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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

 

Guests

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

Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.

Photos: Rhetoric In Action

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  • Terry Tree Tree

    Aren’t there enough problems to solve?  Aren’t there enough HONEST answers?

  • Lin

    Rhetoric is a generous term for what gets flung about these days, if you ask me. Politicians like Romney, and pundits on the likes of Faux News say any damn thing they want. The fact that they try and persuade through, at best, the distortion of facts, but more often through out-and-out lies seems to matter not in the least. Is that rhetoric?

  • Still Here

    Obama’s rhetoric is all about scaring people and appealing to the lowest common denominator.  He’s not about inspiration or common goals.  Listen to his rhetoric and accent when he’s talking to groups of common folk; then contrast that when he’s giving speeches like the one in San Fran as a candidate.  Pathetic.

    • Victor Vito

      omney’s rhetoric is all about appealing to fear and greed.  He is not about equality and the common good.  Listen to his rhetoric when he is talking about the poor not needing help, or strapping his dog to the roof of his car; then contrast that when he’s giving speeches with his shirt sleeves rolled up, wearing blue jeans.  Pathetic.

      • Azra

        I’ve seen a lot of phonies, but Mitt takes the cake . . . and whatever else he can get his greedy hands on.

    • TFRX

      What planet have you been living on for four years?

      I don’t think your media diet is in balance.

  • Azra

    One cover up that Mitt never handles well, is his income tax returns. Instead of just releasing them all, (as he must very soon anyway, if he has ANY hope of being elected), he stumbles, and stammers, becomes angry, and as jumpy as a cat on a hot tin roof.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      You think he’d expose his Hypocricy?

      • Azra

        He has, and will again, but in spectacular fashion.

    • Azra

      ^ ^ ^ (Maybe It should be “as jumpy as a dog on a hot car roof”?)

  • Azra

    The caption for this photo, above, of Romney doing his standup rotine is, “A funny thing happeded on my way to the Caymen Islands . . .”

    • Azra

      . . . or, “My other watch is a Rolex.”

      • Azra

        . . . maybe, “Take the srawberries . . .

        • Azra

          “How do like this Grecian formula?”

          • Azra

            Voting begins now. You may also submit your own captions.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        You’re on a roll! 
           Which comedy club do you perform at?

  • SteveV

    Sound bites, taken out of context, and lies from both candidates that distort
    the message, are troubling enough. What concerns me more is the average voter
    seems apathetic towards both, to the point there are no consequences for their
    actions. The public continues to display a serious lack of intellectual
    curiosity. In the end we get the government we deserve, although not necessarily
    the one we like.

  • jefe68

    Romney’ rhetoric is to make up anything that he thinks people want to hear. He is now saying that he will take credit for saving the US auto industry. The man did a full page OPED in the NY Times saying the the industry should go bankrupt and fail.
    He’s the worst kind of pandering political animal out there.
    The thing is that people do not realize how much contempt he has for the majority of Americans. How else can one explain what amounts to nothing short of an out right lie.

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

      Now that the primaries are over no doubt he’s going to move to the middle and say that the things he said in the primaries to compete with Santorum for Tea Party support are now taken out of context.

      Thank god we have Jon Stewart and his research and writing team to keep things honest.

      • jefe68

        The point is here, and it’s a big one, is that he said over and over again since 2008 that Detroit’s auto industry should just go bankrupt and he was against bailouts. In this case the bailouts worked.
        While I like Jon Stewart, it should be the job of the news media to point this fact out, over and over again. Mitt Romney lies, a lot. 

        • Gregg

          I’m not sure what you mean by “worked”. The Vo;t sure didn’t. We spent $50 billion for Pete’s sake, they dern sure better have something to show for it. GM went bankrupt anyway. 

          • Still Here

            Bondholders and dealers got screwed as Obama went all socialist. 

            A reorganization was inevitable; this one wasn’t fair or American.  Let’s hope it’s a one-off and not Obama freeing his inner Chavez.

          • Gregg

            I fear it’s the latter. Four more years would seal the deal.

          • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

            The bailout did work Gregg: it kept GM whole so that they had time to reorganize and it saved a heck of a lot of jobs in the process including all of the suppliers outside of GM. They paid it back with interest and they’ve had their most profitable year in history.

            One could and should argue about the fact that one of the many reasons GM went under in the first place was a huge burden of benefits for retired union workers. Those benefits were cut in the bankruptcy negotiations and in the end, GM came out leaner and more profitable.

            Had Romney’s Bain Capital broken up GM they would have certainly laid off a lot of workers and the remaining entities might not have survived as stand alone companies.

            Romney should suck it up and say he was wrong about this. I too was against this too big to fail bailout because of the moral hazard of not bailing other companies out but I’m happy to admit I was wrong.

            Romney will dig one hole after another to defend lies. The bigger problem is the stupidity of the American electorate who have no sense of history and will vote for him in spite of his history of lying to appeal to whatever audience he’s in front of.

          • jefe68

            Gregg the bottom line is that GM and  Chrysler are doing well.
            The Volt is a joke, but it’s even a bigger joke that you use it all the time as an example.
            Chrysler is doing very in a bad economy.

            You know what’s amazing, if they did nothing and all those jobs were lost people like you would be using that against Obama. This is not about jobs or anything else. It’s about people like you who have nothing short of contempt for Obama and who also by into this sick idea that the Democratic party has any legitimacy.

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard
    • Gregg

      “He is now saying that he will take credit for saving the US auto industry.”

      Is he taking credit or not?

      I don’t agree at all that Romney has contempt for America. I don’t know where you get that. Meanwhile, Obama has demonized Wall Street, the oil industry, the medical industry, Republicans, the rich, and even the Cambridge Police Department. His wife said she was proud of her country for the first time in 2008. They sat in a church for 20 years listening to Rev. Wright scream, “Goddamn America!”. His father was virulently anti-American. I think our President not only has contempt for Americans, he has contempt for America. If President Obama respected and loved America he would not be working so hard to fundamentally transform her.

      • jefe68

        I posted a direct quote from Mitt Romney on this.
        I see complete lack of compassion for people in Mitt Romney. I know of his political act first hand as I live in Massachusetts and his record here is not very good. His worst attribute was his inability to show any form of compassion or care for the citizens of the sate he was entrusted to govern. 

        You have to be kidding. Wall Street? You’re defending Wall Street after all the that’s gone down?
        He never knew his father that’s a cheap shot.
        Your comments about Reverend Wright are also a cheap shot. But that’s your MO, you roll like this.
        Instead of coming up with a good argument you go into typical right wing rhetoric.
        your entire comment is so full of hubris as if the very idea of government that is not in lock step with your belief system is wrong and lacks legitimacy. Your language is all about denying Obama and the democratic party any legitimacy. 

        • Gregg

          The quote I replied with was cut and pasted directly from your comment before you edited it.

          I said Obama demonized wall street and others and he has. How is that defending Wall street?

          As for the rest of your comment, please don’t tell me what I think.

          • jefe68

            The quote was there from first time I posted it. I’m not telling what you think. I’m telling what I think of what you think. There is a difference.
            You can think anything you want. 

      • Still Here

        Obama is not a capitalist.  Having never created anything, he can’t imagine having it taken away by the government or having it fail.  He’s never run anything, never had to meet a payroll.  His record as a legislator is thin at best.  He has no legacy in Illinois politics and he stayed completely off the radar.  He was only in Wright’s church for political reasons, lots of connected-types in Chicago go there.  He did not distinguish himself in the Senate either.  So typical of his life. 

        He is not legitimate and his failed presidency proves it. 

        • TFRX

          “Not a capitalist” makes him, what, a communist?

          Please, don’t bother explaining yourself.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

       Should we take your comment seriously?  I think not.

      Romney was calling for a managed bankruptcy of the industry at a time when the government under Bush II and then Obama was simply handing money over to the auto companies.  What happened to those billions?  The billions are gone.  A complete waste.  Obama’s and Bush’s delay cost the taxpayers billions.

