Romney and Rhetoric

By now we all know about Mr. Romney’s latest gaff (offering a scathing critique of 47% of Americans for being lazy and indulging in victimhood, etc.)

Rhetorically, R was doing what rhetors are invited to do: tailor his remarks to his audience (in this case, very rich people–being served by waiters who may be among the 47%?) Alas, our audiences are always multiple now, and so: oops.

An ethical question for all writers and speakers is . . . at what point does the tailoring violate one’s own sense of right and wrong, true and false? That is, Aristotle did not propose that speakers and writers just lie, baby. I don’t mean the following unkindly, but I find with Romney, it is more difficult to ascertain what he really believes about right, wrong, true, and false. To some degree, the same could be said of almost all politicians, but I think Romney is a special case. Often he seems to me to be like a salesperson who is willing to say anything to get the sale.

I have no idea whether President Obama and former president Clinton are better people than Romney. How could I? I do know that they are much more nuanced and deft in their negotiation of multiple audiences than he is. If he loses the election, much will be said about he causes and correlatives. Perhaps it will be the case that inflexible, awkward rhetoric will be among these.

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