Jan 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Speech writer Cody Keenan follows US President Barack Obama to board Marine One December 4, 2009 on the South Lawn of the White House
Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."

Keenan spent 14 years writing for Obama, including working alongside Biden for eight of those years. He acknowledged being embittered by his own experience, especially after Sen. Mitch McConnell pledged to make his former boss a one-term president.

  • "Until the Republican Party steps up and tells their own voters what's really happening with the truth, it's going to be elusive," Keenan said. "It's not up to (President Biden) alone to deliver. He can't."

Keenan helped Obama with the first volume of his memoir, "A Promised Land." He stopped working with the former president on New Year's Eve and has taken a full-time role at Fenway Strategies. The firm is run by former Obama administration officials.

  • "It just seemed like a natural spot after the book and the elections and, you know, [Obama] is not going to do a ton, especially with Biden in office," Keenan said.

Keenan is also writing a book, titled "Grace," about the 10 days from the 2015 shooting at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, to the eulogy Obama delivered for Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

  • Obama ended by singing "Amazing Grace."
  • The title also nods to Keenan's newborn daughter, named Grace.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Fenway Strategies is operated by former Obama officials. A previous version incorrectly stated it was run by Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor, both of whom have left the company.

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