Persuasive Strategies in Obama & McCain's

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Keywords: persuasion, ethos, pathos, logos, implicitness, debates, person deixis. 1. ..... singular “I”. Actually, Obama depicts a clever map of success to continue.
Persuasive Strategies in Obama & McCain’s Presidential Debates1 Mohammed Mahmoud Eissa Suez Canal University Department of Foreign Languages Abstract This paper investigates the persuasive strategies adopted by Obama and McCain in the 2008 presidential debates. It aims at answering two questions: a) What are the persuasive strategies used by Obama and McCain to convince American voters, b) Who was more persuasive than the other? This is done within the context of Aristotle’s model of persuasion with its three main components: ethos (credibility), pathos (emotions) and logos (reasoning).In this context, six persuasive strategies were used

. Obama’s persuasive strategies are considered

more persuasive than McCain’s. In addition, it is argued that implicit persuasion is more effective than the explicit one. Keywords: persuasion, ethos, pathos, logos, implicitness, debates, person deixis. 1. Introduction The character of President Obama has intrigued a lot of researchers, not only because of being the first African president of the United States but also because of his immense powers to persuade and influence others. Some of those researchers expected the success of Obama even before being elected, and others tried to analyse his prophecy and how he got elected(Benoit (2005a); Alter (2008); Atwater 1Eissa,M.(2012).Journal of English Language and Literature Studies,Ain Shams University,Vol.4(No.1):91-120.


(2007);Chuck (2009); Eisentein (2009); Leff (2005); Lakoff (2009); Mendell (2007) ; Thomas (2009) ) Lakoff (2009) stresses the idea that Obama gives Americans a moral guide which is described as 'the Obama code', "the Obama code is his most effective way to bring the country together around fundamental American values … The Obama code is both moral and linguistic at once" (p. 288, my emphasis). The main aim of this paper is to investigate the linguistic perspective of the Obama code and compare it with the McCain code to decide which code was more persuasive in the 2008 presidential debates in the race to the White House. In addition, this paper tries to pinpoint the persuasive strategies used by both candidates. In short, this paper tries to answer two questions: A)

What are the persuasive strategies used by Obama and McCain in the 2008 presidential debates?


Who was more persuasive than the other?

Despite the fact that Obama is now the present incumbent of the White House, it is interesting to ask whether he triumphed over McCain linguistically, and what are the persuasive strategies adopted by both candidates in these debates are. 2. Review of literature Much research has investigated the nature of debates and the different strategies used within them (e.g. Benoit & Wells (1996); Benoit & Blaney (1998); Benoit & Harthcock (1999); Benoit & Brazeal (2002); Benoit et al. (2003a); Benoit & Hansen (2004); Benoit (2003, 2005b); Bitzer and Rueter (1980); Carlin (1994); Coleman (2000); Hellweg et al. (1992); Hinck (1993); McKinney and Carlin (2004); Pfau (1998, 2002);











(2007);Schroeder (2000) )

Some of the abovementioned works, especially the works of Benoit, argue that debates have three main functions: acclaims, attacks and defenses. Within the framework of what he calls 'Functional Theory of Political Communication', Benoit (2005b) confirms two facts about debates (1) "acclaims are the most frequent function, followed by attacks and then defenses ……..,(2) functional theory posits that campaign discourses can occur on only two topics: policy and character" (p. 345). Other studies investigated the linguistic features of candidates and their psychological correlations: Richards et al. (2007) bring about what they call 'the depressive language' of candidates which reveals much of their personality and gives a good vision of the candidate because it gives "insights into the ways candidates think", and relates to their conversational topics (p. 73). Other studies focused on the importance of televised debates and how they affect voters (e.g. Pfau 2002). In his study, Pfau stresses the importance of debates arguing that "debates make a difference, influencing people's perceptions of participating candidates and enhancing democratic values" (p. 258). The present study is positioned into a different realm. It investigates debates within the framework of Aristotle's model of persuasion. It tries to reveal the persuasive strategies adopted by candidates relating these strategies to the three main components of Aristotle's model: Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Aristotle's model of persuasion was used in different works to analyse political discourse, but in a different genre: speeches. Halmari 3

(2005b),for example, detects ten persuasive strategies within the framework of the Aristotelian approach. She compared both of Regan and Clinton in their state of the union addresses through these ten strategies. Another work adopting Aristotle's model in speeches is Assmundson (2010) in which he investigates the persuasive side of the speech given by Obama on Super Tuesday in February 2008. Concerning the comparison of Obama and McCain discourse in debates, it is argued that there is not much work done in this area. One of the works that compared Obama's and McCain's discourse is Hultgren (2009). However, this work does not tackle debates, it focuses on the speeches given by both Obama and McCain. 3. Theoretical Framework This section explains what persuasion means and what the components of Aristotle's model of persuasion are. In addition, the linguistic embodiments of Aristotle's model of persuasion are illustrated. 3.1. Persuasion Persuasion is a dynamic process that entails three items: persuader, persuadee and a medium of persuasion. The description of persuasion as 'dynamic' is due to the nature of the process of persuading itself. A successful persuader never sticks to one strategy of persuasion because the targeted persuadees are never the same. Thereupon, he must adopt different tactics to achieve his goal i.e. persuading his audience. Halmari (2005a) defines persuasion as "all linguistic behavior that attempts to either change the thinking or behavior of an audience, or to strengthen its beliefs, should the audience already agree" (p.3). The same idea is stressed in Pogi's (2005) definition of persuasion considering it as "a process in which communicating beliefs to other people is aimed at influencing them. It is a process through which a 4

