Rantz: Gov. Inslee must fire his horrible speechwriters

Dec 17, 2018, 5:51 AM | Updated: 6:02 am
Governor Inslee...
Governor Inslee (AP)

As Governor Jay Inslee embarks on a presidential campaign — despite a horrific poll in Iowa — he will have to fire his entire team of speechwriters if he wants any semblance of a shot.

While his campaign will undoubtedly fail, I’d prefer he not embarrass this state by being the first candidate drop out. And to survive the early stages of a campaign, it’s imperative that he lose the over-the-top, verbose speeches that he seems enamored with.

Inslee’s speeches are like turduckens: he stuffs a bad poem, inside a metaphor that doesn’t work, inside a speech that tries too hard. He then sprinkles it with alliteration, simile, hyperbole and I swear I’ve heard zeugma a few times!

Obama, Inslee is not.

While I disagreed with much of his politics, there’s no doubt that President Barack Obama was a skilled orator. He had a cool, suave delivery when he needed it; a somber, conciliatory tone when the occasion called for it. His writers knew how to deliver substance with great style and pacing. It helped him win two elections.

Inslee? When he speaks, it hurts him. He stuffs every speech to the brim with his attempt at bad poetry. In the end, his speeches come across like a 9th grader trying way too hard to impress his English teacher who has to constantly remind him to edit. Rather than use metaphors and supposedly-powerful imagery to make a point, he drills it into the ground.

“I came here today because the health of our children are at risk across the State of Washington,” Inslee said during the wildfires that blanketed the state with smoke. He stood there with children behind him. “Unless we act, they will continue to be covered by this pall of smoke on their futures.”

Get it? Pall of smoke… on their futures. Clever. But he couldn’t stop there!

“What these children represent is an effort in the State of Washington to give them what they deserve, which is clean air,” Inslee continued. “They deserve better than a smoky future. They deserve lungs that breathe clean Washington air, not smoke from hundreds of forest fires.”

See? He did it again: smoky future. Surely, he’s done, right?

“Today, this smoke may be opaque. But when it comes to children’s health, it has made something very clear, and that is the State of Washington needs to pass this clean air initiative, so these children can breathe clean air,” he continued, not able to stop himself.

This isn’t a one-time thing. It’s the hallmark of most of speeches: cram every literary device into every second of every speech hoping, praying, that one gets traction and is turned into a TV soundbite.

Just last week, whilst trying to save the orcas, he delivered an over-the-top speech.

“We share so much with the orcas, we share about the same body temperature, we share about the same heart beat rate, we share close familial social interactions and bonds, and we share the need to defeat environmental degradation,” Inslee declared. “When we save the orcas from toxins, when we save the orcas from climate change, when we save them from pollution — we save ourselves.”

He wouldn’t stop there.

“Our Washington state orcas are being pushed to the edge of eternal silence,” he waxed poetic.

Like a paddleboarder being pulled into the sea by a strong current, Inslee sometimes gets lost in his own speeches.

“There are people who have left war-torn regions, chaos, mass poverty, many of them who have relatives here who are citizens of the United States, who have crossed the abyss from disaster to hope, who are ready and landed in the home of the land and the brave, who are allowed to get on airplanes to cross the oceans to a life of hope and who are now torn apart from the relatives who are waiting at the end of the gate…” Inslee vomited. “What kind of inhumane attitude allows that to happen in this nation?”

What kind of self-respecting staffer lets Inslee speak when he’s so unprepared?

Inslee’s speech writing problems are more pronounced when he and his team craft a talking point he intends to deliver live on TV. Sometimes it works because he’s given a softball question.

“If we were a stock, we would be a strong buy — a recommendation,” Inslee told Morning Joe in an easy simile to discuss the midterm elections.

But sometimes it backfires, like when he tries to call out the president on arming select, trained school staff members. After trying to deliver a scripted, biting criticism, the president interrupts Inslee to explain why the governor’s claim was a mischaracterization. Stumbling, Inslee tries to get back on his scripted line that made literally no sense in the context he delivered it: “We need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening.”

Perhaps it’s not speech writers to blame. When I can see the speech he’s reading, I assumed because it’s not in crayon that someone else wrote it for him. But a quick look at his twitter feed, you see Inslee employs the same tired devices.

Responding to the news Mick Mulvaney was installed as acting chief of staff, Inslee tweeted: “Perfect. An ‘acting’ Chief of Staff for an ‘acting’ President.”


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Rantz: Gov. Inslee must fire his horrible speechwriters