Thursday, June 08, 2006

Unspoken Agreeement

Earlier this week, President Bush came out in favor of the now renamed "Marriage Protection Amendment" to limit matrimonial unions to those between "a man and a woman." Apparently marriage now needs "protection" not "defense."

Of course, what exactly marriage needs to be protected against, other than "activist judges," isn't clear. What is amazing about his speech -- and the one from 2004 -- is that fact that the words "gay" or "homosexual" appear nowhere in the president's rhetoric. A visitor from another planet or historian from the future could have no idea that his words are aimed at gays and lesbians who want state recognition for their partnerships. This odd silence has been the norm for the White House, as this blog has noted before.

The White House website also has a new design philosophy, albeit one in which the word "discuss" still plays a prominent role. Now the president's actual folksy words dominate the home page. The new formula follows a "President Bush on __________ said . . . " pattern.

President Bush on Wednesday said, "Dirk Kempthorne is uniquely qualified for this important position. He is the first Secretary of the Interior to serve as a governor, a senator, and a mayor. And each of these positions prepared Dirk well for his new responsibilities."

President Bush on Wednesday said, "I'm here to talk about a comprehensive immigration reform package, one part of which is to help people assimilate. The reason I want a comprehensive reform package is because I want whatever we do to work. And in my judgment, the definition of work is we want a border that's safe and secure; we want rule of law to prevail; and we want the American Dream to flourish."

President Bush on Tuesday said, "A comprehensive plan is necessary to help these good folks do their job. And I'm going to keep calling on Congress to think about a comprehensive plan. ... A lot of the elements of this plan have got common agreement. Now it's time for folks to set aside politics and get the job done on behalf of the American people."

President Bush on Tuesday said, "The United States is a nation of laws, and we're going to enforce our laws. We're also a nation of immigrants and we're going to uphold that tradition. And these are not contradictory goals. America can be a lawful society, and America will be a welcoming society at the same time."

President Bush on Monday said, "The union of a man and woman in marriage is the most enduring and important human institution. For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that marriage is critical to the well-being of families. And because families pass along values and shape character, marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them."

Although some digital rhetoric has been associated with speech genres, institutional websites, by virtue of their emphasis on "layout," are generally associated with print. This choice to emphasize the President's oral presentation may represent a fundamental discourse shift for an embattled White House.

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