      Eventually, under Obama, they followed Romney’s advice and saved GM and chrysler with a managed bankruptcy.  Unfortunately, they did not follow 200 years of bankruptcy precedent and handed goodies over to political cronies like the labor unions.  This could have a chilling effect on future capital formation and is extremely dangerous precedent.

      • jefe68

        No, he’s on the record for letting them fail, and go out of busniess if need be.
        To even say that Romney had anything to do with this is laughable. Romney was against any bailout under any circumstances. Chrysler would have gone out of busniess without the bailout as it would have not survived a managed bankruptcy alone.
        You’re so caught up in your own political dogma that you can’t see this. But that’s fine, you’re not into facts, just rhetoric that meets your dogma.

        It was not Romney’ advice, it was started under Bush by the way, and followed through by the Obama administration.

  • Gregg

    President Obama’s new slogan is “Forward”. That’s a hoot on a few levels.

    In the last 3 years the GDP has dropped, gas prices have risen, more people are out of work, there have been 21 tax hikes, he has accelerated the defunding of Social Security (Payroll tax cut), his regulations are costing business $46 billion a year, there’s a drilling moratorium, no pipeline and we are more divided than ever. Regarding Obamacare, at first we could keep our plan if we liked it, now we can’t. At first it was going to save money, but it’s costs have risen, so have health insurance premiums. Is that forward?

    Another hoot: He sure doesn’t want America to look back at his record.

    Level three hoot: It’s okay to look back at Bush and blame him.

    • Still Here

      Excellent. Obama will say anything and there are no bounds to his pandering or selectivity with the truth.  He is a master of disaster.  He completely rejects the American work ethic and individualism; preferring a slide into moral relativism, low expectations and collective dependency.  He has been the worst president ever and hopefully Americans will see through his lies this time; though with a billion dollars, does the truth even have a chance?

      • ana

        The fact that Gregg’s comment, so full of  contemptuous distortion garnered 3 likes is scary.

        Barack Obama himself is a model for work ethic and individualism having risen as a bi-racial child from the arms of a teen-age mother to POTUS without benefit of inherited wealth or families of prestigeous influence to smooth  the way as Romney’s, Bushes et al.
          As for your next presumed retort, do you really think that no “affirmative action” tales place among the wealthy?  A place in the upper realms of American life, influence, and often massive wealth  is guaranteed with or without the “work ethic” .

        This President, more than any other in recent memory has held up the ”  American Dream” as most available to those through that “ snobby” expectation of  education and “hard work”  It is a consistent part of his “rheteric” doubtfully reported by the right wing milllionaires in the media.
        And, Obama has addressed more issues for  common good, neglected for generations, than most presidents.  Sadly to folks like Gregg, the common good is a dirty word like, uh, socialism

        It is ludicrous to  declare that Barack Obama has no respect for  work ethic”, encourages low expectations and dependancy.
        Another absurd and  pathetic bit of right wing distortion.
        Worst president?  Actually, one of the most thoughtful, intelligent POTUS in recent years whose mindset is in the 21st century.

         

        • jefe68

          The problem is that these chaps do not even recognize the legitimacy of Obama’ presidency. They are in lock step with the extremist of the GOP who look at the Democratic party as illegitimate.
          What we have here is a situation in which they fen being into some kind of discourse but in reality they are not. It’s all about their way or the highway. 

          • ana

            Even if they have to lie and distort to get their way.   Truly pathetic. 

          • Gregg

            Please ma’am, showed me where I have lied, that is a very serious charge. It’s a lie.

          • Brett

            It seems you are not denying that you distort. As far as lying, I am reminded of George Castanza who once said, “it’s not a lie if you believe it yourself.”

          • Gregg

            The argument seems to be I’m a liar, everyone already knows it, no need to back it up.

            My comment stands. No one has refuted a word.

          • Brett

            The pathetic thing is that you believe because people tired of trying to reason with you long ago, you believe that means  you can’t be refuted

          • Gregg

            Amended (thank you Brett): Please show me any claim I have made that is distorted.

          • Brett

            Just merely pointing out that YOU didn’t deny distortion, that’s all. Your debating tactic has a name; it’s called “broken record.” It’s often used by salespeople and folks who work in claims departments.  

          • ana

            Meant for Still Here.

          • jefe68

            Indeed.

          • Gregg

            I have never questioned the legitimacy of President Obama, never. Please do not tell me what I think.

          • Brett

            I guess we can never know what you think if we can never draw reasonable conclusions from what you write. 

          • Gregg

            Jefe wrote,”The problem is that these chaps do not even recognize the legitimacy of Obama’ presidency.”

            That’s BS! What is it based on? If you agree as implied what do you base it on?

            I make it a point to write “President Obama” instead of just “Obama” as often as I can. I use the term “Our President” often. I have never said he was illegitimate. I never said he wasn’t born here although I have called him a Keynesian.

            So cut crap, the conclusions you are free to draw are not not “reasonable”. It’s nothing but a gratuitous insult… which is fine and another example of the shallowness of debate that is not honest.

          • Brett

            Don’t tell me what to imply.

          • Gregg

            I would never and have never done that.

          • Brett

            I love it when you display righteous indignation; I think it’s my favorite of your tactics. I am not interested in debating your drivel just spotlighting your intellectually dishonest machinations; that and finding humor in your comments are all the value that can be garnered from your posts, except when you talk about fishing or music, anyway.  

          • Gregg

            “I have no basis to say you think our President is not legitimate”.
            Say it.

            Don’t you think you should have a leg to stand on if you (yes you, not me) are going to get all self-rightous? You don’t have half the integrity of Ana.

             

          • jefe68

            Gee Gregg, how do you unpack all of this:
            I don’t agree at all that Romney has contempt for America. I don’t know
            where you get that. Meanwhile, Obama has demonized Wall Street, the oil
            industry, the medical industry, Republicans, the rich, and even the
            Cambridge Police Department. His wife said she was proud of her country
            for the first time in 2008. They sat in a church for 20 years listening
            to Rev. Wright scream, “Goddamn America!”. His father was virulently
            anti-American. I think our President not only has contempt for
            Americans, he has contempt for America. If President Obama respected and
            loved America he would not be working so hard to fundamentally
            transform her.

            So none of the above is about questioning the legitimacy of  President Obama. Right…

          • Gregg

            No, it has nothing to do with legitimacy.

          • ana

            I am very sorry.  I stated Gregg and meant to address Still Here.

          • Gregg

            That’s okay, I see “Still Here” made the comment.

          • jefe68

            Some of your rhetoric does have that subtext. Did you not go on about his birth certificate and use the Reverend Wright as a vehicle to question President Obama’s patriotism?  

          • Gregg

            Too be honest, I do question President Obama’s patriotism and his history with Rev. Wright is part of it.  That does not make him illegitimate, he was duly elected. I’ve never questioned that he was born in America but I do believe it’s not unreasonable to require the same proof to be President as I need to get my passport. I’m sure I’ve said that. I also believe he sold America a bill of goods on a number of fronts. But he won fair and square. He is legitimate.

        • ana

          Meant in response to Still Here, not Gregg

        • Brett

          Yeah, but consider one “like” was probably from himself, the other was probably from Still Here. That leaves only one other who needs back patting as much as they seem to.

          • Gregg

            I have never clicked “like” for myself. Is that even allowed? I understand you write fiction but must you live it?

          • Brett

            It appears you know all about living in a fictional world.

          • Gregg

            It appears you think you know my every move and it’s motivation, you don’t. Fiction.

          • Brett

            That’s just it, if you never reveal your motivation how can anyone know what you don’t want them  to know, if you catch my drift?

        • ana

          I erred in adddressing my response to Gregg. I meant it for Still Here.  My apologies.

  • Brett

    …More like presumptuous GOP nominee.

    Isn’t that photo of Romney from the time he sang Poison’s  ”Ain’t Lookin’ For Nothin’ But a Good Time” to a bunch of Mormon women at a mixer? 

