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"PunditWire" Gives Speechwriters a Soapbox

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Political speechwriters are accustomed to having their words and work associated with others. But now, they have a home online with the new American University-sponsored commentary web site, PunditWire.
Conceived by Professor Leonard Steinhorn, Public Communication division director in American University’s School of Communication, and Robert Lehrman, adjunct professor at the school and former chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, PunditWire’s contributors have written for public officials and candidates of all political stripes all over the country.
“Speechwriters not only write well, but by crafting the language and rhetoric of politics they offer readers insider knowledge and insights that other writers might not be able to share,” says Steinhorn, author of two well-received books about American culture, who began his career in Washington as a speechwriter for House Judiciary Chair, Peter Rodino (D-NJ).
The creators see PunditWire not as a blog but as a commentary site, a national op-ed page featuring original content and writers who are trained to communicate ideas and insights in readable, engaging prose.
Lehrman, who co-teaches AU’s political speechwriting course and won AU's adjunct faculty member of the year award for 2010, believes that a site representing contributors from across the political spectrum will reflect the real debates and arguments that run through our political system.
“Imagine dueling speeches on the floor of the Senate. PunditWire features the speechwriters behind the words," he says.
Steinhorn thought of the idea because he didn’t see much in print from people who have worked behind the scenes. "In every speechwriter there's an inner columnist, but they often don't have a platform for their words," he says. "Yes, there are some who’ve made the leap back to journalism,” and he cites Chris Matthews, Michael Gerson, William Safire, and Peggy Noonan as former speechwriters writing under their own names. “But not enough.”
Among those already listed as contributors: Republicans Hal Gordon (Colin Powell), Mike Long (Fred Thompson), Chriss Winston (George H.W. Bush), and Democrats Lissa Muscatine (Hillary Clinton), and Eric Schnure (Gore.)
“As a former speechwriter,” Lehrman says, “I’ve too often said to myself after reading news or commentary articles about politics no, they didn’t get that right. PunditWire will give the wordsmiths of politics an opportunity to say why.”