Putting Words in Obama’s Mouth

You might not recognize the guy above but you’ve heard his words, through the mouth of Barack Obama. He is Jon Favreau, head speechwriter for Obama and the subject of a profile in The New York Times.

Mr. Favreau, or Favs, as everyone calls him, looks every bit his age, with a baby face and closely shorn stubble. And he leads a team of two other young speechwriters: 26-year-old Adam Frankel, who worked with John F. Kennedy’s adviser and speechwriter Theodore C. Sorensen on his memoirs, and Ben Rhodes, who, at 30, calls himself the “elder statesman” of the group and who helped write the Iraq Study Group report as an assistant to Lee H. Hamilton.

Like several others backing Obama, Favreau is a previous Kerry aide. Favreau obtained the position on the recommendation of Robert Gibbs, Obama’s communications director and prior spokesman for John Kerry.

Favreau commented on the job of speechwriter:

“The trick of speechwriting, if you will, is making the client say your brilliant words while somehow managing to make it sound as though they issued straight from their own soul,” said the writer Christopher Buckley, who was a speechwriter for the first President Bush. “Imagine putting the words ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’ into the mouth of Ron Paul, and you can see the problem.”

Many Democratic candidates have attempted to evoke both John and Robert Kennedy, but Senator Obama seems to have had more success than most. It helps that Mr. Obama seems to have the élan that John Kennedy had, not to mention a photogenic family.

For his inspiration, Mr. Favreau said, “I actually read a lot of Bobby” Kennedy.

“I see shades of J.F.K., R.F.K.,” he said, and then added, “King.”

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