Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Rhetorical President...

Good article in this week's New Yorker - "The Speech" by Jill Lapore - about Inaugural Addresses. She traces the evolution of these non-mandatory events from private talks between an incoming President and Congress to the ultimate, show-stopping, rhetorical seduction of the American People.

"We now not only accept that our Presidents will speak to us, directly, and ask for our support... we expect it, even though the founders not only didn't expect it, they feared it. Jeffrey Tulis ("The Rhetorical Presidency," 1987) and others who wrote on this subject during the Reagan years generally found the rise of the rhetorical Presidency alarming. By appealing to the people, charismatic Chief Executives were bypassing Congress and ignoring the warnings of - and provisions made by - the Founding Fathers, who considered popular leaders to be demagogues, politicians who appealed to passion rather than to reason. The rhetorical Presidency, Tulis warned, was leading to 'a greater mutability of policy, an erosion of the processes of deliberation, and a decay of political discourse.'"

Pandering to the People is a dangerous game. The Age of Reason has been shoved aside by the Age of Rhetoric and Showbusiness. Will Barack Obama attempt to bring the two together? That seems to be a path one could hope for.


Blogger ArtSparker said...

Sort of wishing that nobody (including Rick Warren) would pray over the President. Call me old-fashioned, but separation of church and state and all that..

2:06 PM  

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