|White House Director of Speechwriting|
December 14, 2007 – January 20, 2009
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||William McGurn|
|Succeeded by||Jon Favreau|
Marc Alexander Thiessen
January 13, 1967
|Education||Vassar College (BA)|
Naval War College
Marc Alexander Thiessen (born January 13, 1967) is an American conservative author, political appointee, and weekly columnist for The Washington Post. Thiessen served as a speechwriter for United States President George W. Bush from 2004 to 2009 and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from 2001 to 2006.
In 2010, he published the book Courting Disaster: How the C.I.A. Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack, which defended the use of the torture technique waterboarding during the George W. Bush administration, arguing that it was not torture. He also wrote that the Obama administration's rejection of torture might lead to American deaths.
Early life and education
Thiessen was born on January 13, 1967. He grew up on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, where both his parents were doctors and "left-of-center liberal Democrat types". His mother grew up in Poland and fought as a teenager in the Warsaw Uprising, a military struggle in which his grandfather died.
Thiessen is a graduate of the Taft School (1985), a private prep school in Watertown, Connecticut. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Vassar College in 1989 and completed graduate studies at the Naval War College.
Thiessen has worked in Washington, D.C., for many years, starting with five years at the lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly. From 1995 to 2001, he served on Capitol Hill as spokesman and senior policy advisor to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC).
He joined the George W. Bush administration as Chief Speechwriter for Donald Rumsfeld in 2001, and later to Bush's speechwriting team in 2004. In February 2008, he became chief speechwriter when William McGurn resigned.
Thiessen has been a columnist for The Washington Post since March 2010. In his columns, he has criticized the Obama administration and advocated against the Iran nuclear deal. In 2020, he defended President Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, saying it was "defensive, preemptive, and lawful."
Defense of torture
Thiessen's first book, Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack, was published by Regnery Publishing in January 2010. In the book he argued that the CIA's systematic use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" was effective, lawful, and moral. The book was endorsed by the former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. It reached the No. 9 spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list for hardcover nonfiction in February 2010.
Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side, heavily criticized Courting Disaster; in a book review in the New Yorker, Mayer wrote that Thiessen's book was "based on a series of slipshod premises" and was "better at conveying fear than at relaying the facts." In the book, Thiessen writes, "In the decade before the C.I.A. began interrogating captured terrorists, Al Qaeda launched repeated attacks against America. In the eight years since the C.I.A. began interrogating captured terrorists, Al Qaeda has not succeeded in launching one single attack on the homeland or American interests abroad." Mayer wrote, "This is not exactly a textbook demonstration of causality", and noted that Thiessen's claim was false anyway; Al Qaeda had launched numerous attacks targeting Americans since the start of the torture program. Mayer ended her review with a criticism of the Obama administration for not convening a commission on the Bush administration's torture, thus allowing Thiessen and other proponents of torture to "whitewash" history.
The 6,700-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture found that the CIA's enhanced interrogation program was not an effective method of gathering intelligence. The report was approved with seven Democrats, one Independent, and one Republican voting in favor, and six Republicans voting against.
A pseudonymous former military interrogator and author of How to Break a Terrorist, writing for Slate, characterized Thiessen's book as "a literary defense of war criminals" and criticized Thiessen for relying solely on the opinions of CIA interrogators.
- "Marc A. Thiessen - Resident Fellow". American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
- Oppenheimer, Mark (February 26, 2010). "Marc Thiessen Gets an Earful for Waterboarding Views". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
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- "President Bush Thanks Bill McGurn, Announces Marc Thiessen as New Assistant to the President for Speechwriting". Press Release. George W. Bush White House. December 14, 2007.
- Alexovich, Ariel; Klingebiel, Jacqueline (March 25, 2009). "Suite Talk March 25, 2009: Speechwriters Open New Outlet". Politico. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- Thiessen, Marc A. (April 21, 2009). "Marc A. Thiessen - Enhanced Interrogations Worked". ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
- "Bush apologist fails up: Washington Post's Marc Thiessen has some thoughts on Iran". Salon. March 17, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- Schulberg, Jessica (January 8, 2020). "War With Iran Is Nothing To Worry About, Say Men Who Launched Iraq War". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- "Book details: Courting Disaster". Regnery. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- Thiessen, Marc (January 20, 2010). "Mukasey Calls Courting Disaster 'Absolutely Superb'". National Review. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - February 14, 2010". The New York Times. February 14, 2010. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- Mayer, Jane (March 29, 2010). "Counterfactual: A curious history of the C.I.A." The New Yorker. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- Fisher, Max (March 22, 2010). "New Yorker Whomps Marc Thiessen". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- Mazzetti, Mark (December 9, 2014). "Panel Faults C.I.A. Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
- "The history of the CIA detention and interrogation program". Los Angeles Times. December 9, 2014.
- Alexander, Matthew (March 3, 2010). "Courting Fear". Slate. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
- "Marc Thiessen Biography". MarcThiessen.com. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
- Thiessen, Marc (2019-03-05). "Marc Thiessen: This Lent, don't give Catholic bishops a dime". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-10-02.