Rhetorical devices in President Obama’s Fiscal 2014 Budget Speech

(As usual, the rhetorical devices used are in bold with their names (IN CAPITALS). If you’re unsure about any of the terms, visit Rhetorical Devices for a full explanation with lots of examples)

“Good morning, everybody. Please, please have a seat. Well, as President, my top priority is to do everything I can to reignite what I consider to be the true engine of the American economy: a rising, thriving middle class. That’s what I think about every day. That’s the driving force behind every decision that I make (ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON).

And over the past three years, our businesses have created nearly 6.5 million new jobs. But we know we can help them create more. Corporate profits are at an all-time high. But we have to get wages and incomes rising, as well. Our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in years. But we (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) can do more to bring them down in a balanced and responsible way.

The point is, our economy is poised for progress — as long as Washington doesn’t get in the way. Frankly, the American people deserve better than what we’ve been seeing: a shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making, like the reckless, across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting a lot of communities out there — cuts that economists predict will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs during the course of this year.

If we want to keep rebuilding our economy on a stronger, more stable foundation, then we’ve got to get smarter about our priorities as a nation. And that’s what the budget I’m sending to Congress today represents — a fiscally responsible blueprint for middle-class jobs and growth.

For years, the debate in this town has raged between reducing our deficits at all costs, and making the investments necessary to grow our economy. And this budget answers that argument, because we can do both. We can grow our economy and shrink our deficits. In fact, as we saw in the 1990s, nothing shrinks deficits faster than a growing economy. That’s been my goal since I took office. And that should be our goal going forward.

At a time when too many Americans are still looking for work, my budget begins by making targeted investments in areas that will create jobs right now, and prime our economy to keep generating good jobs down the road. As I said in my State of the Union address, we should ask ourselves three questions every day: How do we make America a magnet for new jobs? How do we give our workers the skills they need to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

To make America a magnet for good jobs, this budget invests in new manufacturing hubs to help turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. We’ll spark new American innovation and industry with cutting-edge research like the initiative I announced to map the human brain and cure disease. We’ll continue our march towards energy independence and address the threat of climate change. And our Rebuild America Partnership will attract private investment to put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, our bridges and our schools (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA), in turn attracting even more new business to communities across the country.

To help workers earn the skills they need to fill those jobs, we’ll work with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. And we’re going to pay for it by raising taxes on tobacco products that harm our young people. It’s the right thing to do.

We’ll reform our high schools and job training programs to equip more Americans with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. And we’ll help more middle-class families afford the rising cost of college.

To make sure hard work is rewarded, we’ll build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who is willing to work hard to climb them. So we’ll partner with 20 of our communities hit hardest by the recession to help them improve housing, and education, and business investment (TRICOLON). And we should make the minimum wage a wage you can live on — because no one who works full-time should have to raise his or her family in poverty.

My budget also replaces the foolish across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting our economy. And I have to point out that many of the same members of Congress who supported deep cuts are now the ones complaining about them the loudest as they hit their own communities. Of course, the people I feel for are the people who are directly feeling the pain of these cuts — the people who can least afford it. They’re hurting military communities that have already sacrificed enough. They’re hurting ( ANAPHORA) middle-class families. There are children who have had to enter a lottery to determine which of them get to stay in their Head Start program with their friends. There are seniors who (ANAPHORA) depend on programs like Meals on Wheels so they can live independently, but who are seeing their services cut.

That’s what this so-called sequester means. Some people may not have been impacted, but there are a lot of folks who are being increasingly impacted all across this country. And that’s why my budget replaces these cuts with smarter ones, making long-term reforms, eliminating actual waste and programs we don’t need anymore.

So building new roads and bridges, educating our children from the youngest age, helping more families afford college, making sure that hard work pays. These are things that should not be partisan. They should not be controversial. We need to make them happen (TRICOLON & SCESIS ONOMATON -ish). My budget makes these investments to grow our economy and create jobs, and it does so without adding a dime to our deficits.

Now, on the topic of deficits, despite all the noise in Washington, here’s a clear and unassailable fact: our deficits are already falling. Over the past two years, I’ve signed legislation that will reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion — more than two-thirds of it through spending cuts and the rest through asking the wealthiest Americans to begin paying their fair share.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have more work to do. But here’s how we finish the job. My budget will reduce our deficits by nearly another $2 trillion, so that all told we will have surpassed the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that independent economists believe we need to stabilize our finances. But it does so in a balanced and responsible way, a way that most Americans prefer.

Both parties, for example, agree that the rising cost of caring for an aging generation is the single biggest driver of our long-term deficits. And the truth is, for those like me who deeply believe in our social insurance programs, think it’s one of the core things that our government needs to do (SCESIS ONOMATON), if we want to keep Medicare working as well as it has, if we want to preserve the ironclad guarantee that Medicare represents (ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON), then we’re going to have to make some changes. But they don’t have to be drastic ones. And instead of making drastic ones later, what we should be doing is making some manageable ones now (ANTITHESIS).

The reforms I’m proposing will strengthen Medicare for future generations without undermining that ironclad guarantee that Medicare represents. We’ll reduce our government’s Medicare bills by finding new ways to reduce the cost of health care — not by shifting the costs to seniors or the poor or families with disabilities (ANTITHESIS). They are reforms that keep the promise we’ve made to our seniors: basic security that is rock-solid and dependable, and there for you when you need it. That’s what my budget represents.

My budget does also contain the compromise I offered Speaker Boehner at the end of last year, including reforms championed by Republican leaders in Congress. And I don’t believe that all these ideas are optimal, but I’m willing to accept them as part of a compromise — if, and only if, they contain protections for the most vulnerable Americans.

But if we’re serious about deficit reduction, then these reforms have to go hand-in-hand with reforming our tax code to make it more simple and more fair, so that the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations cannot keep taking advantage of loopholes and deductions that most Americans don’t get. That’s the bottom line.

If you’re serious about deficit reduction, then there’s no excuse to keep these loopholes open. They don’t serve an economic purpose. They don’t grow our economy. They don’t put people back to work (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON). All they do is to allow folks who are already well-off (ANTITHESIS) and well-connected game the system. If anyone thinks I’ll finish the job of deficit reduction on the backs of middle-class families or through spending cuts alone that actually hurt our economy short-term, they should think again.

When it comes to deficit reduction, I’ve already met Republicans more than halfway. So in the coming days and weeks, I hope that Republicans will come forward and demonstrate that they’re really as serious about the deficits and debt as they claim to be.

