- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2000

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The person to blame in the highly unlikely event that George W. Bush's acceptance speech bombs is Mike Gerson — the governor's presumably anonymous ghostwriter.
Mr. Gerson, 36, came to Bush with a reputation as an innovative conservative thinker and a crafter of nice oratory. "He has the touch," says Terry Dolan, who used to write speeches for Ronald Reagan. (Dolan coined "evil empire.")
Speech writers once were supposed to have a passion for anonymity. That was before lawyer Theodore Sorensen became known as the man behind John F. Kennedy's eloquence and Peggy Noonan became so famous as ghostwriter for Ronald Reagan and George Bush that she wrote a best seller about it and went on the lecture circuit.
Mr. Gerson got his start when Charles Colson, former Watergate figure and the founder of the Prison Fellowship, read some of his college prose, took him on to help write a book, then passed him along to former Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana. Mr. Gerson helped write speeches for Bob Dole and Steve Forbes. Then he took a job writing for U.S. News & World Report until Mr. Bush tapped him in May.
By way of preparation for writing the acceptance speech Mr. Bush will deliver here tomorrow night, the speech that will give millions their first long look at the Texan, Mr. Gerson settled in for some serious reading.
He read every acceptance speech every major candidate has delivered since 1960:
John F. Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1960. (Introducing the term "New Frontier.")
Barry Goldwater's defiant defense of conservatism in San Francisco in 1964 ("I would remind you that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.")
Richard Nixon, in 1968 in Miami Beach, Fla., talking about himself as a grocer's boy in rural California. ("He hears the train go by at night and he dreams of faraway places where he'd like to go.")
Walter Mondale's San Francisco prediction in 1984 that the next president — even a re-elected Ronald Reagan — would have to raise taxes. ("He won't tell you, I just did.")
The line that came back to haunt George Bush in 1988 ("read my lips") and the one that served him well ("a thousand points of light.")
And even the line that brought the house down for Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Mr. Carter, starting as an unknown former governor, had campaigned across America saying, "My name is Jimmy Carter and I'm running for president." Appearing at the Democratic convention in New York City to accept nomination, he started his speech: "My name is Jimmy Carter and I'm running for president."
Having absorbed all that, Mike Gerson went to College Station, Texas, borrowed a friend's apartment, sent his family to stay with his mother, holed up in the college library.
By the start of this convention week, the product of that process was in its 15th draft and counting.


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