The Fifth Estate: The President’s Pen
‘What’s a POTUS?’
Pat Cunnane, aged 22, asked a co-worker this question on one of his first days working at the White House. It’s safe to say he figured out the answer pretty quickly, rising from his first job as White House media monitor to become the senior writer and deputy director for messaging for the POTUS himself, Barack Obama.
In Cunnane’s new book, West Winging It: An Unpresidential Memoir, he gives fascinating insider’s account of his six years working at the heart of the Obama administration. During these years, Cunnane wrangled reporters and photographers and wrote statements, opinion pieces and even jokes in the former President’s voice. He was there for the big moments and the small and he was there, of course, for the surprise transition to Donald Trump.
With Sally Warhaft, Cunnane discusses what it’s like writing the words that would shape hearts and minds of a nation, and the world. He also shares his thoughts on the American presidency then and now, talking Trump and Twitter; history and hope.
Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is the host of The Fifth Estate, the Wheeler Centre’s live series focusing on journalism, politics, media, and international relations, and The Leap Year, a Wheeler Centre podcast about Australians' lives in the fog of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is a former editor of the Monthly magazine and the author of the bestselling book Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia.
Sally is a regular host and commentator on ABC radio and has a PhD in anthropology. She did her fieldwork in Mumbai, India, living by the seashore with the local fishing community.
Pat Cunnane was President Barack Obama’s Senior Writer and Deputy Director of Messaging at the White House where he worked for six years in many roles, responsible for writing statements, jokes, op-eds, and more in the President’s voice. After leaving the White House, Pat Cunnane co-wrote the President’s appearance on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which quickly shattered the series’ viewership records and garnered an Emmy nomination.