person causes another person to have some beliefs in order to induce him/her either to have goals that s/he did not have before, or to give up previously held goals" (p.298). Based upon these two definitions, it may be concluded that the main role of a persuader is to steer the persuadee's ideas towards certain goals which are of a certain benefit to the persuader. However, the definitions fail to specify the criteria by which we can decide whether the process of persuasion is achieved or not. Östman (2005) suggests a criterion that realizes this logic arguing that "the more you try to overtly persuade somebody into doing something, the less likely this somebody will be to actually do the thing" (p.199). In other words, successful persuasion is implicit, not


The implicit nature of 'successful' persuasion can be explained in the light of human nature that resists others' ideas for fear that they might be manipulated. In addition, this implicit nature of successful persuasion adds more burden on the part of the persuader to devise new techniques and strategies that cannot be easily detected by the persuadees. Halmari and Virtanen (2005c) stress the same point arguing that "when one genre is used heavily for persuasive purposes, persuasion becomes explicit and loses some of its power. Hence, the linguistic markers of persuasion need to change in order for persuasion to be more implicit" (p.230, emphasis is mine). In this context, Aristotle equips persuaders with a toolkit to achieve successful persuasion. 3.2. Aristotle's model of persuasion: Aristotle (1984) argues that "persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgments when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile" (p.25).


A careful reading of Aristotle's notion of persuasion reveals a number of ideas. Firstly, persuasion can only be detected through the reactions of hearers (persuadees). Secondly, the persuader must stir certain emotions on the side of his hearers. Thirdly, if the hearers are 'persuaded', their judgments will be completely different from theirs if they are not. Based on Aristotle (1984) and Cockcroft et al. (2005), Aristotle's model of persuasion is composed of three items: Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Pogi (2005) stresses the existence of the three elements in any persuasive discourse, "It is argued that the Aristotelian persuasive strategies of Logos, ethos and pathos (rational argumentation, the speaker's credibility, and the appeal to emotion) are always present in every persuasive discourse" (p.297) 3.2.1. Ethos Simply, Ethos refers to the persuader's credibility and his confident persona. Halmari (2005a) defines Ethos as "the ethical appeal – the voice of the persuader, the linguistically mediated message of her or his believability, reliability, and competence" (p.5). Hyland (2005) argues that ethos is not only important for the reflection of the speaker as confident, but it also gives credibility to the speaker's statements (pp.64 ,78).A successful persuader always shows his commitment to his opinions by strongly defending them. Thus, this commitment reflects the speaker's confident ethos. 3.2.2. Pathos Pathos refers to the emotional relationship that a persuader tries to establish with his audience. Cockcroft et al. (2005) refer to pathos as the item that" denotes the need to orient emotional appeals precisely towards audience and topic" (p.17). In other words, a persuader seeks ratification


from his audience in order to support his ideas, i.e., to be persuaded. In this concern, it should be noted that a persuader must take into consideration the 'dialogic' nature of persuasion, quoting Halmari's words (2005a, p.7). In every sentence he utters, a persuader enters into a dialogue with his audience. A persuader does not 'impose' ideas ; he just 'suggests' them. Again, here comes the idea of 'implicit' persuasion as a persuadee needs to be persuaded without knowing that the process of persuasion is occurring. This can only be achieved by establishing strong pathos with his audience and presenting a strong argument i.e. Logos. 3.2.3. Logos Cockcroft et al. (2005) define logos as " the process of identifying the issues at the heart of debate; the range of diverse arguments in the discourse" (P.18). Logos is the appeal to logic or reasoning in presenting one's argument. When a persuader presents his argument logically or in a logical sequence, it is more likely to be received as persuasive by the audience. 4. Method and Data This research aims to study the second debate between Obama and McCain that occurred on October 7, 2008. This debate will be analysed within the framework of Aristotle's model of persuasion presented above with its three elements i.e. ethos, pathos and logos. Debates in general have been one of the institutionalized procedures of the American elections since 1992. Since then, it is agreed that three presidential debates and one vice – presidential must occur (Polsby 2004:178). The second debate is chosen, in particular, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the most influential debate, according to Thomas (2009): "the question on the table was whether it was time to call McCain and tell 7

him it was time over, that he had no longer had a chance to win" (p.155). This was the impression after the second debate. Secondly,







