Critical Essay #5: “False Objectivity” in Climate Change Media Coverage

Climate change, specifically in reference to C02 Emissions released by human use of fossil fuels and their consequential effects on the environment, is perhaps one of the most pressing issues we, not just as Americans, but as human beings face in our lifetimes. Though it may sound like a sensationalist statement the facts are hard to deny. In May of 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide surpassed 400 parts per million (ESRL Global Monitoring Division News Items). Experts in this field estimate that a “safe level” of atmospheric C02 concentration is around 350 million parts per million (400 Ppm CO2: What It Means). It should also be noted that the last time the Earth had this level of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere was 3 million years ago when it is estimated that sea levels were around 80 feet higher (Prinn).Yet despite these circumstances climate change represents just 1% of all media headlines (Project for Improved Environmental Coverage). Entertainment, which makes for 3% of headlines, received three times the coverage of environmental issues (Project for Improved Environmental Coverage). When the environment does in fact receive such scarce coverage, the issue of climate change is often times covered under a guise of false objectivity. A valid argument can be made that the media has failed the public on the issue of climate change by framing its legitimacy as subject to a balanced 50/50 debate in order to uphold a mutated standard of fairness and balance- when the reality is much different. 97% of climate scientists agree that such increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration are man-made (Global Climate Change: Consensus). Why then is it that the news media treats such widely held views by experts as debate rather than consensus? The answer may lie in the media’s current and skewed standards of what constitutes “objectivity” and “balance”.

It can be said that the mainstream American news media holds objective reporting in a high regard, and rightfully so. Such a journalistic culture finds its roots in the Fairness Doctrine, a policy implemented by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949(Boliek) in response to muckraking and irresponsible journalistic practices of prior times. The Fairness Doctrine mandated that news organizations provide contrasting views of controversial issues in an equal manner. Though the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987, and its official language removed in 2011, the effects of this policy still seem to play a significant role in the mainstream media (Boliek). It can be argued that the residual effects of this policy have mutated into a heavy emphasis on fairness and balance (in some cases, and in other cases not as much) that has made many journalists lose their focus on what objectivity actually means.

In a publication Objectivity & Balance: Today’s Best Practices in American Journalism by Joel Kaplan, the associate Dean for Professional Graduate Studies at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Kaplan claims while objectivity and balance are important in reporting, that “the notion of objectivity and balance is often misunderstood”(Kaplan). He cites the following quote by Bill Kovcah and Tom Rosentiel from their book The Elements of Journalism to sum up his views on the definition of objectivity based on the journalistic principle’s history:

“Objectivity called for journalists to develop a consistent method of testing information – a transparent approach to evidence – precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work.” (Kovach, Bill, and Tom Rosenstiel)

Kaplan further supplements his views in saying that ,” it is this scientific method that informs the work of great journalists” and implies that the scientific method in search of truth is what gives objectivity legitimacy as a journalistic principle (Kaplan).

It is difficult to align Kaplan’s notion of the definition of objectivity with current media practices regarding how the issue of climate change is presented to the public. Many media outlets seem to throw out the notion of reaching truth through the scientific method in their coverage of climate change completely. They portray the debate as a balanced 50/50 issue by representing the opinions of 97% of climate scientists who in fact used the scientific method to come to their conclusions, and the opinions of 3% of climate scientists as equal sparring partners.

Kaplan finds fault with such a characterization. He notes that Mr. Kovach and Mr. Rosentiel, who he initially cited, agree that “this original notion of objectivity has been lost into a formulaic approach that tends to measure ― “balance ”by how many words or minutes are devoted to each side”(Kovach, Bill, and Tom Rosenstiel).

He uses yet another reference to their book The Elements of Journalism and quotes a particular section that discusses these issues and how they pertain specifically to media coverage of climate change:

“If an overwhelming percentage of scientists, as an example, believe that global warming is a scientific fact, or that some medical treatment is clearly the safest, it is a disservice to citizens and truthfulness to create the impression that the scientific debate is equally split. Unfortunately, all too often journalistic balance is misconstrued to have this kind of almost mathematical meaning, as if a good story is one that has an equal number of quotes from two sides. As journalists know, often there are more than two sides to a story. And sometimes balancing them equally is not a true reflection of reality.

Fairness, in turn, can also be misunderstood if it is seen to be a goal unto itself. Fairness should mean the journalist is being fair to the facts and to a citizen‘s understanding of them. It should not mean, ̳Am I being fair to my sources, so that none of them will be unhappy?‘ Nor should it mean that journalist asking, ―does my story seem fair?‘ These are subjective judgments that may steer the journalists away from the need to do more to verify her work.” (Kovach, Bill, and Tom Rosenstiel)

Such views seem to sum up the problem of climate change coverage exactly. “Fair” coverage for fairness sake in order to appease all sources is not responsible objective journalism. Such practice is inaccurately portraying a majority consensus among experts on an issue to be questionable. One could go as far as saying that such a practice misleads the public because it hesitates to classify a finding as “fact” based on a standard that for something to be a “fact” relies on unanimous consensus by experts. However, unanimous consensus by experts on any issue is rare, and is likewise another false standard. We accept overwhelming agreement of experts using the scientific method on other issues, such as those in the medical field, often times to be fact yet for some reason the media in the case of climate change seems to diverge from this precedent.

