Clinton and the Rhetoric of Image Restoration
Bill Clinton’s presidency is perhaps best characterised by the contrast between the high-minded ideals and personal charm of the President and a series of increasingly severe scandals that culminated in his impeachment. These reflected on various dimensions of his ethical behaviour ranging from his financial integrity (the Whitewater affair); personal habits (e.g. marijuana smoking); sexual integrity (the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky affairs); and his personal courage (the issue of draft dodging). Earlier presidents had been destroyed by political scandal but none had been threatened with impeachment for lying while under oath. Given the impact of these scandals on the American political scene of the 1990s, it was vital that Clinton was able to rely on techniques of image creation to maintain his stature as President. Accusations went far beyond policy criticisms and focused on his personal morality and therefore attacked the ethos at the bedrock of his rhetorical powers. Personality, appearance and language all contributed to the image that was at the basis of Clinton’s appeal to the electorate. This chapter addresses two basic questions: what communication skills did Clinton employ to restore his image as President? And what was the contribution of metaphor in overcoming the scandals of his presidency?
KeywordsSource Domain Political Scandal Rhetorical Effect Heroic Journey High School Equivalency
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