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Michael J. Gerson

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Michael J. Gerson, a former key aide and speechwriter for President George W. Bush until summer 2006, joined the Washington Post as op-ed columnist in January 2007, with a syndicated, twice a week column. After leaving the White House, Gerson joined the Council on Foreign Relations as the Roger Hertog Senior Fellow.[1]

Gerson is also the author of Heroic Conservatism, a "first-hand, high-level account of the events of the George W. Bush years as well as Gerson’s own blueprint for the future of the Republican party."[2]

Gerson in the White House

Gerson was nominated February 8, 2005, by President George W. Bush to be Assistant to the President for Policy and Strategic Planning. Gerson had been serving as Bush's Director of Presidential Speechwriting and Senior Policy Adviser.[5]

In the news release for Gerson's nomination, President Bush said "Mike Gerson has done an outstanding job as my chief speechwriter since 1999. I have relied on his good advice and sound judgment. He is a vital member of my Administration, and I look forward to his continued service in this new capacity."[5]

"Since 2002, Mr. Gerson has served as Assistant to the President for Speechwriting and Policy Advisor. He served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Speechwriting from January 2001 until July 2002.

"Prior to joining the Administration, Mr. Gerson was Chief Speechwriter and Senior Policy Advisor for the Bush for President Campaign."[5]

"Mr. Gerson said he was attracted to Mr. Bush because he 'understood that biblical faith has a lot to say about morality, also a lot to say about the poor and also about racial reconciliation.' Mr. Gerson credits Mr. Colson for mentoring him and leading by example: 'He combined tremendous personal integrity with a passion for social justice and for the powerless, and that has been an example to me and a lot of people in knowing that's the appropriate biblical priority," Tim Graham reported January 12, 2002, in World Magazine.[6]

In the White House, the speechwriting team under Gerson included deputy speechwriting director Peter Wehner, a longtime aide to Bill Bennett; David Frum, an author and Weekly Standard writer who focuses mostly on economic issues; and Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for Dan Quayle. "Other speechwriters contribute on major addresses. The Sept. 20 address drew on John Gibson, who writes speeches for the president on national security issues, and John McConnell, a writer assigned to Vice President Dick Cheney," Graham reported.[6]

In the October 11, 2002, Washington Post, Mike Allen described[7] Gerson's appointment to Bush's staff occurring when he summoned to Bush's Washington hotel suite "during a National Governors Association meeting and hired him on the spot to help develop domestic policy, including an education message that included a federal role."

Allen reported[7] that when Gerson took over from [former Bush adviser] Karen P. Hughes the position was elevated to assistant to the president for speechwriting and policy adviser, from deputy assistant to the president and director of presidential speechwriting. Gerson attends the daily 7:30 a.m. senior staff meeting the 8:30 a.m. communication meeting, "where Bush's daily message is shaped".

"The hallmark of Gerson's speeches is the invocation of the vocabulary and literature of faith, and that only increased after Sept. 11, 2001 ... The result is a president whose public words are laced with biblical undertones," Allen wrote.[7]

"'We have tried to employ religious language in a way that unites people,' he said. 'Martin Luther King, Jr. did it all the time during the civil rights movement. He was in this long tradition, going back to Old Testament prophets, that says God is active in history and, eventually, he's on the side of justice.'"[7]

Influential Evangelical

The February 7, 2005, issue of Time Magazine featured "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America",[8] which lists Gerson as the ninth most influential:[9]

"The President's Spiritual Scribe: For a White House speechwriter, coining flowery phrases for your boss is less important than accommodating his speaking style and deepest convictions. For Michael Gerson, 40, George W. Bush's chief scribe since the 2000 presidential campaign (he will become a policy adviser in the West Wing), breaking that code meant knowing as much about the New Testament as about Bush's Texas roots. That proved easy. The former journalist shares Bush's devout Christian faith and his view that the role of Providence in human affairs should be reaffirmed in the public square.
"Though even some G.O.P. supporters have criticized the President for his regular religious references, such lines are not likely to disappear from his speeches. 'Scrubbing public discourse of religious ideas,' says Gerson, 'would remove one of the main sources of social justice in our history.'"

Biographical profile

Gerson was born in New Jersey in 1965 but grew up in St. Louis, where he met his wife (a Korean native adopted by an American family) at the church they attended. Gerson studied theology at Wheaton College near Chicago. Watergate figure Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, hired Gerson as a staff writer in 1986, right after graduation. Gerson later became policy director for then-U.S. Sen. Daniel R. Coats (R-Ind.), taking time out to act as policy adviser to Jack Kemp and write speeches for Bob Dole. He also worked as a senior policy adviser at the Heritage Foundation."[10]

In an article in the Christian magazine World Magazine by Tim Graham, Gerson explained he joined Bush's Presidential campaign early in 1999 and that he "went down to Austin when there were just half a dozen people on the campaign".[6]

The article states that Gerson is a graduate of St. Louis' Westminster Academy, "an evangelical high school, as well as a theology student at Wheaton College, Mr. Gerson attends the Falls Church, an evangelical Episcopal church, and participates 'when I can' in a Thursday White House Bible study."[6]

According to The Washington Post's Mike Allen, Gerson had been accepted as a teacher at the interdenominational Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California but instead became a writer for Chuck Colson.[7]

Subsequently he worked for Senator Dan Coats and then the Bob Dole campaign. For two years he worked for U.S. News & World Report concentrating on philanthropy and civil society.

Affiliations

  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • Prison Fellowship Ministries 1986
  • Policy director for U.S. Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.), speechwriter
  • Speechwriter U.S. Senator Bob Dole
  • Heritage Foundation, senior policy adviser
  • U.S. News & World Report; "concentrating on philanthropy and civil society"
  • Speechwriter for presidential candidate George W. Bush
  • Speechwriter for president George W. Bush

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. "Gerson Bio," Council on Foreign Relations.
  2. "Beating the Frankfurt Rush," Publishers Weekly, October 3, 2006.
  3. Committee on Conscience, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, accessed October 2, 2007.
  4. Leadership, Initiative for Global Development, accessed December 11, 2007.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 News Release: Personnel Announcement, Office of the White House Press Secretary, February 8, 2005.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Republican bards. From the aftermath of 9/11 to this month's State of the Union address, an elite group of conservative speechwriters is helping to mold a wartime presidency," World Magazine, January 12, 2002.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Mike Allen, "For Bush's Speechwriter, Job Grows Beyond Words. 'Scribe' Helps Shape, Set Tone for Evolving Foreign Policy," Washington Post, October 11, 2002.
  8. "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America," TIME Magazine, February 7, 2005 (issue).
  9. "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America: Michael Gerson, TIME Magazine, February 7, 2005 (issue).
  10. People for the American Way, "The Right-Wing Affiliations of Bush Administration Officials," Right Wing Watch, undated, accessed February 24, 2004.

External articles