U.S. Presidents as Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Halford Ryan | Go to book overview

these speeches, orchestrated chants from the floor rose up to a neo-classic imperial stage worthy of the worst fascist rallies.

Despite this environment, Bush's speech did have its strong points. He delivered it well and with uncharacteristic emotion. On foreign policy, he scored heavily with the delegates, the guests, and the national audience. The new world order was defined in a way the average American could understand. But the second half of the speech once again fell into partisan proposals that failed to come together in a unified way. One could begin to count the number of pens that had written paragraphs for the speech.

Much worse for Bush were the three presidential debates that followed in the fall. James Baker, who had reluctantly and tearfully resigned as Secretary of State to advise the Bush campaign, opposed Bush's entering the debates. His instinct was correct. Bush is not a natural debater: he speaks too elliptically for the public, he disdains the anecdotes that served Reagan so well, and attacking is not part of his personality. Furthermore, Bush believed that after winning the Gulf War he deserved re-election without having to go through the humiliating ordeal of a campaign, let alone debates. With the economy moribund, Bush would have to defend a failed domestic policy. Baker's worse nightmare came true when Ross Perot re-entered the campaign claiming he had been driven out earlier by dirty tricks on the part of the Bush campaign. In all three debates, Perot would aim most his verbal bullets at Bush, much to the delight of the smooth-talking Clinton. Bush's diffident performance was particularly evident in the second debate where he kept looking at his watch. In that debate, Bush's decision to attack Clinton's character was undercut by moderator Carol Simpson's representation of the audience's frustration with negative campaigns. He undermined his credibility on economic issues when he did not pay attention to a question from a black woman, and said, "He didn't get" what she meant. He undercut his defense of his administration by naively volunteering to answer questions first, which allowed Perot and Clinton to jump on his responses. Bush abandoned Ailes's strategy and it cost him dearly.


RHETORICAL SOURCES

Archival Materials

The Presidential Library for George Bush is being built at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Bush's presidential papers and other biographical materials will be stored there.

Until the library is complete, scholars can use:

Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. (WCPD). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989- 1993.

Vital Speeches of the Day. (VSD). Mount Pleasant, SC: City News Publishing Co., 1989- 1993.

-358-

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U.S. Presidents as Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • An Introduction to Presidential Oratory ix
  • BIBLIOGRAPHICAL SOURCES xvii
  • George Washington (1732-1799) 3
  • Conclusion 15
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 16
  • John Adams (1735-1826) 18
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 26
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) 28
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 40
  • James Madison (1751-1836) 43
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 52
  • John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) 54
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 63
  • Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) 65
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 75
  • Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 77
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 89
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) 93
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 107
  • Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) 111
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 132
  • Herbert Clark Hoover (1874-1964) 134
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 144
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) 146
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 164
  • Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) 168
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 187
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) 190
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 204
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) 210
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 225
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) 228
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 245
  • Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994) 249
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 269
  • Gerald R. Ford (1913- ) 274
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 296
  • Jimmy Carter (1924- ) 299
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 311
  • Ronald Reagan (1911- ) 316
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 337
  • George Herbert Walker Bush (1924- ) 344
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 358
  • Bill Clinton (1946- ) 361
  • RHETORICAL RESOURCES 374
  • Index 377
  • About the Editor and Contributors 387
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