A friend writes:
Here’s An Excellent Exposition of the Nature, Power, and Value of Rhetoric in a
Context of National Importance. It’s an article by Stanley Fish, which is
timely beyond words (almost).
In speaking of George Bush’s rhetoric, for instance, Fish notes: “There is of course no logical
relationship between the repetition of a sound and the soundness of an argument, but if it is
skillfully employed repetition can enhance a logical point or even give the illusion of one when
none is present.”
It gives me hope.
Ain’t it peculiar? That article left me with the exact opposite feeling. It gave me unhope. True,
when it comes to our Nincompoop in Chief, I’m a congential unhopeist. And what hope can an
unhopeist take from Fish’s concluding paragraph?
Nervous Democrats who see their candidate slipping in the polls console
themselves by saying, “Just wait, the debates are coming.” As someone who will vote for John
Kerry even though I voted against him in my class, that’s just what I’m worried
“There IS hope,” my friend insisted.
Deficiency in rhetoric is fixable. Deficiency in judgment is another matter.
Fish’s article itself may help. Some of Kerry’s advisors are sure to read it. I find it more than
sufficiently clear and pointed to force them to think.
Also, Fish pulls the curtain back on the key Bush means for convincing many that white is
black: “… if it is skillfully employed repetition can enhance a logical point or even give the illusion
of one when none is present.”
The Bush use of such rhetorical devices to make points when there are none is constant. The
media, especially television, not only do not question it let alone ridicule it, they quote it and
discuss it as though the “point” was there to make and he made it.
That is why Fish gives me hope. Unfortunately, your concern is valid,
A reasonable friend he is. I replied, this gives me hope:
In heavily Democratic areas — 60 ZIP codes mostly in the core of big cities
like Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus and Youngstown that voted two to one or better against Mr.
Bush — new registrations have more than tripled over 2000, to 63,000 from 17,000.
In Florida, where The [New York] Times was able to analyze data from 60 of the state’s 67
counties, new registrations this year also are running far ahead of the 2000 pace, with Republican
areas trailing Democratic ones. In the 150 ZIP codes that voted most heavily for Mr. Bush,
96,000 new voters have registered this year, up from 86,000 in 2000, an increase of about 12
But in the heaviest of Democratic areas, 110 ZIP codes that gave two-thirds or more of their
votes to Al Gore, new registrations have increased to 125, 000 from 77,000, a jump of more than
60 percent. … [And] in Duval County, where a confusing ballot design in 2000 helped disqualify
thousands of ballots in black precincts, new registrations by black voters are up 150 percent over
the pace of 2000.
How ’bout that?