  • Brett

    The photo of Romney addressing how Obamacare is more like the British form of socialized medicine than Romneycare: “Well, nooo, it won’t be all raspberry scones and Devonshire clotted cream, I can tell you that! And Bob’s your uncle!” (You Brits will like that one!)

  • Hidan

    The media promotes such Rhetoric because it sells and than promotes the idea of “can’t we all just get along” right after promoting Rhetoric once again. 

  • Brett

    Both men look as if they’ve been drinking a little too much political punch, if you know what I mean.

  • Hidan

    Obama does lie, it’s just not at the level of Romney and sense the media is still engaging in fake “fair and Balance”romney will get away with blatant falsehoods by going on Fox News and than having NPR and the likes reporting what he said. Than the media will say “Is what Romney say true?” than bring on Partisan hacks to debate such instead of saying yes. .

    • TFRX

      You forgot to take a dump on Politifact, whose opinions will be held up as proof that “both sides do it equally”.

  • Still Here

    Great, Jack and Tom’s rhetoric on political rhetoric; as if Fridays weren’t enough.

    • jefe68

      Don’t listen.

    • Guest

      lmfao

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    Obama was elected purely on political rhetoric in 2008 and not on any accomplishment.  Remember ‘hope and change’ and all of the other false promises?

    Something happened to Obama’s rhetoric about 4 weeks ago.  He shifted to dividing the country and demonizing his political opponents. 

    The latest gallup poll shows the result.  His greatest strength has always been PERSONAL likeability.  It has always exceeded his job approval rating.  Not any more.  His likeability has dropped to equal his job approval  in the mid 40s.

    Was his campaign just desperate or incompetent?  We will never no but it looks like Obama will join Carter and Bush I in the annals of one termers.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

       know- not no.

    • Still Here

      Talk like that will get you on his Enemy’s List!

    • Matt Wade

       RCP’s Electoral College map shows a very narrow path for the Rombot 2.0′s victory. He’s capped at 290 electoral votes. Not a good sign for the Etch-a-Sketch candidate.

      Conversely, Obama is sitting on 253 electoral college votes. Shaping up to be another Obama landslide.

      http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/2012_elections_electoral_college_map.html

      • Worried for the country(MA)

         Check out Sean Trende’s article today in RCP.

        Romney’s path is NOT narrow but if you want to delude yourself; feel free.

          The only valid polls are LV polls and the RCP composite includes both “Adults” and “registered voters”.

        Reagan was down 25 points to Carter at this point in 1980.  Also, Obama is consistently polling with LV in the mid-40s.  In almost ALL modern elections the undecided voters go to the challenger.  If the election were held today, Obama would lose in a landslide.

        That will happen this time because of Obama’s poor record. If Obama had pushed for Simpson-Bowles he could have been re-elected but alas he stood by and voted ‘present’ once again.

  • Matt Wade

    The Rombot 2.0 said “Let Detroit go bankrupt”. Now he is taking credit for GMs profitability. The man is a chameleon and serial liar and his contempt for the average American is sickening.

    • Worried for the country(MA)

       How so?

      Romney was promoting the managed bankruptcy long before the government implemented the managed bankruptcy.  In fact, Romney was promoting the managed bankruptcy at a time that both Bush I and Obama were handing taxpayer money to the auto companies.  That money is gone forever.  If Romney’s advice was followed at the time, that money would have been saved.

      • Matt Wade

         I see you got your latest edition of Dispatches from the Right-Wing Bubble. There was no market for managed bankruptcy for the auto industry at the time because the banks were failing and the credit market was frozen. The government was the only entity that could save the auto companies. The $14 billion spent on the bailout was money well-spent because it was a mini-employment stimulus that saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. Here’s the Etch-a-Sketch’s statement in the NY Times.

        “IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief
        executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive
        industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be
        virtually guaranteed. ”

        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/opinion/19romney.html?_r=1

        Rombot’s mendacity is simply staggering.

  • nj_v2

    It’s going to be a long six months until November.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    Campaign “rhetoric” these days is little more than a pasta fight – just throwing endless sound bytes back and forth to see what sticks.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Rhetoric was the art of persuading an intelligent and educated audience.  Is it any surprise that the term gets misused these days?

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’m not sure it’s a weakness to be immune to rhetoric.  Maybe those on the autistic spectrum can listen unstirred, but I think the trick is to be able to then stand back.  Just as with love, it’s not a mistake to fall in love, but it’s important to be able to get appropriate perspective.  

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    How about calling these liars out on their lies. When will the fourth estate start doing it’s job? …

    Oh sorry, silly me – like never as they are for the most part corporate tools pandering to give their constituencies what they want to hear: who’s to blame and the easy fix to solve the problem. No one wants to be confronted with a complex problem with no single solution.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I am usually transcribing  jury trials, and the closing arguments are rhetoric pro and con.  And I always am persuaded by both sides, and if I were in the deliberation room, I would have very little influence if I didn’t totally “get” both sides.  You can’t persuade anyone of your side if you haven’t taken on board the other side.  Know thy enemy.  Oh, that’s Abraham Lincoln… or who?  Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.  Let yourself be swayed, the better to understand those who have been totally taken over.  Ditto with cults of many sorts.

  • Adks12020

    hahaha…People in the U.S. beyond rhetoric? That’s hilarious.  People in this country are convinced by rhetoric every day.  24 hours of news, political speeches, blogs, etc are everywhere and people don’t think on their own.  They believe someone out there that is spouting rhetoric.  That will never change.

  • Frank Forkl

    I should point out, Bluto did become a Senator.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    The problem with real rhetoric in this country is most people don’t like their opinions challenged by intelligent arguments and facts.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Tom Ashbrook, did you just put W.’s speech up against Churchill’s?  Oy!

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Did the radio in ‘W’s ear work well, for one time?
         He had trouble hearing it, in his right ear!  Did they move it to the left ear?
         ‘W’ was so FUNNY to watch, butchering phrases, and common sayings!!

      • Azra

        Has that square object on his back ever been positively identified?

        Mitt comes up with some doozies, too, like the latest fabrication, where he saved our auto industry. Who does he think he’s fooling, and in MICHIGAN, of all places?

        Too funny!

  • Vtcheflw

    How is it a good thing to manipulate the public mind to believing war and violence are the answer, especially if that rhetoric is full of lies? 

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think the question is Where are the real debates happening?  Apparently not in the political realm of Romney’s sound bite versus Obama’s.  Apparently not in many groups of like-minded people who are basically singing to the choir, gathering steam.  And outside of that, people think it is too complicated, and they’ll just vote the way their boss suggests, or their mother-in-law.  Something like that.
         Where did you last have a meaningful debate about this or that?  Me, it was about climate change with a 30-ish clerk at a bookstore.  

    • Brett

      I find the most rewarding ones are the ones that facilitate a free exchange of ideas, a quality I’ve always known you to promote.

  • rosenpetal

    Perhaps there is a growing trend among this increasingly more literate populace to identify rhetoric as the tools of middle management to convey that the spoonful of manure they are holding is really strawberries and cream. Remember, when the word rhetoric was coined, only the very rich could afford to go to school to learn to speak.

  • Bobbieknable

    This disparagement of rhetoric can  be traced directly to the efforts to diminish President Obama: any skill or trait he possesses becomes devalued.  Thus, his Harvard education becomes “elitist”; his Harvard Law Review leadership is attributed somehow to “affirmative action, and his logical and persuasive speech becomes “just rhetoric”.

  • TFRX

    Where’s the need for rhetoric on the right when all they have to do is get their ignorant crazies to say

    “Obama is an Arab” (to McCain in ’08) or
    Obama should be “tried for treason” because he
    was “operating outside the structure of the Constitution” (to Romney, in Cleveland, this week)?

    The dogwhistles are heard, and the Republican gets to look “reasonable” by saying nothing, or sticking his neck out with “Obama is an honorable man”.

    When the mainstream press is loathe to call anyone a liar, but insists how both sides err equally, what’s the point of an hour on rhetoric?

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      I’ll see your Tea Party example, and raise you the Occupy blatherers.

