Writing JFK

Presidential Rhetoric and the Press in the Bay of Pigs Crisis

978-1-58544-281-2 Paperback
5.5 x 8.5 x 0 in
152 pp. 1 b&w photo., Frontis.
Pub Date: 10/22/2003

Everett Lee Hunt Award. Winner. Sponsored by the Eastern Communication Association. Presented April 2004.
Following the dramatic Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, President John F. Kennedy moved to repair the damage the invasion had done to his image and to his relations with the press. Thomas W. Benson examines two speeches and a press conference held by JFK in the days after the crisis, shedding light on how the structures of speech writing influence the texts of the speeches and policy formation, as well as the ways the press mediates and even helps to formulate presidential rhetoric.

Writing JFK: Speechwriting and the Press in the Bay of Pigs Crisis provides the full text of both speeches and the press conference, as well as Benson’s analysis of what would come to be known as “spin control.” He demonstrates how the speeches display the implicit collaboration of Kennedy with his speech writers and the press to create a depiction of Kennedy as a political and moral agent. A central feature of the book is Benson’s exploration of “the enormous power of the presidency to compel press restraint and to command the powers of publicity.”

In this brief but intensive examination, Benson holds a magnifying glass of rhetorical inquiry to the processes of contemporary government. These speeches have never before been studied in such depth, and Benson has drawn on many sources to arrive at unique historical and critical understanding of them. The resulting insight into the relationship among the press, politics, and public policy will appeal to all those interested in politics and rhetoric, the power of the American president, and the legacy of JFK.

Library of Presidential Rhetoric

Published by Texas A&M University Press