debates,, the second debate was the highest in its viewership: 63.2 million compared to the first and the third: 52.4 million and 56.5 million respectively. Thirdly, unlike the first and the third debates, in the second debate, it was permitted to discuss all topics, while the first and the third debates were restricted to certain topics like foreign policy or economy. Thus, this diversity of topics enriches discussions and makes them more interesting to study. The second debate occurred at Belmont University in the city of Nashville, Tennessee. Like other presidential debates, there was a moderator who was Tom Brokaw of NBC (National Broadcasting Company). The debate took the format of 90– minute town hall meeting. Candidates questioned by uncommitted voters were identified by the Gallup Organization. In addition, the moderator has discretion to include questions submitted online. Candidates were questioned in turn with twominute response, followed by one–minute open discussion for each question. The interesting thing about this format was the spontaneity of response by both candidates as they had to answer immediately. Thus, they spoke naturally and their characters were immediately reflected .This gave voters a complete notion about the candidates and their way of thinking. In addition, time pressure added a new skill to be noted i.e. how to respond persuasively in a short time.

Concerning the data in this research, the second debate was downloaded from the official website of debates2.Using MS word 2008,

2 transcript.


the word count of the second debate is 16, 120. The corpus under investigation is analyzed quantitatively using the online word counter, In addition, it is analysed qualitatively to detect the items of ethos, pathos and logos, and how they are reflected linguistically. It is noteworthy that this paper is restricted in length as we cannot cover all linguistic reflections of Aristotle's model of persuasion in one research. That is why, some linguistic items were selected due to their pervasiveness in the data collected. 5. Data analysis and Results In this section we will tackle the linguistic persuasive strategies used by Obama and McCain as reflections of Aristotle's three items of persuasion i.e. ethos, pathos and logos. Again, it should be noted that the same strategy can be used to enhance more than one item at the same time. 5.1. Person deixis (pronouns) Chilton (2002) stresses the importance of studying pronouns in political discourse as they "can be used to induce interpreters to conceptualize group identity, coalitions, parties and the like, either as insiders or as outsiders" (P. 30). Table (1) below shows the frequency of personal pronouns used by both Obama and McCain in the debate. A close look at this table reveals a number of facts. Firstly, McCain overused self-mention pronouns i.e. first person singular pronouns (I,my,me) with the percentage of 61%, whereas Obama's is only 39%. Beard (2000) criticizes the overuse of "I’s", as "they show too clearly where blame lies if something goes wrong" (P. 45). Actually, this is a very important point to note about the use of "I" in particular. It is not a matter of frequency; it is a matter of contextualization. A persuader 9

should know when to use "I". This is a major difference between McCain and Obama that will be explained in the light of the examples below. Table (1) Frequency and percentage of person deixis Pronouns













121 = 39%

189 = 61%

Overall total

121 + 189 = 310 = 100 %











264 = 55.5%

212 = 44.5%

Overall total

264 + 212 = 476 = % 100








105 = 60%

69 = 40%

Overall total

105 + 69 = 174 = % 100

A second fact revealed by table (1) is Obama's use of first person plural pronouns (we, our, us). Obama's percentage of these pronouns is 55.5%, whereas McCain's is 44.5%. Again, the use of pronouns, especially inclusive "we", is a very important strategy to engage your audience. Halmari (2005b) stresses the same idea that " the pronoun can be interpreted as inclusive is the key persuasive feature" (p. 127). A third fact in table (1) is that Obama used second person pronouns (you, your) with the percentage up to 60%, whereas McCain used 40%. Hyland (2005) provides four ways to engage readers. One of these ways 10

is the use of second person pronouns to direct your audience and align with them. They are considered as an invitation to the audience to support the speaker's ideas (p. 151). The following examples reflect more ideas about how both Obama and McCain used person deixis as a persuasive strategy to gain more votes. Part A: Obama (1) I do believe that we have to consider it as part of our interests our national interests, in intervening where possible. (2) I believe in the need for increased oil production. (3) I am confident about the American economy. (4) You need somebody working for you and you have got to have somebody in Washington who is thinking about the middle class. (5) We've got to have somebody who is fighting for patients and making sure that you get decent, affordable health care. And that's something I'm committed to doing as president. (6) I know that I wouldn't be standing here if it weren't for the fact that this country gone me opportunity. I came from very modest means … Despite all that I was able to succeed … the same is true for Michelle and I'm sure the same is true for a lot of you. (7) We need fundamental change. That's the reason I decided to run for president, and I'm hopeful that all of you are prepared to continue this extraordinary journey that we call America. In the above examples, Obama used person deixis to strengthen two pillars of Aristotle's model of persuasion: ethos and pathos. In