So growing our economy, creating jobs, shrinking our deficits (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM). Keeping our promise to the generation that made us great, but also investing in the next generation (ANTITHESIS) — the next generation (AMPLIFICATION) that will make us even greater. These are not conflicting goals. We can do them in concert. That’s what my budget does. That’s why I’m so grateful for the great work that Jeff Zients and his team have done in shaping this budget. The numbers work. There’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors in here (SCESIS ONOMATON).

And if we can come together, have a serious, reasoned debate — not driven by politics — and come together around common sense and compromise, then I’m confident we will move this country forward and leave behind something better for our children. That’s our task.

Thank you, God bless you. God bless the United States of America (ANAPHORA & CLIMAX).”

President Obama’s speech at the 2013 Gridiron Dinner

(For non-American readers, the Gridiron Dinner is an annual event hosted by the Gridiron Club, a long-established (1885) and prestigious journalistic association, at which the US president gives a self-deprecating and humorous speech.)

“Before I begin, I know some of you have noticed that I’m dressed a little differently from the other gentlemen.  Because of sequester, they cut my tails.  (Laughter.)  My joke writers have been placed on furlough.  (Laughter.)  I know a lot of you reported that no one will feel any immediate impact because of the sequester.  Well, you’re about to find out how wrong you are.  (Laughter.)

Of course, there’s one thing in Washington that didn’t get cut — the length of this dinner.  (Laughter.)  Yet more proof that the sequester makes no sense.  (Laughter.)

As you know, I last attended the Gridiron dinner two years ago.  Back then, I addressed a number of topics — a dysfunctional Congress, a looming budget crisis, complaints that I don’t spend enough time with the press.  It’s funny, it seems like it was just yesterday.  (Laughter.)

We noticed that some folks couldn’t make it this evening.  It’s been noted that Bob Woodward sends his regrets, which Gene Sperling predicted.  (Laughter.)  I have to admit this whole brouhaha had me a little surprised.  Who knew Gene could be so intimidating?  (Laughter.)  Or let me phrase it differently — who knew anybody named Gene could be this intimidating?  (Laughter.)

Now I know that some folks think we responded to Woodward too aggressively.  But hey, when has — can anybody tell me when an administration has ever regretted picking a fight with Bob Woodward?  (Laughter.)  What’s the worst that could happen?  (Laughter and applause.)

But don’t worry.  We’re all friends again in the spirit of that wonderful song.  As you may have heard, Bob invited Gene over to his place.  And Bob says he actually thinks that I should make it too.  And I might take him up on the offer.  I mean, nothing says “not a threat” like showing up at somebody’s house with guys with machine guns.  (Laughter.)

Now, since I don’t often speak to a room full of journalists — (laughter) — I thought I should address a few concerns tonight.  Some of you have said that I’m ignoring the Washington press corps — that we’re too controlling.  You know what, you were right.  I was wrong and I want to apologize in a video you can watch exclusively at whitehouse.gov.  (Laughter.)

While we’re on this subject, I want to acknowledge Ed Henry, who is here — who is the fearless leader of the Washington press corps now.  (Applause.)  And at Ed’s request, tonight I will take one question from the press.  Jay, do we have a question?  (Laughter.)  Surprisingly, it’s a question from Ed Henry.  (Laughter.)  “Mr. President, will you be taking any questions tonight?”  (Laughter.)  I’m happy to answer that.  No, Ed, I will not.  (Laughter.)

I also want to recognize David Corn.  He’s here from Mother Jones magazine.  He brought his iPhone.  So Bobby Jindal, if you thought your remarks were off the record, ask Mitt Romney about that.  (Applause.)

I have to say, I thought Bobby was incredibly funny this evening.  (Applause.)  I thought he was terrific.  Amy Klobuchar was sparkling and fantastic and fabulous.  (Applause.)  I am worried about Al Franken though.  (Laughter.)  How do you start off being one of the original writers for Saturday Night Live and end up being the second-funniest Senator in Minnesota?  (Laughter and applause.)  How the mighty have fallen.  (Laughter.)

Now I’m sure that you’ve noticed that there’s somebody very special in my life who is missing tonight, somebody who has always got my back, stands with me no matter what and gives me hope no matter how dark things seem.  So tonight, I want to publicly thank my rock, my foundation — thank you, Nate Silver.  (Laughter.)

Of course as I begin my second term, our country is still facing enormous challenges.  We have a lot of work to do — that, Marco Rubio, is how you take a sip of water.  (Laughter and applause.)

As I was saying, we face major challenges.  March in particular is going to be full of tough decisions.  But I want to assure you, I have my top advisors working around the clock. After all, my March Madness bracket isn’t going to fill itself out.  (Laughter.)  And don’t worry — there is an entire team in the situation room as we speak, planning my next golf outing, right now at this moment.  (Laughter.)

But those aren’t the only issues on my mind.  As you are aware — as has been noted this evening — we’ve had to make some very tough, huge budget cuts apparently with no regard to long-term consequences, which means I know how you feel in journalism.  (Laughter.)  I’ve been trying to explain this situation to the American people, but clearly I am not perfect. After a very public mix-up last week, my communications team has provided me with an easy way to distinguish between Star Trek and Star Wars.  (Laughter.)  Spock is what Maureen Dowd calls me.  Darth Vader is what John Boehner calls me.  (Laughter.)

Of course, maintaining credibility in this cynical atmosphere is harder than ever — incredibly challenging.  My administration recently put out a photo of me skeet shooting and even that wasn’t enough for some people.  Next week, we’re releasing a photo of me clinging to religion.  (Laughter and applause.)

I’m also doing what I can to smooth things over with Republicans in Congress.  In fact, these days John McCain and I are spending so much time together that he told me we were becoming friends.  I said, “John, stop.  Chuck Hagel warned me how this ends up.”  (Laughter.)

It took a while, but I’m glad that the Senate finally confirmed my Secretary of Defense.  And I have to say, I don’t know what happened to Chuck in those hearings.  I know he worked hard, he studied his brief.  And I even lent him my presidential debate team to work with him.  (Laughter.)  It’s confusing what happened.  (Laughter.)

But all these changes to my team are tough to handle, I’ve got to admit.  After nine years, I finally said goodbye to my chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau.  I watched him grow up.  He’s almost like a son to me, he’s been with me so long.  And I said to him when he first informed me of his decision, I said, “Favs, you can’t leave.”  And he answered with three simple words — “yes, I can.”  (Laughter.)  Fortunately, he did not take the prompter on his way out.  (Laughter.)  That would have been a problem.  (Laughter.)