The word fact is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: something that truly exists or happens: something that has actual existence (“Fact”). Research in the area of climate change, based on the scientific method, has provided us with the undeniable and objective conclusion that C02 concentrations within the atmosphere have surpassed 400 parts per million. There is no denying this. This is something that truly exists and is happening. This is something that has actual existence. This is a fact. It is time for the news media to use the same scientific method in their own reporting and abandon false objectivity to appease a perverse sense of fairness, and pursue legitimate objectivity to shed light on what is truth. It is time for the news media to treat climate change, no longer as debate, but for what it is, as a fact.

Works Cited

“400 Ppm CO2: What It Means.” 400 Ppm CO2: What It Means., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.

Boliek, Brooks (August 22, 2011). “FCC finally kills off fairness doctrine”. POLITICO.

“ESRL Global Monitoring Division News Items.” ESRL Global Monitoring Division News Items. Earth System Research Laboratory Global Monitoring Division, 10 May 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.

“Fact.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, n.d. Web.

“Global Climate Change: Consensus.” Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. National Aeronautical Space Association, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.

Kaplan, Joel. Objectivity & Balance: Today’s Best Practices in American Journalism. Publication. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.

Kovach, Bill, and Tom Rosenstiel. The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect. New York: Crown, 2001. Print.

Prinn, Ron. “400 Ppm CO2? Add Other GHGs, and It’s Equivalent to 478 Ppm.” Oceans at MIT. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 6 June 2013. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.

“Project for Improved Environmental Coverage.” Project for Improved Environmental Coverage. Project for Improved Environmental Coverage, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.

Critical Essay #4: Could Lincoln win an election today?


Could Lincoln be elected to the office of President in the world of today? A world with 24-hour news coverage. A world of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. A world that often times focuses more on a politician’s image, than their actual message. Could Lincoln, hailed by a consensus of historians as one of the nation’s greatest Presidents, actually survive as a candidate in this world? It could be fairly argued that the answer to this question is a flat out no. Why is this the case? Because despite the seemingly timeless and universal greatness of this man, what we emphasize of value in today’s society via media coverage of candidates is simply too shallow, too surface level a game of public image for a man as deep and complex as Abraham Lincoln to survive as a contender for the Oval Office. By examining the factors of attractiveness and electability, stigmatization of mental illness in politics, and the importance Americans hold a candidate’s educational background and religious beliefs, it becomes evident that Lincoln would face a struggle in his path to the Presidency. 

Studies show that in the eyes of voters today attractiveness translates to electability. In a study published in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neurosciencejournal, researchers using MRI imaging technology found a correlation between emotion and attractiveness when participants were shown pictures of candidates. Negative emotion was associated with uglier candidates who had lost past races, and likewise positive with more attractive candidates who won (Breyer). Psychologist attribute this to the “halo effect”, the phenomenon where people associate positive qualities with people who are better looking. It is theorized that this goes back to our primal instincts of associating attractiveness with healthiness, and thus a healthier person is fit to be a better leader (White, Kenrick). The fact all candidates are bombarded in constant media attention of various forms, from television to print, and now social media simply amplifies this effect. Their faces are literally everywhere. And appearance is constantly critiqued on both a conscious and subconscious level by media consumers.

Unfortunately, to Lincoln’s disadvantage he was not an attractive man. Joshua Speed, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln described him as follows in his book Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln: Mr. Lincoln’s person was ungainly. He was six feet four inches in height; a little stooped in the shoulders; his legs and arms were long; his feet and hands large; his forehead was high. His head was over the average size. His eyes were gray. His face and forehead were wrinkled even in his youth…” (Abraham Lincoln as a Speaker). Based on this description, Lincoln would be a tough candidate to sell to a national television audience. Though this may not be entirely debilitating, it would serve as a major weakness if he were to hypothetically face more “camera-friendly” opponents. A historical precedent for such a situation would be the Nixon-Kennedy Debate.

Historians widely attribute public opinion of Kennedy’s success in the debates, and overall success in the 1960 election, due to the fact that he was the more young, healthy, and attractive of the two candidates and catered well to the new medium of television (The Kennedy-Nixon Debates). Though Nixon later did become President, his loss in the election is greatly attributed to the shortfalls of his public image against that of Kennedy. In hypothetical terms, the question arises would Lincoln even make it past the primaries if he were positioned next to an attractive and young candidate like Marco Rubio today? According to scientific studies and historical precedent, it wouldn’t seem likely.

