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Reconsidering Obama

Reflections on Rhetoric


Edited By Robert E. Terrill

Perhaps no other presidential candidate or sitting president has attracted as much attention from rhetorical critics as Barack Obama. Much of this work was conceived and written during Obama’s initial presidential campaign, or relatively early in his two terms in office. This book provides rhetorical critics an opportunity to revisit their published work on Obama in light of events that have occurred since its publication. In each chapter, these eminent critics begin by summarizing the analysis and conclusions in their original essays on Obama, and then reflect on their previous conclusions, revising or extending them in response to developments since the publication of the original work. The chapters provide a glimpse into the inventional strategies of practicing critics and into some of the ways that that critical insights may evolve over time. Scholars rarely have an opportunity to publish essays that reflect on their own previous work, even though few resources can be of greater use to both beginning critics and to established scholars seeking to continue to hone and reflect on their critical practice. This book, then, makes an important contribution not only to the existing literature on the 44th president of the United States, but also and perhaps most significantly to the study of the art and craft of rhetorical criticism.


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Chapter Five: Barack Obama at the Threshold of a New America (Robert L. Ivie / Oscar Giner)


c h a p t e r f i v e Barack Obama AT THE Threshold OF A New America ROBERT L. IVIE Indiana University OSCAR GINER Arizona State University Barack Obama at the Threshold of a New America Robert L. Ivie and Oscar Giner Barack Obama’s arrival on the presidential scene was a rhetorical phenomenon of irresistible appeal for scholars interested in the challenge and possibility of trans- forming U.S. war culture. So it seemed to us, especially given Obama’s call to change the nation’s mindset of war, his reframing of the myth of American exceptionalism, and his creative application of the metaphor of partnership. He appeared to embody the change he articulated and that his election to office sanctioned. Our focus on the confluence of metaphor, myth, rhetoric, and war culture had gained a subject of professed contrast to his immediate predecessor’s militant rhetoric of evil. Accordingly, we wrote about how Obama contested the mythos of national security by diminishing the theme of evil in the 2008 presidential primary and how he democratized the myth of national exceptionalism in the 2008 presidential campaign. We also wrote about the constitutive properties of a discourse of peace embedded in his presidential rhetoric of change, the studied ambiguity of his ra- tionale for sending additional military personnel to Afghanistan, and, finally, the potential and limitations of the metaphor of partnership in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. In all of this, we perceived a discourse of transition and a rhetorical...

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