The Modern Presidency and Crisis Rhetoric

The Modern Presidency and Crisis Rhetoric

The Modern Presidency and Crisis Rhetoric

The Modern Presidency and Crisis Rhetoric

Synopsis

This volume examines how presidents from Truman to Bush rhetorically approached and managed political, military, judicial, legislative, and economic crises during their presidencies. Editor Amos Kiewe brings together new essays by communications scholars who look at rhetoric initiated during national crises, examining especially the development of rhetoric at the onset of crises, changes in presidential rhetoric, and situational crisis constraints on rhetoric. Their studies suggest similarities in rhetoric in different types of crises, and yield resources for postulating patterns of crisis rhetoric.

Excerpt

The idea of studying presidential discourse during critical situations grew in part during the summer of 1990. The Bush administration, having based its strength on the campaign rhetoric of "read my lips: no new taxes," reluctantly accepted the notion that some taxes were necessary in order to get Congress to approve spending cuts. This change of political heart resulted in the Bush administration facing a crisis of leadership and dissention among Republican ranks. Both the political and the economic crises eroded the high ratings George Bush enjoyed during his first year and a half in office and threatened to diminish Bush's chances of a successful second term. Yet a sudden turn of events, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing Gulf crisis, obviated in part the domestic crisis. The Gulf crisis, with its stages of marshalling the United Nations' support, setting deadlines, engaging in the air war, setting new deadlines, embarking on the ground war, and the overall gradual intensification, was distinctly different from the preceding crisis. The marked difference in the rhetorical energy surrounding these two overlapping crises brought me to consider the dynamic of discourse during critical situations as an area of study. A further look at crisis rhetoric raised more questions regarding what crisis rhetoric entails, especially presidential crisis rhetoric.

This project could not have been completed if it were not for the support and enthusiasm of several scholars who gladly agreed to participate. Early readings of preliminary material and commentary by Carole Blair, Charles J. G. Griffin, Davis W. Houck, and Robert L. Ivie ensured constructive criticism. To all, my deepest thanks. Assistance by several colleagues at the Speech Communication Department at Syracuse University . . .

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