examples 1, 2 and 3, he shows strong commitment to his opinion using the 1st person singular pronoun "I" before his beliefs to stress his clear responsibility to his judgments. He is confident about the strength of American economy. In addition, he believes that America should intervene when there is genocide happening like that in Rwanda. Through examples (4-7), Obama establishes a strong pathos with his audience by the use of the second person plural pronoun "you" and the inclusive 1st person plural "we". In example (4), he is addressing his audience directly using "you" telling them that they need "somebody" to work for them. In example (5), he overtly tells them who this "somebody" is. It's Obama who will solve all their problems in case of being elected as USA president. In example (7), Obama used inclusive "we" cleverly to engage his audience to form a coalition against McCain's camp. He starts his discourse using inclusive "we", and ends it also using inclusive "we". Between the two inclusive "we's", Obama stresses his ethos using singular “I”. Actually, Obama depicts a clever map of success to continue this extraordinary journey and puts himself as the only person to continue this journey. Pogi (2005) illustrates this strategy and calls it "goal hooking", arguing that "a persuader leads a persuadee to pursue some goal out of free choice, i.e., by convincing him/her that the proposed goal is useful for some other goal that the persuadee already has" (p. 297). Thus, Obama tries to convince his audience that to regain the American dream (their goal), they have to elect him (his goal). In example (6), Obama establishes both strong ethos and pathos. After demonstrating many hardships that he faced throughout his life, Obama presents himself as the hero who succeeded in overcoming all these hardships. In addition, he enhances his pathos with his audience by telling them that they are the same like him, and he is only a


representative of all those who listen to him. Obama enlarges his circle of alliance from himself (I) to his family (Michelle), then to all Americans (you). Part B: McCain (8) As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America. (9) I know how to get America working again, restore our economy. (10) I believe in this country. I believe in its future. I believe in its greatness. It's been my great honor to serve it for many, many years. (11) I know how to do it … I'll get Osama Bin Laden, my friends, I'll get him no matter what … I'm going to act responsibility, as I have acted responsibly throughout my military career. (12) I think you have to look at my record and you have to look at his. (13) I know what it's like to have your comrades reach out to you and your neighbour and you fellow citizens and pick you up and put you back in the fight. (14) We can do that, we as Americans, because we're the best innovators, we're the best producers. (15) I'm asking the American people to give me another opportunity … we need a steady hand at the tiller and the great honor of my life was always to put my country first. Examples (8-15) represent McCain's persistent efforts to reflect a strong ethos and establish pathos with his audience. However, these efforts were not always successful. In examples (8-10) , McCain tries to


reflect a confident character which is very clear in the collocates of verbs with the 1st person singular pronoun ‘I’ like: order, know and believe. McCain tries to depict himself as the confident leader who will lead America safely, as he knows how to manage matters and believes in his abilities. However, this confidence turns into high self-esteem which may be considered arrogance in other parts of the debate. Example (11) is a clear embodiment of this arrogance. McCain boasts about his military experience assuring his audience that he'll get Osama Bin Laden easily. McCain continues to overestimate his powers in example (12), asking his audience to look at his records and compare them to Obama's. He claims that his records are incomparable to Obama's. Actually, this overemphasis on self-powers has a negative impact on McCain's ethos and pathos as well. By claiming that he has special powers and experiences, he distances himself away from his audience. Unlike McCain, Obama never claims that he has special powers or boasts through the debate. By addressing his audience directly using the second person pronouns (you, your) and by the use of inclusive "we", McCain establishes a strong pathos with his listeners. In example (14), he stresses the collectivity of American people praising their immense abilities. In example (15), after initiating the image of unified America in (14), he asks the American people to elect him to continue what he started in his earlier life. After illustrating his experience and powers throughout the debate, he tries to persuade his audience that they need a steady hand to lead. This is done through his use of inclusive "we" to transcend the limits of being an individual. Thus, it is evident that both Obama and McCain used person deixis to enhance their ethos and pathos. Throughout the debate, they indirectly manoeuvre with their audience to persuade them.


5.2. Questions In addition to the abovementioned indirect person deixis strategies that establish pathos with audience, questions are used as direct strategies to achieve the same goal. Crismore et al. (1993) classify questions into three types: real, rhetorical, and tag (p. 54). Table (2) below illustrates the percentage of

real, rhetorical, and tag questions used by Obama and

McCain. Table (2) Frequency and percentage of questions Type of question













4 – 33%

8 – 67%

Overall frequency

12= 100%

As it is evident in table (2), rhetorical questions are the most pervasive type used in debates with a percentage of 75% of overall questions. This result is not surprising, as rhetorical questions can be seen as a distinctive feature of persuasive discourse. Halmari (2005 b) stresses the role of rhetorical questions in establishing a strong ethos claiming that "they belong to those figures of thought that enhance ethos by manipulating the flow of discourse and by decreasing distance between the rhetor and audience" (p. 117). In addition, it is argued that rhetorical questions help establish a strong pathos between the speaker and his audience. They open a dialogue between the speaker and his listeners with a precondition that the speaker has the right to ask a question and answer it at the same time. The speaker does not expect a reply, but he/she proposes an opinion in the form of questions inviting his audience


to support him in this opinion. The following examples reflect the above explained idea. Part (A) Obama (16) When president Bush decided we're not going to talk to Iran, we're not going to talk to North Korea, you know what happened? Iran went from zero centrifuges to develop nuclear weapons to 4.000. (17) And the question in this election is: Are we going to pass on that some American dream to the next generation? Over the last eight years, we've seen that dream diminish. In both examples, Obama conveys a message to his audience in the form of rhetorical questions. His message is that Bush's administration over the last eight years was a complete failure. Consequently, they (audience) should not commit a new mistake by electing McCain who belongs to the same party and has the same line of thought. Simply, Obama poses a question and provides its answer. If the American people choose McCain, the American dream will diminish as it did over the previous eight years. He directs his audience towards one ultimate choice; it's him i.e. Obama.