Another vulnerability of Lincoln in a modern election would be the likelihood of his personal demons coming to light. It is well known that Lincoln suffered from what was then called “melancholy” and what would now be referred to as clinical depression. Henry Whitney a colleague of Lincoln said about his depression, No element of Mr. Lincoln’s character was so marked, obvious and ingrained as his mysterious and profound melancholy” (Shenk). In today’s climate of relentless media scrutiny of candidates’ personal lives Lincoln would have a hard time covering up such a condition. In a 2004 study, more than 40% of those polled agreed with the notion that anyone with a history of mental problems should be excluded from public office (Ver Duin,D’Arlene, Paul Ruiggiere, and James Glass ).

It is therefore fair to speculate that if such a condition was discovered by the media or any political opponents of Lincoln, they would pounce and try to paint it as character flaw. Such was the case with Thomas Eagleton who briefly ran as the Vice Presidential candidate to Democratic Candidate for President, George McGovern in 1972. Upon the public discovering he underwent electric shock therapy to treat his serious struggle with depression, Eagleton was pressured to leave the race only 18 days after entering it due to such a stigma surrounding the condition (Warren). Though that was over 40 years ago, similar stigmatization of mental illness in politics has been the center of media coverage recently when Former Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. sought treatment for bipolar II disorder at the Mayo Clinic(Camia). For a man like Lincoln, who his law partner William Herndon said of him ,His melancholy dripped from him as he walked” (Shenk) struggling with depression in the media spotlight would be tough.

Likewise, Lincoln’s own educational background is something that would also likely come under fire as a candidate for office. Lincoln, simply put, never went to college. Though this certainly does not take away from his brilliance as an individual it once again would place him at a disadvantage to other candidates who were college educated from an image standpoint. A Gallup Poll showed that 7-in-10 American adults view a college education as very important (Newport, Frank, and Brandon Busteed). Nearly all Presidents of the 20th century, with exception to Harry Truman, and all Presidents so far in the 21st Century have at least achieved an undergraduate degree (Edwards-Levy). In fact, every President since 1988 holds at least one degree from an Ivy League School (Edwards-Levy). Though the context of his educational upbringing (or lack thereof) are difficult to compare with circumstances of modern times, even a contemporary Lincoln who let’s just say only achieved a high school diploma, would once again face societal stigma. He would likely be the black sheep of a Presidential race, and if he were to get elected, would be the first President since Harry Truman not to hold a college degree.

Lastly, one of the largest hurdles Lincoln would face as a modern Presidential candidate is his failure to officially identify with a religion. Though he attended Protestant Christian church services with his family, it is reported that Lincoln did not officially belong to any church (Foner). In fact, there is wide speculation amongst historians, and even commentary on record that would suggest Lincoln was perhaps agnostic or even an atheist. Lincoln has been quoted saying “The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession” and also “it will not do to investigate the subject of Religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to infidelity” (Positive Atheism’s Big List of Quotations by and about Abraham Lincoln).. The context of these quotes and whether Lincoln actually meant them or not is up for debate. However, imagine these quotes in the modern era being used as a sound bite in a political attack ad or going viral on social media. The American Religious Identification Survey conducted in 2008 reported that 76% of American adults identify themselves as Christians (Kosmin, Barry A., and Ariela Keysar). A separate study by the Pew Research Center showed that 53% of Americans would not vote for an atheist (Ashtari). If Lincoln was actually an atheist is beyond the point. In an election today, his opposition would most likely attempt to paint him as one using his own words, and based on the religious demographics of the nation and how the populous holds a candidate’s religious beliefs in high regard, such a negative campaign would have the potential to be extremely damaging.

In examining Lincoln objectively, through the lens of how politician’s public images are portrayed by the media in the present, it appears unlikely that such a man would be elected as President in modern times. Imagine the struggles an ugly, uneducated, depressed, alleged atheist candidate would face in the campaign culture of today. A harsh evaluation yes, but that’s what Lincoln’s opposition would likely label him as. Image is everything in today’s politics, and sadly the image of such a man does not coincide with what we as a media-driven society value today. Lincoln is without a doubt great, but it can be soundly argued that his ability to survive as a candidate in contemporary times would be little to none.

 Works Cited

“Abraham Lincoln as a Speaker.” Abraham Lincoln Online. Abraham Lincoln Online, n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Ashtari, Shadee. “Americans Would Rather Vote For A Philandering, Pot-Smoking President Than An Atheist One.”Huffington Post., Inc., 19 May 2014. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Breyer, Jeanna. “Studies Find a Candidate’s Looks Matter.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (n.d.): n. pag. Live Science. 30 Oct. 2008. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Camia, Catalina. “Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Treated for Bipolar Disorder.” USA Today. USA Today, 13 Aug. 2012. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Edwards-Levy, Ariel. “Most Americans Don’t Care If Their President Went To An Ivy League College.” The Huffington Post. ,Inc., 22 May 2014. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Foner, Eric. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. Print.

“The Kennedy-Nixon Debates.” A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

Kosmin, Barry A., and Ariela Keysar. American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008. Rep. Hartford: Trinity College, 2009. Print.

