January 29, 2003

First reaction to the SOU…

–> One entry so far, but many UPDATES below…

As I said yesterday, I’ll post my analysis of the President’s State of the Union address later today on Presidential Campaign Rhetoric 2004. I have a few initial reactions to the style of delivery that I offer “for what it’s worth.”

1) Bush deviated a bit from the standard genre, or structural pattern, of a mid-term address. Such deviation is important to consider in the analysis of this address. We got two speeches for the price of one.

2) The Bush persona changed (more measured and resolute). Gone was the trademark smirk. No leaning on the podium. No chopping motions with his hands. Bush got out of the way of his own words and sounded/appeared more presidential than in previous addresses.

3) A weak reaction address by the Democrats heightened the effect of Bush’s delivery.

For more (political) reactions, see these articles in:
The New York Times
Washington Post
The Washington Times

UPDATE (10:24 a.m.): Howard Kurtz offers a coverage-and-punditry round-up of the State of the Union address. There’s a lot of talk about the speech being two for the price of one (structurally)–a policy laundry list and a foreign policy address.

UPDATE (10:40 a.m.): Blogger reactions from:
Talking Points Memo
Missouri Kid
Andrew Olmstead
Thinking It Through
Arcturus (Jay Manifold)

UPDATE (1:12 p.m.): David Frum, former Bush speechwriter, has this to say. I disagree with his assessment of the speech as a “step-down in quality.” I think he considers himself the only speechwriter worthy of the task, re: his “axis of evil” line.

I have finished my initial analysis–on paper–and will complete its online version soon. The process is rather entertaining–colored pens, colored markers, lots of lines and annotations and idiosyncratic symbols. A student dropped by and watched me for a few minutes–chuckling several times at the sight of me hunched over the speech grasping for pens and markers while sipping coffee and eating Chili Cheese Fritos from tiny bags.

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): SpinSanity counters the tax spin. Bush says accelerated tax cuts will lower the taxes for a family of four–income $40,000–from $1,178 to $45 per year. …pregnant pause… I don’t get it, either.

No Responses

  1. I get it. Of all the families of four in the United States earning $40,000.00 per year, there is one that through deductions and other means is only paying $1178.00 in taxes. For whatever reason, that particular family through some quirk will find their taxes lowered to $45.00.

    Seriously, I don’t think that’s too far off. There may be one particular circumstance where a family of four earning that low will find that large a benefit, but I gather most of them won’t.

  2. Ah, I see. We need to take the indefinite article seriously.


  3. It’s pretty obvious that there were some unspoken assumptions about that family’s tax exposure. Explaining it in full would have added several minutes to the speech and left everyone confused (what keeps H&R Block booming, anyway?). In any case, Federal tax relief below the median income doesn’t mean much as long as they’re still getting hammered by FICA (7.65%) and, to a lesser extent, Medicare.
    I’ve got a couple of rants up on my blog as well, which of course aren’t analyses of the communication techniques employed. You’re providing a phenomenally valuable service here.

  4. Thanks, Jay. I’ll update with your observations, which I checked into a few minutes ago.

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