With all these new faces, it’s hard to keep track of who is in, who is out.  And I know it’s difficult for you guys as reporters.  But I can offer you an easy way of remembering the new team.  If Ted Cruz calls somebody a communist, then you know they’re in my cabinet.  (Laughter.)

Jack Lew is getting started on his new role as Treasury Secretary.  Jack is so low key, he makes Tim Geithner look like Tom Cruise.  (Laughter.)  Don’t worry, everybody, Jack signed off on that joke or a five year old drew a slinky.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know which.  (Applause.)

Another big change has been at the State Department.  Everybody has noticed that obviously.  And let’s face it — Hillary is a tough act to follow.  But John Kerry is doing great so far.  He is doing everything he can to ensure continuity.  Frankly, though, I think it’s time for him to stop showing up at work in pantsuits.  (Laughter.)  It’s a disturbing image.  (Laughter.)  It really is.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know where he buys them.  He is a tall guy.  (Laughter.)

And even though I’m just beginning my second term, I know that some folks are looking ahead to bigger things.  Look, it’s no secret that my Vice President is still ambitious.  But let’s face it, his age is an issue.  Just the other day, I had to take Joe aside and say, “Joe, you are way too young to be the pope.”  (Laughter.)  “You can’t do it.  You got to mature a little bit.”  (Laughter.)

Now, I do want to end on a serious note.  I know that there are people who get frustrated with the way journalism is practiced these days.  And sometimes those people are me.  (Laughter.)  But the truth is our country needs you and our democracy needs you.

In an age when all it takes to attract attention is a Twitter handle and some followers, it’s easier than ever to get it wrong.  But it’s more important than ever to get it right.  And I am grateful for all the journalists who do one of the toughest jobs there is with integrity and insight and dedication — and a sense of purpose — that goes beyond a business model or a news cycle.

This year alone, reporters have exposed corruption here at home and around the world.  They’ve risked everything to bring us stories from places like Syria and Kenya, stories that need to be told.  And they’ve helped people understand the ways in which we’re all connected — how something that happens or doesn’t happen halfway around the world or here in Washington can have consequences for American families.

These are extraordinary times.  The stakes are high and the tensions can sometimes be high as well.  But while we’ll always have disagreements, I believe that we share the belief that a free press — a press that questions us, that holds us accountable, that sometimes gets under our skin — is absolutely an essential part of our democracy.

So I want to thank everybody for not just a wonderful evening — and, Chuck, I want to thank you for your outstanding presidency — but I also just want to thank you for the work that you do each and every day.  And in the words of one of my favorite Star Trek characters — Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise — “May the force be with you.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Rhetoric devices used in President Obama’s remarks at the dedication of Rosa Park’s statue

“Mr. Speaker, Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi, Assistant Leader Clyburn; to the friends and family of Rosa Parks; to the distinguished guests who are gathered here today.

This morning, we celebrate a seamstress, slight in stature but mighty in courage (ANTITHESIS). She defied the odds, and she defied (ANAPHORA) injustice. She lived a life of activism, but also a life of dignity and grace. And in a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America — and change the world.

Rosa Parks held no elected office. She possessed no fortune; lived her life far from the formal seats of power (TRICOLON & SCESIS ONOMATON). And yet today, she takes her rightful place among those who’ve shaped this nation’s course. I thank all those persons, in particular the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, both past and present, for making this moment possible.

A childhood friend once said about Mrs. Parks, “Nobody ever bossed Rosa around and got away with it.” That’s what an Alabama driver learned on December 1, 1955. Twelve years earlier, he had kicked Mrs. Parks off his bus simply because she entered through the front door when the back door was too crowded. He grabbed her sleeve and he pushed her off the bus. It made her mad enough, she would recall, that she avoided riding his bus for a while.

And when they met again that winter evening in 1955, Rosa Parks would not be pushed. When the driver got up from his seat to insist that she give up hers, she would not be pushed (ANTISTROPHE). When he threatened to have her arrested, she simply replied, “You may do that.” And he did.

A few days later, Rosa Parks challenged her arrest. A little-known pastor, new to town and only 26 years old, stood with her — a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. So did thousands of Montgomery, Alabama commuters. They began a boycott — teachers and laborers, clergy and domestics, through rain and cold and sweltering heat, day after day, week after week, month after month (PARALLELISM, SCESIS ONOMATON & CLIMAX) walking miles if they had to, arranging carpools where they could, not thinking about the blisters on their feet, the weariness after a full day of work — walking for respect, walking for (ANAPHORA) freedom, driven by a solemn determination to affirm their God-given dignity.

Three hundred and eighty-five days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the boycott ended. Black men and women and children re-boarded the buses of Montgomery, newly desegregated, and sat in whatever seat happen to be open. And with that victory, the entire edifice of segregation, like the ancient walls of Jericho (SIMILE), began to slowly come tumbling down.

It’s been often remarked that Rosa Parks’s activism didn’t begin on that bus. Long before she made headlines, she had stood up for freedom, stood up for (ANAPHORA)equality — fighting for voting rights, rallying against discrimination in the criminal justice system, serving in the local chapter of the NAACP (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM). Her quiet leadership would continue long after she became an icon of the civil rights movement, working with Congressman Conyers to find homes for the homeless, preparing disadvantaged youth for a path to success, striving (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM) each day to right some wrong somewhere in this world.

And yet our minds fasten on that single moment on the bus — Ms. Parks alone in that seat, clutching her purse, staring out a window, waiting (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM) to be arrested. That moment tells us something about how change happens, or doesn’t happen; the choices we make, or don’t make. “For now we see through a glass, darkly,” Scripture says, and it’s true. Whether out of inertia or selfishness, whether out of (ANAPHORA) fear or a simple lack of moral imagination, we so often spend our lives as if in a fog (SIMILE), accepting injustice, rationalizing inequity, tolerating (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM) the intolerable.

Like the bus driver, but also like the passengers on the bus, we see the way things are — children hungry in a land of plenty, entire neighborhoods ravaged by violence, (TRICOLON) hobbled by job loss or illness — and we make excuses for inaction, and we say to ourselves, that’s not my responsibility, there’s nothing I can do (SCESIS ONOMATON).

Rosa Parks tell us there’s always something we can do. She tells us that we all have responsibilities, to ourselves and to one another. She reminds us (ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM) that this is how change happens — not mainly through the exploits of the famous and the powerful, but through the countless acts of often anonymous courage (ANTITHESIS) and kindness and fellow feeling and (POLYSYNDETON) responsibility that continually, stubbornly, expand our conception of justice — our conception of (ANAPHORA) what is possible.

