Archive for Monday, October 13, 2008

Professor dissects campaign rhetoric

October 13, 2008


Election 2008

In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.

Sarah Palin's statement that Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama is "palling around with terrorists" concerns Robert Rowland.

"It is both a ridiculous comment and a dangerous comment," Rowland, professor of communication studies at Kansas University, said of the recent statement by the Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate. "Rhetorical violence leads to real violence sometimes."

Rowland, a longtime KU professor whose research interests include rhetorical criticism, spoke to a gathering of about 90 people Sunday at the Natural History Museum on KU's campus.

His lecture on presidential campaign rhetoric was the latest in the CLAS Acts series presented by KU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Rowland disclosed to the audience he has assisted Democrat political candidates in the past.

Rowland showed video of television advertisements, candidate speeches and the debates. He discussed how Obama's message has propelled the junior U.S. senator to his current spot, the rhetoric of Republican nominee Sen. John McCain's campaign and Palin's role on the Republican ticket.

Rowland said recent comments such as the shout "off with his head" - referring to Obama - at a recent Republican rally are comparable to, if not quite as bad as, the extreme rhetoric preceding the 1994 assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Yitzhak Rabin.

"In Israel, it led an Israeli citizen to assassinate Israel's greatest military hero, the man who led Israel in the Six Day War," said Rowland, co-author of "Shared Land/ Conflicting Identity," a book on Israeli-Palestinian rhetoric. "That makes me very concerned about rhetorical violence."

He commended McCain for disagreeing with some recent statements disparaging Obama.

In discussing the Democratic nominee, Rowland said hope is not Obama's key theme, but a result of other rhetoric, a revitalization of the American dream that is both similar to and different from the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan.

"What Obama does is recast the American dream away from the story that focused on individualism in the Reagan era to a story that's focused primarily on community first," he said.

A dominant theme of McCain's campaign has been "McCain the maverick," Rowland said, but casting the candidate in this light is problematic. McCain was genuinely a maverick on policy issues including recognizing Vietnam, tobacco, campaign finance, Pentagon spending, the Iraq War troop surge and climate change, Rowland said. But many of the issues that made McCain a maverick are either no longer relevant, or McCain has changed his position, or his position is unpopular with his party, Rowland said. So, he said, McCain promotes himself as a hero, but this, too, has problems.

"We don't vote on heroic status alone and thus there has to be something else," he said. "The only way they win is to label Obama as simply unacceptable ... to label him in essence as 'the other.'"

And this brought Rowland to the subject of Palin.

Palin, he said, has many traits that appeal to voters, such as her personal story as a mother as of a special-needs child and with a son serving in Iraq with the Alaska National Guard. Palin also sends out the ticket's message about Obama, Rowland said.

"She is the vehicle that McCain has used more than anybody else to label Obama as an unacceptable candidate," he said.

Matt Hedrick, a KU freshman from Carrollton, Mo., who attended the lecture, said that as he observes the race for the White House, he's taking note of negative campaigning and how it sways voters.

"It's really surprising that that's what influences voters," he said. "I try to take the negative with a grain of salt and focus more on what I know for certain, and other things, the positive things that people have done. The negative plays a role, but I don't base my vote entirely on that."


whenindoubt02 9 years ago

thanks, tunahelper, you helped prove the point that this article is trying to make, by making an ad hominem fallacy and addressing irrelevant ideas, rather than the issues!

notajayhawk 9 years ago

I must have read the story too fast. Somehow I missed the parts about the dishonest statements in Obama's advertising. Must have been an oversoght, I'm sure. 'Cause we all know the average college professor is politically neutral.

towanda54 9 years ago

I'm curious if any of the above posters actually heard the presentation or are just relying on this newspaper article and other commenters to make your judgments. Fair and balanced, eh?

Flap Doodle 9 years ago

Fascinating...."US attorney in Ohio to file RICO action against ACORN tomorrow morning"

meggers 9 years ago

Big Prune,According to the non-partisan, Obama has been more transparent about the origin of his campaign contributions than McCain. Repeating something ad nauseum doesn't make it true, no matter how much you like to resort to it as a talking point.

notajayhawk 9 years ago

Like maybe McCain's healthcare plan will raise taxes for millions of American's, boohoozo? If you do the math (sorry, forgot who I was taking to, have someone else do the math for you), it will raise taxes on fewer American's than Obama's will.Or how about saying McCain opposes stem cell research? The reality is that embryonic stem cells are just one kind of stem cells, and that McCain not only would allow existing research even on those lines to continue, he voted (along with Obamamama) to loosen restrictions on that research.Those are the two that have been inundating the airwaves in Missouri, boohoozo. But because Obamamama is a liberal (and a socialist, your idol), a Democrat, and a minority, he's incapable of lying. Just like the 'facts' you posted about ACORN, straight from the mouth of ACORN's executive director, right, boohoozo?

sfjayhawk 9 years ago

These palin fluffers just cant come to grips with the fact that she is a joke - another buffoon in the GHW Bush mold. Perhaps they haven't heard: Squinting and bumbling and "is our children learning" are out, articulation and oratory nuance are in. Out: aw-shucks "go with my gut" Joe Six-pack pseudo-cowboy bible literacy creationism & Jesus-says. In: intelligence, polysyllabic words, sentences with complicated construction and meaning and real ideas for solving the serious problems we face. If palin is the future of the Republican party, there future is very bleak.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

"It claims he backed a "plan to risk your Social Security in the stock market.""So the statement should have said a "plan to risk a significant portion of your Social Security in the stock market."

