The Cable

Clinton’s head speechwriter departing

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's director of speechwriting, Lissa Muscatine, will be leaving the State Department, she tells The Cable in an interview.

Muscatine, who runs the shop of scribes who put words in Clinton's mouth every day, is stepping down to pursue her own writing, teaching and speaking opportunities, she said. After having worked for both Clintons off and on dating back to 1993, and following a whirlwind 18 months in this stint alone, she has certainly earned some downtime.

She first joined up with the Clintons as a presidential speechwriter in 1993, eventually becoming chief speechwriter and then communications director for First Lady Clinton. Muscatine collaborated with Clinton for her memoir, worked on her campaign, and then after only a few months off, was called back into service to write Clinton's confirmation remarks when she was nominated to be secretary of state.

Since coming back to work for Clinton full time, Muscatine has been managing four full-time speechwriters and two part-timers who also write for other officials. Her shop is located inside the Policy Planning Staff but maintains its own independence within that structure. This is the model that Bill Woodward, speechwriter for former Secretary Madeleine Albright, initiated when he took speechwriting out of the public affairs bureau.

Muscatine said she was most proud of a group of speeches she and her team put together focusing on the importance of human rights and human dignity. Some of these include major addresses Clinton has given on development, human rights, Internet freedom, civil society, and food security, among others.

"We've tried to always to keep an eye on the human element and not get bogged down in the theoretical. That's a signature of the secretary," she said, stressing an emphasis on "things that really matter to human existence and how we see them through the lens of U.S. foreign policy."

As for her successor, that person will be named very soon, she said.

"I've had a great time and it's been wonderful and Secretary Clinton has been extremely kind."

The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Byrd, BP, Gaza, Eikenberry, Iran

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. These are the highlights of Wednesday's briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is off to Europe Thursday, but will delay her trip by one hour to stop by the Capitol building and pay her respects to Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who is lying in a coffin in the middle of the Senate chamber.
  • Clinton met with United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark Wednesday morning. It was their first official meeting. The U.S. is the leading donor Programme, contributing around $300 million a year.
  • The State Department has sent out letters accepting 22 more offers of international assistance to help with the BP oil spill, in addition to the 5 offers they've already accepted, Crowley said. Those 22 offers come from 12 different countries, "And I should emphasize that, in addition to what we are doing through the National Incident Command and through BP, BP itself is tapping into a wide range of international sources to bring assistance and equipment to help with the oil spill," Crowley said.
  • Special Envoy George Mitchell was in Israel Wednesday and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He also visited the Kerem Shalom land crossing in Gaza. Thursday Mitchell will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
  • Meanwhile in Washington, Undersecretary of State Bill Burns met Wednesday with the parents of Rachel Corrie, the Seattle woman who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting in Gaza in 2003 and for whom the lead ship in the Gaza flotilla incident was named. "Rachel Corrie's parents have visited the department regularly since March of 2003 and her tragic death. And we continue to provide them with support and assistance," said Crowley.
  • No comment on the details of the dispute between U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and the Afghan attorney general, who accused Eikenberry of threatening to get him fired if he didn't investigate a particular fraud case. "I would simply say that Ambassador Eikenberry is doing his job as our civilian representative in Kabul," Crowley said.
  • There's a lot of new confusion about Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who seemed to surface in a YouTube video claiming he was abducted and taken to the U.S. against his will. "We know exactly where he is. He's on YouTube," Crowley joked while avoiding all other questions on the issue.
  • Swiss Ambassador to Iran Livia Leu Agosti was at the State Department Wednesday. "She has greatly assisted our government in our efforts to ensure fair and humane treatment for Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who have been detained without charge for nearly a year, and to Reza Taghavi, who has been detained without charges since May 2008," Crowley said. "She's also amplified our call on the Iranian government for cooperation in the case of Mr. Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran over three years ago, in March 2007."
  • Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, is leading the U.S. delegation to a meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Rome this week.

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