Rhetoric’s Political Punch

Language and politics.  We’ll look at the power of rhetoric from Aristotle to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. (AP)

President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. (AP)

Say the word “rhetoric” to most Americans today – post-modern, 21st century, pickled in political cynicism – and you’ll likely get a sneer.  Rhetoric has come to firmly mean empty speech.  BS.  “Mere rhetoric,” we say.  And we’ve had enough. 

But the speaking goes on.  Today, more than ever.  A flood of talk and ads and posts and tweets.  And it’s all using, one way or another, forms of rhetoric that humans have studied and wielded for ages.  From Aristotle to Obama.  

This hour, On Point:  in a campaign year, the power of rhetoric, from the ancients to Obama v Romney.

-Tom Ashbrook



Sam Leith, author of the new book Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama.

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

Salon “Rhetoric is also, to be blunt, the art of talking people into things, and it flourishes in courtrooms and on campaign trails, in singles bars and television commercials, over dinner tables and in Internet forums.”

Financial Times “Obama made his first political speech as a very young man. At university in Los Angeles, he had become involved in student politics and he was called on to introduce a small anti-apartheid rally.”

Excerpt: Words Like Loaded Pistols

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Photos: Rhetoric In Action

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