Part (B) McCain (18) What's the best way of fixing it? Nuclear power. (19) What would you do if you were the Israelis? (20) You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one, you know who voted against it? Me.


In example (18), McCain invites his audience to support him in the idea of constructing more nuclear plants throughout the United States to solve the problem of energy. In example (19), by asking a real question, he tries to gain the Jews' votes indirectly. He asks Americans to sympathize with Israelis and support Israel in the face of Iranian threats. In example (20), he tries to engage his audience by forming McCain's camp against Obama's. He attacks Obama who voted for bills for the benefit of oil companies. McCain tries to persuade his audience that he is always on their side and will fight for them. Thus, it is evident that rhetorical questions are one of the most effective persuasive strategies as their functions are "interpersonal" (Halmari 2005 b: 117). 5.3. Appeal to Logic In her analysis of the union addresses of Regan and Clinton, Halmari (2005 b) traces their use of "appeal to logic" as a persuasive strategy arguing that "we can see a clear, systematic, and logical organization of ideas – a strong appeal to logos" (pp. 118-119). This study traces the use of this strategy by Obama and McCain and argues that it has three reflections. These reflections are the use of figures, conjunctions and the use of frame markers, quoting Hyland's (2005) terminology.

5.3.1. The use of figures The first embodiment of appeal to logic is through the use of figures. Both Obama and McCain adopt this tool throughout the debate. Paratesi and Giulian (2009) explain the overuse of figures by politicians who "seem to try to base their arguments not so much on a political credo or different views of the world, but on an alleged 'objectivity' and efficiency that they borrow impressionistically from economics and


business" (p. 408). By depending on facts represented by numbers, both Obama and McCain try to establish strong logos i.e. to be perceived as logical. In addition, this strong logos helps both candidates to be credible. Hence, it strengthens their ethos as well. The following examples illustrate how Obama and McCain use figures to back up their arguments to be perceived as logical. Part (A) Obama (21) When George Bush came into office, we had surpluses. And now we have half-a-trillion-dollar deficit annually … when George Bush came into office, our debt – national debt was around $5 trillion. It's now over $10 trillion. (22) When president Bush decided we're not going to talk to Iran, we're not going to talk to North Korea, you know what happened? Iran went from zero centrifuges to develop nuclear weapons to 4.000. North Korea quadrupled its nuclear capability. (23) I want to provide a tax cut for 95 percent of Americans, 95 percent. If you make less than a quarter of a million dollars a year, you will not see a single dime of your taxes go up. If you make $200.000 a year or less, your taxes will go down. In examples (21) and (22), Obama tries, with the use of figures, to convey the idea that Bush's administration was a complete failure. Consequently, it is not logical to continue this failure by electing McCain. Obama urges his audience to reach a conclusion that they need to change this administration. In example (23), Obama uses figures to deal with a domestic problem which is tax cut. He strengthens his pathos with the middle class, which represents the majority of his electorate, by assuring them that their taxes will go down. 18

Part (B) McCain (24) We've got to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't want us very – like us very much … Do you know that we've laid a $10 trillion debt on these young Americans who are here with us tonight, $500 billion of it we owe to China? (25) I know how to fix this economy and eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and stop sending $700 billion a year oversea. (26) You know, last year up to this time, we've lost 700.000 jobs in America. The only bright spot is that over 300.000 jobs have been created by small businesses. Senator Obama's secret that you don't know is that his tax increases will increase taxes on 50 percent of small businesses revenue. (27) Senator Obama has voted 94 times to either increase your taxes or against tax cuts. That's his record. McCain used figures to achieve two goals. The first one can be seen in examples (24) and (25). In these examples, he uses figures to reflect his experience of dealing with crises like national debt and the economic crisis. He presents himself as the protector of the American nation, as he will stop dependence on others to generate a better future for young Americans. The second goal sought by McCain, with the use of figures, is diminishing Obama's credibility. McCain presents Obama as the direct reason for tax increase. Despite the fact that small businesses are the only hope for American economy, Obama voted for tax increase on these small businesses, according to McCain. Thus, it will be illogical to vote for a candidate who will increase the burdens of Americans, i.e. Obama. 5.3.2. Conjunctions


