By: Larry Greenman  | 

Rhetoric Will Get You Everywhere (Vol. 48, Issue 2)

To those who deride rhetoric as merely a temporary way of silencing critics, I bid you look toward center stage and view a winning rhetoric, one which has kept the star's popularity high since opening night. The polished actor of which I speak is none other than President Reagan. Since he swaggered into office some twenty months ago, this country has slid into a recession uncomparable to any since the Great Depression, yet miraculously he retains a strong standing in the polls.

Consider the following facts and figures. Unemployment for the month of September was 10.1 percent and analysts fear that the figure would go higher. The budget deficit may surpass 150 billion dollars during the next fiscal year, and the same may hold true for the two years to follow that. In addition, thousands of businesses have been forced to shut down while so many others seem on the brink of falling into the same pit.

For all this, one might expect the president to call for major revisions in the budget package and to reconsider what appears to be his ill-fated Reaganomics. Clearly this is not the case. 

From day one of his presidency, he has sold his “economic solution” as a gifted advertiser might promote his most desirable product. When the press criticized his proposal to spend an awesome amount on defense, Reagan dropped a bombshell stating that the U.S. was behind in military strength and therefore had to play catch-up with the Russians. (It should be noted that no one, especially not the president lacks such information — rather it was used as crafty rhetoric to lure wavering congressmen to support his plan.)

At press conferences, Reagan has turned out to be a gem; not at answering questions, but rather at evading them! A classic example of such a case came last spring when the president was asked to comment on a report that Americans had less cash in their pockets than they did prior to Reagan's inauguration. Reagan's response, had it been on stage might have won him a nomination for a Tony award. With his now famous opening of “well” he began in patriotic rhetoric by praising that good old, homegrown, downright American spirit to join together and save in order to build for the future “of this great country.” In addition he “just happened” to have a note with him from a girl living in the Mid-west who wrote to the President to let him know how much money she was saving.  

As the midyear elections approach, Reagan has fought back with such tenacity that his defense of Reaganomics has often seemed more like a good offense. In addition, by going prime-time last month spelling out the Democratic origin of what seems to be an economic debacle, he appears to have held his own. Thus far, his rhetoric has done. him well whether it be on national

television, or in carefully handpicked areas in the country where a Republican Congressional seat was at stake.

By now, the reader should have the election results in front of him and should be able to clearly see whether the nation, however individually by district and state voted against or in favor of a continuation of Reaganomics. While analysts will clearly have a  field day interpreting the effect of Republican seats won and lost, the rhetoric will continue. Reagan's bread and butter politics have been his uncanny ability to squirm out of a tight corner and present every major daily newspaper with a smiling promise that “the recovery is just around the corner.”

Mr. Reagan, with his sweeping support for virtually all his economic bills, and endless jargon about the ever-evasive recovery has proved his point: Rhetoric will get you everywhere! Clearly, it has up till now. The only question left unanswered is whether it will continue to do so. Let's hope not!