NEW YORK – The end of the Bush administration also marks the end of “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches,” an enduring feature on David Letterman’s “Late Show” that pokes fun at the president’s less eloquent moments.
“Late Show” writer Tom Ruprecht may remember it as the time he was sprung – from hours spent in his office watching Bush speeches to find those magic moments.
Friday’s show will feature a retrospective of the best “Great Moments,” as when the president talked of the right hand not knowing what the left was doing, while motioning with the incorrect hand.
Ruprecht was something of a student of Bush’s speaking style. “I first noticed that he would often say things in the cadence of a joke, but it wasn’t a joke,” he said, “but the audience would laugh.”
One day he heard Bush talking about a triple cheeseburger and thought it was something odd for a president to say. He thought of contrasting the comment with some of the memorable lines delivered by former presidents, and a segment was born.
It went over so well that he followed the first “Great Moment” on March 30, 2006, with some 377 more. And that doesn’t even count the dozens that didn’t make it on the show because they were cut for time.
“It was the gift that kept on giving,” said Eric Stangel, co-head writer for Letterman.
They have some personal favourites, such as a speech in Florida where a clearly bored teenager standing behind Bush looks at his watch and otherwise makes plain that he’d rather be anywhere else. Ruprecht lived for the days when Bush would speak in a town hall format, “when he got a little loose.”
It became harder to find clips of other presidents being eloquent than Bush sounding goofy, he said.
Everything ends someday, although Ruprecht said he’s sure that Bush will still be saying silly things in the private sector. He doesn’t have as many hopes for president-elect Barack Obama, but the comedy writers aren’t completely depressed.
“My money’s on Biden,” Ruprecht said.