Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Rhetoric of Government Action

Frank Rich argues that the rhetorical effects now sought by the Obama administration, and crucial to the national well being, can be found only by going beyond the rhetoric of "outrage" into much more specific verbal rhetoric and the rhetoric of visible, public action.

To get ahead of the anger, Obama must do what he has repeatedly promised but not always done: make everything about his economic policies transparent and hold every player accountable. His administration must start actually answering the questions that officials like Geithner and Summers routinely duck.

Inquiring Americans have the right to know why it took six months for us to learn (some of) what A.I.G. did with our money. We need to understand why some of that money was used to bail out foreign banks. And why Goldman, which declared that its potential losses with A.I.G. were “immaterial,” nonetheless got the largest-known A.I.G. handout of taxpayers’ cash ($12.9 billion) while also receiving a TARP bailout. We need to be told why retention bonuses went to some 50 bankers who not only were in the toxic A.I.G. unit but who left despite the “retention” jackpots. We must be told why taxpayers have so little control of the bailed-out financial institutions that we now own some or most of. And where are the M.R.I.’s from those “stress tests” the Treasury Department is giving those banks?

That’s just a short list. . . .

Rich's essay is an interesting analysis of the rhetorical effects of words and "actions," and of the rhetorical importance of timing, or kairos.

Frank Rich, "Has a 'Katrina Moment' Arrived?" New York Times, 21 March 2009.

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