Flap Doodle 9 years ago

"It is both a ridiculous comment and a dangerous comment," It is also true.

hujiko 9 years ago

Three years ago Sarah Palin was a member of the PTA at her child's school, and now you want to hand the highest ranking office in the world to her? What if Skeletor croaks and she is left with the task of running this country? Do you honestly think that she could even begin to manage something as important as our country with only her few years of experience being governor of Alaska?You don't have to think about this very hard, the problem is you aren't even thinking.

notajayhawk 9 years ago

duplenty (Anonymous) says: "What a joke. Robert Rowland is an excellent professor, and not one to play political games in his teaching."And spouting off to get his personal opinion in the news is "teaching?"Speaking of losing it, sceneb... I mean duplenty...

rgh 9 years ago

Robert Rowland freely admitted to helping the democratic party. How more open can you get? He also tells the good things John McCain has done but wants everyone to open their eyes to those things being outdated or having be reversed in the campaign.Do you realize Sarah Palin was mayor of a community of only 7,000 people and governor of a state with 2 MILLION less people than Kansas? If you are republican and the democrats had the same credentials for V.P. don't tell me you wouldn't be afraid of having that person on the ticket, yet you talk of Obama not being ready to lead. Look at McCain's health and age and tell me Palin isn't a bonified candidate to be president in the next 4 years. Be afraid; be very afraid.For those of you old enough to remember; are we better off now than when Clinton and Reagan were President? No way, yet McCain would take Bush's policies right in with him. He's no maverick, he's playing games with words (I think it's called rhetoric. Duh).

davidnta 9 years ago

If you know Dr. Rowland or have taken his class, you would know that he gushes over President Regan's speeches.He's a smart man that studies rhetoric from all sides of politics and he knows his stuff.

BrianR 9 years ago

tunahelper: too many carbs and no meat.

Flap Doodle 9 years ago

bozo, how's about this for dishonest statements in the O'dude's ads: "An Obama-Biden TV ad once again twists McCain's position on Social Security.It claims he backed a "plan to risk your Social Security in the stock market." In fact, the plan McCain endorsed in 2005 would have been voluntary, and workers could have put only one-third of their Social Security pension fund taxes into private accounts. The new ad also asks viewers to imagine "your future retirement benefits" invested in Lehman Brothers, AIG or Merrill Lynch, three firms that collapsed recently. In fact, the accounts in the plan McCain backed could not have invested in any of those stocks directly. They would have been allowed to invest only in a few government-run stock or bond funds with risks spread over many companies and industries.. AnalysisThis is becoming a pattern. In a Sept. 19 article we criticized an Obama-Biden ad for its false insinuation that Sen. John McCain favored massive cuts in current Social Security benefits. And in a Sept. 20 article we criticized Obama for claiming in a stump speech that Social Security recipients would have had their money tied up in the stock market if the plan McCain once endorsed had been enacted. That was also false. Nobody who is now older than 58 would have been allowed to invest in Bush's proposed private accounts."" you going to sic a truth squad on factcheck?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

"Somehow I missed the parts about the dishonest statements in Obama's advertising."Care to list a few, nota?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

I'm sure glad that you were able to maturely and soberly supply the basic facts without getting childishly emotional and pointlessly insulting, nota (sarcasm.)

tunahelper 9 years ago

what leftist nonsense! what does a liberal leftist know other than this crap? nothing.Sarah Palin is gonna be the next Vice President, get over it or move to china or iran.if you can read this thank a teacher.if you read this in English, thank an American Soldier!

BigPrune 9 years ago

No mention that the professor has donated to Democrat candidates in the the past?This article is rhetoric for the left by a professor giving a speech about rhetoric.I guess we cannot see if this guy has given to Barack Obama's campaign since Obama won't release his donor list. I thought Democrats were all about being "open."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years ago

So far, snap, the only places reporting this are the wackjob sites like the one you linked.

idov 9 years ago

I lived through that frenetic period in the runup to the Rabin assassination and nothing justifies Rowland's mentioning that and the occasional shouts of anger at McCain-Palin rallies in the same breath. The only public event that recalls those days is Sandra Bernhard calling on black men to gang-rape the governor of Alaska. A specific incitement to violence against a public figure like that in Israel, even then, would have resulted in a swift arrest.Here's the view from Israel on the election, by the way.

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