead a revolution among Dartmouth alumni. Several others have written well-received books, including, of course, Peggy Noonan.

Lodged in what is now called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (the onetime War Department) across Executive Avenue (closed to traffic) from the West Wing of the White House, the writers labored on many chores at once. They obviously had a primary obligation to heed the desires of the President, but they also had to take more attentive direction (sometimes unwanted) from assorted Chiefs of Staff and Communications Directors. Mrs. Reagan was known to let her views intrude on occasion.

Then there were all the department heads that had to be consulted. Usually they got to clear text that dealt with "their" issues, and Ronald Reagan was generous--maybe too generous--in heeding the voices of caution. But on important matters he also put his foot down, as in the instance of the Berlin Wall speech. His willing accomplices were the Presidential Speech Writers. They had him figured out about as well as anyone. He liked them, they loved him.

You can email brucechapman@discovery.org

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