Minister of Science and Chief Protector of the Faith

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Obama's Logos Fu Beats Clinton's and Dodd's Ethos Fu!


Instead of concentrating on the content of the Democratic AFL-CIO forum, I have instead chosen to write about an obscure facet of the event, the comparative rhetoric of the candidates. Rhetoric is the art of speaking or writing effectively. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Aristotle broke it down into three components: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.

Ethos is appeal based on the reputation or character of the speaker. We give special weight to people like doctors and lawyers because we assume they have special knowledge. Parents will tell their children to mind them because they are older and wiser. These are appeals based on their reputation.

Logos is appeal based on logic or reason, but it is also more than that. the speaker appeals to patterns of thought that the audience finds persuasive. An appeal of this kind must also take into account existing notions that the audience already believes or thinks. Logical appeals are usually based on or build upon some form of existing evidence or belief.

Pathos is appeal based on emotion. This kind of appeal attempts to arouse the passions within the audience to move them to act. Advertising is largely made up of emotional appeals.

All of the candidates use all three of these kinds of appeals to some degree, and with varying degrees of success. None of the forms of appeal are "correct" or "better" than another. Any of these forms of appeal can be used for any argument.

Bear in mind also that Ethos, Logos, and Pathos are not the only components of communication or persuasion, so this analysis is very limited in scope. The candidate's message is more important than the form of rhetoric that they use.


Senator John Edwards is probably at his best when he is making an emotional appeal. He is very good at making logical appeals as well. As an experienced trial lawyer, he knows how to work an audience and gain their support. He is probably least effective when giving an appeal based on his reputation because he looks so young, and has been painted as a "ambulance chasing" lawyer during the last presidential election.

Senator Chris Dodd leans heavily on appeals based on his experience and reputation, and can get away with it easily because he is indeed experienced. He is good at appeals to logic, but his weakest point is in appeals to emotion. He seems to be too distant to reach the audience at that level very effectively.


Senator Joe Biden Is similar to Dodd in that he also often uses appeals based on his reputation, and does so very effectively. Bden is also effective at logical appeals, and is perhaps better than Dodd at emotional appeals. Biden does seem to able to communicate well at a gut level.


Senator Hilary Clinton is very good overall at all three forms of appeal. Like Dodd, she is best at appeals based on his reputation, and weakest at appeals on an emotional level. She seems to be better at responding than speaking on her own at times.


Senator Barack Obama is better than any other candidate at appeals to logic. He almost never uses appeals based on emotion or reputation. His dogged usage of only logical appeals is actually both a strength and a weakness for him. By only sticking to logic, he is able to "rock, paper, scissors" his way out of most conversational predicaments, but in the end he often seems distant from the audience. He has not connected on an emotional level to the people he is speaking to.

Representative Dennis Kucinich is similar to Obama in that he is very good at one kind of appeal, an emotional appeal, and sticks to it. Like Obama, he rarely strays from what he does best. When Kucinich is doing well, and he did very well at the AFL-CIO, he builds a very strong bond with the audience and builds on it.

Govenor Bill Richardson usually speaks from an emotional appeal, but will also attempt appeals from logic and reputation as well. In my opinion, he is not a very good public speaker.



Senator Mike Gravel is very like Kucinich in that he works almost exclusively from an appeal to emotion. Unlike Kucinich, Gravel is not very good at it. Gravel has only one kind of voice, and that voice is angry and frustrated. He quickly loses the audience's sympathy because he seems ineffectual.


I was fascinated with the exchange between Clinton, Dodd and Obama.

Clinton was attacking Obama over his recent comments that he would be willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan without the approval of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Clinton and Dodd called the comments "irresponsible." She said Obama's approach "a very big mistake." Clinton and Dodd were tag-teaming Obama using an appeal to reputation, namely their own. they were saying, "We are right because we have experience in these matters." They also altered what Obama said, leaving out portions of his statement, to increase the possible negative aspects of the quote.

"You can think big, but remember you shouldn't always say everything you think if you're running for president because it has consequences across the world. And we don't need that right now," Clinton said.

"I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me," Said Obama.

He threw their appeal to reputation right in their face. I don't think Clinton or Dodd recovered face after that one brief response from Obama.


After the debate all of the candidates were still friendly, of course. The exchange that took place is just part of a lively debate.

Someone writing in to KnoxViews said their favorite quote from the forum was from Govenor Bill Richardson. The question was "What will your vice-presidential candidate be like?"

Richardson replied: "Well, he won't be Dick Cheney," and loud applause and a few guffaws broke out. Then he added somewhat shyly, "He'll also be part of the executive branch."

