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Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor [Hardcover]

Matthew Latimer
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews



New Book by Former Bush Administration Writer Hailed by Right
"Probably the most important political book of the year… [Matt is] one heck of a great conservative.  It seems to me [it is] getting a very good reaction from conservatives around the country… The last time I read a book that was this funny was Christopher Buckley's White House Mess."
Jed Babbin, Editor, Human Events
"Latimer comes across as honest...He's a deft writer, and has a good eye and a nice turn of phrase.  You may find yourself surprised by what he has to report.  I was. ... Let me simply admit that I was darned entertained by Speech-less...Latimer's contribution to the [White House memoir] shelf is welcome and worthy."
--Christopher Buckley, bestselling writer and commentator

"It's a good read… quite frankly, the stories are funny!"
Pat Buchanan, MSNBC news analyst and contributor
"Lots of people write accounts of their time at the White House. Virtually no one has done it as well... This book is excellent:  funny, sensible, informative, interesting as hell, and beautifully written. If only there had been more Matt Latimers in the Bush administration."
Tucker Carlson, Fox News analyst, former co-host of CNN's "Crossfire"
 "Matt Latimer's hilarious account reads like political satire, except it's all true…Latimer's description of government bureaucracy should be framed and placed in every government office… completely accurate and completely hilarious."
Ann Coulter, Best-selling Author and Fox News analyst
 "It's fair to say that President Bush left office having disappointed many conservatives, despite his success at keeping the American homeland free from terrorist attack for seven years after 9/11… Mr. Bush said, 'but I redefined the Republican Party.'  That may have been true, but how well did that work out for the Republican Party?"
John Fund, Editorial Page, The Wall Street Journal
 "[G]ives Republicans in particular a lot to think about if they ever hope to reclaim power…Even more than the messages this book conveys, at its heart this is a compelling story about idols who sometimes disappoint you..."
Stephen F. Hayes, Senior Writer Weekly Standard, Fox News contributor
 "A lot of really positive things about President Bush in this book…  I like knowing more about what's happening in these halls of power. And as a conservative,… I'm fascinated by this because this can't happen again to the Republican Party.  This party can't go down this road of big spending... That's not conservatism.  Matt Latimer, Speech-less... Be your own judge. Pick it up and check it out and don't believe everything necessarily that you're hearing."
Laura Ingraham, Host, The Laura Ingraham Show
"A lot of conservatives that have read [Matt's] book have called me up and just said, 'Ok, so this was the problem with [Bush] all along.'"
Joe Scarborough, Host, MSNBC's Morning Joe

About the Author

MATT LATIMER was one of President Bush's top speechwriters from March 2007 to October 2008. He was also chief speechwriter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for three years.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


