Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Deborah Smith-Howell


This study examines the rhetoric of President George Bush as he addressed four crisis situations during his term in office— The Panama Invasion in December 1989, the Flag Desecration issue in June 1990, the Persian Gulf War in August 1990 and the Los Angeles riots in April 1992. The discourse was analyzed to discover characteristics o f his crisis communication rhetorical style and strategy, and to determine whether his crisis communication supported the arguments for a crisis rhetoric genre. Bush’s style and strategy were examined in terms of the rhetorical elements of speaker, audience, topic and setting. The analysis revealed that Bush used personal values to establish himself as the legitimate leader of the nation. He used patriotic, religious, social and family values to establish common ground with his audiences and focus the topics of his remarks. Bush’s crisis rhetoric provided evidence in support of a crisis rhetoric genre theory. His remarks followed a consistent, identifiable pattern and contained elements necessary in crisis discourse in order for audiences to understand and evaluate the crisis situations and the actions chosen by the president to resolve those situations. Such genre elements include evidence of consummatory and/or justificatory language, the speaker’s awareness of a global audience, explanations of how the actions are in accordance with U.S. policies and how they are strategically sound and morally upright, justification of action based on audience values, and evidence of enemy themes in the discourse. The study provides insight into the rhetorical style of George Bush and offers a framework for similar studies of other presidential crisis rhetoric. It also presents specific criteria for the crisis rhetoric genre which can be applied to future study of this communication issue.


A Thesis Presented to the College of Arts and Sciences and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1995, Barbara Jen Chandler

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