      • TFRX

        Nice false equivalence. The “Tea Party” is just the old top-down, multimillion-dollar Republican cohort, abandoninbg the brand that GWB ruined last decade.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

     When I heard Obama’s speech in 2004, I called a friend to say that we just heard our future first black president speak.  It’s too bad that his performance doesn’t live up to his rhetoric.

    • ana

      And why would that be?

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    Didn’t Hilter rise to power using rhetoric?

    • Alan in NH

      In his rise and during his reign…ever hear his Reichstag Fire speech?…masterful drama.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Rosenpetal says only the rich could afford the education to learn the art of rhetoric.  By the way, somewhere here I have a set of books about the ways the best children’s books use the tools of rhetoric.  And I thought, this is so obvious.  All the pleasing and memorable bits of children’s books are examples of fine rhetorical twists.  That’s where we learn it.

    • Alan in NH

      Or we learn it in Church, in the rhythm of sermons, as King did so marvelously…but again, there was content that accompanied his speech.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    George W. Bush was a powerful speaker?  ?Como que huh?

    • Vtcheflw

      When he spoke to the public how had been so stupefied they couldn’t see through the BS, he was powerful.  

  • Ellen Dibble

    Ross Perot, brass tacks.  FDR, the fireside chats.  Coming down to earth, a branch of oratory in a curious way.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’m thinking of the oratory I heard as a child, which was sermons delivered in church on Sunday mornings.  And I’m thinking that the sermon, from my experience, is about certainty, and way, way out of line with the exercising of balance in the head which is so necessary to adult reasoning. 
        I’d like to hear a sermon that is more about questions and doubt.

    • Brett

      That’s an interesting point. I find the rare sermon that is questioning in its tenor, the one that acknowledges the human quality of doubt (without any particular need to provide absolute assurances that certainty will be provided) to be the most uplifting.

      My favorite part of church service (Lutheran), attended weekly from age six to confirmation at age fourteen, was the sermon. I now only attend services on Christmas Eve, and the Episcopal Church I go to every year, mostly for the building itself (late 18th century) and the choir, essentially atmospherics, also has a wonderfully progressive priest. I love his sermons. Of course, the church lost about half of its congregation when he replaced the old priest. 

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    Delivery?

    That is only true in the modern era.

    Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address delivery wasn’t well received yet it is one of the most famous speeches, ever.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Wasn’t Lincoln said to have had a thin, reedy voice?  I wonder what would have happened if he had the use of Twitter, voiceless as it is.

      • TFRX

        His voice had to carry, unamplified, in open-air crowds greater than a basketball arena could hold (if basketball were invented then).

        The changes between then and now are to be considered, the same way that Al Jolson’s voice was perfect for the old-fashioned stage, but comes across on film and in recordings as overbearing and hyper, for folks like you and I who grew up listening to electronically-amplified recordings.

  • Greyman

    Would Mr. Leith hazard an opinion on the dread substitution of charisma for rhetoric in (contemporary) politics? Perhaps this would begin to supply a useful distinction between neutral rhetoric and baneful demagoguery. 

  • Ellen Dibble

    Modern orators.  I think of our Ted Kennedy, the lion of the Senate.

  • Sean

    It’s not that Dems are worse at using manipulative language and speech than Republicans… Dems simply have more integrity, for the most part, and prefer to appeal to people’s intellect honestly rather than using the Republican tack and taking people for chumps all the time.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Republicans are coordinated by a kind of herding.  Think border collies.  I saw an article in the Gazette yesterday by one Jonathan Klate saying that the numbers aren’t working nonetheless this time, and that the Republicans will resort to shrinking the size of the Democrat electorate, and he explains.  He says the election will come down to the vote of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sided with the Republicans in Bush v Gore.

      • Worried for the country(MA)

         What is the logic of the SCOTUS ruling and the effect on the election?  I assume you are talking about the ruling on Obamacare.  If so, I don’t think the SCOTUS ruling gives one side an advantage in the Presidential election.

        • Sean

          Huh?  I think you didn’t follow Ellen’s comment too well… and I drink Honest-Tea, NOT Republican Koolaid.

        • Ellen Dibble

          No, not Obamacare.  I’m talking about Voting Rights.  I’ll quote a bit.  ”Although the Department of Justice and Attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. are pursuing challenges to laws that may violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, most of these issues will not be resolved prior to the election this November and obstacles will remain in place to disenfranchise enough likely Obama voters to accord Romney an electoral victory if he can manage to get close enough. // Then the post-election legal challenges will commence, and these are likely to involve questions of Constitutional import.  We can see where this is headed.  We’ve been there before. // It is unimaginable that the hard right gang of four on other Supreme Court would return Obama to the White House given the power to deny this.  If opposed by the four justices appointed by Democratic presidents, the only conceivably persuadable Supreme is Anthony Kennedy…”

          • Ellen Dibble
          • Worried for the country(MA)

             Thank you for the clarification.

            Personally, I don’t see how these laws disenfranchise anyone.  The intent of moving registration prior to voting day is to reduce voter fraud.  I still don’t understand why photo id’s aren’t required to vote.  I need a photo id to purchase a beer at Fenway park.

            I don’t think it will be a close election so it won’t really matter.

          • TFRX

            Voter fraud fraud is your side’s job one.

            Nothing personal, but your whining is showing.

          • Worried for the country(MA)

             Huh?

            The facts don’t support your position.

          • TFRX

            Just because NPR is buying your swill doesn’t mean I do.

            Give it up when you’ve lost, bub.

          • Azra

            FRAUD? It was less than 1%! Why do they continue to waste so much time and energy, (and probably our taxes), with this nonsense?

    • Worried for the country(MA)

       Watch out Sean, too much kool-aid is hazardous to your health.

      • Vtcheflw

        kool-aid? So anyone who doesn’t see things your way “drank in kool-aid”? 

        • Worried for the country(MA)

          Not at all.  I’m all for good debate on issues.

          I’m just trying to imagine Nancy Pelosi trying to appeal to “people’s intellect honestly” and I’m having a good laugh.

          • Vtcheflw

            I see your point, they are ALL full of it most of the time.  I do think good folks making good arguments often have convictions that keep them from crossing lines that are often crossed by politicians and talking heads.  The line is certainly not R or D, maybe more line like politician/pundent or civilian.  I do think the right tends to use a different brand of rhetoric though.

          • Azra

            It’s know as “say anything that tickles your fancy”. It’s much easier, and they don’t have to bother with any of those pesky facts.

    • TFRX

      I don’t discount the mediascape here, and neither should you.

      Nothing a Republican does poorly, in the realm of politics, is ever more than a blip for our Beltway Inbreds. Karl (The Math) Rove was never laughed at or scorned for losing in ’06 and ’08.

    • adiggins

      Perhaps Dems don’t give enough thought to how what they mean to say sounds because they are often more focused on actual facts without regard to how artlessly they’re presented and Repubs are often more likely to accept arguments from authority and ad hominem attacks.  People who don’t know that those are weak forms of argument are more prone to manipulation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KobiTirey Kobi Tirey

    I agree with your guest that we don’t less soundbites, we need better soundbites. I’m a recent college grad applying for jobs in  political media, but I am dumbfounded that our political rhetoric is essentially stuck in the 80s. When I look for ways to snap the political discussion out of the post-Reagan government vs. business dichotomy I look to pop culture. I see G. R. R. Martin making the greatest argument for Keynesian economics in Game of Thrones. I see Herbie Hancock as a hero for all those who try to communicate complicated ideas in accessible packages. I see comic book writers Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison trying to nail down exactly what the power of words is. First with the explosion of cable, and then the internet, the room for politicians to talk has grown exponentially. I feel that the problems of citizens united, super pacs, and money in politics are actually just growing pains. You give a politician more room to talk and he’s going to take cheap shots. Eventually, we’re going to get so good at communicating through those mediums that cheap shots just won’t cut it anymore. If we want to speed up this process we need to start looking at what artists are doing now, instead of what politicians did in the past.

