Q&A With Mark Sanford’s “Speechwriter”

AN INTERVIEW WITH BARTON SWAIM … || By FITSNEWS ||  Today marks the release date of “The Speechwriter,” a critically acclaimed work of historical fiction written by Barton Swaim. Swaim worked for former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford during his second term in office – witnessing his dramatic 2009 political implosion….


|| By FITSNEWS ||  Today marks the release date of “The Speechwriter,” a critically acclaimed work of historical fiction written by Barton Swaim.

Swaim worked for former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford during his second term in office – witnessing his dramatic 2009 political implosion.  He’s currently with the S.C. Policy Council, a group which supports many of the limited government reforms Sanford once championed.

But not anymore …

Elected to the U.S. Congress in 2013, Sanford has become just another status quo sellout.  The embodiment of everything he used to rail against.

(See here, here and here for examples).

Anyway, we’ve written a few times already regarding Swaim’s book – including its depiction of Sanford as well as the clumsy damage control the “Luv Gov” has done in anticipation of its release.

There’s a reason Swaim’s book  – published by Simon and Schuster – is receiving rave reviews, too.  It’s brilliant.  It’s not a “tell-all,” nor is it even really an attack on Sanford.  Instead, “The Speechwriter” is a dead-on depiction of life inside a modern day political spin room – with Swaim demonstrating on every page the supreme talent he brought to the table.

Talent which Sanford wasted …

As for the politician chronicled by the book?  Swaim nails him.  “The Speechwriter” doesn’t just provide us the occasional glimpse into Sanford’s confounding eccentricities and chronic narcissism – it literally exposes the flawed essence of the man.

And unlike a lot of those perusing its pages, we speak from experience.

FITS founding editor Will Folks – who served as Sanford’s press secretary from 2001-2005 – conducted a brief interview with Swaim on the occasion of his book’s release.

Here’s that exchange …


WILL FOLKS: Before we get into this I’ve got to ask … why the fake names? Everybody knows who “the governor” is, obviously, but why the secrecy on the other characters?

BARTON SWAIM: Not using the governor’s name was my way of saying, ‘This story isn’t about Mark Sanford.’ It’s about me and what I learned about politics. Why the other fake names? Well, the highfalutin answer is: Because I wanted to somehow universalize the story — to make it about something bigger than South Carolina politics in the 2000s. The plainer answer: Because using pseudonyms is more fun. I mean, right?

WILL FOLKS: Your book’s gotten some love from some pretty big names. How’d you get the manuscript in their hands? And were you surprised to see so many noted authors and big-name politicos chiming in so favorably?

BARTON SWAIM: I told a friend in New York that I had written this, and he put me in touch with an editor, and before long it was accepted. None of it happened through the normal channels — I don’t even have an agent.

Now, was I surprised that big name politicos like it? Sure I was. But then, that’s why I labored over this short book for several years — I wanted and expected it to be read and appreciated by a lot of people, including the guys with the big names. We write to be read, don’t we?

WILL FOLKS: So your book has already been blasted – albeit passive-aggressively – by none other than Mark Sanford. He says you were never part of his “circle of trust,” basically implying that you couldn’t possibly know what you’re talking about. What did you think of his comments?

BARTON SWAIM: I can’t blame Sanford for being prickly about it. At the time, all he or anybody else had access to was the promo material — they didn’t know what was in the book. But nobody is going to read this book and think it’s a hit-job on Sanford. He should relax — it’s not going to do him any damage, and anyhow he’s vastly more capable of inflicting damage on Mark Sanford’s political career than I ever will be.

Still, it’s true what he said. I wasn’t part of his “inner circle.” Nor do I claim that I was. I guess he’s assuming that someone would write a book about the allegedly important decisions made by the inner circle of the Sanford administration. Please. Who would even publish such a book?

WILL FOLKS: You’ve got Mark Sanford absolutely nailed in terms of his mannerisms, demeanor, speech patterns, eccentricities, etc. Reading your book was like stepping into a time machine and being back inside his office again – for which I have to say I hate you a little bit. Are you hearing that from other people, though, how well you captured him?

