The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Two UT Government Professors Included in List of Top Five Books on Presidential Rhetoric

Tue, December 2, 2008

2. The Rhetorical Presidency
By Jeffrey Tulis
Princeton, 1987

It is not unusual today for presidents to appeal for public support in the face of an intransigent Congress. Jeffrey Tulis explains the ways in which such efforts have provoked resentment in Congress and even helped to end careers. President Andrew Johnson -- an extreme example of the bull-in-a- china-shop approach -- used the occasion of his speech to a rowdy crowd in St. Louis in 1866 to taunt the most prominent leaders of his own party. "If I have played the Judas, who has been my Christ that I have played the Judas with?" Johnson asked, naming a handful of congressmen who "compare themselves with the Savior." It is not surprising, then, that the 10th article of impeachment against Andrew Johnson concerned his intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues against Congress, all made, as the article of impeachment claims, "with a loud voice." With "The Rhetorical Presidency," Tulis offers a fascinating compendium of lore on the multiple perils and occasional promises of presidential persuasion.

4. The Sound of Leadership
By Roderick P. Hart
Chicago, 1987

Keen insights abound in Roderick P. Hart's study of presidential communications in this deceptively prosaic account of "who said what to whom, when, and where" between 1948 and 1987. He describes the ways that words have now come to serve as substitutes for presidential action, and how the aura of leadership has come to take the place of the real thing. Our obsession with charisma obscures the truth that effective communication is not the be-all and end-all of leadership. Rhetoric is only the beginning, not the end, of leadership. Hart explains, in an energetic, artful style, how drastically our conception of statesmanship has changed because we now equate leading almost entirely with speaking. With the recently concluded presidential campaign behind us, it will be interesting to observe whether the historical conflation of words and deeds, promises and their delivery, persists in Barack Obama's administration.

Read the entire article Books on Presidential Rhetoric

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