  • Vtcheflw

    I often wonder what kind of technology we would be powering our economy if the oil companies had not been able to “frame favorably” their destruction of the planetary environmental health?

    • Terry Tree Tree

      FREE ENERGY, from far more environmentally-friendly sources!

  • ThisIsNotBritannica

    I wonder if Obama’s rhetorical skills are more admired among African Americans — who have a tradition of sermonizing and other rhetorical traditions — than it is by white Americans, who associate practiced rhetoric with fast-talking salesman and politicians?

    • TFRX

      …and televangelists? Cos there are plenty of caucasians in this country who’re suckers for that.

    • Alan in NH

      “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.” Lincoln, white American.

      I think the problem with rhetoric is that too often it is not followed by commensurate action consistent with the rhetoric.

  • adiggins

    Sadly, I didn’t learn about classical rhetoric until taking a college English course.  Until we start teaching it in middle and high school we shortchange our democracy of a discerning citizenry, and we shortchange our citizens of an effective, functional government.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      SO TRUE!!

  • BHA in Vermont

    I wish they would just SHUT UP with the rhetoric and start talking SPECIFICALLY about how they will fix our problems. 

    The old saying is (I believe): If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bu11 sh1t. All we are getting is cow pies.

  • Janebdough

    Can your guest recommend a good book for an introduction to rhetorical theory?

    • adiggins

       Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student by Edward P.J. Corbett.

    • Zero

      The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present (2nd edition)

      Bizzell and Herzberg editors

  • Rob

    Here’s part of the problem for the left – Sam Leith says he doesn’t want to get into the ideological battle and then completely misstates the difference of left v. right in rightwing framing terms.  I judge that he thinks he was being even-handed.  The difference between the left and right economic rhetoric, if you put both in rosy terms, is that the right believes the playing field is level if only government weren’t ‘in the way’; the left believes that it’s only the government that can keep the powerful and wealthy from completely tipping the field in their own direction. 

  • adiggins

    Tom, thanks for bringing this topic to our attention.  Looking forward to your guest’s book.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Brown/1227104716 Tim Brown

    I don’t think I’m remotely alone in being totally sick of empty rhetoric. It’s all very well and good for these almost exclusivley extremely wealthy, well connected folks with full health care to sit around arguing over “free markets,” and what constitutes “socialism,” vs. “basic saftey nets”, but there are a lot of us hurting out here and rattling the markets over an inability to raise the debt ceiling or being unwilling to find non-partisan ways to avoid raising student loan interest rates is not helping us.

    What does rhetoric do to help the youth stuck with 16% unemployment and 53% un/undermployment out of college?

    Not to mention the rhetoric has proven insincere over and over. Ryan is the debt hawk of the debt hawk party and his budget gives $4 trillion in tax cuts aimed at the rich, runs trillion plus deficets, and by his own admission doesn’t balance the budget for 20 years (as many as 35 years by independant analysis). What he wants to cut aside, how is a balanced budget in 20 years and massive cuts in revenue being a “debt hawk?”

    Same goes for Dems. They are “pro-labor” and want to fight for the worker’s right to collectivly bargain, but when card check came up in 09 with a Democratic super majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, and a Democratic president, they didn’t pass that crucial reform. Democrats are pro capital L labor for their pet unions, and the real message behind their rhetoric is “service sector workers? Screw off poors, what are you going to do if we ignore you, vote GOP?”

    I won’t even get into the whole discussion of “let’s close all loopholes and make a more blananced, competition friednly tax system.” Both parties embrace this, both fight tooth and nail for their pets. Good luck seeing the GOP give up big oil’s loop holes and you’ll never see the Dems lead a charge on GE’s breaks. Not to mention both parties proclaim “loopholes = bad,” and in the same breath want to get manufacturing back on its feet with, you guessed it, targeted tax breaks… It boggles the mind.

    These people make me sick.

    • Azra

      Everyone, except those one-percenters, is sick of it all, and it will change after November’s election. Fear not.

  • Still Here

    Rhetoric:  My views are evolving.

    Reality:  I’ll flip-flop right after the election when it won’t matter to whom I lied.

    • Ray in VT

      You mean he won’t come out and say that he may be fine with same sex marriage because he knows that it will cost him the votes of bigots, who have found in gays perhaps the last group in America that it is socially acceptable to publicly hate and discriminate against.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Like Republican Larry Craig did?
           Like Republican Mark Foley did?

        • Brett

          Like Republican Mark Foley did? Please, he was just “rough housing,” playing grab ass with senate pages like he did in the Navy. ;-)

      • Gregg

        Wow, that’s quite a leap the way I read you, please clarify. Do you think being opposed to same sex marriage means one is anti-gay and full of hate?

        • Gregg

          BTW, I voted against the amendment today but not because I support same sex marriage, I don’t. It also closed the door on civil unions which I support.

          • Brett

            Seriously, Gregg, what is it that prevents you from supporting gay marriage?

          • Brett

            No reply to a straight forward question? I guess you’d rather focus on my comments that you see as unreasonable and blather about their unfairness. Alrighty then.

          • Gregg

            See my reply to Ray.

          • Zero

            Yeah Gregg, I too would like to know why you don’t support same sex marriage.

        • Ray in VT

          Hi Gregg,
          I don’t think that everyone who opposes gay marriage are hateful or even necessarily bigoted, although I think that some are, even if they mask it in religious faith.  I’m not saying in those instances that those individuals are using their faith as a cover.  They may really believe that the creator of the universe cares whether or not two guys or girls get it on.  Maybe there is a creator, and maybe he/she/it does care, who knows.  At any rate, I tend to  look at religious opposition to homosexuality through the prism of what would we call it if they said it about fill in the blank racial/ethnic group.  I think that those views, which some still cling to, like the FLDS or the Christian Identity movement, are wrong, and I apply that to views on gays and lesbians as well.  People have a right to believe it, but I don’t have to like it or respect it, although I’ll rarely call someone on it unless they’re a real jerk about it.

          I found Still Here’s comment to be partisan and unnecessarily provocative, so I chose to take the route of giving one back.

          I only heard about the amendment on Sunday morning when I was driving home.  Based upon many of your comments here I expected that you would have voted against it if I had had to guess.  That seems to fit very consistently into a libertartian point of view.  Is there a reason that you see a difference between marriage and civil unions if both grant the same civil and legal rights?  I know that the word marriage has a lot of baggage attached to it, and that is a real hang up for some people.

          • Gregg

            Thanks Ray, I figured I was missing something. Full disclosure: I liked Still Here’s comment. But I hear ya’ I like to spar too sometimes, give’m hell.

            IMO the subset you refer to is small. I don’t deny it exists. Obviously there are virulently anti-gay non-religious people too. But I guess the thing I notice most is the assumption all gays support gay marriage. Some don’t. Or that straight people who oppose it are anti-gay. 

            I just think the institution of marriage is somewhat sacred and centered on family. Call me sentimental but I think it’s sweet. Gays cannot procreate. The relationship is fundamentally different. IMHO it should not be made equal by law and to a lesser extent, culture because it isn’t. 

            But then there are people in committed monogamous relationships who cannot have the same hospital visitation rights because they are gay. That’s not all, there are many other logistical things involving estates, banking, taxes, etc. that I see no reason to discriminate against by sexual orientation. Civil Unions would also be helpful for elderly plutonic friends. Or Siblings. I think we should encourage companionship and commitment to it for everyone.

          • Ray in VT

            I might have ignored Still Here’s comment if it had gone the other way.  I think that I’m honest enough about my own biases to admit that, but I generally don’t care for mud slinging and attacks.  I think that Obama may support, or at the the very least not be opposed to, gay marriage, but he knows that he can’t come out and say it.  It’s part of the way that politics works in general.  Look at Romney.  Is he pro-life or pro-choice?  I don’t know.  Maybe he’s both, and that is possible in a way.  Many politicians dance around issues that they know that they shouldn’t really touch.

            On the gay marriage front, I’m sure that there are plenty of gays and lesbians who are opposed to marriage.  I know plenty of straight people who are opposed to straight marriage.  I think that my marriage is great, but I know that marriage isn’t for everyone.  My brother, for one, has had two bad ones.  I doubt he’ll do it again.

