Four Campaigns to the People
Campaign oratory was an integral part of FDR's rhetorical presidency. As a candidate, he took his New Deal directly to the people, and some of his greatest speeches were delivered in the heat of four campaigns. Only a handful of rhetorical phenomena, certainly Harry Truman's whistle-stop campaign of 1948, Dwight Eisenhower's "I Shall Go To Korea" speech in 1952, and John Kennedy's address on church-state relations to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960, can be mentioned in the same breath as Roosevelt's superb Madison Square Garden and "Fala" speeches.
To begin her famous documentary "The Triumph of the Will," produced in 1934, Leni Riefenstahl pictured Adolph Hitler coming as a savior to the German people by filming his airplane descending allegorically from the clouded heavens to Nuremberg. She might have taken the image from Roosevelt, who flew to Chicago in 1932 to accept in person his party's nomination to save the nation from the Depression.
Roosevelt's symbolic act, a public relations coup of the highest order, was a precursor of how he would use the technology of his time to enhance his political power, and of how he would not be bound by worn-out political traditions. But in reality, FDR's first campaign had all the vestiges of a time-tested rhetorical posture: define one's campaign by negation. If that seems confusing, it is meant to be, for it allows one to attack the opposition's policies with specific accusations while one talks in generalities about one's own political visions. Thus, Roosevelt