Defending the Indefensible: Obama’s Rhetoric in the Aftermath of the "Torture Report"

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This article offers an analysis of Obama’s response to the publication of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture report. Using rhetoric as its mode of inquiry, the article demonstrates how Obama employed epideictic discourse to define and redefine national ethos, to reconstruct and restore acts and actors and to avoid deliberation about further investigation and prosecution. The article discusses the political implications of epideictic rhetoric, the genre of speech considered the least pertinent to political life, and proposes that epideictic rhetoric can be an effective tool for political actors. Obama, the article argues, by using epideictic rhetoric shifted topic from a political issue, the accountability of members of the executive branch and the CIA, to an ethical issue, ‘who Americans are’. Despite avoiding political rhetoric, Obama’s epideictic affirmed torture as policy choice and left the possibility open for the use of similar practices in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-615
JournalGlobal Discourse
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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