            I mentioned those who are opposed to it on religious grounds because they are the ones who get the most attention on that front.  Again, I know a number of irreligious people who are opposed to gay marriage, as well as the concept of homosexuality, not to mention that most of them aren’t too fond of minorities, but, again, I think that those who stand against it on religious grounds have the larger soap box and get most of the attention.

            I think that marriage is special, and I think that far too many people enter into it lightly.  I do find it kind of funny that you use the term sacred to describe it, given that you’ve stated that you’re not religious, but I understand that, given that I was raised Catholic.  Despite my irreligion, some of the habits of the faith stick with me.  I can sort of understand your take on marriage versus civil unions, and, like I said, marriage is so loaded with cultural and historical connotations that it makes it a difficult topic to broach with some people.  The counter argument is that having civil unions creates a separate class that will be somehow unequal, and I side with that argument.  One solution that I heard debated here was to call all unions recognized by the state civil unions and to leave marriage to the churches.  It’s the legal rights that most people want, but my wife was damned sure that she was not going to be “civiliized”, she wanted to get married.

            Anyways, it looks like the ban passed.  Have a good night if you’re still up.

          • Gregg

            I see it the same way when it comes down to it. The word “sacred” was just a word not a religious injection. I very much agree with you about people taking the commitment of marriage too lightly.

            Yea the ban passed as it has most everywhere. Oh well.

  • U.S. Vet.

    ‘Forward’, the campaign slogan for Obama 2012 is false advertising,

    ‘Backward’, would be a much more appropriate campaign slogan for the direction in which Obama is taking this country.

    • Azra

      No, that’s the Tea Party, as evidenced by their garb, and their bizarre ideas. The GOP just wants to take us back to the 19th century, (you know, the good old days), not the 17th or 18th.

      Backward? How? Do you mean BEFORE the 18th century? Please be specific.

  • U.S. Vet.

    I love the political slogan that the blogger, Still Here, came up with to describe Barack Obama:

    “The Master of Disaster”   (LOL)

    Kudos to the brilliant blogger, Still Here.

    I wish I had thought of that one. 

    • Brett

      Oh, yeah, that’s original. Sounds like its taken from some professional wrestling blurb. Figures you’d think something that tired is brilliant.

      • U.S. Vet.

        You’re 100% right,

        Obama would be a much better wrestler than President.

    • TFRX

      Or “Keeping us Safe. Except for that one time.”

      Wait, that’s the GOP.

      • U.S. Vet.

        “Except for that one time.”

        Are you referring to 9-11?

        Let me remind you that Bill Clinton had several opportunities to have Osama Bin Laden killed, but he couldn’t be bothered since he was too busy getting ‘Lewinskys’ in the Oval Office.

        Do you think that Hillary still lets Bill smoke those special, ‘hand-dipped’ cigars?

        • Terry Tree Tree

          MANY reports of ‘W’ having the chance to take-out, or capture bin Laden!
              MANY reports that bin Laden plane was the only one in sky, leaving, AFTER 9/11!!
              MANY alleged CLOSE connections between ‘W’, and bin Laden!

          • U.S. Vet.

            If Bill Clinton had ‘liquidated’ Osama Bin Laden when he had the chance,

            9-11 would have never happened.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            ‘W’, the great ‘Warrior-Leader’, CAMPAIGNED that he would MAKE US SAFER!
               DID YOU feel SAFER on 12 Sept 2001?   Did the U.S. Citizenry? 

        • TFRX

          Damn right I am.

          When Clinton ordered a strike that was, what, an hour away from successfully taking out OBL in 1998 all the mainstream press could say was “Wag the dog!”

          I’d ask you to get your facts right, but that’s wasted breath.

      • Azra

        Better make that TWICE, that we know of.

        Remember hurricane Katrina? Years before it hit, Dubya had been made aware of what would happenwhen it did. He wasn’t concerned about it. Then, two years before Katrina, scientists, and other experts, (very worried about the looming devastation), met with him at the White House, to discuss it. He was shown videos, diagrams, charts, and everything they had. He was told of the potential damage, the flooding, and the deaths. They explained to him exactly what needed to be done, and begun IMMEDIATELY. Bush said nothing during or after the meeting; his typical Alfred E. Newman attitude.

        Bush was responsible for everything that happened as a result of the flooding, because HE CHOSE TO DO NOTHING.

        Romney wanted Detroit to die, but as serious, callous, and uncaring as he is, at least President Obama was there to do the right thing.

        No one was there to save New Orleans, when Bush wouldn’t do it. The horrific aftermath of Katrina could have been prevented, but Bush chose to do nothing, as he chose to ignore those threats before 911.

        • Azra

          At least Bush recognized that Brownie was doing a heck of a job.

  • Zero

    My favorite rhetorical move the last few years came from the republicans after most of Obama’s speeches, quote, “Don’t listen to his rhetoric…I don’t like his rhetoric…it’s all rhetoric.”

    If one doesn’t have a counterargument or even a vague critique, just call the other guy a sophist and stupid America will believe you.  

    • Brett

      Good point; using rhetoric to condemn someone for using rhetoric.

  • Brett

    Can Romney perform magic tricks like Obama (as in the photo above where he makes an egg appear between his left thumb and index finger)? I think not!

  • U.S. Vet.

    Since Obama has been known to quote Ronald Reagan, let me offer some free campaign rhetoric for Obama 2012:

    Reagan gave us ‘Morning in America’.

    Obama gave us ‘N.D.A.A. in America’.

  • Gregg

    Brett, you wrote: “The pathetic thing is that you believe because people tired of trying to
    reason with you long ago, you believe that means you can’t be refuted”

    First, please don’t tell me what I think. Secondly, if what you say is true then inform some of the others who debate honestly with me all the time. I get along just fine with many here and respect alternative viewpoints. I can agree to disagree and not get personal. I do it all the time. You don’t, you just hide from the debate, tell me what I think and get personal. Fine, you define yourself, I’m happy to let my comments define me.

    I can certainly be refuted, I am just pointing out that thus far the comment you are ignoring has not been refuted. You sure make a lot of comment about me, my thoughts, my motivations, my this and that, without offering squat.

    • Brett

      It seems you are then into debate for the sake of debate if you “certainly can be refuted.” That’s a kind of interest in the jousting part in and of itself. In my opinion that is one of the more supreme forms of dishonest debate or intellectual dishonesty. 

      Please stop telling me to stop telling you what you think. It is becoming your default mode. I told you what I get out of your comments and that it is not to debate your viewpoints with you necessarily; although, once and a while I find the debate worth it, other times I like to mock you. People make their points in all kinds of ways, too bad if you don’t like my approach. Sorry, but you do what you want on here, I do what I want. You want to define rules of engagement…so what? Stop telling me what I should and shouldn’t say here. 

      Just because you say your table cloth manners and your persistence, and your “agree to disagree” (which is just a copout) concessions make your comments honest doesn’t make them so. Besides, you can get just as “personal” and snarky as anybody here at times, no matter how much you pretend you don’t. 

      I don’t hide from the things I want to say, nor do I necessarily “ignore” anyone just because I don’t reply or respond in the way you think I should. Just because I don’t want to play your game the way you want to, tough.   

      • Gregg

        Now that’s interesting. I am here because I believe America is in grave trouble. You call it a “Crusade”, I call it a duty. I am aghast at the divisiveness and the dishonesty of debate. I honestly believe another four years of President Obama will be the ruin of this nation. I’m sure you disagree but this isn’t a game me. I’m here to debate the issues, no bones about it. If you think that is dishonest, fine. I find your penchant for personal nastiness in lieu of addressing whatever issue is on the table the “cop out”. I think you have misread me. I am not objecting, I love it. You have done plenty to help my cause by your methods. Mock away. Keep’um coming. You are unique to this board, most liberals can be nasty, as can conservatives, as can I. But you (like only 2 others) IMO volunteer it at all costs. I have enough confidence in my fellow man (including those here) to believe this is not lost. People know in their hearts and vote behind a curtain. I have confidence in honest debate.

