Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union: Credibility Shot, Bush to Speak from a Deep, Deep Hole

Here's the most important thing you can know about tonight's State of The Union Speech: Bush speaks tonight from an even deeper hole than the one from which we dragged Saddam's sorry self.

Bush approval ratings are the lowest yet; they haven't found a floor. His reputation is so shattered that anything he says, regardless of merit (and experience indicates there will be precious little of that), will immediately be discounted, derided, and dismissed--and not just by left loonies like me, but by a majority of listeners. Even a many Republicans in and out of Congress.

When the speaker isn't credible, neither is the speech. We learn this from Aristotle. (And who knows where he got it?) Aristotle, in Rhetorix, said there are three pillars for a persuasive speech: ethos (the character of the speaker), logos (rational appeal), and pathos (emotional appeal). Rational appeal has never been a strong suit for Bush. And the emotional appeal of all-fear-all-the-time has pretty much evaporated. Which brings us back to character.

Here's what Aristotle says about ethos (It's in the third paragraph of part 2):
Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided. This kind of persuasion, like the others, should be achieved by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak. It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatises on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasion; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses. (emphasis mine)
It wasn't that long ago that Chris Matthews was driving the left blogosphere to distraction with repeated assertions that ""Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left." And, of course, we all remember this old chestnut, "Bush is the guy you'd rather have a beer with."
By the way, How come nobody ever thought it was odd to benchmark the appeal of a reformed alcoholic by asking him to have beers with everyone? Maybe nobody ever really liked him.
This time out the gate, even the main stream media acknowledges that Bush is not well liked, not well-respected, and is pretty much tapped out of that "political capital" he imagined the voters gave him after he beat Kerry in a squeaker.

Mickeleh's Take: This speech will be fun to watch. Don't miss the Democratic response from Sen. Jim Webb. Think Progress promises real-time fact checking throughout the speech.

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