"I copied down a lot of his phrases and weird expressions, and I would just sprinkle everything I wrote with those expressions, whether they were appropriate or not," Swaim said.
Some of those phrases: "speaks volumes," "a whole host of," "in large measure," "pearls of wisdom," "unique," "fabulous," and especially "given the fact that." When giving a speech or discussing policy, Sanford would demand the writers give him three points, never two.
Sanford preferred to write his own speeches when he had the time, so Swaim was consigned to writing speeches for less-than-momentous occasions — the ground-breaking and ribbon-cutting ceremonies that take up much of a governor's face time with the public.
"I thought I was going to be this great speechwriter, stringing grand phrases together and soaring oratory and all this," Swaim said. "I was basically just coming up with cute things that you could say at a gathering of the National Square Dancing Society, or a grand opening at the Heinz factory. So, coming up with stories about ketchup."
Matt Latimer can sympathize. He became a speechwriter for then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2004. He recalls receiving a "snowflake," one of Rumsfeld's infamous brief one-page notes, from the secretary on his writing preferences.
"One of my favorite snowflakes he sent me was, 'I never use the word "very." It is a very weak word,' " Latimer said.
In 2007, Latimer moved from the Pentagon to the White House to write speeches for President George W. Bush. This was in the late stages of Bush's presidency, when the Iraq War was going sideways and the economy was collapsing in on itself.
"It was less like Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing and more like The Office," Latimer wrote in his 2009 book Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor.
Like Swaim, Latimer often found himself frustrated with the layers of bureaucracy involved in writing more high-profile speeches, so he gravitated toward ceremonial speeches. One of the speeches Latimer is most proud of writing was when Bush presented the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Here's an excerpt of that speech:
"I'm interested in a story about a young man who was so worried that the Army might change its mind about allowing him to fly that he drove immediately to the train station; he left his car as well as $1,000 worth of photography equipment. He never saw his car. He never saw his camera. But he became a flyer. These men in our presence felt a special sense of urgency. They were fighting two wars: one was in Europe, and the other took place in the hearts and minds of our citizens. That's why we're here."
It's a near-perfect blend of prose, research, anecdote, and commitment to the greater purpose of our country. And even Latimer, who by that point already felt some disenchantment toward his job, still recognized the importance of delivering all those elements — that Bush's audience deserved to hear something good.