Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has tapped renowned speechwriter Matthew Scully to assist with campaign communications in the lead up to the GOP convention in Tampa.
The selection of Scully, which was first reported by National Review’s Robert Costa, brings an experienced and widely respected wordsmith into Ryan’s ever-growing orbit. Here are three facts about Scully, how he made his name, and what he brings to the Republican ticket.
1). He knows how to write a speech: After a long tenure as one of George W. Bush’s top speechwriters, Scully was picked to help craft then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s well-received address to the Republican National Convention in 2008 that helped cement her status as a national star. Informed that Palin was John McCain’s running mate just days before the convention, he wrote much of her speech in a single night.
The speech was met with wild applause by the Republican faithful and moved even future Palin-skeptic Nicolle Wallace to tears. “Jubilant choruses of ‘She knocked it out of the park’ and ‘One of the greatest speeches ever’ were heard throughout the room, and some people gave, yes, Obama-style fist bumps,” journalist Robert Draper reported a month after the convention. “When the tall, unassuming figure of Palin’s speechwriter, Matthew Scully, shuffled into the bar, he was treated to the first standing ovation of his life.”
“You don’t get better than Scully,” his old speechwriting colleague David Frum told The Daily Caller. “He’s got a wonderful gentleness with his writing style, and I think it’s going to be a very fruitful match [with Ryan] because Ryan of course is a numbers fiend, and he has a great command of the numbers, but most people don’t think in numbers. So Scully will be very helpful in helping Ryan connect in words and images and stories that are less abstract.”
2). He knows how to settle a score: Before the Palin speech, Scully was perhaps best known outside of Washington for his 2006 cover story for The Atlantic eviscerating his old boss, chief Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson. The article paints Gerson as an almost pathological self-promoter who leaked stories to the press and took credit for others’ work.
Among the most damning details of Scully’s piece was an anecdote he passed along about one of Bush’s first meetings with his communications staff after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. According to Scully, Bush entered the room and announced, “We’re at war.” However, when the story surfaced in a Washington Post article written by Bob Woodward, Bush’s statement had changed to “Mike, we’re at war,” which led Scully to believe that Gerson had been the source of the quote.
Scully also alleged that while the rest of Bush’s writing staff was hidden away crafting an important speech, Gerson, pen and paper in hand, left to meet reporters at a Starbucks and pretend he was its sole author.
“My most vivid memory of Mike at Starbucks is one I have labored in vain to shake,” Scully wrote. “We were working on a State of the Union address in [speechwriter John McConnell’s] office when suddenly Mike was called away for an unspecified appointment, leaving us to ‘keep going.’”
“We learned only later, from a chance conversation with his secretary, where he had gone, and it was a piece of Washington self-promotion for the ages: At the precise moment when the State of the Union address was being drafted at the White House by John and me, Mike was off pretending to craft the State of the Union in longhand for the benefit of a reporter.”
Gerson later landed himself a columnist position at The Washington Post.
3. He’s a vegan: Scully wrote a book arguing for the better treatment of animals called “Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and The Call to Mercy.” Raised Catholic like Ryan, Scully believes that The Bible’s injunction for man to “have dominion” over other species requires us treat all living things with respect, and extends that philosophy to the point of personally abstaining from eating meat, dairy and other animal products.
“I used to walk with him through Lafayette Square, and I remember him feeding the squirrels,” Frum, who shared an office with Scully at The White House, told TheDC. “He was very wry about it. You know, there’s this famous joke about vegans, ‘How do you know the vegan at the dinner party?’ And the answer is ‘don’t worry, they’ll tell you.’ But he was just wry and gentle and never made an issue of it.”
But Scully’s veganism, according to Frum, is shaped by a deep religious sensibility that precludes self-righteous proselytizing and the use of terms like “animal rights.”
“He’s very funny about it,” Frum said. “There’s just a deep lack of guile to him. He’s just the most grateful person, with tremendous humor.”