        There is no way in hell I will stop asking you to quit telling me what I think as long as you continue to project onto me thoughts I find abhorrent with no basis whatsoever other than some stupid preconceived notion. Sorry, it’s a no go but you have the power, just debate honestly.

        So tell me, if you have no intention of debating me on the merits (fine) why are you replying at all? Are you just trying to be funny.. or mean? Either way, thanks. Your kind needs to be outed for who you are. I’m the man to do it.

        • Brett

          I do want to correct some things:
          I didn’t say you are on a crusade; I said you believe you are on a crusade. Your above comment proves my opinion to me, whether you feel it exemplifies such or not. I feel as though you have a rather lofty view of yourself. In my opinion your above comment signifies a kind of delusion of grandeur, but not in the clinical sense mind you. Semantics might also play a small roll here; perhaps I should say it is your belief that it is your “duty,” or that you believe it is your “mission” or something to that effect. I felt that “crusade” was the more high-minded of words I could have chosen, high-minded in the sense that the person who believes such would consider “crusade” the highest “mission” of all. In my opinion, there would not be an appreciable difference in any of those words. I believe they signify the mindset that your self-opinion is inflated.

          As you’ve stated you feel as though you are “outing” my “kind,” whatever those ideas mean beyond your “mission,” if anything. Just that you believe you are making some kind of difference in the political landscape by exposing what you feel are some form of injustices, or are righting some kind of wrong, indicates deluded thinking. 

          Yes, I do make regular, what one might consider, “normal,” forum comments. Those don’t seem to get any or much response from you, or, at least, there isn’t the same kind of effort on your part. There are times when I am just being funny. There are also times when I use sarcasm, parody, absurdity, farce, etc, to make my point; those are simply devices I use but not my approach all the time. I think a lot of your comments are absurd, so I use such devices to reply. I only say this to offer an explanation of why I respond the way I do, and I think most people get what I’m doing most of the time. 

          I think MO-D, when he used to address you as “General G,” was spot on. He may not have been using sarcasm, but I think it is an apt title in a sarcastic sense.

          General Gregg, I, for one, salute your bravery and patriotism! I’m off to plant a cottage garden. Try to have a nice day, and good luck on your mission. 

          • Gregg

            You confuse passion with delusions of grandeur. I certainly don’t have big expectations but I’m doing my part. The times call for it. You should take your act on the road and comment on a Conservative blog. I suspect the rejection of your ideas would get to you. Maybe you’d thrive but you’d need to bring more than you do here. My guess is you’d end up in ther fetal position crying. I could be wrong, we’ll never know. Oh well, it’s time to check the topic of the day, I’ve got work to do.

            BTW, the full title is: “General G Commander of the great middle States”.

            Gotta love Moda!

          • Terry Tree Tree

            A self-avowed ‘draft-dodger-hippie’, appointing a non-millitary-serving-citizen(?), to the HIGHEST millitary rank?   Over the Middle States?
               The sanity, logic, or other justification, eludes MANY that served the U.S., in millitary uniform?     So does your acceptance of this decree?

          • Gregg

             ”So does your acceptance of this decree?”

            If that’s a question, it needs a predicate.

            BTW, I’m not really a general don’t worry.

  • Anne Kazlauskas

    Enjoyed this show. Thank you.  Am among those who would like more dull, plodding, sensible thought & useful action in government & less talk.  But well-placed rhetoric does have to be used to engage people in all kinds of situations – not only politics & religion.
    I am a musician who has sung songs & read aloud as long as I can remember.  While I did not learn formally all rhetorical rules (not taught in the ’60s either) I always listened to great readers, actors & musicians.  Enjoyed learning the art of emphasis & phrasing – how to put across an idea in words, in vocal & instrumental music.  For one thing, our music would be very dull if we did not know how to use rhetoric. 
    Appreciated the woman who called in, concerned that if we don’t understand rhetoric we can’t “see it coming” when someone is trying to put one over on us.  Reminded me of a fun song that hints just this in strong, simple language.  Look up “The Dodger”.  Said to be connected with Grover Cleveland’s election campaign & was included in Aaron Copland’s arrangements of “Old American Songs”.  Makes fun of several professions including (in Copland’s shortened form) the politician, the preacher, finally the lover.  “Yes, the preacher is a dodger, a well-known dodger, the preacher is a dodger & I’m a dodger too…{verse}…but look out, boys, he’s dodgin’ for your dimes!”
    Have had many occasions to sit listening to reading & preaching in church, most often as musician.  Appreciated the rhetorical skills of some preachers & fine readers (& some who act well on what they believe!).  But there are too many times when music seems the only real life there.  Probably another result of lack of training in rhetoric is the lack of confidence in reading aloud.  So often in church, in school, at meetings people read as if they have no idea where to put emphasis, no idea of the meaning. Have heard some Christian fundamentalists warn people not to impose their own interpretation on the Scriptures, leave it a blank slate so “God’s Word comes through”.  That idea seems to have even gotten through to some non-fundamentalist churches & maybe out into the everyday world.  But the point of reading aloud – even the most banal words, speaking, acting, singing is usually to communicate meaning clearly.  It is individuals’ interpretation that helps make life rich & interesting.  Sometimes emphasizing right or wrong words can cause or prevent mistakes, be a matter of life or death.  Certain rhetorical skills are needed everywhere.

  • aj

    Here’s some straight dope to cut thru all the ’Hope&Change & Forward’ bullisht rhetoric.

    ‘NATO has admitted it killed an Afghan mother and five of her children in an air strike last week. The air strike occurred in Helmand province. The Pentagon claimed responsibility after the killings were revealed by the governor of Helmand. Meanwhile, there are reports that as many as 14 civilians were killed in another incident in northwestern Badghis province.’

    Your tax dollars at work; their lives at rest. in peace

    • aj

      Happy Mothers day blown up Afghan Mom with your 5 exploded sons,daughters courtesy of your friends the Americans. {rhetorical}

  • http://www.facebook.com/lesley.mclaughlin2 Lesley McLaughlin

    Tom -Exhilarating discussion.  Start to finish. Top to bottom. Front to back.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lesley.mclaughlin2 Lesley McLaughlin

    Tom – Exhilarating program! Start to finish, top to bottom, front to back.

  • jefe68

    “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American Politics. It is
    ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional
    understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the
    legitimacy of its political opposition.

    When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly
    impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the
    country’s challenges.”

    From Thomas E. Man and Norman J. Ornstein:
    “It’s Even Worse Than it Looks: “How the American Constitutional System
    Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.” It was published on May 8,
    2012.

    • TFRX

      Norman Ornstein? It’s amazing that either 1) he thinks all the right-wing fluffing in the world can’t save the GOP’s reputation, or 2) it’s got to the point where even he can’t excuse one more turd they’ve thrown into one more punchbowl.

      • jefe68

        I’ve not read the book only some articles on it and interviews with the two authors. It seems that there are some on the right and the GOP who are coming out and asking questions. Witness the GOP primary in Indiana the Republicans in that state has voted out Sen. Dick Lugar and are putting up and extremist as the GOP candidate, Richard Mourdock. It’s not a pretty picture.

  • http://www.dogoodgauge.org The Do Good Gauge

    Tammy from South Royalton Vermont’s nailed it on this episode. Not just students, but the American dream is being lost lacking the skill of the people to participate in political debate. For those interested, a TED idea was created to discuss a better media to facilitate democratic debate.

    Harvard’s Professor Michael Sandel is doing his part by providing a free online course on Justice. Professor Sandel offers the foundation necessary to participate in a civil debate.