Martin and Rose (2003) stress the importance of conjunctions in persuasive discourse as "they can be used to construct the logic of an argument from hypotheses to evidence to conclusions" (p. 111). By the use of conjunctions, a persuader draws a schematic plan for his audience. He provides a step by step interpretation for his argument to be perceived as logical i.e. to establish logos. Both Obama and McCain used conjunctions in their discourse. This can be illustrated by the following examples. Part (A) Obama (28) But most importantly, we're going to have to help ordinary families be able to stay in their homes … and we're going to have to change the culture in Washington so that lobbyists and special interests aren't driving the process and your voices aren't being drowned out. (29) I believe that part of the reason we have a difficult situation is because we made bad judgments going into Iraq in the first place … so that what happened was we got distracted and that’s why I think it's so important for us to reverse course. (30) Senator McCain talks a lot about drilling, and that's important, but we have three percent of the world's oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world's oil. So what that means it that we can't simply drill our way out of the problem. Speaking about his plan to solve the problem of mortgage, in example (28), Obama suggests two points of solution. Firstly, they should help ordinary families. Secondly, they have to change the culture in Washington. Obama not only presents his solutions but he also presents his justification prefaced by "so that". Obama wants to prevent lobbyists from benefiting again and to put the voices of Americans in the right


place. Obama leads his audience to his preferred conclusion with the use of three conjunctions: “and” "but", and "so that". In examples (29) and (30), Obama resorts to his audience’s logical thinking. In example (29), he presents his idea that they are now in a difficult situation in Iraq. Obama imagined a dialogue with his audience who may ask: ‘why are we in a difficult situation?’. He volunteers to answer prefacing his answer by "because". This is due to bad judgments in the last eight years by Bush administration which is, in turn, closely related to McCain as they are from the same camp. Using "so that", Obama presents the result of these bad judgments that the American forces got distracted. Consequently, Obama reaches a conclusion prefaced by "that’s why". Americans have to reverse course simply by choosing a new administration, i.e. Obama's. In example (30), Obama uses conjunctions not to present his argument as logical but to present McCain's as illogical. He admits the importance of drilling in general, but this is not practical in America's case, as it only has three percent of the oil's reserves. Again, Obama resorts to the audience’s ‘logical’ judgment. Part (B) McCain (31) So this rescue package means that we will stabilize markets, we will share up these institutions. But it's not enough. That's why we're going to have to go out into the housing market and we're going to have to buy these bad loans … But Fannie and Freddie were the catalysts, the match that started this forest fire. (32) So what I don't know is what the unexpected will be. But I have spent my whole life serving this country … we need a steady hand at the tiller and the great honor of my life was to always put my country first.


In example (31), speaking about his rescue package of the American financial crises, McCain presents his solution in three points. He prefaced the first two points by "so". He added a third point prefaced by "but" to stress its importance. McCain attaches much importance to the third point, as it is related to the bad loans of a large number of potential voters. However, he uses "but" again to speak about "Fannie" and "Freddie". Fannie and Freddie are friends of Obama and they are accused of being one of the direct reasons for risky loans. With the use of "but", McCain wants to remind his audience that all the crises he talked about are closely related to senator Obama and his friends who were "the catalysts", as he described them. In example (32), on being asked about what he does not know, McCain prefaces his answer by "so" claiming that he will not know the unexpected situations. However, he does not completely admit his lack of knowledge even with the unexpected situations. Using "but", he claims that his special powers are in the service of his country which needs a steady hand as his own. In other words, he can deal with all situations, even the unexpected ones. 5.3.3. Frame markers According to Hyland (2005), frame markers are devices which "signal text boundaries or elements of schematic text structure" (p. 51). Crismore et al. (1993: 48) refer to the same idea using the term "sequencers". In using frame markers, a persuader tries to organize his discourse logically for his audience to be easily followed. Frame markers are represented by items like: first, second …, number one, number two. Concerning our research here, it can be argued that this tool is only used by Obama . This can be seen in the following examples.


Obama (33) So that (energy) would be priority number one … health care is priority number two … and number three we've got to deal with education. (34) Let's, first of all, understand that the biggest problem in this whole process was the deregulation of the financial system … on the other hand … (35) But that's only step one – the middle class need a rescue package. In example (33), Obama prioritizes three important matters he has to deal with when he becomes the president. After giving each matter its rank by being the first or the second, he explains to his audience why he has to start with this matter rather than the other. In examples (34) and (35), he organizes his discourse by numbering his ideas or giving them frames. This logical organization helps his audience follow his argument easily and not to be distracted. Hence, this enhances his logos and ethos at the same time. This logical organization of his ideas helps him to be perceived as confident and logical i.e. have a strong ethos. 5.4. Appeal to authority Appeal to authority is described by (Halmari 2005 b: 118) as an effective political strategy. By appealing to authority, politicians try to gain credence through presenting themselves as followers or reflections of these authorities. Despite the fact that appeal to authority is used by Obama in other genres like political speeches (Hammer 2010), it cannot be traced in this debate. In other words, this strategy is only used by McCain, as the following examples illustrate.


McCain (36) You know, my hero is a guy named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt used to say walk softly, but carry a big stick. (37) In Lebanon, I stood up to president Regan, my hero. (38) I saw it done with our – our wonderful Ronald Regan, a conservative from California, and the liberal Democrat Tip O'Neil from Massachusetts. In examples (36) and (37), McCain appeals to two authorities i.e. Roosevelt and Regan. By recalling the images of Roosevelt and Regan, the credibility of these figures is transferred onto McCain. He presents himself as a reflection of these authorities with all their positive connotations in the Americans' collective memory as a nation. In example (38), McCain uses the appeal to authority strategy creatively. He appeals to authorities that relate to his opponent. He appeals to Tip O'Neil who is a democrat from Obama's campaign. Halmari (2005 b) describes this creative use as ‘disarming the opposition’ "resorting to one's opponent authority – in other words, backing up one's own ethical appeal with somebody else's – exemplifies a clever persuasive strategy, which is likely to disarm the opposition" (p. 118). As McCain was unique in his use of this strategy, Obama devised two unique strategies which are traced in the debate.

