The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to…

Paperback | January 15, 2012

byElvin Lim

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In The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, Elvin Lim draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents' ability to communicate with the public. Lim argues that the ever-increasingpressure for presidents to manage public opinion and perception has created a "pathology of vacuous rhetoric and imagery" where gesture and appearance matter more than accomplishment and fact. Lim tracks the campaign to simplify presidential discourse through presidential and speechwriting decisions made from the Truman to the present administration, explaining how and why presidents have embraced anti-intellectualism and vague platitudes as a public relations strategy. Lim sees thisanti-intellectual stance as a deliberate choice rather than a reflection of presidents' intellectual limitations. Only the smart, he suggests, know how to dumb down. The result, he shows, is a dangerous debasement of our political discourse and a quality of rhetoric which has been described,charitably, as "a linguistic struggle" and, perhaps more accurately, as "dogs barking idiotically through endless nights." Sharply written and incisively argued, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency sheds new light on the murky depths of presidential oratory, illuminating both the causes andconsequences of this substantive impoverishment.

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In The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, Elvin Lim draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents' ability to communicate with the public. Lim argues that the ever-increasingpressure for presidents to manage public opinion ...

Elvin Lim is an Assistant Professor of Politics at Wesleyan University.

other books by Elvin Lim

Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:January 15, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019989809X

ISBN - 13:9780199898091

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Table of Contents

1. The Problem of Presidential Rhetoric2. The Linguistic Simplification of Presidential Rhetoric3. The Anti-Intellectual Speechwriters4. The Substantive Impoverishment of Presidential Rhetoric5. Institutionalizing the Anti-Intellectual Presidency6. Indicting the Anti-Intellectual Presidency7. Reforming the Anti-Intellectual PresidencyAppendix I: The General Inquirer (GI)Appendix II: Definitions of General Inquirer Categories UsedAppendix III: Annual Messages, 1790-2006Appendix IV: Inaugural Addresses, 1789-2005Appendix V: Presidential Speechwriters InterviewedAppendix VI: The Flesch Readability Score