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Catch of the Day: Mitt Romney Previews His Jobs Plan, Derides ‘Environmental Extremism’

September 7, 2011

Mitt Romney previewed his jobs plan early this week in USA Today. He wasn’t saying anything new, but his stance on energy was particularly interesting, rhetorically speaking:

The Obama administration has severely restricted domestic energy production. I will ensure we utilize to the fullest extent our nation’s nuclear know-how and immense reserves in oil, gas and coal. By rationalizing and streamlining regulation, we will harness these resources everywhere it can be done safely, taking into account local concerns. A huge number of jobs is at stake. So, too, is the price of energy, which strongly influences economic growth. We are an energy-rich country that, thanks to environmental extremism, has chosen to live like an energy-poor country. That has to end.

I thought “taking into account local concerns” was especially sneaky because “taking into account” can simply mean “listening with empathy and then completely disregarding.” This is what I would call “town hall rhetoric” in that it falsely equates the opportunity to speak with the opportunity to participate in decision-making.

I also love the idea of “environmental extremism,” although I can’t figure out what he might be specifically referring to with that phrase.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    September 7, 2011 12:42 pm

    Doug-
    You really spotted a fantastic phrase “taking into account local concerns” but it saddens me that a forum about rhetoric would continue to examine only the negative aspects. Why does “town hall rhetoric” only have to be false. Surely there are examples of town hall meetings in which rhetorical devices are used to lift up, and explain to the audience serious issues of the day.
    I hope that you might be able to expand your narrow definition of “town hall rhetoric” to include positive examples. “Rhetorical criticism for the engaged” should not mean perpetuation of negative sterotypes only. Otherwise, the very people who are charged with teaching rhetoric (i.e., “persuasion”) will continue to battle these negative stereotypes for half a semester before even beginning to examine the importance of rhetoric.
    Thanks for your close reading of Romney’s speech. I only hope your analysis does not turn out to be the most accurate and that politicians will only use rhetorical devices to “be sneaky.”

    • Doug Cloud permalink*
      September 7, 2011 1:15 pm

      John: Great point! I guess the negative stuff is often the funnest to talk about. Perhaps it’s my background as a journalist. How about an optimistic reading of Romney? We might interpret Romney’s use of “taking into account local concerns” as evidence that politicians are acknowledging the legitimacy of local publics in decision making. As for “town hall” rhetoric, it’s sort of a bugaboo of mine. Also, I thought our reading of Michele Bachmann’s anti-gay rhetoric was positive in that I took her reticence to discuss her previous comments as evidence of growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in our culture. But we’ll have to see if we can find some more honorable rhetoric to offset the sneaky!

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