Rosa Parks’s singular act of disobedience launched a movement. The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind. It is because of these men and women that I stand here today. It is because of (ANAPHORA) them that our children grow up in a land more free and more fair (ALLITERATION); a land truer to its founding creed.

And that is why this statue belongs in this hall — to remind us, no matter how humble or lofty our positions, just what it is that leadership requires; just what it is that citizenship requires (SYMPLOCE). Rosa Parks would have turned 100 years old this month. We do well by placing a statue of her here. But we can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction (ALLITERATION).

May God bless the memory of Rosa Parks, and may God bless (ANAPHORA) these United States of America.

Rhetoric used in Obama’s remarks on the sequester (02/19/13)

President Obama made some remarks at the White House recently about the forthcoming sequester, and I’ve done the usual and identified all the rhetorical devices used; they’re highlighted in bold and their names are in capitals and brackets, e.g. (ANAPHORA). If you’re unsure about any of the terms, visit rhetorical devices for full explanations of each with examples.

Every speech or presentation should have a clear, consistent theme, and the theme here is about being fair and reasonable, and (in Obama’s opinion) expecting the ‘top 1%’ to share more of the burden. Churchill once said:

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

The President has certainly taken this advice to heart. I’ve counted seven references to ‘the rich’. I’ve italicised them in the transcript to make them easier to spot:

  • tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans
  • increased tax rates on the top 1 percent
  • tax loopholes and deductions for the well off and well connected
  • makes sure that billionaires can’t pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries
  • the Republicansask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations
  • (Republicans don’t want to close) a single tax loophole for the wealthiest Americans
  • a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations
  • a special tax interest loophole that the vast majority of Americans don’t benefit from

Transcript

“As I said in my State of the Union address last week, our top priority must be to do everything we can to grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs. That’s our top priority. That’s our North Star. That drives every decision we make (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON). And it has to drive every decision that Congress and everybody in Washington makes over the next several years.

And that’s why it’s so troubling that just 10 days from now, Congress might allow a series of automatic, severe budget cuts to take place that will do the exact opposite. It won’t help the economy, won’t create jobs, will visit hardship on a whole lot of people (TRICOLON).

Here’s what’s at stake. Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion. More than two-thirds of that was through some pretty tough spending cuts. The rest of it was through raising taxes — tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. And together, when you take the spending cuts and the increased tax rates on the top 1 percent, it puts us more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now, Congress, back in 2011, also passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach that $4 trillion goal, about a trillion dollars of additional, arbitrary budget cuts would start to take effect this year. And by the way, the whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing tax loopholes and so forth. And so this was all designed to say we can’t do these bad cuts; let’s do something smarter. That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration.

Unfortunately, Congress didn’t compromise. They haven’t come together and done their jobs, and so as a consequence, we’ve got these automatic, brutal spending cuts that are poised to happen next Friday.

Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach (METAPHOR) to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research (TRICOLON). It won’t consider whether we’re cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or a vital service that Americans depend on (ANTITHESIS) every single day. It (ANAPHORA) doesn’t make those distinctions.

Emergency responders like the ones who are here today — their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded. Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids. Hundreds of thousands (CLIMAX) of Americans will lose access (PARALLELISM & MESODIPLOSIS) to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

And already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf. And as our military leaders have made clear, changes like thisnot well thought through, not (ANAPHORA) phased in properly — changes like this (DIACOPE) affect our ability to respond to threats in unstable parts of the world.

So these cuts are not smart. They are not (MESODIPLOSIS )fair. They will hurt our economy. They will (ANAPHORA) add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs. The unemployment rate might tick up again.

And that’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists, they’ve already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as sequestration, are a bad idea. They’re not good for our economy. They’re not (ANAPHORA) how we should run our government.

And here’s the thing: They don’t have to happen. There is a smarter way to do this –- to reduce our deficits without harming our economy. But Congress has to act in order for that to happen.

Now, for two years, I’ve offered a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would prevent these harmful cuts. I outlined it again last week at the State of the Union. I am willing to cut more spending that we don’t need, get rid of programs that aren’t working. I’ve laid out specific reforms to our entitlement programs that can achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms that were proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. I’m willing to save hundreds of billions of dollars by enacting comprehensive tax reform that gets rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well off and well connected, without raising tax rates.

I believe such a balanced approach that combines tax reform with some additional spending reforms, done in a smart, thoughtful way is the best way to finish the job of deficit reduction and avoid these cuts once and for all that could hurt our economy, slow our recovery, put people out of work (TRICOLON). And most Americans agree with me.

The House and the Senate are working on budgets that I hope reflect this approach. But if they can’t get such a budget agreement done by next Friday — the day these harmful cuts begin to take effect (DIACOPE) — then at minimum, Congress should pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would prevent these harmful cuts — not to kick the can down the road (METAPHOR), but to give them time to work together (ANTITHESIS) on a plan that finishes the job of deficit reduction in a sensible way.

I know Democrats in the House and in the Senate have proposed such a plan — a balanced plan, one that pairs more spending cuts with tax reform that closes special interest loopholes and makes sure that billionaires can’t pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

And I know that Republicans have proposed some ideas, too. I have to say, though, that so far at least the ideas that the Republicans have proposed ask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations, so the burden is all on first responders or seniors or (POLYSYNDETON) middle-class families (TRICOLON).They double down, in fact, on the harsh, harmful (ALLITERATION) cuts that I’ve outlined. They slash Medicare and investments that create good, middle-class jobs. And so far at least what they’ve expressed is a preference where they’d rather have these cuts go into effect than close a single tax loophole for the wealthiest Americans. Not one.

Well, that’s not balanced. That would be like (SIMILE) Democrats saying we have to close our deficits without any spending cuts whatsoever. It’s all taxes. That’s not the position Democrats have taken. That’s certainly not the position I’ve taken (SYMPLOCE). It’s wrong to ask the middle class to bear the full burden of deficit reduction. And that’s why I will not sign a plan that harms the middle class.

So now Republicans in Congress face a simple choice: Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and health care and national security (TRICOLON) and all the jobs that depend on them? Or would they (HYPOPHORA X2) rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations? That’s the choice.

Are you willing to see a bunch of first responders lose their job because you want to protect some special interest tax loophole? Are you willing to (ANAPHORA) have teachers laid off, or kids not have access to Head Start, or (POLYSYNDETON) deeper cuts in student loan programs just because you want to protect a special tax interest loophole that the vast majority of Americans don’t benefit from? That’s the choice. That’s the question (ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON).