Newport, Frank, and Brandon Busteed. “Americans Still See College Education as Very Important.” Gallup.Com. Gallup, Inc., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

“Positive Atheism’s Big List of Quotations by and about Abraham Lincoln.” Positive Atheism. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Shenk, Joshua W. “Lincoln’s Great Depression.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 1 Oct. 2005. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Ver Duin, D’Arlene, Paul Ruggiere, and James Glass. Tarrant County Mental Health Attitudes Survey 2004. Rep. Forth Worth: Mental Health Collaboration of Tarrant County, 2004. Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County. Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Warren, James. “Hope for Jesse Jackson Jr.: Bouncing Back From Depression.” The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company LLC, 19 Aug. 2012. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

White, Andrew Edward, and Douglas T. Kenrick. “Why Attractive Candidates Win.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Nov. 2013. Web. 07 Nov. 2014.


Grimes Calls in the Big Guns, Warren descends upon KY to court labor vote


A Massachusetts Liberal in rural Kentucky. Words you wouldn’t often find in the same sentence. But in the realm of politics anything is possible. On October 28,  Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren hit the campaign trail on behalf of Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. Warren, a champion of populist liberal economic policies, gave Grimes her official stamp of approval on all matters labor.

Citing Grimes’s support for a higher minimum wage, Warren told crowd goers (many of whom are union members) that voting for Grimes come November is what will help save the middle class in America. The message seemed to resonate well at the event, which took place at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Many attendees seemed to approve of Warren’s endorsement and supported Grimes on her opposition to right to work legislation as well.

In 2013, a little over 10% of workers employed in Kentucky were union members according to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor vote is without a doubt a deciding factor in Kentucky elections, especially with Democrats trying to pull as large of a turnout as possible among those loyal to the party. It can be said that Warren, a celebrity amongst labor Democrats around the country, helped excite the party base as expected.


Works Cited

“Trade-Union Organization and Membership in 1929.” Monthly Labor Review 30.2 (1930): 1-10. U.S. Department of Labor. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.

Critical Essay #3: How Bush’s “Ultimatum to Iraq” Speech acts as evidence to the legitimacy of the rally phenomenon

The Iraq War is one of the most controversial military and foreign policy legacies of George W. Bush’s Presidency. Along with Vietnam, it also remains to be one of the most unpopular wars on record. At its lowest point of popularity, 64% of Americans disapproved of the war in October of 2006 (CNN). And in 2014, it was reported that 54% of Americans identified with the notion that intervening in Iraq was a mistake (Gallup). Interestingly enough a majority of the American public overwhelmingly supported the war in its initial onset. At its peak of popularity, 76% of Americans supported military intervention in Iraq during the beginning phases of war in March of 2003(Gallup). How is such a drastic change possible? It can be argued that “the rally phenomenon” where “in the aftermath of major foreign policy actions undertaken by the US government, people rally behind the President”, played a major role in such high approval initially for the war(Iyengar). A case could be made that the rally phenomenon is more the less a result of the rhetoric George W. Bush used in his “Ultimatum to Iraq Speech”. On the night Bush made this address, approval for the concept of the war jumped from the high 50s up to 66% approval(Gallup). Later that week, the number reached up to 76% as combat operations commenced. The numbers are hard to ignore: the speech made a difference in public perception. Why though? By objectively examining the mechanical and rhetorical construction of this speech, one is capable of fully uncovering the reason why the rally effect has such legitimacy as a concept. It is fair to say that the reason 76% of the American people supported military intervention in Iraq lies in Bush’s words.

Video of Speech:

Text of Speech:

On March 17. 2003 when Bush delivered his “Ultimatum to Iraq” America’s wounds from 9/11 were two years fresh. Fear of another terrorist attack and the stability of the Middle East were still of prime concern. A poll conducted in January 2003, two months before the war began, shed light on the fact that 50% public viewed an invasion of Iraq to be part of the ‘War on Terrorism” (Gallup). It is clear throughout the speech that Bush caters to such an understanding and uses it as the primary premise of grounds for American involvement in Iraq. For example Bush makes the claim early on in his speech that:

“The regime (in control of Iraq) has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda.”

By connecting Iraq and Al-Qaeda, though from a contemporary standpoint is questionable, Bush was able to appeal to American emotions on security concerns of terrorism in the post 9/11 era. He establishes Iraq as a threat by saying that they have strong relationships with terror organizations. Yet he does not end his argument there. He continues on saying:

“The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.”

The assertion (whether accurate or not) that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction is historically viewed as the foundation for the United States’ argument to invade Iraq. What should be taken into account when analyzing this speech from the perspective of that time, is that this linkage of a terrorist threat and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was extremely persuasive to the American people. In March 24-25 2003, only a few days after this speech, 79% of the American public claimed to be worried about a terrorist attack on the United States (Gallup). Paranoia was at its peak. The mere assertion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction wasn’t simply the problem, the problem the Bush Administration claimed was that such weapons had the potential to fall into the hands of terrorists and threaten American lives.

To further his point, Bush dedicated a great deal of his speech to the notion of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. He characterized how the United States had just legal authority to insure such alleged weapons were destroyed, even if meant dismantling the Hussein regime by force. He begins this effort by addressing how in the past peaceful measures to address the issue have failed.

