Weapons of mass destruction: The unshared referents of Bush’s rhetoric

Philip W. Rudd


The polemics of political rhetoric encourage the implementation of presupposed referents as though they were assumed and shared. This paper examines the presupposed referents employed by the White House, concerning the urgency of invading Iraq, and countered by the political left. Details indicate that the White House was endeavoring to build an undeniable argument for invasion. Consequently, they had to employ definite noun phrases as first mentions of previously unshared referents in order to achieve the hidden didactic goal of pre-empting counter arguments. The Democrats, the liberals, and the media had to endeavor to overcome such presuppositions and explain that addressees neither shared nor identified the assumed referents. Appeals to fear and epistemological assessment are also examined. Insights from the analysis suggest that, given the conducive political temperament of the country prior to the November 2002 mid-term elections, forestalling argumentation by implementing definite noun phrases as if they were previously shared referents is highly efficacious.

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