Playing the Game: The Presidential Rhetoric of Ronald Reagan

By Mary E. Stuckey | Go to book overview
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What then, can be done to restore a balance between policy and rhetoric, to render our political language, if not honest, then at least more honest? Since it is doubtful that presidential strategies involving "going public" will either cease or reverse themselves, some other solution or palliative must be found.

One such palliative may be to increase the number of authoritative voices able to challenge the president and his interpretations. This is particularly true in foreign policy. Doing so will curtail the power and perhaps the effectiveness of the White House, but it will also curtail the White House's ability to control news and interpretations of the news.

Another palliative may be to simply increase interest and awareness of presidential action. American citizens are already suspicious of the political language of their leaders. If that suspicion could be united with attention and interest, then perhaps we could begin to hold our political leaders accountable in a more fundamental sense than has been the case recently.

The key is that in order to keep our presidents honest, we must also strive to keep presidential rhetoric honest. The only way we can do that is by listening not only to the words, with their high-sounding patriotic appeals, but also to the interpretations that lie beyond the words, and to examine those interpretations with a critical ear. For ultimately, it is those interpretations that constitute the meaning and fiber of our public life, and that finally constitute us as a people. To ignore those interpretations is to ignore the meaning that makes communal life communal.

Robert Dalleck, Ronald Reagan: The Politics of Symbolism ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), p. 64.
Dean Alger, "The President, the Bureaucracy, and the People: Discretion in Implementation and the Source of Legitimacy Question" (Paper delivered at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, New Orleans, La., August 1985).
Robert E. Denton Jr., and Dan F. Hahn, Presidential Communication: Description and Analysis ( New York: Praeger, 1986), p. 68.


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Playing the Game: The Presidential Rhetoric of Ronald Reagan


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