BARTON SWAIM: Yeah, but it was my job to study the guy’s word choice for four years. If I didn’t get him right, I wouldn’t have been much of a speechwriter I guess.

But what I really hope is that I captured Jakie Knotts’ speech patterns too. Maybe I’ll hear from him?

WILL FOLKS: Since going back to Congress Mark Sanford has endorsed fiscally liberal Speaker John Boehner, embraced the market-distorting Export-Import Bank and voted to give Barack Obama fast track power to ram a crony capitalist trade deal through Congress. What do you think of this latest stage in the ongoing ideological evolution of the “Luv Gov?” And what – if anything – is next for him politically?

BARTON SWAIM: “Don’t avoid the question” is great advice, and I try to follow it. But in this case I’m going to duck out. I gather Sanford ran for Congress because he just can’t stay out of politics, but beyond that I don’t know what he’s up to, and I leave it to the voters of the first district to figure out.



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Will Folks


erneba July 14, 2015 at 11:43 am

There’s just not much going on that has been exciting for the last few days.
Bring back the damn flag.

shifty henry July 14, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Gee, are things so dull for you today that you can’t even entertain a doubt?

erneba July 14, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I have been in and out… doing some yard work today since it is cloudy and cooler outside. Besides shoveling a lot of shit on this blog, I am outside shoveling dirt into holes the three dogs have dug up next to the house.
And I have entertained some doubtfuls over the years, lucky on some, bombed on others.

shifty henry July 14, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Dr. Shifty: “you’re normal” ….. at least as of 7.14.2015

shifty henry July 14, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Okay, I’m pulling this one out of the hat just to brighten your day. This one has never appeared on Fitsnews before today.
An explorer was captured by ferocious natives in the jungles of New Guinea. As they prepared to kill him, he came up with the idea of doing something to impress them. They might think he was some kind of god and let him live. Whipping out his cigarette lighter, he flicked it, and it lit. The natives backed away. A murmur went through their ranks. The chief approached the explorer and said, “That’s amazing. We never saw a lighter work the first time!”

erneba July 14, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Being an ex-smoker, going on many decades ago, I can appreciate the reliably of a good lighter.
And along those lines, have you seen the price of cigarettes these days, almost fifty dollars a cartoon. I bet lung cancer will greatly diminish over the next few years.
When I was in the Navy, many decades ago, Camels were $.90 carton, Marlboros were $1.00 a carton at sea. Liquor (Jim Beam) was $2.50 a quart. Bad habits were easily financed.

shifty henry July 14, 2015 at 7:23 pm

I picked up the smoking habit on the Greek island the Navy assigned to me. I smoked (and liked) Camels (no filter)/Benson & Hedges/Players/and some Greek cigarettes, but the Turk cigs were way too strong – just like their coffee. The movie theaters had ash trays on the back of each seat, the Reo buses with 50 gears allowed smoking. Now I stick to my pipes and a selection of inexpensive little cigars.

erneba July 14, 2015 at 7:58 pm

The Med was nice. I went over there twice while I was in. On a destroyer tender. we would tie up in Naples. WE spent a week in Rota, Cannes and Malta on each trip.
On the second trip, we were called into Polamares, Spain when the B-52 and KC-135 collided in mid air, dropping four atomic bombs in Spanish water and on shore.

shifty henry July 14, 2015 at 8:16 pm

I love the Greek people and had a great time for about two years. No uniforms or inspections, a bachelor hotel with maid service and a 24 hour bar and restaurant. Made friends with some British air force guys, one of whom was the assistant manager of the base ‘cinema’ and in exchange for those small Hav-a-Tampas always got in for free. I met my wife, a German girls, in night school for the Greek language.

ted July 14, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Wonder if the book will go into details about that China trip and just who traveled in first class?

Same 'ol Same 'ol July 14, 2015 at 5:09 pm

yep, can’t forget that one, the “I don’t remember” defense is bullshit, for sure. You KNOW if you’re in first on an international trip vs. cattle class.

nitrat July 14, 2015 at 5:37 pm

I want to know if Barton Swaim was ghost writer of the homage to atheist Ayn Rand that Mark had published in Newsweek in 2009 shortly before he went to Argentina.

