Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for George W. Bush and neoconservative columnist for the Washington Post, died of cancer Thursday. He was 58.
An evangelical Christian, Gerson infused a religious sensibility into his writings, which included speeches to a traumatized nation after the horror of 9/11.
Bush speechwriter dies
Gerson is credited with coining some of Bush’s famous phrases like “the soft bigotry of low expectations” and the “Axis of Evil.”
In Bush’s first inaugural, Gerson described democracy as a “seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations,” encapsulating what would become the Bush administration’s nation-building foreign policy after 9/11.
Gerson never expressed remorse for helping Bush make the case that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, an unfounded claim that became the pretext for the 2003 invasion of Iraq that would come to define Bush’s legacy.
Former President Bush said he was “heartbroken” by the news of Gerson’s death.
“He was a great writer, and I was fortunate he served as my chief speechwriter and a trusted advisor for many years,” Bush said. “His brilliant mind was enhanced by his big heart. As a result, Mike harnessed the power of the pen to not just write about good policy, but drive it.”
Evangelical columnist criticized Trump
Gerson left the Bush administration in 2006 and joined the Post as a twice-weekly columnist, a position he maintained until death. In an early column for the Post called “Letting Fear Rule,” he criticized “nativist” conservatives who opposed President Bush’s proposed amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Gerson would later passionately criticize evangelical Christians who embraced President Donald Trump.
In some of his last columns, Gerson praised Anthony Fauci as “the greatest public servant I have known” and said he was mistaken to assume that the Republican party had good intentions on racial issues, calling it “among the worst errors of moral judgment I have made as a columnist.”
“The country was soiled by the sin of slavery from its birth” he wrote, adding that some of the founding fathers were “the equivalent of terrorists.”
Gerson is survived by his wife, Dawn Soon Miller, two sons, Michael and Nicholas, and two brothers.