The role of ethos and parrhesia in the presidential reelection discourse of George Herbert Walker Bush
Mollick, Kathleen Anne
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The purpose of this study is to focus on the role played by rhetoric in the 1992 reelection discourse of George H. W. Bush. The inability of the president and his speechwriters to effectively create a presidential ethos for the president through candid speech will inform the study. The intention of the study is to also consider the ways in which three of Bush's major speeches may have contributed to the lack of an effective presidential ethos that the American public found lacking in the 1992 campaign. The study's methodology includes a close reading of three presidential speeches given by George H. W. Bush, which analyze the ways Bush and his speech writers defined Bush's public ethos. Finding examples of where parrhesia within each speech was also part of the close reading. Another component of the study involved the use of primary and secondary sources to support the analysis of Bush s speeches. Archival source from the Bush Library were used to highlight instances of revision in the speeches, and one of the members of Bush's speech writing staff was interviewed. Major sources that were used in the study were primary and secondary sources involving the 1992 campaign, and the political career of George H. W. Bush. Archival information pertaining to Bush's speeches was also used, as was data from the Gallup Poll online database. The data gathered from these sources were used to analyze how the rhetorical terms of ethos and parrhesia were used within each of the speeches. How the public perceived the president's character and his truthful speech were analyzed within each speech in order to come up with the study's conclusions. The results of the study show that Bush and his speech writers could not create a presidential ethos compelling enough for American voters to reelect him. Bush's reluctance to engage in conflict with those he worked with was problematic in presidential speech writing because the fragmented nature of his political base made conflict inevitable. The president's ethos was weakened by his inability to speak of a promising future. Bush could speak truthfully to his audience, yet the public grew to doubt his public speech as the 1992 election drew near.