Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It Figures: He's A Pathetic Schemer

A few days ago, Obama was explaining to some woman in Pennsylvania why he has the abortion stance that he has:

"Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old," he said. "I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at age 16, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information." FULL TEXT HERE

There are many things that can be said about this, most of them vulgarities from which I'm trying to break the habit. So, because it's been on my mind a lot lately, I'm going to limit myself to the confines of analyzing the figures of speech 'successfully' employed here, and the ramifications of such rhetorical wizardry. (For more on figures of speech, my new-friend-that-should-be-an-old-friend Ray Gunner is currently challenging his readership to find the exemplary figure in each of his posts. This is a great exercise for anyone wanting to better their reading, writing, or both.)

For purposes of brevity, I offer the following synopsis of the broader grouping of figures of speech called a scheme: the figure employed here is called anaphora: the repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines. In the quote, this is:

"I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD..."

Anaphora is a species of Conduplicatio, which is a general term for the repetition of sounds, words, phrases, or ideas, for the purpose of emphasis. Thus, Obama is scheming here. His scheme is to emphasize the mental connection between 'disease' and 'baby'. If the connection isn't already there, he's wrapped it up into a nice little package of pathos for you by linguistically connecting the idea of punishment with the two.

In fact, Obama is all pathos. We all know how he's spent most of his money and time in this campaign trying to establish ethos, or the authority for argumentation. I would argue that the start to the quote:

"Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old"

is essentially an argument by ethos (which is where such arguments belong). He's establishing a personal connection to the audience by the colloquial use of the verb, and establishes a semblance of authority by being a dear father of future women, who cares about their morals and values. But this is a fairly tenuous connection to authority, as it's true of most men.

Many are duped into thinking he's got some kind of new ideas, mainly because he's constantly telling us so, but he never actually says what those ideas are, thus avoiding the critique of logos. Notice how he ends:

"so it doesn't make sense to not give them information."

This at first looks like a argument by logos. But it's merely a pathetic appeal to 'reason' without actually having to give reasonable arguments. Why doesn't it make sense, Mr. Obama? What kind of information are you proposing to share with your daughters, and is it true?

This is just one sampling of the deftness Obama possesses in regard to classical rhetoric. He skirts around the parts he's unsure of, because he fully understands, like Aristotle and Cicero before him, that skillfully applied pathos is ultimately all that matters in the art of rhetoric as used in politics. If logos mattered at all, we already would have had a black president.

And this, my poor friends, is why Obama will be our next president. It figures, doesn't it.


Ignoramus said...

The earlier paragraph of Obama's comments is worth noting:

"This is an example where good people can disagree," the Illinois senator said. "The question then is, are there areas that we can agree to that everybody can get behind? We can all agree that we want to reduce teen pregnancies. We can all agree that we want to make sure that adoption is a viable option."

Here again you see the repetition of a key word: "Agree." Obama's campaign is built around key words like this one that imply unity and peace.

But we have to push the issue of agreement further and ask: Are there any areas where we must agree, and cannot abide disagreement? And if so, why is abortion not one of these areas?

But as you say, the man's rhetorical ability is simply scary. He probably will be the next president.

The Vitruvian Duck said...

Excellent points.

We can agree.