And Just Think: Abe Lincoln Wrote The Gettysburg Address All By Himself On The Back Of An Envelope…

Hey, it’s only money!

The New York Times today reveals that New York’s governor Kathy Hochul spent about 2 million dollars to outside consultants for help in preparing her 2022 and 2023 “State of the State” speeches. Apparently no previous governor had done that, or anything close: they relied on their staffs for speech ghostwriting.

The extravagant expenditure cannot be justified, though even as the Times exposes it, the paper tries to rationalize Hochul’s waste of taxpayer funds, emphasizing repeatedly that “the speech is among the most significant a governor delivers each year, laying the groundwork for months of negotiations and browbeating over the executive budget and other priorities.” Sure. It’s a speech. It’s not a contract, and what a governor says in it doesn’t commit her to anything, nor is anyone likely to remember what she said within a week of its delivery (especially the way Hochul talks). To be fair to the Times, Hochul is a Democrat, and the Times sees its job as protecting the party, even as the paper reports on inconvenient facts. When it chooses to….

Paying 2 million bucks for help on two speeches not only indicates unseemly insecurity in an elected official, it demonstrates no respect for budgets, priorities, or the public’s hard-earned tax payments. The consultants who got the job also were recipients of non-bid contracts. (Heck, I would have written one of those speeches for some Red Sox -Yankee tickets!)

The arrogance of our current class of elected leaders is a disfiguring blotch on the face of democracy, one that will only get uglier until voters hold them accountable for displays like Hochul’s.


12 thoughts on “And Just Think: Abe Lincoln Wrote The Gettysburg Address All By Himself On The Back Of An Envelope…

  1. Red Socks-Yankee tickets? Ouch. If those are anything like Rockies tickets, that’s a chunk of change. My dad’s seats have gone up to $400-500 per game when he used to get season tickets for that much. He’s been relegated to the nose bleed section and has usually found better ways to spend his money.

    And for those kinds of speeches? I think you may be overcharging. Not as much as the actual speech writers did, but still.

  2. I’m a decent writer, I think. A little quick math suggests that at the rate Hochul was paying, I’d have made more for writing 1000 words or so of one of those speeches–the length of one of my shorter blog posts–than I ever made in a year as a full professor.
    Two observations:
    1). No one is that good.
    2). Boy, did I choose the wrong profession.

  3. For almost ten years, I wrote (or in a few cases rewrote) the vast majority of official communications that came from my Sheriff’s mouth, or that appeared in print under his name, including a weekly crime prevention column for our local newspaper. This was assigned staff work that was added to my “normal” duties as Assistant Chief and later Chief Deputy (and doesn’t count the speeches and other election campaign writing I did on my own time). My total salary for those ten years would have fallen short of a million bucks by about $350K. I’ll have to remind him of what a bargain I was. (The succeeding sheriff wanted almost no help with his communications, so the decrease in my workload was almost like getting a raise.)
    Lincoln did not write the Gettysburg address on an envelope, nor did he write it on the train enroute to Gettysburg. There are several draft copies of the speech obviously not written on a lurching, swaying train car, although it is generally agreed that the final draft was not written until after his arrival at Gettysburg. Lincoln was desperate to reframe the purpose of the war to a war-weary Northern populace, and he used the occasion to create the “narrative” (in today’s term for “myth”) that it was the North that was fighting for the right of self-determination and government of, for and by the people, rather than a war for conquest of the South.

  4. On the other end of this bell curve, a former president of my college was ultimately cashiered for putting together a speech with material he lifted from the internet without attribution. It was a real kerfuffle because the Goldman Sachs guys who run the college in their spare time really liked the president. He was “a good guy.” Of course, it was a glaring honor code violation. Why the president didn’t task someone (even a hired speechwriter) with writing the speech if he didn’t have time to write one himself is beyond me. The situation struck me as incompetent delegation or task management.

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