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A public intellectual returns to the public

Peter Wehner, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Strategic Initiatives, is leaving the White House after six years. Wehner started out as a speechwriter. I understand that he helped write the president’s memorable address at the National Cathedral after the attack on 9/11.
In 2002, Wehner moved into the top strategy position at the White House. In that capacity, as the Washington Post’s Peter Baker puts it, he “found himself running his own White House think tank.” This career path belies the adage that good performers advance in organizations until they find their level of incompetence. Wehner, a close associate of Bill Bennett, is a true public intellectual, and the “think tank” position was perfect for him.
One product of Wehner’s think tank was what President Bush calls Wehner-grams. Most were for internal consumption, offering strategy and policy advice to the president. But Wehner sent others to people Karl Rove calls “opinion leaders,” plus a few stray bloggers. These emails were really short essays explaining and/or defending administration policy, often by providing much-needed historical perspective. I rarely posted the content (which usually found its way onto the internet pretty quickly), but always found it quite helpful to my thinking.
Wehner is a Power Line reader, and couldn’t have been more gracious on the two occasions when we communicated. We wish him well and hope that, wherever he lands, we’ll still to have the pleasure of reading him.

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