Study Guide

Michael Waldman in 1996 State of the Union Address

By William Clinton

Michael Waldman

Waldman was Bill Clinton's primary speechwriter. We say "primary" because presidential speeches are more Modern Family than Modernist novel. Like a TV show, these puppies are written by committee.

Just ask Waldman, who once explained to PBS reporters how the 1996 State of the Union's most famous line got written. It was originally supposed to say, "the era of big government is over, but the era of every man for himself must never begin." After heated debate in the White House, the gang decided that this line was too sexist.

So the qualifier got stripped out.

Waldman went on to remark that he felt the speech killed off liberalism, albeit accidentally. Given that he is a staunch liberal, who has written books on gun control and voters' rights' laws this might qualify as messing up at your job.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice (of which Waldman is now the President), he worked on over 2,000 speeches during his speechwriting career.

Most of us balk at writing a mere 2,000 words, so this might make Waldman the greatest athlete of the '90s—from his wrist to the tips of his fingers.