Date of Award


Degree Name

Communication Studies


College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Bertram W. Gross

Second Advisor

William Denman

Third Advisor

Edward Woods

Fourth Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


Presidential rhetoric has become an important field of study for scholars. Political scientists as well as communication researchers have long been interested in the role of presidential speech. Particularly in the mass media age, what presidents say has a great influence on our nation’s domestic and foreign affairs (Ceaser, Thurow, Tulis, & Bessette, 1981). Presidents can communicate directly with the public using radio and television, and their words can be carried via journalists to the public through a variety of newspapers, magazines and other media outlets. The purposes of this presidential rhetoric are many: to inform the public of policy initiatives, to persuade the public to support these policies, and often to engender support for military action in foreign lands (Bostdorff, 1994; Campbell & Jamieson, 1990; Cherwitz & Zagacki, 1986; Stuckey, 1995; Stuckey & Antczak, 1998; Windt, 1983). Presidents use the mass media to appeal directly to the American public in order to announce or justify military action in times of crisis — so much so that scholars have labeled “crisis rhetoric” as a specific genre of presidential discourse. From the end of World War II until the 1990's, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union served as an important factor in presidential crisis rhetoric (Ivie, 1997; Kane, 1991; Medhurst, 1997; Scott, 1997; Wander, 1984/1997).

Bill Clinton is the first president since World War II who has not had the Cold War as a backdrop against which to paint his vision of foreign policy and military involvement. The fall of the Soviet Union brought about many economic, social and political changes around the world (Cole, 1999; LaFeber, 1994; Stuckey, 1995), and it is therefore important to ask several questions regarding presidential crisis rhetoric. Without the Soviet Union as our arch-rival, how Crisis Rhetoric 2 justified military action in times of crisis? Are there other metaphors or ideological justifications besides the Cold War or the “fight” between communism and democracy? As Clinton’s presidency winds down, scholars can begin to look at his rhetoric and to begin to answer these and other questions. This study looks at President Clinton’s crisis rhetoric from a dramatistic/metaphoric perspective in order to determine what justifications for military action he uses (and other presidents might use in the future) now that the Cold War has ended.


Clinton, Bill –1946- --Foreign relations.

Presidents – United States – Messages.

World politics – 1989-.

War and emergency powers – United States.

Rhetoric – Political aspects.