At this point, the AFL-CIO has decided to hold off on an endorsement. "There is not a consensus candidate," said Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO.

"It is clear that a number of the Democratic candidates have the experience and the credentials to lead our nation," a statement from the federation's executive council said.

Dr. Monkerstein has a great post about the forum, "Can I get a straight answer please?" and so does Blue Gal, "Great night for Dennis the K."

UPDATE: DCup has posted a great story about the AFL-CIO forum as well! "Bring on The Class Warfare: A Rant That Covers Anal Sex, Solid Gold Strap-Ons and Sean Hannity's Masturbation Habits."

Following the AFL-CIO forum, here are the latest odds on who will be chosen as the Democratic candidate for the 2008 US Presidential Election:

Hillary Clinton - 2/5

Barack Obama - 12/5

Al Gore - 5/1

John Edwards - 8/1

Dennis Kucinich - 20/1

Joseph Biden - 30/1

Chris Dodd - 40/1

Mike Gravel - 40/1

Bill Richardson - 40/1

Field - 50/1


Now, of all of the candidates I think that I like Barack Obama the best, but I am reserving my endorsement for now. I am still holding out for Nancy Pelosi in '07!

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7 Comments:

At Wed Aug 08, 04:24:00 PM, Blogger Liberality said...

good review Dr. Z! I like Gore most but I doubt that he will run. I also like Dennis Kucinich and that is mainly because he has always been against the war. Hillary is okay I guess but she did vote for the war and that was a big booboo on her part. I also like Barack Obama but I don't like his stance on foreign policy all that much. He's trying to seem credible like a republican in that respect and I don't hold much for that attitude.

 
At Wed Aug 08, 06:46:00 PM, Blogger Phydeaux Speaks said...

Well done, Dr. Z!

(with one caveat - Dennis Kucinich is a Rep., not a Sen.)

 
At Wed Aug 08, 07:55:00 PM, Blogger GETkristiLOVE said...

Who's Obama's agent? They should have talked him into changing his name before becoming a candidate. No one's going to elect someone named Obama-that-rhymes-with-Osama, do you think?

 
At Wed Aug 08, 09:29:00 PM, Blogger FranIAm said...

Oh this is good Dr Z.

It is very, very, very good.

Great approach. Not just because its like no other- which is big. But just because it is a great.

 
At Wed Aug 08, 09:31:00 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I like your rhetorical analysis; it makes me like Obama even more, because of the three rhetorical categories, ethos and pathos seem seem to be the most shallow, and logos the most substantial. I think pathos has dominated of late, it was what reagan had going for him, and what W projected in the debates against al gore, back in prehistory. but for me, logos is mody compelling, and I think you're right, in that obama has that quality. although, I never thought of Kucinich as weak in this are(n)a.

 
At Wed Aug 08, 10:21:00 PM, Blogger Evil Spock said...

Nice analysis! Obama has to be careful, or he'll come off cold.

 
At Thu Aug 09, 12:36:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Liberality: I am still angry because Al Gore won the 2000 election, and everybody knows it. The same goes for Kerry in 2004. I like what Kucinich says, I am not yet convinced that he is the right man for the job though. But I will vote for any reasonable Democratic candidate, including Kucinich or Clinton. I like Obama, and I would not worry about this whole foreign policy flap. I think that they are just playing reindeer games while they jockey for position. All of the candidates have to appear credible to both the blue and the red states, which makes for some stupid "tough on terror" slogans and statements by all of the candidates. Many of the people in the red states think that the show "24" is a documentary.

Phydeaux Speaks: Ack! Thank you for pointing that out! Please continue to point out errors of this nature. I actually knew that Kucinich was in the house under Pelosi, as my recent story shows. I am the victim of copy-and-paste and no time to proofread because of all of these electrical storms. Thanks!

GETkristiLOVE: Sadly, what you say is very true. *sigh*

FranIAm: Thank you, FranIAm! You are very kind!

Mark: I too am a sucker for Logos, but it is important to remember that despite the method used, it is the actual message that is more important than the form of rhetoric employed. Someone might use a strong logical appeal to argue against universal health care, and an emotional appeal for universal health care might be the right way to counter this argument, and best get the message across. I still find Logos the most compelling form of argument for me as well, though. Regarding Kucinich, I have never thought of his rhetoric as weak. His stongest suit is when he can grab the audience emotionally, I think. He did quite well at the AFL-CIO forum, in my opinion.

Evil Spock: Yes, I think he already has that problem with many audiences. He needs to learn some emotional argumentation fu from Kucinich!

 

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