I guess there's a point in most children's lives when they believe that their hometown is the worst place in the world. Well, those kids can choke on it, because I actually did come from the worst city in America--a fact certified by one of the largest publications in the nation. When I was growing up, Money magazine ranked the major cities in the United States from the perspective of which was the best place to live. My hometown of Flint, Michigan, ranked at the absolute bottom. I must admit, even I was surprised by that. Second to worst, maybe. But the worst of the worst? Wow. The townspeople of Flint made a big show of burning the magazine in effigy, but no one could credibly argue our case.
Flint became internationally famous in the documentary Roger and Me, directed by that self-appointed spokesman for working-class outrage and future millionaire Michael Moore. The film chronicled Flint's economic decline after the one company that had been keeping it alive, General Motors, packed up most of their automobiles and sputtered out of town. It wasn't the smoothest departure the world had ever seen. Basically, the company broke up with Flint by e-mail and then changed its phone number.
I was born in the heart of the city to two liberal teachers. My dad, Maurice, was born while the country was still reeling from the Great Depression, and he was the first boy in his family to go to college. He had thick jet-black hair and looked vaguely like Ricky Ricardo. My mom, Larcia, was the second of ten children and didn't have a single enemy in the world. During my childhood, Mom had round glasses and a brown beehive hairdo that she painstakingly wrapped up every evening with tissue paper. Sometimes I'd wake her at night when I had a scary dream. She'd shoot up in bed with white cream on her face and her hair wrapped like a mummy. (I think that's where my troubles began.)
My parents lived in Flint several years before I was born. When I was about one, they adopted a baby girl. My sister, Jennifer, was born on an Indian reservation in Canada. One of the first things I did when I was young was kick her in the eye. Otherwise, we were very close.
We grew up in a neighborhood filled with people of many different income levels and races. There were abandoned homes a few doors down and vacant lots where you could always find trouble. Everyone in our neighborhood knew where the drug houses were. There were at least two within a block of our home. It wasn't uncommon to hear police sirens at all hours of the night. Once on my way home I was stopped by the Flint police. They put me in the backseat of the squad car and started demanding proof that I lived in the neighborhood. I was young, white, with a nice car. I think they suspected I was on a drug buy.
We had a beautiful brick Tudor-style house with five bedrooms. If it had been built in any other city, it would have been worth more than a million dollars. In Flint, it was worth about $50,000. But whatever Flint's problems, my parents were stick-it-out types. Even if our house had exploded, Mom and Dad would have sat in the rubble and camped out with tents.
My parents often invited random people to come to stay, sometimes for months or years at a time. When my sister and I were very young, Mom and Dad brought foster children into our home. For most of my childhood, young men would move into our house as our temporary brothers. Most of them had been abandoned or abused by their biological parents and, understandably, had severe emotional problems. One guy who shared my bedroom used to hide under a blanket while wearing my sister's bathing suit. Another guy took apart our electronic equipment--cameras, remote controls, VCRs--to see if he could repair them. He couldn't. One day I was sitting with him at the breakfast table when our cat, Mindy, walked by. His eyes darkened, then he pointed at her. "You will pay for your actions," he vowed. (Didn't ask. Didn't want to know.)
Another day one of the older guys who lived with us disappeared. Years later, he showed up with a garbage bag. He was slurring his words and acting strangely. He put down the bag and said he'd come back to ask my dad for my sister's hand in marriage. We weren't sure if the bag was part of a trade (we never opened it). Dad, of course, had no intention of entertaining the offer. "Hey, Dad," I whispered, "let's hear the man out." No one else thought that was funny, especially my sister. Dad took the man for a ride somewhere, and we never saw the guy again. (Didn't ask. Didn't want to know.)
I always knew Mom and Dad would be there for me when I really needed them. But when they got home from work they had to prioritize. My "crisis" over getting a B on a homework assignment didn't rate quite as high as one of the foster kids threatening to burn down our house, being accused of indecent exposure, or breaking into the house next door. So I tended to fend for myself. I did household chores without being told. And I did well in school, at least academically. I even taught myself to read. Socially, well, that was another story. For most of my young adulthood, I was a classic nerd with thick glasses, cowlicky hair, and pale skin. I was shy and quiet, and could go for hours without saying a word. In first grade, everyone in the class made papier-mache puppets of ourselves. Mine didn't have a mouth.
To add to those woes, I was really overweight. But I finally beat my weight problem the old-fashioned way: by becoming a subject of total humiliation. I was with my parents, my sister, and one of our foster brothers on a summer vacation in the Pocono Mountains. We all decided to go horseback riding, which was the most exercise I'd had in my entire life. My usual workout routine was trying to get as many scoops of ice cream as I could before The Dukes of Hazzard came back after commercials.
As we waited to get assigned horses, another vacationing family waited with us. They had two kids, a girl and a boy. The boy was about my age and extremely overweight. I felt bad for him. The horse people brought out horses for everyone--my parents, my sister, the other kids' parents, his sister. Finally, it was down to the fat kid and me. As we stood there, I saw them bring forward the biggest horse I'd ever seen, the T. rex of the equestrian world. I overheard the workers talking on their way over. One asked which one of us he should give Horse-zilla to.
"Give it to that fat kid," the other worker replied.
I felt so terrible for the boy standing right next to me. He could hear them too. How awful. Then they brought that giant horse right up to us and handed the reins...to me. They'd been talking about me! From that day forward, I never drank a glass of regular pop again. I started walking and running. I lost thirty pounds over the next two months, and I did it completely on my own. I was becoming a believer in the power of self-sufficiency.
While my family and I were facing these and other challenges, Flint was facing several as well. Our valiant civic leaders always seemed to have some new scheme certain to pull us out of our Depression-like doldrums. The biggest of these brainstorms was AutoWorld. AutoWorld was, in the wisdom of our leading citizens, a no-lose proposition: an amusement park that would be a tribute to the auto industry and its origins. Except, as it turned out, there were hardly any rides and not a single roller coaster. Instead the "attraction" was a walk-through history of Flint. Come one, come all, to hear about the famous Sit-Down Strike and the birth of the United Auto Workers! All the family will want to listen to a mannequin of town father Jacob Smith talk about Flint's founding! Did you enjoy building dioramas in high school? Now you can actually walk through one--and come back to walk through it again and again. AutoWorld was going to cost millions to build, but everyone was sure it was going to be Flint's salvation. The city tore down homes to build large parking lots for the overflow crowds that would certainly teem in. The Hyatt Regency built a hotel downtown to host all the expected guests. City officials went to the trouble of installing signs on highways and streets to help guide the expected tourists. "What if too many show up for the opening?" the local newspaper fretted.
Predictably, every prominent politician in Michigan rushed to glom on to the AutoWorld magic--and free publicity--on opening day. Governor Jim Blanchard, who was rumored to be considering a run for president, offered his typical bromides. "This is a great day for Flint," he said, "but it is also a great day for the entire state of Michigan!"
"AutoWorld is a magnificent dream come true," Senator Don Riegle gushed. "And many of you dreamers are here tonight."
Not to be outdone, Flint's mayor compared AutoWorld's opening to America's decision to declare independence from Great Britain.
My parents took me to AutoWorld--once. I didn't really care what an assembly line looked like or how an engine was built. I attended for one reason only: to see the Cosby kids. Somehow, AutoWorld had lured Theo and Rudy Huxtable from the hit TV program The Cosby Show. What those two had to do with the world of automobiles I didn't know. They weren't even old enough to drive. But I wanted to see them. So did a whole bunch of other kids. All of us were behind a fence staring at little Rudy, who was five or six years old and probably a millionaire. Some beside me were screaming: "Hi, Rudy!" "Little Rudy!" "Come here, Rudy!" Rudy clung to her fake brother, Theo, for dear life. The crowd was so frenzied that if either kid had moved a millimeter closer to the fence, it would have been all over.
Sadly, for all their glamour, even the Cosby kids couldn't save AutoWorld. It folded within a year. Hordes of people did not want to spend money to walk through a giant diorama after all. Eventually, the entire building--the "miracle"--was torn down. The Hyatt Regency people, who knew a loser when they saw it, pulled up stakes. All the politicians who had come to AutoWorld's grand opening were noticeably absent a...
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