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Ex-White House Aide Burns Bridges With Insidery New Book

President George W. Bush meets with his speechwriting team. Matt Latimer is seated on the couch, to Bush's left. (White House photo)

You've got to wonder why Matt Latimer wrote "Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor." Sure, he might make a few bucks, but the former Pentagon and Bush White House speechwriter gives withering assessments of almost everyone he ever worked with -- big names to little-known insiders. Suffice to say, he'll probably never work in this town again.

The memoir, released Tuesday, made headlines last week when GQ ran an excerpt claiming George W. Bush casually dismissed Sarah Palin with "What is she, the governor of Guam?" -- a slap that comes near the end of the 279-page book. But there's so much more! The conservative young author finds something embarrassing or petty to say about all his colleagues:

  • Josh Bolten, Bush chief of staff: Meeting him "was like getting a proctology exam from a doctor with cold hands. There was one thing I knew about Bolten, however: if I ever needed a ruthless divorce lawyer, he'd be the first person I'd call."

  • Ed Gillespie, former RNC chairman: "Ed was a speechwriter's worst kind of boss: a lackluster writer who thought he was a good one."

  • Dan Bartlett, Bush counselor: "He was part of what I called the president's 'team of buddies' ... well-meaning people who rose to the very top because they were likeable, not supremely qualified."

  • Spence Abraham and John Ashcroft, Bush Cabinet secretaries: "examples of a familiar Washington phenomenon: recycled losers ... no matter how badly a person screwed up, sooner or later he'd turn up somewhere else, forgiven and forgotten."

  • Former senator Bill Frist: "Possessed the charm and personality of warm mayonnaise."

  • Karl Rove, Bush strategist: "He was what all the liberals said he was: the villain. And to make matters worse, a clumsy one at that. ... He'd turned out to be less a Voldemort than a Boris Badenov chasing Rocky and Bullwinkle."

    (Courtesy of The Strategy Center LLC)

    Latimer doesn't spare words when it comes to settling scores with mid-tier administration officials. You know, not the big shots, but the folks who'd have a hard time getting a table at Cafe Milano. Allison Barber, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communications: "Always had a smooth prepared answer. ... I never trust people like that."

    Or presidential aide Marc Thiessen: A "small-government archconservative" who Latimer says bragged about ordering up every free medical test he could get at the Naval hospital in Bethesda.

    Or former boss Nick Smith (R-Mich.), a low-profile congressman who left office in '05, yet gets 20 pages of embarrassing anecdotes: He had designer labels sewn into his cheap suits; he supposedly told a tour group the bullet holes in the House chamber "came from some Puerto Ricans after Eisenhower was assassinated."

    Most of Latimer's targets told us they haven't had a chance to read the book. "If he's suggesting I thought Eisenhower was assassinated, that would be pretty far-fetched," Smith said. "I don't remember Matt Latimer on any of those tours with me. ... I can't remember how long he worked for me. Maybe two months before he went to the Senate."

    Barber, now running her own public affairs firm, said: "I am a communicator, that's what I do for a living. I always try to be prepared. I find it unfortunate if people question that."

    So who got spared? Latimer's former bosses Sen. Jon Kyl, then-Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is working on his memoirs with Latimer, according to William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal. McGurn says he hired Latimer for an unsuccessful year at the White House and calls the book "full of hurt feelings and high schoolish drama."

    The author, of course, defends his book as "a candid, sometimes uncomfortable, look at our system of government and those who help it run, including many who inspire and others who have fallen prey to a Washington buddy system that puts privileges over principles."

    What next? Latimer didn't say, but there's a hint at the end of the book: Hollywood.

  • By The Reliable Source  |  September 23, 2009; 1:02 AM ET
    Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Surreal Estate
    Next: Read This: First Wives Club Edition


    The Dream Factory?

    Poor, dumb cluck. They'll eat him alive.

    Posted by: dadada | September 23, 2009 5:22 AM | Report abuse

    Matt Latimer's book reminds me of that Saturday Night Live skit about the never quite was "has been" ballplayer, Chico Escuella. After his unremarkable career ("Besball been bery, bery good to me") Chico wrote his tell-all book, "Bad Stuff 'Bout Da' Mets."

    Well done, Mr. Latimer. You've eclipsed Chico Escuella in the hearts of your countrymen.

    Posted by: MadElephant | September 23, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse

    'team of buddies' ... well-meaning people who rose to the very top because they were likeable, not supremely qualified." This sound like the bush/cheney administration,worst in US history.

    Posted by: jama452 | September 23, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

    What, he didn't take on Dick Cheney? I guess he's confessional, not suicidal.

    Posted by: cfow1 | September 23, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

    That's really funny about Marc Thiessen and the medical test orgy. Isn't it always the small govt whiners who do the most to milk the system?

    Posted by: MollieKaye | September 23, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

    I don't think Rumsfeld was necessarily "spared". According to HuffPo, among other items in the book Rummy referred to Wikipedia as "Wiki-wakka"

    Based on what's rumored to be in the book I'm surprised Lattimer is working with Rumsfeld on his memoirs. He definitely appears toxic now.

    Posted by: gateway_joe | September 23, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

    Allison Barber"Always had a smooth prepared answer. ... I never trust people like that."
    She must have clearly and concisely turned him down for a date. Smart move.

    Posted by: Voter4Integrity | September 24, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

    I can’t believe this guy got a book deal. I worked with Matt Latimer for three years in the SECDEF’s office. He is a sycophant’s sycophant and represents absolutely everything wrong with Washington.

    If he had an ounce of character he would have quit his job had he really held every single one of his co workers in such disregard. He was also one terrible speech writer. Rumsfeld’s markups of his speeches often looked liked a second grader’s English paper after being graded – loaded with corrections, changes, typos, incorrect facts and complete deletions of entire sections.

    I do love that he plans to head off to Hollywood. As they often say, DC is like Hollywood, only for ugly people. Perhaps that is why he did so well here. Good luck in Hollywood Matt, your fiction belongs there.

    Posted by: california22207 | September 24, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

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