Saturday, October 30, 2010

Barack Obama and the Politics of Faith


The Penn State Department of Communication Arts and Sciences colloquium and the Center for Democratic Deliberation lecture series on Religion, Politics, and Democratic Deliberation will host a lecture by Professor Martin J. Medhurst on Friday, October 29, 3:35 - 5:00 p.m., in 165 Willard Building on the University Park Campus. Professor Medhurst's lecture is titled "Barack Obama and the Politics of Faith."

Professor Medhurst is Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication and Professor of Political Science at Baylor University.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Inside the Senate’s battle over climate change:

Ryan Lizza, "As the World Burns," The New Yorker, 11 October 2010.

For three months, a period of record-high temperatures in Washington, what was now called the Kerry-Lieberman bill was debated and discussed as if it were a viable piece of legislation, but no Republican stepped forward to support it. During one speech in early June, Obama said that he knew “the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months.” He never found them, and he didn’t appear to be looking very hard.

Read more

Inside the Senate’s battle over climate change:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Times on Health Care and the Campaign

New York Times editorial today:

Republicans and special interests are spreading so many distortions and lies about health care reform that it is little wonder if voters are anxious and confused. . . .

"Health Care and the Campaign," New York Times, 24 October 2010.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Glenn Beck, the Tea Party, and the Republicans:

Beck’s version of American history relies on lessons from his own acknowledged inspiration, the late right-wing writer W. Cleon Skousen, and also restates charges made by the Birch Society’s founder, Robert Welch. The political universe is, of course, very different today from what it was during the Cold War. Yet the Birchers’ politics and their view of American history—which focussed more on totalitarian threats at home than on those posed by the Soviet Union and Communist China—has proved remarkably persistent. The pressing historical question is how extremist ideas held at bay for decades inside the Republican Party have exploded anew—and why, this time, Party leaders have done virtually nothing to challenge those ideas, and a great deal to abet them. . . .

Read more

Glenn Beck, the Tea Party, and the Republicans:

The Elections: How Bad for Democrats? by Michael Tomasky | The New York Review of Books

. . . In American politics, Republicans routinely speak in broad themes and tend to blur the details, while Democrats typically ignore broad themes and focus on details. Republicans, for example, speak constantly of “liberty” and “freedom” and couch practically all their initiatives—tax cuts, deregulation, and so forth—within these large categories. Democrats, on the other hand, talk more about specific programs and policies and steer clear of big themes. There is a reason for this: Republican themes, like “liberty,” are popular, while Republican policies often are not; and Democratic themes (“community,” “compassion,” “justice”) are less popular, while many specific Democratic programs—Social Security, Medicare, even (in many polls) putting a price on carbon emissions—have majority support. This is why, when all else fails, Democrats try to scare people about the threat to Social Security if the GOP takes over, as indeed they are doing right now. . . .

The Elections: How Bad for Democrats? by Michael Tomasky | The New York Review of Books

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Friend the Twit

Frank Rich in the Times:

Nowhere, perhaps, is the gap between the romance and the reality of the Internet more evident than in our politics. . . .

Frank Rich, "Facebook Politicians Are Not Your Friends," New York Times, 10 October 2010.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Can a Foreign Country Buy a U.S. Congress?

Think Progress and other news sources are reporting that the U. S. Chamber of Congress, which is funding tens of millions of dollars worth of attack ads against Democrats in the congressional election in the United States, is, apparently, illegally soliciting and spending money from foreign corporations and governments to buy a Republican majority.

The largest attack campaign against Democrats this fall is being waged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trade association organized as a 501(c)(6) that can raise and spend unlimited funds without ever disclosing any of its donors. The Chamber has promised to spend an unprecedented $75 million to defeat candidates like Jack Conway, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jerry Brown, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), and Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). As of Sept. 15th, the Chamber had aired more than 8,000 ads on behalf of GOP Senate candidates alone, according to a study from the Wesleyan Media Project. The Chamber’s spending has dwarfed every other issue group and most political party candidate committee spending. A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the Chamber funds its political attack campaign out of its general account, which solicits foreign funding. And while the Chamber will likely assert it has internal controls, foreign money is fungible, permitting the Chamber to run its unprecedented attack campaign. According to legal experts consulted by ThinkProgress, the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law that bans the involvement of foreign corporations in American elections. . . .


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

British Political Speech

Students of rhetoric will welcome the arrival of British Political Speech, an online resource for texts and related materials.

From the site's description of its mission:

This website is an outcome of the research project ‘How the Leader Speaks’ led by Dr. Alan Finlayson and Dr. Judi Atkins and funded by The Leverhulme Trust. The website is also supported by The Research Institute for Arts and Humanities, The Department of Political and Cultural Studies and The Centre for the Study of Culture and Politics, all at Swansea University.

The main aims of the project are:

  • to provide an accessible resource for all those interested in the history, theory and practice of political speech and rhetoric in the United Kingdom
  • to encourage, support and promote research into British political rhetoric, and to contribute to the better understanding, appreciation and practice of political argument
  • to undertake research into British political rhetoric and argumentation, and demonstrate the importance of such research for the wider study of British Politics.

Thanks to Alan Finlayson, Judi Atkins, and their supporters for this contribution to rhetorical culture.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Barack Obama's Speeches

Mary Frances Berry and Josh Gottheimer, Power in Words: The Stories Behind Barack Obama's Speeches, from the State House to the White House (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010).

From the publisher:
In Power in Words, distinguished historian and civil rights activist Mary Frances Berry and former presidential speechwriter Josh Gottheimer introduce Obama's most memorable speeches, from his October 2002 speech against the war in Iraq and his November 2008 election-night victory speech to "A More Perfect Union," his March 2008 response to the Reverend Wright controversy, and lesser-known but revealing speeches, such as one given in Nairobi, Kenya, in August 2006.

For each speech, Berry and Gottheimer add a rich introduction that includes political analysis, provides insight and historical context, and features commentary straight from the speechwriters themselves—including Jon Favreau, Obama's chief speechwriter, and several other Obama campaign writers. Compelling and enduring, Power in Words delivers the behind-the-scenes account of Obama's rhetorical legacy and is a collection to relish for years to come.