“The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage. It has uniformly defied Security Council resolutions demanding full disarmament. Over the years, U.N. weapon inspectors have been threatened by Iraqi officials, electronically bugged, and systematically deceived. Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime have failed again and again — because we are not dealing with peaceful men. “

Bush further breathes legitimacy into his argument, by giving such information the “seal of approval” from not only the United States Intelligence apparatus, but the intelligence organizations of other nations.

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq’s neighbors and against Iraq’s people.”

By sanctioning the validity of such intelligence with the US government’s approval, Bush is in essence officially saying that such information is not speculation, it is fact. In hindsight, the validity of this information may be debated. However, to the American people watching this address in 2003, the President saying that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction per intelligence collected by the CIA was most likely enough to convince them of its truth.

With legitimacy established, Bush moves into the legal reasons why the United States may forcefully disarm Iraq, should Saddam Hussein not comply with this ultimatum. He once again makes the case for national security. 

“The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep.

Recognizing the threat to our country, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to support the use of force against Iraq.”

In this statement, Bush affirms the United States existential right to protect her security in accordance with her authority as a sovereign nation. He also affirms that such actions have cleared the Constitutional internal processes that allow them to be legal under United States law. Following such an argument, he then moves on to appeal as to why this action is justifiable under International Law.

“In the case of Iraq, the Security Council did act, in the early 1990s. Under Resolutions 678 and 687 – both still in effect – the United States and our allies are authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a question of authority, it is a question of will.

Last September, I went to the U.N. General Assembly and urged the nations of the world to unite and bring an end to this danger. On November 8, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowing serious consequences if Iraq did not fully and immediately disarm.

Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. And it will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power. For the last four-and-a-half months, the United States and our allies have worked within the Security Council to enforce that Council’s long-standing demands. Yet, some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced they will veto any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it. Many nations, however, do have the resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world. The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.”

Though the speech continues and explores deeper philosophical themes, and also includes an appeal to the Iraqi military and people, Bush’s major arguments to persuade the American people end with his justification of the use of military force under International Law.

It is apparent, upon rhetorical analysis, that this speech was effective in persuading the American people to lend their support to the war. In terms of popularity, President Bush reached an approval rating of 71% after he delivered this famous address, his second highest instance of approval following 9/11 (Gallup). It is also clear from this speech that the rally phenomenon is not only real, but effective. The carefully constructed rhetoric of this speech galvanized the American public into supporting a war that would later become one of the most unpopular in US history. It gives merit to that fact that it is words, just as much as action, that have the ability to sway American public opinion in one direction or the other.


Works Cited

“Full Text: Bush’s Speech.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 17 Mar. 2003. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

“George W. Bush – Ultimatum to Saddam Hussein.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 June 2011. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

“Iraq.” Gallup.Com. Gallup, Inc., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Iyengar, Shanto. Media Politics: A Citizen’s Guide. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.

Newport, Frank. “Seventy-Two Percent of Americans Support War Against Iraq.” Seventy-Two Percent of Americans Support War Against Iraq. Gallup, Inc., 24 Mar. 2003. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.

“Poll: Support for Iraq War at All-time Low.” CNN. Cable News Network, 17 Oct. 2006. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

“Presidential Approval Ratings — George W. Bush.” Gallup.Com. Gallup, Inc., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.

“Terrorism in the United States.” Gallup.Com. Gallup, Inc., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

“War on Terrorism.” Gallup.Com. Gallup, Inc., n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Polls show dead heat for US Senate races in the South

A list of recently conducted polls for United States Senate races across the South:

North Carolina (October 20):

Hagan- 47
Tills- 44
Polling Firm: PPP

Kentucky (October 17):



Polling Firm: Rasmusen Reports

Georgia (October 16):

Perdue- 45


Polling Firm: WRBL/Ledger-Enquirer/PMB*

Arkansas (October 16):



Polling Firm: Rasmusen Reports

Louisiana (October 15):



Polling Firm: Rasmusen Reports


Grimes and McConnell throw down in KY Debate


On Monday night the two Kentucky Senate candidates entered into a heated debate about the issues facing not only the state of Kentucky but the state of the nation. The primary focus being jobs.

McConnell, a beacon of Conservative resistance to the agenda of the Obama Administration, surprisingly began the night touting what he claimed to be a “bipartisan record” of reaching across the aisle and working with Vice President Joe Biden on a variety of issues. He further played to his experience as a veteran of the United States Senate and his commitment to Conservative values and principles that he feels best serve the interest of Kentucky. He was relentless in his attacks against Grimes, continuously trying to tie her to the unpopular Obama.

One issue that surfaced on several occasions was Grimes’s failure to acknowledge whether she voted for Obama in either 2008 or 2012.  An awkward exchange for Grimes with respects to both her Liberal base and more Conservative leaning undecided voters.

