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The Evolutionary Rhetorical Presidency

Tracing the Changes in Presidential Address and Power

Ryan Lee Teten

This book is an evolutionary examination of the rhetoric of the President of the United States, from George Washington to George W. Bush. It provides a close analysis of the history and content of inaugural addresses, State of the Union addresses, presidential proclamations, and executive orders in order to trace the changes in their use and impact from their origin to the present day. Content analysis of these forms of executive address are combined with case studies and illustrations to provide a complete look at the way that – contrary to the widely held ascription to a clear «traditional» versus «modern» divide – the presidents of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries have all contributed to the rhetorical tools and powers that the current president wields in the execution of his duty. The Evolutionary Rhetorical Presidency is widely useful not only for standard governmental classes on, for example, the Presidency or on political communication, but also for courses in history, leadership studies, and rhetoric.

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III. EXCAVATING THE BULLY PULPIT: THE FOUNDATION AND EVOLUTION OF POLICY PROPOSAL 107

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CHAPTER III Excavating the Bully Pulpit: The Foundation and Evolution of Policy Proposal Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them...they make things happen. —Thomas Jefferson If he [the President] speaks to Congress, it must be in the language of truth. —Andrew Jackson NEWLY ELECTED presidents often claim that they have a mandate from the people of the United States as a result of their victory (Kelly, 1983). They then use this mandate to propose the policies and push the agendas of their administration. However, as was referred to in previous chapters, the inter- pretation of presidential history that presents a “traditional” and “modern” way of doing things suggests that only recently has the executive actively pursued his own policy agenda and discarded the trappings of constitutional constraint for the freedom to pursue his own goals. However, as this chapter explains, this characterization of political activity may tend to overlook im- portant nuances in presidential policy proposal and behavior and may assume a presidential pacifism of the 18th and 19th that is not completely supported. As an example, when Andrew Jackson succeeded John Quincy Adams to the office of the presidency of the United States in 1828, he entered the posi- tion on the heels of some of the most partisan and assumedly corrupt politics in a presidential election that the nation had seen. Only four years earlier, The Evolutionary Rhetorical Presidency 108 Jackson had lost the presidential election, not...

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