- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bush tell-all

As soon as the stories from Matt Latimer’s tell-all tome about what he saw working as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld started leaking, insults from the former president’s most loyal friends started flying.

In “Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor,” which comes out Tuesday, Mr. Latimer relays a comedy of errors that tells what it was like writing Mr. Rumsfeld’s 2004 Abu Ghraib testimony and Mr. Bush’s speech about the banking crisis last fall. And many of the Republican Party’s top stars don’t come out looking too good. Excerpts published by GQ magazine last week portray scenes of high-level political advisers in over their heads, pushing ideas they don’t seem to understand, as witnessed by an incredulous Mr. Latimer.

Former Bush press secretary Dana Perino has spoken poorly of the book on Fox News several times and wrote in a blog post for National Review, “I’m pretty sure that almost everyone who worked in the White House could not pick Matt out of a lineup, and I doubt that’ll change much after this book,” adding that “Speech-less” should have been called “Shameless.”

Mr. Latimer said this was indicative of the “club mentality” he loathed among Bush insiders such as Mrs. Perino, although he was quick to add, “I’ve always liked Dana and thought she was very nice when I worked in the administration.”

The author maintains that he didn’t set out to write a screed and compares it to something that’s more like “The Office” than “The West Wing.”

“It’s a funny book,” he said, “But it’s unique from the vantage point of a conservative. I didn’t hate President Bush, but I wasn’t a fanatic about him, either.”

Mr. Latimer said that when he began writing the book in November, he wanted to talk about how “Americans elect people who claim to support their values, but too many times they are disappointed.”

When asked Monday by The Washington Times about the first time he was disappointed, he recalls a story he told in the book about meeting Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, of whom he said he was a “huge admirer” before he stepped in an elevator with the senator and two of her aides.

“These two men looked like they came out of J. Crew and I called them her ‘purse boys’ because they carried her purse around,” he said. “She was instructing them where to put her makeup and to keep her nail polish in the refrigerator. It showed me how people get in love with the privilege of the office.”

And that’s just a taste of some of the gossipy nuggets he dishes out in his book to show his dissatisfaction with the Republicans in power. He even mentions such lesser-known staff as former Pentagon vetter Margaret Calhoun Hemenway, who has written several articles for www.FamilySecurityMatters.com questioning President Obama’s citizenship. Her father-in-law enjoined a lawsuit that, as Ms. Hemenway wrote, was filed to pursue “the truth about Mr. Obama’s birth.”

Mr. Latimer says this speaks to the poor quality of some staffers working in the Bush administration. “The whole birther movement is just ridiculous,” he said.

Some people manage to come out of the book unscathed. Of all the people in Washington he has met and worked for Mr. Latimer said his former boss, Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, was among his favorites. “I like Senator Kyl a lot,” he said. “He’s an honorable, decent, smart person who isn’t a media hog.”

Friendly fire

One of the leading groups supporting Democratic health care plans declared legislation drafted by Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and Finance Committee chairman, a “failure” and several other formerly supportive groups have followed suit voicing their displeasure with the bill.

Health Care for America Now Campaign Director Richard Kirsch called the Baucus legislation “a gift to the insurance industry that fails to meet the most basic promise of health care reform: a guarantee Americans will have good health care that they can afford.”

Meanwhile, Jane Hamsher posted on her liberal blog Firedoglake.com video of Gerald McEntee, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, encouraging union supporters at a recent AFL-CIO convention to boo the bill.

“Boo, boo, come on,” he said. He proceeded to publicly call the legislation an unprintable name twice while speaking on stage.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com.

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