Grimes, on the other hand attacked McConnell as a “Washington Insider” who puts partisan interest above the good of the country and the good of Kentucky. She attributed his tactics to gridlock and lack of progress. She instead offered an agenda she claims would move things forward for Kentucky and the country.

Though there were no words unshared between the two, there was no clear winner of the debate either. The debate mimicked the same messages being hurled from both sides throughout the campaign. No major breakthroughs in terms of policy stances. Just more mudslinging as expected.


Grimes distances herself from Washington, Obama

Democrat Alison Grimes Campaigns Ahead Of Kentucky Primary

Alison Lundergan Grimes is a Democrat running in a state very skeptical about Washington, socially conservative, and very hostile towards President Obama. This has in turn resulted in an awkward tight rope walk for Grimes regarding several issues and how they correlate with the President’s own agenda and the platform of the National Democratic Party.

In an uncomfortable interview conducted Thursday between Lundergan Grimes and the Louisville Courier Journal, Grimes refused to answer whether she voted for President Obama or not. “You know, this election isn’t about the president. It’s about making sure we put Kentuckians back to work,” she stated.

Other awkward exchanges about her disagreement with the President on certain issues have not been uncommon. Though overall she supports the Affordable Care Act, Grimes has issued concern with certain aspects of the law; including the small business mandate. “There are 700,000 businesses in Kentucky and I am concerned that especially the smaller ones are overburdened,” Grimes is on record saying.

Even on certain touchy social issues, such as marriage equality, Grimes is hesitant to show enthusiastic support just to appeal to a liberal base. When the issue of whether the Supreme Court should strike down Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage came into question Grimes made the following statement ,” while I don’t believe any church should be forced to recognize anything that is inconsistent with their teachings, my husband and I have been married for seven years, and I believe others should have the opportunity to make that same commitment.”

Not the most vocal form of support, icy at best, yet still a very loose endorsement of the issue. Once again, for Grimes as it is for many other Democrats running for reelection in the South it’s a tight rope walk.

An October 4-October 7 Poll conducted by FOX puts McConnell in the lead by four percentage points: McConnell has support amongst 45% of those polled vs. Lundergan Grimes who has 41% support amongst those polled. The race remains close. All eyes remain on Kentucky.

Critical Essay 2: Examining the Effectiveness of 2 Landmark Presidential Speeches of the 20th Century

The art of speechmaking is a complex undertaking. Communicating a message to an audience is no simple task. Even more complex is the art of addressing a nation as the leader of the Free World. Presidential speeches are the highlights of history books. They capture America at some of her most pivotal moments and leaders at some of their most defining. In Media Politics speechmaking is characterized as “a relatively recent form of presidential leadership” (Iyengar). Nonetheless it is an important one. Communicating to the people, in order to gain their support and understanding for promoting policy initiatives, declarations of war, crisis management, and diplomatic efforts is a crucial pillar of governing a nation as a leader.

In order to deem what constitutes an effective speech, it is best to look at a two of the most famous Presidential speeches of the 20th century and examine them objectively. Below we will examine excerpts of two iconic speeches delivered by two of the greatest orator Presidents in United States history. We will examine these speeches and determine why they are effective in arousing a nation in two different historical contexts:

  1. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”- FDR (First Inaugural Address)



When Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his famous First Inaugural Address in 1933, the country’s unemployment rate that year would reach a staggering 24.9%(). America’s economy was on its last leg and people were in desperate need for some form of hope. Roosevelt was elected on a promise to overhaul the government and the American economy with a primary mission of getting people back to work. In order to do this Roosevelt knew he would have to make his case before the American people and explain to them how he planned on resolving the crisis of the Great Depression. His first official interaction with the American people, his inaugural address, acted as Roosevelt’s sounding board on his plan to save the country.

Roosevelt sets the tone of his speech early on, supplying his audience with a needed voice of authority and confidence. He states,” this great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Once his tone of confidence is established, a clear ploy of both pathos and ethos, Roosevelt transitions his approach to one invoking primarily logos as he outlines his plan to deal with the problems at hand. He spearheads his initiative by outlining distinct steps to what must be done in order to combat the economic crisis there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people’s money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency”.

While Roosevelt’s process of tackling the problem is based in logos, his identification of the moral flaws of what lies behind these structural problems is one rooted in emotion. He attacks the system of greed that caused the Depression and identifies it as what also must be overcome in order to revive the country through powerful appeals to pathos. Roosevelt states, the measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit…Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.”

By utilizing the three major rhetorical devices logos, pathos, and ethos in his speech, Roosevelt embodies the essence of a strong and intelligent leader with a plan to overcome crisis. In one of America’s darkest times, Roosevelt was able to establish himself as a leader strong enough to overcome the challenges America faced simply through the power of his words.

  1. “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You, Ask What You Can Do for Your Country”- JFK (Inaugural Address)



John F. Kennedy entered his Presidency with a whirlwind of media attention. As the country shifted from radio to television as its primary form of media the handsome President and his attractive family catered perfectly to the cameras. But it was more than just looks that was behind such a sensation. Surrounding JFK was an aura of not only youth and celebrity but also hope. He was known to empower and inspire people through his impressive oratory skills at a time when the country needed such a leader to rally behind. America, the beacon of Western Democracy, was engaged in both an ideological and militarized Cold War against the Communist Soviet Union. People lived in a constant state of paranoia, fearing that civilization as they knew it could be destroyed in a matter of seconds due to a constant threat of nuclear war.

