By now, Mitt Romney’s latest interview gaffe, in which an offhand remark (well, not so offhand, see below) reveals a potential lack of empathy with regard to impoverished Americans and public policy on poverty, has captured this week’s media cycle and crackled across the blogosphere. While you may well be familiar with this story, check out what is said, and how it is said, again — because there seems to be something a bit deeper here in Romney’s language that the media coverage of this episode seems to underplay.
In particular, for me the key is in the phrasing right before and after the now infamous soundbite.
Later today, I’m going to eat lots of turkey. So will millions of Americans celebrating Thanksgiving (and steeling themselves for the ravages of Black Friday, which this year is blasphemously beginning on Thursday). But of the 46 million turkeys that will be gobbled down today (that works out to 3 pounds of bird per person — really???), at least two will be spared. Liberty, and his understudy Peace, were officially pardoned by President Barack Obama yesterday at a White House ceremony.
At a time of overseas war, national and global economic distress and virulent partisan political bickering, is it a worthy use of the President’s time to pardon a turkey? Actually, yeah, it is.
Last Saturday at a forum for Republican presidential candidates at a church in Des Moines, Iowa (one must hesitate before labeling this event a “debate,” as precious little competition of ideas actually took place), Newt Gingrich took on the progressive Occupy movement with some words that provided red meat to the cultural conservative GOP base. These words came a day after peaceful Occupy protestors at the University of California – Davis were subjected to point-blank pepper spray from police, a moment that quickly became a point of national controversy and a rapidly viral internet meme. Gingrich’s remarks illustrate both how he has filled (at least for now) the rhetorical leadership gap in the national Republican party, and why his candidacy is ultimately doomed.
So, when folks consult “experts” in American politics, political scientists and historians tend to be the go-to specialists. What can a rhetorician bring to the table? A little background on me might shed some light.
I am currently Associate Professor of Communication Studies, and Chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Division of Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. As a member of the Communication Studies Department faculty, I teach courses in political communication, rhetorical theory and criticism, media studies, and communication research. Two of the current staples of my teaching responsibilities are courses entitled “Communication, Politics, and Citizenship” (an introduction to political communication and rhetorical studies), and “Critical Analysis of Messages” (a course in the rhetorical criticism of public address, which I teach in a Learning Community with Chris Whitt on “The American Presidency in Times of Crisis”).
Note: The views of the Political Denizens, their guest contributors and visitors do not reflect those of Augustana College. The Denizens are thankful to the College for providing them with resources and an outlet for their observations and commentary in the spirit of academic freedom and free public speech.