And this is not an abstraction. There are people whose livelihoods are at stake. There are communities that are going to be impacted in a negative way. And I know that sometimes all this squabbling in Washington seems very abstract, and in the abstract, people like the idea, there must be some spending we can cut, (ANAPHORA) waste out there. There absolutely is. But this isn’t the right way to do it.

So my door is open (METAPHOR). I’ve put tough cuts and reforms on the table. I am willing to work with anybody to get this job done. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But nobody should want these cuts to go through, because the last thing our families can afford right now is pain imposed unnecessarily by partisan recklessness and ideological rigidity here in Washington.

As I said at the State of the Union, the American people have worked too hard, too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause yet another one. And it seems like every three months around here there’s some manufactured crisis. We’ve got more work to do than to just try to dig ourselves out of these self-inflicted wounds (2 x [very mixed] METAPHORS).

And while a plan to reduce our deficit has to be part of our agenda, we also have to remember deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. We learned in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was President, nothing shrinks the deficit faster than a growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs. That should be our driving focus — making America a magnet for good jobs. Equipping our people with the skills required to fill those jobs (TRICOLON & ANTISTOPHE). Making sure their hard work leads to a decent living. Those are the things we should be pushing ourselves to think about and work on every single day. That’s what the American people expect. That’s what (ANAPHORA) I’m going to work on every single day to help deliver.

So I need everybody who’s watching today to understand we’ve got a few days. Congress can do the right thing. We can avert just one more Washington-manufactured problem that slows our recovery, and bring down our deficits in a balanced, responsible way. That’s my goal. That’s what would do right by these first responders. That’s what would do right by America’s middle class. That’s what (ANAPHORA) I’m going to be working on and fighting for not just over the next few weeks, but over the next few years (ANTITHESIS).

Thanks very much, everybody. Thank you, guys, for your service.”

Marco Rubio’s reply to the SOTU

A few years ago during Obama’s first Presidential election campaign, many of his opponents (even those within his own party) criticized him for his use of rhetoric. Hilary Clinton famously said that “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.” Unfortunately, both she and John McCain ignored this and chose to campaign almost entirely in prose, leaving the poetry field wide open and uncontested to their opponent.

Fast forward four years, and how things had changed. Mitt Romney wasn’t going to make that mistake, no sir. Knowing he was up against possibly his generation’s most effective orator, the Republican candidate was as poetic as the next man.

His use of rhetoric in many speeches really impressed me and I thought they were just as good as the President’s. His delivery was never going to match Obama’s – let’s face it, few people can match him on his day – but the rhetorical content was just as good (read a rhetorical analysis of a handful of his speeches).

And the same can be said about Marco Rubio’s ‘official’ (as opposed to Rand Paul’s ‘unofficial’ one) response to the President’s SOTU speech. A full transcript of the speech is given below, with all of the rhetorical devices and figures of speech highlighted. It’s a good speech, carefully written by someone who knows his (or her) rhetoric.

The official response is always a tricky speech to give (few recent deliverers have covered themselves in glory – remember Bobby Jindal?) . You’re beginning to speak just as the majority of America is reaching for the TV remote, and you’re doing it from an office without an adoring live audience to give you standing ovations. Plus … it has to sound like it’s a response to what the President’s just said, but has to be written before he says it.

Having said that, it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Rubio and his speechwriters had a pretty good idea what Obama would say (let’s face it, he says pretty much the same things in most of his speeches) and as an exposition of the Republican case for smaller government and growing the economy out of recession, I’d say the speech had a nice, logical flow.

The Opening

First off … a negative. I thought the opening was weak. I’m a constant critic of the way President Obama opens with what seems to be individual thanks to every single person in the audience, but I guess when you’re POTUS you’re pretty much guaranteed that people will listen to you (for a while, anyway) so you don’t really need a great opening. Plus, getting a name-check from the Prez gives these people political capital with their local constituents. So he can be forgiven.

But Marco Rubio’s not POTUS, and his audience would already have listened to a lengthy speech and not really be in the mood for another. So he really needed a powerful opening to make them sit up, put the TV remote down, and listen in, i.e. he needed to give them a very good reason to give him the next 15 minutes of their life (read 6 ways to grab ’em by the throat here).

Not many people motivated to watch the speech would have been unaware of who he was, but how did he spend that first invaluable couple of minutes? With a self-introduction and  meaningless waffle – “Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I am especially honored …..” (yadda, yadda, yadda …)

The first words out of my mouth would have been something like, “Tonight you’ve just heard a speech from a President who thinks …..” and then finished the sentence with something powerful that would have made headlines the next day, and made people want to listen to what I had to say. Score: 4/10

The Body

If you’re ever having to counter someone else’s argument, a great way to do it is to use a rhetorical device called Antithesis. This puts two contrasting or opposing ideas back-to-back, effectively saying, “It’s not X …. it’s Y.” I reckon Rubio used this device more than any other in the speech.

For example:

  • “(The opportunity to make something of yourself) “… isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy.”
  • “More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.
  • “More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.
  • “And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.”
  • “Hard-working middle class Americans … don’t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They want a plan to grow the middle class

So I thought the bit on the economy was strong. There were no real disagreements on immigration, as both parties are now singing (for once) from a similar hymn sheet. (The only real difference is the GOP has to try and sound ‘hard ass’ about border control while Obama claims that battle is already virtually won.)

The weakest part, though, was about gun control, where he didn’t even try to put forward a serious counter-argument. Perhaps because he’d been less sure what Obama was actually going to say, perhaps because he felt his argument was weak, perhaps because the President saved his full rhetorical prowess for that topic. I don’t know. But simply saying, “We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it” and then moving on to something else is not even trying to argue the case. It’s giving up. It’s surrendering the field to your opponent without a fight.

Score: 8/10.

The Close

A weak (ish) call to action, as in: “Each time our nation has faced great challenges, what has kept us together was our shared hope for a better life. Now, let that hope bring us together again. To solve the challenges of our time and write the next chapter in the amazing story of the greatest nation man has ever known.” It could have been far more powerful.

BUT … I like the final (and now seemingly obligatory) ‘God bless‘ bit. Mitt Romney normally closed with something along the lines of  “May God bless you! May god bless the American people, and may God bless the United States of America!” and Obama generally does similar (on Wednesday it was “Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”).

Rubio added a twist by adding a blessing for the President. He said, “May God bless all of you. May God bless our President. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.” Including this was surprising per se, especially as he’d already congratulated him during his opening on winning the election.