Kennedy recognizes this theme throughout his first and only Inaugural Address stating, The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.” Kennedy sought to quell such paranoia, however, with a message of reassuring hope that American global leadership made strong by the values of American Democracy and through active participation of the American people in their democracy, would triumph at the end of the day by promoting peace and liberty around the globe. In line with such a message, Kennedy states , Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

At the same time Kennedy thought it possible that America could seek reconciliation with the Soviet Union on the grounds of human peace. In several instances during his address Kennedy outlines such a wish. He makes the following case,Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us… Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.”

Yet Kennedy reminds his audience that such a task is accomplished via a collective effort, an effort that originates from the people, and is made possible thanks to the beauty of the democratic system. Kennedy empowers his audience by challenging them to this call of contributing to not only the greater good of the country, but the greater good of the world. He states: In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

Kennedy’s strength as a leader much so derived from his strengths as a speaker. A visionary, he was able to inspire others to share his vision, and mobilize them into taking action and materializing the ideals he brought to life in his speeches. His only inaugural address is perhaps the best example of this, for many elements of his speech later materialized into action. During Kennedy’s short time in office the United States avoided all out nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis thanks to Kennedy’s level head and ability to communicate. Also during his term, after inspiring many young Americans with his call to service in saying “ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country” thousands of Americans joined Kennedy’s Peace Corps in hopes of bettering the world. Other great strides later on in the decade, including American achievements in the Space Race and the passage of the Civil Rights Act also can be traced back to Kennedy’s visionary idealism first communicated in his Inaugural Address.

Both speeches, and for that matter both speakers, although different share a great deal in common. The first being that FDR and JFK were effective figures of hope because they inspired hope in others through their words. They lead through their words and their vision for a greater country by inspiring others to share such a vision and materialize it into a reality. They emulated strength by helping others find strength through unity as a nation. They embodied confidence by helping others find confidence in American Democracy and American values. Most of all, they successfully deployed rhetoric as a tool of leadership: not just as a form of communicating a message, but seeing to it that a message could transform a country into something greater than it was before. That in essence is effective rhetorical leadership. That is why, these two speeches are considered to be amongst the two greatest Presidential speeches in American history, and these two Presidents amongst the greatest speakers and leaders in history.

Works Cited

“Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You!” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2014. “F.D.R.’s First Inaugural Speech: Nothing to Fear.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2014.

Iyengar, Shanto.Media Politics: A Citizen’s Guide. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print. “”Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”:

FDR’s First Inaugural Address.” “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”: FDR’s First Inaugural Address. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2014. “Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression.”

Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2014. John F. Kennedy: “Inaugural Address,” January 20, 1961. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

Money floods into the KY Senate Race at unprecedented levels


The 2014 bid for the Kentucky Senate seat could prove to be one of the most expensive in United States history. A piece titled Analysis: Ky. Senate race paid for by outside donors written by author Tom Loftus of the Louisville Courier-Journal, recently featured on USA Today, hones in on the details behind the campaign financing of this race.

According to Lotus and an analysis performed by the Courier-Journal $37 million in traceable donations have been made to the two candidates, of which interestingly 85% has come from out of state sources.

Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s Democratic Challenger, has received around 24.5% of her money from inside Kentucky. The rest is from out of state sources primarily located in California, New York, and D.C. Grimes champions the greatest volume of “small donations”, raising $3.6 million, close to 31.% of her total amount of donations, from contributions of $200 or less. Pro-Grimes committees have made $1 million in contributions which amounts to about 9% of contributions from PACs.

McConnell, the incumbent Republican Senate Minority Leader, gets most of his money from outside of Kentucky, with only 12.2% of contributors listing in-state addresses. His money mainly comes from PACs in D.C., Texas, and New York. Pro-McConnell committees have made $9 millions in contributions, which amounts to around 30% in contributions from PACs. McConnell has raised only $940,000 in small contributions of less than $200, only just 3% of his total amount of donations.

Overall, the amount of money being transferred between hands on both sides is unprecedented. It represents the chaos and politics of a post-Citizen United Era, and also gives insight into how many horses out of state players have in this race to control the Senate. Only time will tell if dollars translate into victory.

Works Cited

Loftus, Tom. “Analysis: Ky. Senate Race Paid for by outside Donors.” USA Today. Gannett, 28 Sept. 2014. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.

