Rhetorical Sanity is too much to ask for…

Steps for candidates to explain their positions (possibly under 1 minute):

  1. Offer context of issue (why is this a problem? who is responsible?)
  2. Identify options
  3. Explain own values and priorities, especially conflicts
  4. Find fair compromise

I am not a great fan of Senator Clinton’s campaign for President. New polls show what I have thought for a decade, her “negatives” across the nation are massive. Up to 49% of likely voters will refuse to consider voting for her! She’s a mobilizing figure on the Right and her centrist campaign will inevitably fail to mollify these foes. Plus, I generally despise the idea of two families rotating occupancy in the White House for 28 years.

However, I must plead for a moment of calm in this frenzy over her “parsing” of the proposed NY State license for undocumented drivers during last week’s Philly Democratic Debate.

Tim Russert, who along with Brian Williams pathetically worked to inspire foolish infighting and lorded over the “lightening round” of Q&A for candidates, tried a little “gotcha” game with Sen. Clinton. Since she previously commented that NY Governor Eliot Spitzer’s plan was a “good idea” would she then support the plan? Yes or no?

The clip I saw on CNN left me with an impression of her manipulative hair-spitting, “just because I think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean I support something.” Yet going to the video above, I find helpful her twin effort to clarify the intention of the proposal (to bring undocumented folks out from the shadows) and to contextualize the state effort based on the failure of federal immigration reform. And it’s a state issue, so federal officials might reasonably avoid a position.

Beyond clarifying the issue at hand, leadership skilled in oration will identify the several options to address the issue and share the values that guide one’s thinking. Then, when a nuance or compromise is offered, the audience will experience those words as a fair solution to the challenge at hand rather than an omission of honesty. President’s Lincoln and Clinton excelled at this practice.

Senator Dodd’s “it’s a privilege” repetition regarding driving combined with his caveat for access to public health was not as morally clear as his attitude projected. As a grand juror, I heard several cases in which undocumented workers fled the scene of minor traffic accidents and, in one case, caused a subsequent traffic death. Witnesses to crimes who are undocumented refrain from testifying. Not having legal recourse to banking or rental services forces these workers toward the criminal element.

While all our illegal immigration problems will not be solved through greater rhetorical sanity, such skills offer us a way out of the current media- and campaign-driven mayhem. Do you have other examples of rhetorical mayhem the doctor can clarify?


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