In doing it he used a rhetorical device called Climax, which arranges several words or phrases in order of increasing importance or emphasis. Whether he did it deliberately or not I don’t know, but putting America after the President is subtly reminding the audience that the country is more important than the post. Score: 6/10

(NB: You might think that all politicians end their speeches with a variation of ‘God bless America’, but Richard Nixon was the first to do so in 1973. None of his successors did until Ronald Regan, who said it at the end of every speech for 8 years, and now it’s become de riguer.)

The Delivery

Rubio’s delivery was fluent and confident, with lots of vocal inflection. And he managed to sound as conversational as it’s possible to do when speaking direct to camera. BUT … he does let his body language betray his nerves on big occasions. Last time it was not knowing what to do with his hands. (Read my blog about his recent immigration speech:How your body language shows your nervousness even before you present.)

This time it was reaching off-screen for a bottle of water to hydrate his dry throat (watch it on video here), something that was tweeted about endlessly. Two things if you worry about having a dry throat. Have a glass of water in view and don’t be afraid to sip from it quite openly; his faux pas here was reaching off-screen for a bottle out of shot because it was obviously unplanned. Second, rub a small amount of Vaseline on your teeth; run your tongue over this when your mouth feels dry and you’ll automatically salivate. Score: 7/10

Speech Transcript

(The speech transcript is below. As usual, I’ve identified the rhetorical devices used and highlighted them in bold with their names in brackets and (CAPITALS). If you’re unsure about what any of them mean, visit Rhetorical Devices for full explanations and examples.)

“Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I am especially honored to be addressing our brave men and women serving in the armed forces and in diplomatic posts around the world. You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers (ANTITHESIS).

The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. For much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top, and no one else even had a chance. But America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

Like most Americans, for me this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better (ANTHITHESIS) – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life (EXPLETIVE) – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy (ANTITHESIS) where people can risk their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.

Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.

But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems (ANTITHESIS). That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough (TRICOLON & ANTISTROPHE). And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more (TRICOLON & ANTISTROPHE).

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small (EXPLETIVE) – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

And the idea that more taxes and more (ANAPHORA) government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers – that’s an old idea that’s failed every time it’s been tried.

More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.

More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.

And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & ANTITHESIS x 3)

Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.

Because more government (ANAPHORA) raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs (TRICOLON).

And because many government programs that claim to help the middle class, often end up hurting them instead (ANTITHESIS).

For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that; they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.

Now does this mean there’s no role for government? (HYPOPHORA) Of course not. It plays a crucial part in keeping us safe, enforcing rules, and providing some security (TRICOLON) against the risks of modern life. But government’s role is wisely limited by the Constitution. And it can’t play its essential role when it ignores those limits.

Catch the rest of this rhetorical analysis by clicking here ……

It’s Abe’s birthday! As a tribute, here’s a look at the rhetorical devices he used in the Gettysburg Address

I just learned it’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday today (or would have been if he’d still been alive; is there a word for the anniversary of someone’s date of birth, even after they’re dead? If there is, I don’t know it), so thought I’d do an analysis of the Gettysburg Address, possibly THE most famous speech in American history (with ‘I have a dream!‘ coming second). That despite it being only 2 minutes 270 words and 10 sentences long.

It’s proof that you don’t have to be verbose or a hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophile (someone who uses 10-dollar words when a 10-cent one will do fine) to be a great communicator. If he’d been alive today, Abe would have been a great Tweeter!

I love the opening scene in the movie ‘Lincoln’ where two ordinary, uneducated soldiers not only know the speech, but can recite it by heart.

I know you’ve all seen it in print 100 times, but I’ve included it below and highlighted the rhetorical devices he used in bold, with the name of the device in brackets and (CAPITALS). I count 20 used in 2 minutes, yet it’s not ‘forced’ or ‘hammy’ and is stirring rather than theatrical.  If you’re unsure what any of the names mean, visit my article on Rhetorical devices for a full explanation with other examples.

Four score and seven  (ANASTROPHE) years ago our fathers brought forth (ALLITERATION) on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated (ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM), can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives (ANASTROPHE) that that nation might live (ANTITHESIS). It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow (TRICOLON, PARALLELISM, ANAPHORA) — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power (ALLITERATION) to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here (ANTITHESIS & EPISTROPHE)). It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us  to be here dedicated (ANAPHORA) to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we may take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion (EPISTROPHE) — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people (TRICOLON, ANTISTROPHE & ASYNDETON), shall not perish from the earth (ANASTROPHE).”

If you like this, have a look at the dozens of articles on public speaking and making presentations on my website.

Rhetorical devices in Rand Paul’s foreign policy speech, Feb 2013

President Obama and Mitt Romney aren’t the only American politicians who know how to use a nifth rhetorical device. The rhetorical devices used in this speech by Rand Paul have been highlighted in bold font with the name of the device in brackets in (CAPITALS). If you’re unsure about any of the terms, go to Rhetorical devices for a full explanation with examples.

“Foreign policy is uniquely an arena where we should base decisions on the landscape of the world as it is … not as we wish it to be (ANTITHESIS). I see the world as it is. I am a realist, not a neoconservative, nor an isolationist.

When candidate John McCain argued in 2007 that we should remain in Iraq for 100 years, I blanched and wondered what the unintended consequences of prolonged occupation would be. But McCain’s call for a hundred year occupation does capture some truth: that the West is in for a long, irregular confrontation not with terrorism, which is simply a tactic, but with Radical Islam (ANTITHESIS).

As many are quick to note, the war is not with Islam but with a radical element of Islam — the problem is that this element is no small minority but a vibrant, often mainstream, vocal and numerous minority (ANTITHESIS). Whole countries, such as Saudi Arabia, adhere to at least certain radical concepts such as the death penalty for blasphemy, conversion, or apostasy. A survey in Britain after the subway bombings showed 20% of the Muslim population in Britain approved of the violence.

Some libertarians argue that western occupation fans the flames of radical Islam – I agree. But I don’t agree that absent western occupation that radical Islam “goes quietly into that good night” (SENTENTIA). I don’t agree with FDR’s VP Henry Wallace that the Soviets (or Radical Islam in today’s case) can be discouraged by “the glad hand and the winning smile.”

Americans need to understand that Islam has a long and perseverant memory. As Bernard Lewis writes,“despite an immense investment in the teaching and writing of history, the general level of historical knowledge in American society is abysmally low. The Muslim peoples, like everyone else in the world, are shaped by their history, but unlike some others, they are keenly aware of it.”

