The Rhetorical Presidency of George H. W. Bush

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For George H. W. Bush, the distinction between campaigning (“politics”) and governing (“principles”) was crucial. Once in office, he abandoned his campaign mode and with it the rhetorical strategies that brought electoral success. Not recognizing the crucial importance of rhetoric to policy formation and implementation, Bush forfeited the resources of the bully pulpit and paid the price of electoral defeat.
In this first-ever analysis of Bush’s rhetoric to draw on the archives of the Bush Presidential Library, scholars explore eight major events or topics associated with his presidency: the first Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin wall, the “New World Order,” Bush’s “education presidency,” his environmental stance, the “vision thing,” and the influence of the Religious Right. The volume concludes with a cogent of the 1992 re-election campaign and Bush’s last-gasp use of economic rhetoric.Drawing on the resources of the Bush Presidential Library and interviews with many of Bush’s White House aides, the scholars included in this tightly organized volume ask, How well did President Bush and his administration respond to events, issues, and situations? In the process, they also suggest how a more perceptive embrace of the art of rhetoric might have allowed them to respond more successfully.The Rhetorical Presidency of George H. W. Bush breaks important ground for our understanding of the forty-first president’s time in office and the reasons it ended so quickly.

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Editorial Reviews

Craig R. Smith

“This fourteenth scholarly book in the prestigious presidential rhetoric series studies the public address of my all time favorite client, George H. W. Bush, for whom I started writing speeches in 1978. With nine differently authored chapters, this edition provides a careful and considered analysis of the kinder, gentler President Bush. Martin Medhurst writes the opening chapter, the afterword, and serves as the overall editor. He has done a terrific job of riding herd on his authors to make sure th research is integrated and focused. The study reveals Bush’s rhetorical presidency from different perspectives so that readers are very well educated about his administration by the time they reach the end of the trail.

This is an insightful and revealing study that relies on interviews and exhaustive examinations of White House documents. Access to President Bush’s library on the Texas A&M campus supplemented this massive effort. This study demonstrates the importance of rhetorical considerations in any administration. In this case, a very decent man was undone by his lack of enthusiasm for the art of rhetoric. As the book points out, his most memorable quotations are all from the period prior to his presidency.”—Craig R. Smith, Professor of Communication Studies, California State University, Long Beach

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Product Details

Meet the Author

MARTIN J. MEDHURST is Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Baylor University. Holding a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, he is the founding editor of the interdisciplinary quarterly Rhetoric and Public Affairs and the author or editor of many distinguished books, including Beyond the Rhetorical Presidency, that have helped to shape the field of presidential rhetoric.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Why rhetoric matters : George H. W. Bush in the White House 3
Ch. 2 George Bush's struggle with the "vision thing" 19
Ch. 3 And the wall came tumbling down : Bush's rhetoric of silence during German reunification 37
Ch. 4 Agency and agent in George Bush's Gulf War rhetoric 56
Ch. 5 The new world order : president Bush and the Post-Cold War era 81
Ch. 6 Political truancy : George Bush's claim to the mantle of "education president" 102
Ch. 7 Prudence, procrastination, or politics : George Bush and the earth summit of 1992 119
Ch. 8 George Bush and the religious right 149
Ch. 9 Economically speaking : George Bush and the price of perception 171
Afterword : evaluating the rhetorical presidency of George H. W. Bush 197
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