Ask not whether Ted Sorensen wrote “Ask not what your country can do for you...,” the famous line from John Kennedy’s inaugural. He says today he doesn’t remember.I loved that phrase, "Washington speeches often aren’t arguments so much as word-delivery machines"
But whether he wrote that gem or not, Mr. Sorensen, who was one of JFK’s closest advisers, remains perhaps the greatest Washington speechwriter of modern times.
In his memoirs, he drops this bit of advice for aspiring political wordsmiths: “Choose each word as a precision tool.”
Remember that the next time you’re listening to some politician try to sell you something. Washington speeches often aren’t arguments so much as word-delivery machines. They’re sprinkled with bons mots that in themselves are intended to induce in you, the listener, a particular emotional response.