In a New York Times Op-Ed, Stanley Fish discusses his writing class’s analysis of recent speeches given by Bush and Kerry. Guess whose message has more rhetorical force?
President Bush, the students pointed out, begins with a perfect topic sentence…that nicely sets up a first paragraph describing how conditions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia four years ago aided terrorists. This is followed by a paragraph explaining how the administration’s policies have produced a turnaround in each country…. The paragraph’s conclusion is concise, brisk and earned: “We have led, many have joined, and America and the world are safer.”
Senator Kerry, my students observed with a mix of solemnity and glee, has violated two cardinal rules of exposition: don’t presume your audience has information you haven’t provided, and always pay attention to the expectations of your listeners.
If you can’t explain an idea or a policy plainly in one or two sentences, it’s not yours; and if it’s not yours, no one you speak to will be persuaded of it, or even know what it is, or (and this is the real point) know what you are.
Read the full article: “The Candidates, Seen From the Classroom.”
Peddling Fear in the Bible Belt
Anyone who reads the Bible must be a stupid idiot, right? That’s obviously what the Republican Party thinks. Otherwise, they wouldn’t think that Christians will fall for the fear-mongering claim that liberals want to ban the Bible: “Republicans Admit Mailing Campaign Literature Saying Liberals Will Ban the Bible“? Right. And if you believe that liberals will ban the Bible, you should also know that Osama bin Laden is voting for Kerry.
Republicans for Humility
Thankfully, not all Republicans are such offensive, insulting, shameless hucksters. In fact, some see right through Bush’s swagger, and are calling on him to act like the decent Christian man he claims to be: Republicans for Humility.
Bush in Fantasy Land
There seems to be a growing chorus of voices in Editorial Land practically pleading with Bush to leave his Fantasy Land and stop pretending that everything in Iraq is going just fine:
- “Bush Upbeat as Iraq Burns” by Bob Herbert in The New York Times
- “Let’s Get Real” by Paul Krugman, also in The New York Times
- “Match Iraq Policy to Reality” by Jessica Mathews in the Washington Post