PunditWire is shutting up shop:
As with all good things, it’s time to bid PunditWire adieu. We will be ceasing operations on August 31, which means we no longer will be publishing new content on our site. PunditWire won’t vanish — to those of you who want access to the hundreds of articles we’ve posted over the years, you will still be able to find them on our site.
Maybe the site was not quite one thing or the other. Too many disconnected musings by speechwriters, and not enough about the insights of speechwriters on speechwriting and public speaking?
Here is a handy list of my own contributions in recent years. I (usually) tries to give them a public speaking theme of some sort. But not always…
Or this tough one on Obama/Hillary/Trump:
This one ghastly episode shows that Hillary Clinton is unfit to lead American diplomats and soldiers. How can they be expected to do what it takes and risk their own lives for their country in extreme moments of stress and danger, when they know that the President herself may dishonour their ultimate sacrifice merely because it suits her to do so?
… Mr Trump too is unfit to lead American diplomats and soldiers. How can they be expected to do what it takes and risk their own lives for their country in extreme moments of stress and danger, when they know that the President himself may well not have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about?
Thus the situation the world faces. The United States is poised to elect a new President who is unfit to lead that great country, and who will be entangled in impossible scandals and controversy from Day One.
Pro Tip to politicians: don’t answer questions about your toughness by insisting in a wild-eyed that you’re really tough! Right?!
Imagine someone asking Clint Eastwood whether he’s tough enough. He won’t say “Look, I’ve got what it takes, right! I stood up to that Lee Van Cleef and really showed him a few things about how tough I am, I can tell you! Right?”
Less is more.
A computer geek invents wildly popular new software. He becomes a billionaire. He lives in a scandalously luxurious way and gives no money to charity, but the money pouring into his bank account is reinvested in many new ventures that create hundreds of jobs and thousands of new products. Is he being greedy? If so, why?
A family firm builds up over generations now employs 400 people. One worker is a convinced Communist. He starts to agitate for a trade union presence to be accepted in the firm. He persuades 100 workers to join him, but the majority aren’t interested. For the first time in the firm’s history damaging disputes break out. Production slows. Customers are annoyed. Fearing that their beloved business could crash, the wealthy family owners sack the Communist and his 9 closest associates. These 10 people sue the firm for unlawful dismissal and win significant compensation. Who is being greedy? Why?
It’s like a man who somehow disgraces himself on a first date with a sensible woman, then rushes around pestering her with huge bunches of flowers and other over-ostentatious gifts to express his remorse. The insistent profusion of the man’s remorse is more annoying than the original mistakes. What the woman wants – and in fact will value far more – is a quiet sincere apology and maybe when she asks for it a frank discussion on what went wrong and why, to get things back on track.
In this case imagine how much better it would have been for US diplomacy had John Kerry strode up to President Hollande and simply shaken his hand with a private warm word of greeting, then gone indoors for tough exchanges on how Washington and Paris can work together to tackle those fanatics. No kissing or hugging. No awkward elderly songsters whose microphone fails. Deal with the issue by striking a firm, businesslike tone and letting the outcome of the talks be the story.
Avoid slippery slopes:
Speechwriters adore a good metaphor: get the right one and the speaker sounds wise, folksy, sassy and astute all in one go.
The trouble with such metaphors is that they capture your imagination but deaden your brain. Take the idea of the ‘slippery slope’. It conveys the idea that once you have gone beyond a certain point and started to slide downwards, there’s no way to stop until you crash at the bottom. There’s no safe and maybe better perch along the slide, or any way to stop your slide. You lose control.
This metaphor gives a phony sense of immediate inexorable dangerous momentum which in fact may not be there. Pick another popular metaphor. If you enter a swamp (or the more fashionable ‘quagmire’) and start to get stuck, you are not doomed to stagger on into the middle and sink without trace. You may well make it back to the side safely, albeit malodorously and unhappily…
The Queen’s nuclear war speech that wasn’t:
The text moves her on to talk in a self-absorbed way about Prince Andrew (where are Prince Charles and Prince Edward?):
My beloved son Andrew is at this moment in action with his unit and we pray continually for his safety and for the safety of all servicemen and women at home and overseas.
The core failure of the text is that it does not say what the war is actually about and what we are fighting for. Before The Terminator and the evil Skynet system had been invented, this bizarre passage treats anonymous technology as the enemy and contrives to hint that both sides have equal responsibility for the unfolding disaster:
The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns but the deadly power of abused technology (sic).
I respectfully but firmly disagree, Your Majesty. The enemy is Soviet Communism and the fact that the USSR wants to use massive force to wipe out our historic freedoms.
And so on. Still lingering there on the Internet as such things do. Until they fade and vanish.