The White House Speaks: Presidential Leadership as Persuasion

The White House Speaks: Presidential Leadership as Persuasion

The White House Speaks: Presidential Leadership as Persuasion

The White House Speaks: Presidential Leadership as Persuasion

Synopsis

This work treats presidential leadership as persuasive communication. The major theories of presidential leadership found in the literature establish the central role of persuasion, and introduce the interpretive systems approach to political communication as a theoretical framework for the study of presidential leadership as persuasion. Case studies examine recent presidents' use of public persuasion to perform their leadership functions. Particular attention is devoted to coalitional constraints on presidential pardoning rhetoric, presidential leadership through the politics of division, the political significance of conflicting political narratives, the sermonic nature of much 20th-century presidential discourse, the difficulties inherent in persuading the public to make sacrifices, and the dangers of relying too heavily on public rhetoric. The concluding chapter considers the rhetoric that contributed to the demise of the Bush presidency, the election of Bill Clinton, and the challenges facing the Clinton presidency.

Excerpt

This book takes Richard Neustadt's dictum that presidential power is the power to persuade and Jeffrey Tulis's description of The Rhetorical Presidency seriously enough to argue that we can profitably study presidential leadership rhetorically. Such a study requires exploration of the permeable boundaries between political science and communication studies. We argue that recent theories of presidential leadership have emphasized persuasion without studying it rhetorically, and that many studies of presidential rhetoric have failed to fully appreciate the political dynamics of the American presidency. We present our interpretive systems approach to persuasion and use it to analyze several important cases of presidential leadership. Our case studies have been selected for their theoretical significance, and our presentation of them purports to be neither chronological nor comprehensive. Many other cases might have been included, but they must wait for a different volume.

Two housekeeping matters deserve mention at the outset. First, our references to The Public Papers of the Presidents bracket the year of the speech instead of providing the copyright year in parentheses to minimize confusion. Second, we use masculine pronouns when referring to past presidents because all of them have been male, and we use gender-free references to those who might someday occupy the American presidency.

We wish to acknowledge Wake Forest University's generous support of this project with an R. J. Reynolds leave and grants from the Archie Fund, the Research and Publications Fund, and the Research . . .

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