  • Kivenaberham

    rhetoric is propaganda so is demagoguery, branding and marketing. anyone who want to know about rhetoric should study the history of marketing first because it one and the same. but what i want to talk about is the doctrine of ” weaponization” in our moral reasoning, in our government and media. example is a movie i saw a year ago by kurt vonnegut jr call 2081. in this movie, equality as a value or philosophy doctrine is weaponized against the people who needed the most. the sort of monkey pawls scenario, be careful what you wish for, that is, if you don’t read the fine print. again the idea was use when the supreme court justice clence thomas who was supported by the right.  this is a example of weaponization of race. if you take someone who’s religious, race or sex or moral reasoning is represent a group of people and turn it against them. add to it quality marketing and branding with great catch phrase. this becomes a quality effective weapon against your opponent. “weaponization” in american history, all the news paper are just fill “weaponization” propaganda. not just the lies we tell ourselves but to each other. this is what american value is founded on, from slavery to democracy. one example is, if i point my finger at any stranger and proclaim he or she is a thief a few hundred times and if only 1 percent of my lie is accepted as truth as in total “pure” truth by a stranger, my lie is now a reality! and reality is law. and law are enforced and shared in a civilize society because we demand justice. justice is “weaponize” because of my lies. this is propaganda. and if you really understand this as a moral problem than you realize those who are like rupard murdock are the ones who have the true power in this world.
    by the way, parasite work the same way on a host, in the form of lies but they do it physically, it is the reason why i coin the term parasitical religion.

  • Brett

    “…the institution of marriage is somewhat sacred and centered on family. Call me sentimental but I think it’s sweet. Gays cannot procreate. The relationship is fundamentally different.” -Gregg

    1) Can gays not have a similar sense of sacredness (in the secular sense of the word) in their love relationships? 2) Are heterosexual couples who can not procreate or do not wish to procreate committed to a relationship that is less sacred (in the secular, general sense of the word) by virtue of their sexual orientation? 3) Are gays generally less fundamentally centered on family? 4) Does seeing a gay couple deeply committed to their love for each other, and their union, somehow by virtue of their sexual orientation, less sweet/delightful? 5) Would using the word “sentimental” to characterize your feelings toward heterosexual marriage be applicable only to heterosexual marriage and not gay marriage because gay marriage is inherently less tender to you? 6) Or does your use of the word “sentimental” pertain to the connotation of nostalgia only, as in the old days were better than now?

    “IMHO it [same-sex marriage] should not be made equal by law and to a lesser extent, culture because it isn’t.” -Gregg

    Why not equal by law? What would undesirably happen if it were made equal by law? Why not equal culturally? What would be diminished culturally if it were considered equal, culturally speaking?         

    • Brett

      Correction: Question #2 should have been:

      Are heterosexual couples who can not procreate or do not wish to procreate committed to a relationship that is less sacred (in the secular, general sense of the word) by virtue of their lack of procreation? 

    • http://www.dogoodgauge.org The Do Good Gauge

      There are so many sides to any argument.  To think libertarians and right wing conservatives would agree on this argument is a falsehood.  Conservatives believe morality can be legislated. On this topic a true libertarian would argue government should get out of the marriage business completely.   A liberal would argue for equal rights, but if there were no government rights relating to marriage wouldn’t it appease the liberals.   Maybe the libertarians and the liberals should get together on this argument.

      • Brett

        My comment didn’t say anything about thinking libertarians and conservatives would agree on this argument, although I can see why you might possibly consider making such a statement, as he’s said he’s got libertarian leanings; I was responding to an earlier comment of Gregg’s, after all, as per the two quotes of his on which I was commenting in my post while asking some very specific questions. 

        Additionally, the lines between libertarianism and conservatism have been blurred in recent years, so many do consider both political ideologies  would be in accordance. I don’t, necessarily, however.

        Perhaps you were just offering your own libertarian-leaning perspective? If so, having no special privileges for married couples, gay or straight, other than hospital visitation, honoring the spirit of wills, being able to put partners on health insurance plans, and being considered in custody hearings over children in the care of each partner, would be okay with me. 

        If I were gay, I wouldn’t need the sanction of any religious organization, but many gay people would want that “blessing,” as it were. That has nothing to do with the law, though.     Saying there are many sides to any argument does go without saying.

        • http://www.dogoodgauge.org The Do Good Gauge

          Thank of my argument as a question instead of a stance.  Skimming through your post I noticed the topic of government and marriage.  Your last paragraph said, “Why not equal by law?”.   I pose the question of why should government be in the marriage business at all?   My other question  is why those of different ideologies align themselves when their values are apparently different?  It’s a question, not a reflection on your or my belief.

          My actual stance is about debate. I believe the win/lose concept of debate needs to be examined.   Maybe debate should be thought of as a tool to reach understanding. We are typically wrong before we are right. Maybe debate should be thought of as a tool to learn from mistakes.

          Plutarch said it better than I’m attempting here, To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.

          • Brett

            First, I don’t believe people ask questions in a vacuum, they are looking for a way to either express something indirectly or to lead the asked in a certain direction, or they simply don’t know something that they believe the asked might be able to answer. 

            Second, rather than “debate” perhaps “a free exchange of ideas” or “an exchange of ideas” would work better within the context of what you are saying. Analysis can occur within the process of exchanging ideas, especially if within those exchanges whatever is discussed can be looked at from different angles, but that requires participants to feel there is safety in expressing their ideas.

            It is true, generally, that whatever people engage in, the more they do it the better they get at it. 

            But, in a sense, you’ve hijacked my thread and have attempted to make it about this so-called form of communication that you tout on here periodically and link to your website. Communication has a purpose to convey something. If it doesn’t ever get beyond discussing the “best” way to communicate toward other concepts/ideas desired to be communicated, it doesn’t ultimately have much value. 

            I am more interested, if you wish to continue, in what you think about same-sex marriage and not what you think about ways to communicate, ways to which you obviously already subscribe. I know how you feel about that.

            I was asking Gregg a series of questions in an effort to understand why he is okay with civil unions and not gay marriage (something I don’t know regarding why he has his views), and I didn’t want to be presumptuous. 

            As far as your question about why there should be marriage laws at all, I answered that one in my last reply from my perspective, but let me clarify even more. If not having any laws at all meant no one would be discriminated against, or would not have their liberties infringed upon, or would not have their rights encroached upon, then okay. Do I believe not having any laws would mean that no transgressions on our freedoms would ever occur? NO. In terms of marriage, whatever laws heterosexual couples enjoy, so should homosexual couples enjoy. Should singles have the same rights? Well, generally, of course, but the issues I mentioned in my last reply would not be of much concern to a single person. Other issues, such as, say, tax privileges, for example, should be the same for couples as for singles.      

  • Azra

    HOORAY! PRESIDENT OBASMA HAS COME OUT, NO PUN INTENDED, IN SUPPORT OF GAY MARRIAGE!!!

    • Azra

      (Obasma???) ^

    • aj

      Break out the bubbly! Congrats LBGT! Dont forget, it was a black POTUS who stuck his neck out, and put the Office of the President on the side of your Constitutional rights! Black people didn’t bring down prop 8 in Cali, the Mormons did! Show some love!

      Greenwich Village will be up all night! LOL

       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzpP0KbjHU8

      • Azrastarr

        Have a glass for me!

      • Brett

        You are correct about the Mormons; they have deep pockets and use the money chock full those pockets to influence all sorts of political areas. 

  • Azra

    His announcement was in response to what happened in North Carolina. It will be interesting to see how Romney will try to take credit for that, too . . . and comical!

  • Azra

    ~ ~ ~ GAYS AGAINST ROMNEY! ~ ~ ~

  • Still Here

    Wonder how this will affect turnout among religious blacks in Nov?

  • Guest

     “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.”

    Has anyone heard of persuasion? or studied literary styles?
    Come on WBUR, this is beneath you, even if it is On Point.

  • Staskog128

    Mitt born in 47…incident in 65…this “child” is 18 years old…this hair cutting gang bang is by an adult.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chrisztopher-Wood/1793210828 Chrisztopher Wood

    Sam Leith’s throw-away reference to Animal House’s Bluto inability to be elected president (due to wearing a toga like a Greek orator) is true, but in the closing epilogue we found out that Blutarski was elected a Senator. He must have had some rhetorical skill.

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