Radical Islam is no fleeting fad but a relentless force (ANTITHESIS & ALLITERATION). Though at times stateless, Radical Islam is also supported by radicalized nations such as Iran. Though often militarily weak, Radical Islam makes up for its lack of conventional armies with unlimited zeal.

For Americans to grasp the mindset of Radical Islam we need to understand that they are still hopping mad about the massacre at Karbala several hundred years ago. Meanwhile, many Americans seem to be more concerned with who is winning ‘Dancing with the Stars.’

Over 50% of Americans still believe Iraq attacked us on 9/11. Until we understand the world around us, until we understand (ANAPHORA) at least a modicum of what animates our enemies, we cannot defend ourselves and we cannot contain our enemies (ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM).

I think all of us have the duty to ask where are the Kennan’s of our generation? (HYPOPHORA) When foreign policy has become so monolithic, so lacking in debate that Republicans and Democrats routinely pass foreign policy statements without debate and without (ANAPHORA) votes, where are the calls for moderation, the calls for restraint? (ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM)

Anyone who questions the bipartisan consensus is immediately castigated, rebuked and their patriotism challenged (TRICOLON). The most pressing question of the day – Iran developing nuclear weapons – is allowed to have less debate in this country than it receives in Israel.

In Israel, the current head of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo states that we need to quit discussing Iran and nuclear weapons as an “existential” threat to Israel as that confines us to only one possible cataclysmic response. The former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, also cautions of the unintended consequences of pre-emptive bombing of Iran, both the possibility the strikes are ineffective and that Israel suffers a significant conventional missile response.

Yuval Diskin, the former chief of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service, recently said “an attack against Iran might cause it to speed up its nuclear program.”

Israel’s army chief of staff suggested in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the Iranian nuclear threat was not quite as imminent as some have portrayed it.

On the other side of the coin, Prime Minister Netanyahu warns that Iran is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons.

It seems that debate over Iran is more robust in Israel than in the US.

I have voted for Iranian sanctions in the hope of preventing war and allowing for diplomacy. The sanctions have not been fully implemented but they do appear to have brought Iran back to the negotiating table.

I did, however, hold up further sanctions unless Senator Reid allows a vote on my amendment that states, “Nothing in this bill is to be interpreted as a declaration of war or a use of authorization of force.” The debate over war is the most important debate that occurs in our country and should not be glossed over.

I am persuaded, though, that for sanctions to change Iran’s behavior we must have the commitment of Iran’s major trading partners, especially China, Russia, Japan, and India.

Understandably no one wants to imagine what happens if Iran develops a nuclear weapon. But if we don’t have at least some of that discussion now, then the danger exists that war is the only remedy.

No one, myself included, wants to see a nuclear Iran. Iran does need to know that all options are on the table. But we should not pre-emptively announce that diplomacy or containment will never be an option.

In a recent Senate resolution, the bipartisan consensus stated that we will never contain Iran should they get a nuclear weapon. In the debate, I made the point that while I think it unwise to declare that we will contain a nuclear Iran, I think it equally unwise to say we will never contain a nuclear Iran. War should never be our only option.

Let me be clear. I don’t want Iran to develop nuclear weapons but I also don’t want to decide with certainty that war is the only option.

Containment, though, should be discussed as an option with regard to the more generalized threat from radical Islam. Radical Islam, like communism, is an ideology with far reach and will require a firm and patient opposition.

In George Kennan’s biography, John Gaddis describes President Clinton asking Strobe Talbot “why don’t we have a concept as succinct as ‘containment.’” Kennan’s response, “that ‘containment’ had been a misleading oversimplification; strategy could not be made to fit a bumper sticker.” The President laughed . . . “that’s why Kennan’s a great diplomat and scholar and not a politician.”

Kennan chafed that his opponents drew conclusions from it that were disagreeable to him but the fact of the matter is that the concept of containment succinctly described a strategy or as Gaddis put it “a path between the appeasement that had failed to prevent WWII and the alternative of a third world war.” (ANTITHESIS)

What the United States needs now is a policy that finds a middle path. A policy that is not rash or recklessA foreign policy that is reluctant, restrained by Constitutional checks and balances but does not appease. A foreign policy that recognizes the danger of radical Islam but also the inherent weaknesses of radical Islam. A foreign policy that recognizes the danger of bombing countries on what they might someday do. A foreign policy that requires (ALLITERATION), as Kennan put it, “a long term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of . . . expansive tendencies.” A policy that (ANAPHORA) understands the “distinction between vital and peripheral interests.”

No one believes that Kennan was an isolationist but Kennan did advise that non-interference in the internal affairs of another country was, after all, a long standing principle of American diplomacy . . . that should be excepted only when: A) “ there is a sufficiently powerful national interest” and B) when “we have the means to conduct such intervention successfully AND can afford the cost.”

In Kennan’s famous ‘X’ article he argues that containment meant the “application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and manoeuvres of Soviet policy.” He later clarified, though, that did not necessarily mean that the application of counterforce had to mean a military response. He argued that containment was not a strategy to counter “entirely by military means.” “But containment was not diplomacy [alone] either.”

Like communism, radical Islam is an ideology with worldwide reach. Containing radical Islam requires a worldwide strategy like containment. It requires counterforce at a series of constantly shifting worldwide points. But counterforce does not necessarily mean large-scale land wars with hundreds of thousands of troops nor does it always mean a military action at all.

Kennan objected to the Truman doctrine’s “implied obligation to act wherever Soviet aggression or intimidation occurred, without regard to whether American interests were at state or the means existed with which to defend them.”

He was also concerned that the Truman doctrine was “a blank check to give economic and military aid to any area in the world.”

Likewise, today’s “Truman” caucus wants boots on the ground and weapons in the hands of freedom fighters everywhere, including Syrian rebels. Perhaps, we might want to ask the opinion of the one million Syrian Christians, many of whom fled Iraq when our Shiite allies were installed. Perhaps, we might want to ask: will the Syrian rebels respect the rights of Christians, women, and other ethnic minorities?

In the 1980’s the war caucus in Congress armed bin Laden and the mujaheddin in their fight with the Soviet Union. In fact, it was the official position of the State Department to support radical jihad against the Soviets. We all know how well that worked out.

Out of the Arab Spring new nations have emerged. While discussion of Iran dominates foreign affairs, I think more time should be allotted to whether we should continue to send aid and weapons to countries that are hostile to Israel and to the United States. I, for one, believe it is unwise to be sending more M1 tanks and F-16 fighters to Egypt.