5.5. Relating foreign affairs to domestic ones It is argued that Obama was creative in his establishment of a relation between foreign and domestic affairs. On being asked about foreign affairs, Obama creatively relates these affairs to domestic ones, but the question is ‘why did Obama trace these relations?’ The answer


lies in the nature of his audience. Usually, the American citizen will be more interested in domestic affairs than foreign ones, and that is why Obama tightens the circle of affairs from foreign into domestic or vice versa, as the following examples show. (39) We're spending $ 10 billion a month in Iraq at a time when Iraq is having a $ 19 billion surplus, $ 79 billion. And we need that $ 10 billion a month here in the United States to put people back to work, to do all these wonderful things that senator McCain suggested we should be doing, but has not yet explained how he would pay for. (40) And one last point I want to make about Russia. Energy is going to be key in dealing with Russia. If we can reduce our energy consumption, that reduces the amount of petrol dollars that they have to make mischief around the world. (41) Energy we have to deal with today, because you're paying $ 3.80 here in Nashville for gasoline, and it could go up. And it's a strain on your family budget, but it's also bad for our national security, because countries like Russia and Venezuela and, you know, in some cases countries like Iran are benefiting from higher oil prices. In example (39), Obama relates a foreign affair which is war in Iraq to a domestic one which is putting people back to work in the United States. He relates the two types of affairs intelligently by using the same number spent on the Iraqi war ($10 billion) as a solution for the unemployment crisis in the United States. By doing so, Obama clarifies the effect of this foreign affair on the American nation. In other words, war on Iraq has its own consequences on the American nation which was a bad judgment by Bush's administration. Thus, Americans should not repeat their mistakes by reelecting one of Bush's camp, i.e. McCain.


In example (40), Obama finds a domestic solution for a foreign crisis which is dealing with Russia. This is through the reduction of energy consumption by Americans. In doing so, he addresses his audience to find solutions together. In other words, he enhances his pathos. In example (41), he deals with the same problem, but starts from the opposite direction. He starts from the domestic consumption of energy, but reaches the same conclusion that they should reduce energy consumption to weaken countries like Russia or Iran which benefit a lot from their petro-dollars. Thus, it is evident that Obama seizes every opportunity to address his audience and their problems even by changing topics to deal with their everyday affairs so as to gain their votes. 5.6. Pseudo approval By the pseudo approval strategy, we mean that Obama seems to agree partially with McCain, but in fact he is in complete opposition. Obama never criticizes McCain directly. Pseudo approval is one of the indirect tools used by Obama to criticize McCain. In other words, Obama builds his own ethos by diminishing McCain's. Obama draws two steps to carry out this strategy. Firstly, he accepts McCain's claims. Secondly, he proves that all these claims are false. Thus, he always puts McCain in a defending position not an attacking one. The pseudo approval strategy can be exemplified as follows. (42) Well, you know, senator McCain, in the last debate and today, again, suggested that I don't understand. It's true. There are some things I don't understand. I don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us.


(43) Senator McCain is right that we've got to stabilize housing prices. But underlying that is loss of jobs and loss of income. That's something the next treasury secretary is going to have to work on. (44) For most part I agree with senator McCain on many of the steps that have to be taken. But we can't just provide moral support … we've also got to provide them with financial and concrete assistance to help rebuild their economies. In example (42), Obama accepts McCain's accusation of his lack of understanding. However, he turns this accusation in the opposite direction, as he does not understand many actions done by Bush's administration like invading a country that has nothing to do with 9/11. Obama indirectly accuses McCain of being one of the supporters of this unnecessary war on Iraq. He leaves judgment for his audience to decide who should be elected as the president of the United States. In examples (43) and (44), Obama accepts McCain's claims, but then he explains to his audience the invalidity of such claims. If they (the audience) carry out McCain's suggestion of stabilizing housing prices, they will lose a lot of jobs. If America wants to help other countries, financial support is more important than the moral one. By accepting McCain's judgments and then criticizing them, Obama presents McCain as the inefficient candidate who will never lead America safely. Thus, Americans need a change, i.e. Obama.

