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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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CHAPTER V Back to the Future: A New Understanding of Presidential Development The [modern] rhetorical presidency is not just a fact of institutional change, like the growth of the White House staff, or the changing ca- reer patterns of Congressmen. It is a profound development in American politics. —Jeffrey Tulis, The Rhetorical Presidency ALTHOUGH THE “traditional” and the “modern” presidential distinctions may seek to provide scholars with “new terms with which to assess the char- acter and development of the constitutional order and the president’s place within it,” (Tulis, 1987, 4), this study suggests that this paradigm may tend to miss important nuances and developments in presidential rhetoric. In one of his works, Greenstein proposes that “major changes that, beginning in 1933, produced the modern presidency—increased unilateral policy-making capac- ity, centrality in national agenda setting…remain central elements of the presidency and of presidential leadership in the final decades of the century” (Greenstein, 1988, 347). Greenstein is correct in his assertion that these ele- ments are indeed important attributes to the contemporary presidency. How- ever, the findings in this book propose that the assumption that these tenets of a “modern” presidency were not present before a certain demarcation may be misleading to the study of presidential policy proposal and rhetoric. The importance of this examination of presidential address from Wash- ington to G.W. Bush lies in the observation that these findings neither illus- trate a “single” presidency from which we can trace the origins of popular The Evolutionary Rhetorical...

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