Vol. 40, No. 5

A Note from the Chairman Emeritus

Some are saying that the Republican Party is out of ideas. And we know that, at times, the party in power is tempted to eschew good ideas for the sake of remaining in power.

Keeping our Nation Secure

The path to victory begins with making the right choice.

Promoting Energy Independence

We must continue our efforts to increase production and develop alternate fuels.

Strengthening Health Care

Reforming Medicaid must be a priority next year.

Improving Education

A track record of success and a desire to do more.

Protecting the Environment

We must stay true to the heritage of Theodore Roosevelt.

Keeping Taxes Low

Let’s not turn back the clock on progress that’s been made.

Limiting Spending: We’ve done it before; we can — and  must — do it again

We’ve done it before; we can – and must – do it again.

Q&A with Landon Parvin

The legendary GOP speechwriter talks about the importance of words in politics and why Republicans are facing such a challenge.

A Key to Victory for Republicans this Fall

We must adhere to the principles on which our base was built.

A Key to Victory for Republicans this Fall

We can’t forget about Centrists and Independents

Reagan in Youngstown

It’s been said that politics these days is fought along the margins, with each party trying to motivate its political base while the political center is virtually ignored.

Ripon Profile of Eric Cantor

We believe that individuals, with inherent ingenuity and ambition, solve problems far more effectively than does government.

Q&A with Landon Parvin

Landon Parvin is a ghostwriter for political and corporate leaders. He has written for three U.S. presidents, three first ladies and four foreign prime ministers, in addition to governors, senators, cabinet officers and other public figures. 

Parvin served as a writer for both Ronald and Nancy Reagan during the Reagan Administration. In 1984, he left the White House and moved to London to serve as the Executive Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. Upon returning from London, Parvin became an independent writer. 

He helped Ronald Reagan, after leaving office, put together his book of speeches called Speaking My Mind. He co-produced the documentary film,Carnuaba: A Son’s Memoir, in which a son retraces his father’s 1935 expedition to Brazil and discovers himself.  In 2003, Parvin spent two months in California working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in his successful bid for governor. He is also widely recognized for the jokes and humorous skits that he has written and developed over the years for political leaders. 

Parvin received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, where he graduated with high honors, and then a master’s degree from Cornell University. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with his wife, Alice, and son, Maxwell.


RF: Why do words still matter in politics at a time when pictures and images seem to count for so much? 

Parvin: Well, words still matter if they mean something.  Unfortunately, political speeches are too often empty clichés with no intellectual or emotional content. You can see the true power of words, however, when someone articulates an unarticulated truth, such as when Reagan called upon Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” It was so obvious but no president had ever said it. The logic of its truth was unassailable. 

Landon Parvin with President Reagan in the Oval Office in 1983. (Credit: Ronald Reagan Library)
Landon Parvin with President Reagan in the Oval Office in 1983. (Credit: Ronald Reagan Library)

RF: Republicans have been struggling in the polls this entire year. Is that because they’ve been using the wrong words to sell their product, or because they are trying to sell a product the public no longer wants to buy? 

Parvin: It’s because they don’t have a product. When the Contract with America passed, I helped Newt Gingrich with the only prime time address to the nation that a Speaker of the House had ever given.  The networks put extra lights on the Capitol that night. I remember there was such excitement in the air. Where is the excitement of  Republican ideas today? My ironclad rule of speechwriting, which is based on painful experience, is that the speechwriter is the first to know when a campaign has nothing to say because he is the one who has to put it down on paper. I think that’s why we are struggling. 

RF: Ronald Reagan defined modern conservatism, and yet he won the support of many Democrats who had never voted for a Republican before. How did he do this and what lessons does it hold for Republicans today?

Parvin: Before voters trust your message they have to trust you. I think people trusted the sincerity of Ronald Reagan and that extended to the sincerity of his beliefs. They liked his geniality. But there was another element. I think people knew that although Reagan was conservative, he was open to new ideas. I am not sure we Republicans today convey a sense we are open and eager for new ideas. Many of our fall-on-their sword constituencies are not open and flexible, and they have come to define us too much.  

My Ironclad Rule of speechwriting, which is based on painful experience, is that the speechwriter is the first to know when a campaign has nothing to say because he is the one who has to put it down on paper.

RF: Let’s return to words for a moment. If you were writing speeches for a Republican Member of Congress this fall, what would be your one paragraph pitch that lays out in a nutshell why he or she should be reelected?

Parvin: I hate to keep sounding downbeat, but I would be hard put to come up with that paragraph. How can we Republicans credibly argue that we are for spending restraint or limited government in light of what Congress has passed? In fact, I am inclined to think it might be good if we lost the House. Maybe it would force us to define ourselves in new ways. I am not so heretical that I would want us to lose the Senate, however.  

RF: Okay then, if you were writing a speech for a Republican Senator, whose victory would help ensure Republicans kept control of the Senate, what would you say? What would your one paragraph pitch for reelection be?

Parvin: I said I hoped we would keep the Senate. I didn’t say I knew how to do it. The Republican Senate doesn’t have any more of a compelling argument than the Republican House. “We’re not as bad as the Democrats,” is what it comes down to right now. Let’s hope it works. 

The secret of a good political joke is that it is based on the vulnerability and humanity of the politician.
Parvin wrote Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2003 Inaugural Address.
Parvin wrote Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2003 Inaugural Address.

RF: Finally, you are known for not only having a way with words, but for having a way with humor. What is the secret of a good political joke, and why do you think there seems to be so little humor in politics these days?  

Parvin: The secret of a good political joke is that it is based on the vulnerability and humanity of the politician.  The reason for the dearth of political humor is due to two things. One, politics has become incredibly bitter and personal. And two, politicians think that humor means doing zingers on their opponent. Every election cycle I get requests from campaigns to do funny zingers as soundbites for the evening news. I turn all that down. The purpose of political humor is to make yourself more likeable—not to stick it to your opponent.  Once you are perceived as likeable, then you can good-naturedly tease your opponent.