The Rhetorical Presidency of George H. W. Bush
Presidential Studies - Rhetoric
6 x 9, 224 pp.
2 tables.
Pub Date: 02/15/2006
Presidential Rhetoric and Political Communication
  cloth
Price:        $40.00 s

978-1-58544-471-7
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Published by Texas A&M University Press
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The Rhetorical Presidency of George H. W. Bush

Edited by Martin J. Medhurst

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.

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.

What Readers Are Saying:

“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


“George Bush visited the Conference on Presidential Rhetoric, he said, because Barbara told him he might learn something. Even this most avowedly un-rhetorical President conducted a rhetorical presidency; all modern Presidents do. In this day and age, much of governing is about sizing up and responding to situations in order to solve problems of public persuasion. Bush appeared not to understand this, and his apparent disdain of rhetoric followed from his misunderstanding of it. These essays, all based on research in primary documents at the Bush Library, explore the rhetorical record of the 41st President, ranging from the end of the Cold War to the challenge of the religious right. While acknowledging some adroit rhetorical decisions, the essays also chart a record of missed opportunities with devastating consequences.” --David Zarefsky, Owen L. Coon Professor of Communication Studies, Northwestern

“This book provides a valuable case study of the ‘rhetorical presidency’ by illustrating how an able and popular president was unable to govern as effectively as he might by ignoring the rhetorical dimension of the presidency. Many chapters offer incisive analysis of the evolution of Bush policies and his rhetorical justifications and defense of those policies. Hence, scholars interested in either the nature of the rhetorical presidency, or the Bush presidency, should benefit from this book. There is a great deal of fresh new material and analysis in this work.” --Robert V. Friedenburg, Ph.D., Professor of Communication, Miami University of

“It presents the most comprehensive rhetorical study of President George H. W. Bush. The lessons of this study cannot and should not escape future presidents as well as other politicians.” --Amos Kiewe, Professor and Chair, Department of Communication and Rhetorical S

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