Kennan argued that “integrating force with foreign policy did not mean “blustering, threatening, waving clubs at people and telling them if they don’t do this or that we are going to drop a bomb on them.” But it did mean maintaining “a preponderance of strength.”

Kennan wrote, “The strength of the Kremlin lies in the fact that it knows how to wait. But the strength of the Russian people lies in the fact that they know how to wait longer.”

Radical Islam’s only real strength is just such an endless patience. They know we eventually will leave. They simply wait for us to leave and leave we eventually must. We cannot afford endless occupation but this does not mean that by leaving we cannot and will not still contain Radical Islam.

Everybody now loves Ronald Reagan. Even President Obama tries to toady up and vainly try to resemble some Reaganism. Reagan’s foreign policy was robust but also restrained (ANTITHESIS & ALLITERATION). He pulled no punches in telling Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down that wall.” He did not shy from labeling the Soviet Union an evil empire. But he also sat down with Gorbachev and negotiated meaningful reductions in nuclear weapons.

Many of today’s neoconservatives want to wrap themselves up in Reagan’s mantle but the truth is that Reagan used clear messages of communism’s evil and clear exposition of America’s strength to contain and ultimately transcend the Soviet Union.

The cold war ended because the engine of capitalism (METAPHOR) defeated the engine of socialism. Reagan aided and abetted this end not by “liberation” of captive people but by a combination of don’t mess with us language and diplomacy (ANTITHESIS) not inconsistent with Kennan’s approach.

Jack Matlock, one of Reagan’s national security advisors, wrote “Reagan’s Soviet policy had more in common with Kennan’s thinking than the policy of any of Reagan’s predecessors.” Reagan himself wrote, “I have a foreign policy. I just don’t happen to think it’s wise to tell the world what your foreign policy is.”

Reagan’s liberal critics would decry a lack of sophistication but others would understand a policy in having no stated policy, a policy of Strategic ambiguity If you enumerate your policy, if you telegraph to the Soviets that the Strategic Defense Initiative is a ploy to get the Soviets to the bargaining table, the ploy is then made impotent.

Strategic ambiguity is still of value. The world knows we possess an enormous ability of nuclear retaliation. Over sixty years of not using our nuclear weapons shows wise restraint. But for our enemies to be uncertain what provocation may awaken an overwhelming response, nuclear or conventional, is an uncertainty that still helps to keep the peace.

I recognize that foreign policy is complicated. It is inherently less black and white to most people than domestic policy. I think there is room for a foreign policy that strikes a balance.

If for example, we imagine a foreign policy that is everything to everyone, that is everywhere all the time that would be one polar extreme. Likewise if we imagine a foreign policy that is nowhere any of the time (ANTITHESIS) and is completely disengaged from the challenges and dangers to our security that really do exist in the world – well, that would be the other polar extreme. There are times, such as existed in Afghanistan with the Bin Laden terrorist camps, that do require intervention.

Maybe, we could be somewhere, some of the time and do so while respecting our constitution and the legal powers of Congress and the Presidency.

Reagan’s foreign policy was much closer to what I am advocating than what we have today. The former Chairman of the American Conservative Union David Keene noted that Reagan’s policy was much less interventionist than the presidents of both parties who came right before him and after him.

I’d argue that a more restrained foreign policy is the true conservative foreign policy, as it includes two basic tenets of true conservatism: respect for the constitution, and fiscal discipline.

I am convinced that what we need is a foreign policy that works within these two constraints, a foreign policy that works within the confines of the Constitution the realities of our fiscal crisis.

Today in Congress there is no such nuance, no such (ANAPHORA) moderation of dollars or executive power.

Last year I introduced a non-binding sense of the Senate resolution reiterating the President’s words when he was a candidate that no president should go to war unilaterally without the approval of Congress unless an imminent threat to our national security exists.

Not one Democrat voted to support candidate Obama’s words and only ten Republican senators voted to support the notion that Congressional authority is needed to begin war.

Some well-meaning senators came up to me and said, Congress has the power of the purse strings and can simply cut off funds. The problem is that there is occasionally a will to avoid war in the beginning but rarely, if ever, is there the resolve to cut off funding once troops are in the field. No historic example exists of Congress cutting off funds to a war in progress. Even during Vietnam, arguably our most unpopular war, funds were never voted down.

Madison wrote, “The Constitution supposes what history demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch most prone to war and most interested in it, therefore the Constitution has with studied care vested that power in the Legislature.

Since the Korean War, Congress has ignored its responsibility to restrain the President. Congress has abdicated its role in declaring war.

What would a foreign policy look like that tried to strike a balance? first, it would have less soldiers stationed overseas and less bases. Instead of large, limitless land (ALLITERATION) wars in multiple theaters, we would target our enemy; strike with lethal force.

We would not presume that we build nations nor would we presume that we have the resources to build nations. Many of the countries formed after WWI are collections of tribal regions that have never been governed by a central government and may, in fact, be ungovernable.

When we must intervene with force, we should attempt to intervene in cooperation with the host government.

Intervention against the will of another nation such as Afghanistan or Libya would require Declaration of War by Congress. Such Constitutional obstacles purposefully make it more difficult to go to war. That was the Founders’ intention: To make war less likely. We did not declare war or authorize force to begin war with Libya. This is a dangerous precedent. In our
foreign policy, Congress has become not even a rubber stamp but an irrelevancy. With Libya, the President sought permission from the UN… from NATO… from the Arab League—everyone BUT the US Congress!

And how did Congress react? Congress let him get away with it.

The looming debt crisis will force us to reassess our role in the world. Admiral Mullen calls the debt the greatest threat to our national security. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted that “At some point fiscal insolvency at home translates into strategic insolvency abroad.”

Gates added that addressing our financial crisis will require both “re-examining missions and capabilities” and perhaps most importantly “will entail going places that have been avoided by politicians in the past.”

It is time for all Americans, and especially conservatives, to become as critical and reflective when examining foreign policy as we are with domestic policy. Should our military be defending this nation or constantly building other nations? What constitutes our actual “national defense” and what parts of our foreign policy are more like an irrational offense? (2 x HYPOPHORA) It is the soldier’s job to do his duty—but it is the citizen’s job to question their government—particularly when it comes to putting our soldiers in harm’s way.

And of course, the question we are forced to ask today is—can we afford this?

I hope such questions begin to be asked and we see some sort of return to a Constitutional foreign policy.

I hope this occurs before the debt crisis occurs and not amidst a crisis. To that end, I will fight to have a voice for those who wish who wish to see a saner, more balanced approach to foreign policy.”