Having analyzed President Reagan's presidential rhetoric, the next issue is whether or not it matters beyond increasing our understanding of a specific presidency. The answer is that it does. Ronald Reagan's approach to both the presidency and to its rhetoric will have a profound impact on the styles and options of the presidential candidates and presidents who come after him.
Political analysts and pundits are always searching for ways to predict presidential behavior. The one thing that all predictions have in common is their stress on the past history of the candidate in question. While at least one author considers candidates' public language, in the form of campaign promises, significant, no one has analyzed candidates' public speech in an attempt to discover what is important to them in terms of values rather than policy, or vision instead of programs. 1 There is a deep and pervasive conventional wisdom that "all candidates say the same things," and that these "things" can be safely ignored. To a limited extent, this conventional wisdom is undoubtedly correct: Almost all candidates for national public office make their obeisance to patriotism, national unity, and the "American way." But it is also true that each candidate presents these symbols in different ways and that understanding the