Peter July 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm

We know he was sadly lacking as boyfriend husband, and employee. Guess it is no surprise that he misses the mark as boss man too.

PSA July 14, 2015 at 2:01 pm

For insight into a man like Sanford read Lundy Bancroft’s “Why does he do that?” Or, George Simon’s “In Sheep’s Clothing” and “Character Disturbance.”

a shame, no shame July 15, 2015 at 6:56 pm

“As bizarre as it sounds, the governor found all the
negative media attention irresistible. The crowds of reporters, the
incessant headlines, the necessity of responding every day to some new
self-inflicted absurdity—there was something about it all that made him
thrive.” as per Barton Swain, The Speechwriter

Read more:

CNSYD July 14, 2015 at 4:05 pm

“Critically acclaimed”
By who? Anyone of who really matters and/or is of repute?

YallCalmDown July 14, 2015 at 6:12 pm

From the book’s page:
“This is the truest book I’ve read about politics in some time, hilarious and sordid and wonderfully written.” (Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors)

“Barton Swaim’s little jewel of a memoir reads like the best political fiction. Beyond taking you into the core of an epic political meltdown, Swaim’s funny story also illuminates the eroding standards of language, the oddities of office life and the exquisite torture of working for a narcissistic and unappreciative boss.” (Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies)

“At last: a political memoir 100-percent free of axe-grinding, score-settling, and self-promotion. What’s left? A beautifully written, hilariously human inside look at a certain governor’s ruinous, um, hike on the Appalachian Trail.” (David Von Drehle, author of Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year)

“Politicians don’t always come with warm smiles and narcissistic dispositions, but it was Barton Swaim’s bad luck to work for one, and our good luck that he stayed long enough to tell his very funny tale.” (Jeffrey Frank, author of Ike and Dick)

“Swaim’s book is an uproariously funny and sometimes just weird story of idealistic belief and politics corrupted by narcissism and ruined by scandal. Unfortunately it’s all too true.” (Karl Rove, author of Courage and Consequences)

“It would be hard to find a better book in the year leading up to the 2016 election than Swaim’s memoir. . . . His account is unlike the usual political insider’s story. For one thing, it’s better written, funnier too, blessedly concise, and free of huffing and puffing.” (Christianity Today)

“A highly readable account of [Swaim’s] three years in the governor’s employ. Part All the King’s Men and part Horrible Bosses, it’s fascinating and almost impossible to put down.” (Bookpage)

“The narrative is strongest in its quiet reflection of the end of Swaim’s political innocence. As [Swaim] came to realize, democracy—with its promise of liberty and justice for all—is ultimately based on rhetorical manipulation of the masses.” (Kirkus)

“An entertaining inside look at state politics and how the wheels of executive office grind. . . . Demonstrating empathy mixed with appropriate caution . . . [Swaim’s] report on his experiences as a governor’s idea man is a fine, sometimes brilliant foray into the nature of contemporary politics, the charismatic narcissists who seek high elected office, and the enablers who allow them to dance in the spotlight.” (Publishers Weekly)

Where in the world is MBC? July 14, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Like Jenny, this guy is fairly demure during an interview on the topic of Sanford. In that regard, Sanford lucked out. His avid constituency doesn’t really care to see much beyond his symptoms at the surface which they can spackle over as long as he keeps up the appearance of fighting for them. The DC Circus is a perfect stage for that sleight of hand.

nitrat July 14, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Mark Sanford ran for Congress because he wants a job with perks, junkets and benefits and he does not have the talent, skills or intellect to make the kind of living he can make off the taxpayers anywhere else for any meaningful period of time.
And, he doesn’t have to work anything approaching full time 40 hours a week as a governor or Congressman.
Look up the profile the Charlotte Observer did on this guy when he was running for governor in 2002. His private sector job experience is very limited. He has never lived in the real world.
Check out the review of this book in the Washington Post for some details of Mark’s craziness. And, where you can also check out Mark and Maria returning to the DC social scene after the Facebook ‘breakup’.


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