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Presidential Rhetoric and Political Communication

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Presidential Rhetoric and Political Communication

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Rhetorical Presidency of George H. W. Bush

Edited by Martin J. Medhurst

For George H. W. Bush, the distinction between campaigning (“politics”) and governing (“principles”) was crucial. Once in office, he abandoned his campaign mode and with it the rhetorical strategies that brought electoral success. Not recognizing the crucial importance of rhetoric to policy formation and implementation, Bush forfeited the resources of the bully pulpit and paid the price of electoral defeat. In this first-ever analysis of Bush’s rhetoric to draw on the archives of the Bush Presidential Library, scholars explore eight major events or topics associated with his presidency: the first Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin wall, the “New World Order,” Bush’s “education presidency,” his environmental stance, the “vision thing,” and the influence of the Religious Right. The volume concludes with a cogent of the 1992 re-election campaign and Bush’s last-gasp use of economic rhetoric.Drawing on the resources of the Bush Presidential Library and interviews with many of Bush’s White House aides, the scholars included in this tightly organized volume ask, How well did President Bush and his administration respond to events, issues, and situations? In the process, they also suggest how a more perceptive embrace of the art of rhetoric might have allowed them to respond more successfully.The Rhetorical Presidency of George H. W. Bush breaks important ground for our understanding of the forty-first president’s time in office and the reasons it ended so quickly.

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Speaking with the People's Voice

How Presidents Invoke Public Opinion

Jeffrey P. Mehltretter Drury

The role of public opinion in American democracy has been a central concern of scholars who frequently examine how public opinion influences policy makers and how politicians, especially presidents, try to shape public opinion. But in Speaking with the People’s Voice: How Presidents Invoke Public Opinion, Jeffrey P. Mehltretter Drury asks a different question that adds an important new dimension to the study of public opinion: How do presidents rhetorically use public opinion in their speeches?

In a careful analysis supported by case studies and discrete examples, Drury develops the concept of “invoked public opinion” to study the modern presidents’ use of public opinion as a rhetorical resource. He defines the term as “the rhetorical representation of the beliefs and values of US citizens.”

Speaking with the People’s Voice considers both the strategic and democratic value of invoked public opinion by analyzing how modern presidents argumentatively deploy references to the beliefs and values of US citizens as persuasive appeals as well as acts of political representation in their nationally televised speeches.

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Who Belongs in America?

Presidents, Rhetoric, and Immigration

Edited by Vanessa B. Beasley

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Woman President

Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture

Kristina Horn Sheeler

What elements of American political and rhetorical culture block the imagining—and thus, the electing—of a woman as president? Examining both major-party and third-party campaigns by women, including the 2008 campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, the authors of Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture identify the factors that limit electoral possibilities for women.

Pundits have been predicting women’s political ascendency for years. And yet, although the 2008 presidential campaign featured Hillary Clinton as an early frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination and Sarah Palin as the first female Republican vice-presidential nominee, no woman has yet held either of the top two offices. The reasons for this are complex and varied, but the authors assert that the question certainly encompasses more than the shortcomings of women candidates or the demands of the particular political moment. Instead, the authors identify a pernicious backlash against women presidential candidates—one that is expressed in both political and popular culture.

In Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture, Kristina Horn Sheeler and Karrin Vasby Anderson provide a discussion of US presidentiality as a unique rhetorical role. Within that framework, they review women’s historical and contemporary presidential bids, placing special emphasis on the 2008 campaign. They also consider how presidentiality is framed in candidate oratory, campaign journalism, film and television, digital media, and political parody.

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You, the People

American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric

By Vanessa B. Beasley

New in paperback As we ask anew in these troubled times what it means to be an American, You, the People provides perspective by casting its eye over the answers given by past U.S. presidents in their addresses to the public. Who is an American, and who is not?   And yet, as Vanessa Beasley demonstrates in this eloquent exploration of a century of presidential speeches, the questions are not new. Since the Founders first identified the nation as “we, the people,” the faces and accents of U.S. citizens have changed dramatically due to immigration and other constitutive changes.  U.S. presidents have often spoken as if there were one monolithic American people. Here Beasley traces rhetorical constructions of American national identity in presidents’ inaugural addresses and state of the union messages from 1885 through 2000. She argues convincingly that while the demographics of the voting citizenry changed rapidly during this period, presidential definitions of American national identity did not. Chief executives have consistently employed a rhetoric of American nationalism that is simultaneously inclusive and exclusive; Beasley examines both the genius and the limitations of this language.

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