Say What?

American Rhetoric's  Rhetorical Bloopers of the 2004 Democratic National Convention

In a rhetorical era in which political convention speeches are carefully crafted for content and language style, and where teleprompters should all but assure a well-honed verbal delivery, it is more than a little stupefying that rhetorical gaffes of the kind illustrated below would actually occur. But, as you will see and hear, they have and they do. American Rhetoric presents a light-hearted look at just a few of the rhetorical bloopers that occurred at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.


   "What does it mean when 25 percent of our children in Harlem have asthma because of hair pollution? We can do better. America can do better. And help is on the way." (John Kerry)


   "...but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure, we will double our special forces to conduct terrorist operations...." (John Kerry)

      American Rhetoric Note: Kerry immediately corrected himself, saying "anti-terrorist operations."


   "We are here 282 years after right here in Boston we fought to establish the freedoms of America." (Rev. Al Sharpton)

      American Rhetoric Note 1: 2004 - 1776 = 228

      American Rhetoric Note 2: Style is a bit sluggish, isn't it?


   "...those that have emerged with John Kerry and John Edwards as partners, like Greg Meeks, like Obama Baracka...." (Rev. Al Sharpton)

     American Rhetoric Note: aka "Barack Obama"


 “Let's respect one another. And let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States.” (John Kerry)

      American Rhetoric Note: Doh! The U.S. Constitution was formulated precisely for political purposes, at least two of which are here well-illustrated. Kerry may well have had a (proposed) amendment (or two) in mind, but even there the Constitution provides for the politicizing of social agendas.



American Rhetoric Observation: What follows below is a curious, unwitting use of a certain redundancy in delivery, reminiscent of a peculiar type of pop-rock phraseology, perhaps most ably exploited by Sting and the Police: "Don't Stand - Don't Stand So - Don't Stand So Close To Me"


To wit, John Kerry:

   "You see -- You see that flag -- You see that that flag up there?"


   "I -- I will be -- I will be a Commander-in-Chief who will never mislead us into war."


   "Mine -- Mine were greatest -- Mine were greatest generation parents....."


Kids in the Act: Even 12-year-old rhetorical whiz kid Ilana Wexler found a place for this rhetorical pattern.


   "Kids need -- Kids need positive -- Kids need positive role models in politics. (And our Vice President deserves a longgggggg time-out.)"


Word to the Rhetor: This pattern generally does not play well in public speaking contexts. Take it from the professionals: Learn to gauge your audience's responses, and time your phrases accordingly. And please: READ THE TELEPROMPTER!

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

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