Critical Essay #1: The Relationship between Issue Ownership and Campaign Media

Issue ownership and campaign media are two topics that go hand in hand. In the modern age of vicious political attack ads one simply cannot exist without the other. In fact, it could even be argued that without the reinforcement of campaign media, issue ownership would not exist in the way it does today. Why is this? Because issue ownership boils down to marketing and branding, and how to communicate a message behind a brand. We are a society saturated in multimedia. According to a 2012 Nielson statistics report featured in an NY Daily News Article, the average American over the age of 2 watches 34 hours of TV a week (Hinckley). We constantly have messages thrown at us over the airwaves with the aim of trying to get consumers to associate certain words, feelings, and images with material products so that we then purchase them. In the political sphere, the same now goes for people and parties. Political media firms hired by campaigns and independent PACs are trying to get voters to buy their candidate and their party; they achieve this by putting millions of dollars into building a brand around issue messaging.

Let’s look at it like this. Corporations are constantly in the business of building brands through TV advertising. In 2012, 36 companies in the United States spent over $1 Billion on advertising (Austin). All of this was done in order to effectively promote their brand. The result? When you think of Walmart you think of the word affordable, when you think of Subway you think of the words healthy and fresh, when you think of Mercedes you think of the words luxury and class. This is because successful marketing campaigns through commercials and image advertising have made you associate these words with their products. The political arena is not much different. When you think of the Conservative platform what issues come to mind? National security, defense, free market principles, etc. When you think of the Democratic platform what issues come to mind? Healthcare, women’s rights, the environment, social welfare, education, etc (Iyengar 166). This is because both parties champion these issues via the free media through the news and pundit programs, and the paid media, through advertising (Iyengar 150).

Paid media and advertising in particular have seen exponential growth since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling, which allowed for increased spending on campaign advertising. In the 2012 Presidential Election, $404 million was spent on ads supporting President Barack Obama by the Obama Campaign and independent PACs, and $492 Million was spent on ads supporting Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by the Romney Campaign and independent PACs (Washington Post). In the three most influential “Swing States” of that election spending was extremely high. Between the two camps, $173 million was spent on advertising in Florida, $151 million in Virginia, and $150 million in Ohio (Washington Post). So how does this money manifest itself into advertising based on issue ownership?

Let’s examine two political ads from each of the two campaigns in the 2012 Election that played to the candidate’s strong issues. Then we’ll look at polling done that gathered public opinion on who better handles certain issues and highlight any correlations.

In this commercial titled “Secretary of Business” the narrator attacks Obama on his lack of business experience, and instead touts Romney’s record as a businessman and a leader who understands the economy and will create jobs. The ad also attacks Obama by negatively associating him with issues often attributed to Democrats, such as bureaucracy and big government, claiming that such things have been the cause of unemployment under the Obama Administration. Throughout the campaign Romney branded himself as a businessman who promoted free market principles as a way to strengthen the economy, which was in line with typical Conservative issue ownership. At the same time, the Romney Campaign also demonized Obama through negative issue ownership by painting him as a big government Liberal, playing off preexisting notions of Democrats and portraying them in a bad light in order to negatively brand the President.

In this commercial titled “Facts” the narrator touts the benefits of the President’s Affordable Care Act as a means to strengthen Medicare. The narrator then proceeds to attack Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential Candidate, Paul Ryan, and his proposed budget plan citing studies and projections that state the Ryan Plan, if enacted, would undermine Medicare and result in increased healthcare costs for Senior Citizens. Popular entitlement programs passed by Democrats, such as Medicare and Social Security, have historically been issues owned by Democrats. This commercial plays into that history as a means to curry favor with Senior Citizen voters, and at the same time attack Romney/Ryan and the Republican’s weakness on the issue.

So how did this issue messaging translate in the polls? It appears quite successfully. This Gallup Poll conducted November 1-4, 2012 where likely voters were asked which candidate would better handle certain issues, pitted Obama in the lead on Medicare and Healthcare, and Romney in the lead on the economy and federal spending (Gallup).

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The correlation is clear that issue ownership and campaign media are married topics. What is even clearer is that political campaigns have spent vast amounts of money on political attack ads to promote their candidates and attack their opponents based on certain issues. Just like corporations do with products for consumers, campaigns craft brands around candidates to help them better appeal to voters. They spend millions to associate certain issues and ideas with candidates and parties, essentially “owning these issues”. As more money pours into elections in the post-Citizens United era the branding and issue messaging of candidates and parties is bound to become more complex, more creative, and more hostile as time goes on. Whether this new culture of unlimited spending on political attack ads is good or not is up for debate, what is certain is however is that this new culture of campaign media and issue messages is a reality that is here to stay.

Works Cited

Austin, Christina. “THE BILLIONAIRES’ CLUB: Only 36 Companies Have $1,000 Million-Plus Ad Budgets.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 11 Nov. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.

Hinckley, David. “Americans Spend 34 Hours a Week Watching TV, according to Nielsen Numbers .” NY Daily News. NY Daily News, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2014.

Iyengar, Shanto. Media Politics: A Citizen’s Guide. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.

“Mad Money: TV Ads in the 2012 Presidential Campaign.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2014.

“Romney 49%, Obama 48% in Gallup’s Final Election Survey.” Romney 49%, Obama 48% in Gallup’s Final Election Survey. Ed. Gallup Editors. Gallup, 5 Nov. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.