Thursday, October 1, 2009

"I'm Going to Die with These Dummies"

Matt Latimer spent many years climbing the Republican party ranks as a communications specialist and all-around cheerleader.

An idealistic and energetic conservative, he ultimately arrived at Karl Rove's White House after a stint with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

In Speech*Less: Tales of a White House Survivor, Latimer chronicles his transformation from starry-eyed delegate at the GOP's first Youth Convention to veteran speechwriter suffering a severe case of morbid humor.

Many political and career memoirs seem retaliatory and revenge-oriented. As a relative low-man on the totem pole, Latimer has no particular axe to grind.

He recounts the foibles and idiosyncrasies of Washington's elite--ranging from Bob Dole and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (whom he once idolized) to Robert Gates and George W. Bush--with the kind of honest self-amusement one might find in a personal journal.

But he also shares his own mistakes and shortcomings in service to the party he loved, which makes this book so entertaining.

Here, Latimer describes his first impressions of the White House:
Many people envision life in the West Wing as something akin to the old Aaron Sorkin TV show: where attractive young people walk briskly through the halls and discuss matters of great importance with snappy dialogue and sexual tension. That was not what George W. Bush's West Wing was like. Most of the senior staff weren't attractive or particularly young. They were balding, middle-aged, overweight men, with pasty white skin untouched by the sun. A 7:30 a.m. senior staff meeting was like walking into the lounge of a high-end golf course in Westchester, New York. The women were almost a perfect division between pretty, young, usually southern sorority girls with strong religious backgrounds and old warhorses who'd fought in the trenches against the Democrats for decades and showed it. Sexual tension was at a minimum.

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