6. Conclusions The research in hand tried to investigate the persuasive language used by Obama and McCain in their second debate of 2008 election. In this context, six persuasive strategies were traced. Three strategies were used by Obama and McCain. These are: person deixis, questions and 27

appeal to logic. However, Obama resorted to a tool that was not used by McCain in the strategy of appeal to logic. This tool was his use of frame markers or sequencers (see 5.3.3). As for the other three persuasive strategies, each candidate was unique in his uses. McCain was unique in his use of the strategy of appeal to authority as it was never used by Obama. However, Obama was creative in his devising of two persuasive strategies of his own. Obama's unique strategies are: relating foreign affairs to domestic ones, and what is termed as pseudo approval. Using these different persuasive strategies, both candidates tried to persuade their audience within the framework of Aristotle's model of persuasion. In other words, they tried to convey a confident character i.e. ethos, to establish relations with their audience, i.e. pathos, and finally to present a logical argument, i.e. logos. Despite this multiplicity of persuasive strategies, the main inquiry of this research is still unsolved: who was more persuasive: The Obama code or the McCain code?, quoting Lakoff's (2009) terminology. It is argued that Obama's discourse and strategies were more persuasive than McCain's. Östman's (2005) view of successful persuasion (see 3.1) supports this view. Simply, implicit persuasion is the successful one, not the explicit. A persuader has a very difficult task to accomplish. He/she should express himself clearly. Yet, his audience should not have noticed his techniques of directing their thoughts. Halmari (2005 c) stresses the implicit nature of persuasion as it "requires that its forms need to be kept implicit. Few like to be persuaded against their will and, hence, the best kind of persuasion is often implicit persuasion" (p. 229). The manifestation of Obama's implicit persuasion is trifold. Firstly, Obama's overuse of collective "we" in the strategy of "person deixis" is


noticeable. Obama tried to create a sense of "weness" and “them”. He sought the ratification of his audience by grouping them, with himself, in one camp against others. Chilton (2002) stresses the importance of this strategy arguing that "pronoun, especially the first person plural (we – us – our), can be used to induce interpreters to conceptualize group identity, coalitions, parties and the like, either as insiders or as outsiders" (p. 30). On the contrary, McCain was very explicit in this persuasive strategy as he overused reference to himself (61% against 31% to Obama). This overemphasis on his powers and experience creates a distance between himself and his audience. In other words, this diminishes his pathos with his audience. The second manifestation of Obama's implicit persuasion is his way of presenting ideas. Obama never imposes his ideas, he suggests them. In this context, the term "goal hooking" presented by Poggi (2005) may fit. Pogi (2005) argues that "a persuader leads a persuadee to pursue some goal out of free choice, i.e., by convincing him/her that the proposed goal is useful for some other goal that the persuadee already has" (p. 297). The following example may explain this idea clearly: (45) Obama: we have got to have somebody who is fighting for patients and making sure that you get decent, affordable health care. And that's something I'm committed to doing as president. In example (45), Obama did not start by asking his audience directly to elect him. Firstly, he defines his audience' goals which are fighting for the patient, and affordable health care. Then, he relates the audience's goals to his goal which is being elected as the president of the United States.


On the contrary, McCain used explicit persuasion, represented by imperatives, to direct his audience. Addressing his audience throughout the debate, McCain used the following modals: (46) You have to look at my record and you have to look at his. (47) You have to temper your decision Östman (2005) classifies imperatives as an explicit strategy of persuasion.








manifestations of explicit persuasion are when it takes the form of straight forward imperatives" (p. 195, emphasis is mine). The third manifestation of Obama's implicit persuasion is his indirect or implicit attack on McCain. Obama rarely attacks McCain directly. Instead, Obama devised two techniques of criticizing McCain. Firstly, he used the technique of pseudo approval (see 5.6). He accepts McCain's claims, and then he diminishes his credibility by proving the invalidity of these claims. This technique can be illustrated by example (48) below: (48) Obama: Senator McCain talks a lot about drilling, and that’s important, but we have three percent of the world’s oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil. As it is evident in the above example, Obama accepts the importance of the idea of drilling in general. However, he proves the invalidity of drilling in the American case. Thus, he presents McCain’s ideas as illogical. The second technique used by Obama to criticize McCain is by relating him to Bush's administration and all its failure throughout eight years. The following example represents the last technique.



Obama: we haven't been doing enough of that. We tend to be reactive. That's what we've been doing over the last eight years … where we rushed into Iraq and senator McCain and President Bush suggested it wasn't that important to catch Bin Laden right now.

By relating McCain to Bush and the failure of his administration, Obama indirectly draws the attention of his audience to one conclusion: it will be illogical to elect a president like Bush again. Contrary to these implicit techniques, McCain attacks Obama overtly throughout the debate. Example (50) represents one of these attacks. (50) McCain: senator Obama was wrong about Iraq and the surge. He was wrong about Russians when they committed aggression against Georgia. And in his short career, he does not understand our national security challenges. To the contrary of McCain's expectations, these direct attacks enhance Obama's ethos and pathos. Voters tend to sympathize with the candidate attacked. Benoit (2005b) stresses this idea by maintaining that "attacks may alienate voters, many of whom profess to dislike mudslinging" (p. 345).

Thus, it is evident that Obama triumphed over McCain quantitatively and qualitatively. In other words, Obama used more persuasive strategies than McCain did, and was more successful in his persuasion, as he was more implicit than McCain who tends to be more explicit.


Finally, it should be noted that further studies are possible on the language of persuasion in general and on debates in particular. Other linguistic cues can be studied like the use of hedges or boosters by candidates. In addition, paralinguistic features can be traced and studied.


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