Friday, June 01, 2007

Words in a Time of War - A Commencement Speech Worth Reading

You won’t want to miss Mark Danner's commencement address delivered on May 10, 2007, to the graduates of the Department of Rhetoric at Berkeley, California, posted yesterday at It’s showing up everywhere in the blogosphere.

Titled “Taking the Measure of the First Rhetoric-Major President,” the address is worth reading in its entirety.

However, if you’re short of time, today Scott Horton, who blogs for Harper’s magazine, posted about Danner’s address here. Titled the “Rhetoric-Major President,” Horton states that Danner’s “…commencement speech really stands out for its immediacy and importance…” Horton excerpts a portion of Danner’s address, which “…deconstructs the Bush presidency’s use of cheap political rhetoric to obscure reality.”

I can’t help but think of Bush’s recent pronouncements about taking steps to curb global warming as rhetoric. According to Wikipedia, "The terms rhetoric' and sophistry' are "…used today in a pejorative or dismissive sense, when someone wants to refer to demagogic politicians, distinguish between 'empty' words and action, or between true or accurate information and misinformation, propaganda, or "spin."

This morning, the New York Times editorialized Playing to the Crowd: Talk About Global Warming, which opens with, “President Bush has been feeling the heat on global warming.” Even America’s closest foreign allies are “…fed up with his passivity on the issue and desperate for him to show real leadership.” The editors add, “Given Mr. Bush’s history of denial and obstructionism when it comes to climate change, there are good reasons to be cynical about this sudden enthusiasm, coming as it does on the eve of the meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized nations.”

According to the New York Times editorial: “As rhetoric, some of what Mr. Bush had to say was different and heartening….Yet he remains convinced that technology holds most of the answers and that the regulatory restraints that many experts regard as a necessary condition of technological progress are largely unnecessary. He says further that his goal is to produce a common strategy in 18 months. This would coincide, roughly speaking, with his departure from public life, suggesting his real goal is to leave the heavy lifting to his successor.”

Of course, I turn to alternate news sources on any issue that's important to me., which posted Lost in Climate Wonderland (link may not work) today, by Becca Brown, who said, “I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry when I read President Bush's remarks on climate change to the Global Leadership Council today. Just days ahead of the G8 summit, surrounded by a media storm of leaked reports about the Bush administration's refusal to accept a proposed global goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, President Bush announced this morning that the U.S. would launch its own separate round of talks in search of... wait, you'll never guess... that's right - a global emissions goal.

"Confused yet? You should be, because the President's proposal, in my humble opinion, is a clever bit of obfuscation and political theatre, designed to trick us into seeing action where there is none.”

The rhetoric, in the “pejorative or dismissive sense, “ is not limited to Bush’s “words in the time of war.”

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