What follows are my remarks on President Obama’s first address to Congress. My unit of analysis is rhetorical argument. By rhetorical argument I mean what Aristotle means by rhetorical argument, enthymeme and paradigm. My method in this case is to mark up President Obama’s introduction. This is the part where he lays out his rationale.
This is my paraphrase of Present Obama’s introduction. If I understand the U.S. President correctly, he says that (a) the economy is in trouble, but (b) we will rebuild because we have the resources to rebuild. These resources are in our laboratories, among our entrepreneurs, and in our capacity for hard work. What is required (c) is for all of us to pull together. Now, (d) if we are honest with ourselves, then we will realize that these problems did not develop overnight. We will realize (e) that when times were good we allowed the few to plunder our surpluses at the expense of the many. Now (f)—and my reading of (f) is largely inferred—we must not just reverse this trend, but complete the work that justice and the historical moment demand.
For the rest of the speech President Obama lays out his proposals. At the end he puts a human face on his proposals by introducing people and telling their stories. This part interests me far less. The exigencies of the moment, the capital markets, public opinion, and an ascendant U.S. Congress have yet to have had their say. President Obama outsourced the stimulus bill to Congress. He has not indicated that he will depart from this method on future legislation. So his proposals will change. What interests me is the rationale President Obama develops in his introduction. This will probably not change as this reflects President Obama’s own analysis of the historical moment, his role within that moment, and what he believes to be the project of his presidency.
First I will lay out the excerpt of the speech. Then I will share my own conclusions.
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