Craig Hayden

G. T. Goodnight, Chair
Thomas Hollihan, Steven Lamy

The Vulcan Rhetoric of Crisis: Presidential Advisors and the War in Iraq

This dissertation is a study of the crisis rhetoric employed by presidential advisors during the lead-up to the war in Iraq in 2003. The inquiry operates from the premise that these advisors engaged in a rhetorical movement to forward the agenda of war against Iraq. The movement concept is presented to situate presidential advisors in the domain of crisis rhetoric studies. The dissertation investigates this rhetorical movement through the public arguments of three key presidential advisors: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Vice President Richard Cheney, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. The study examines how these advisors played crucial and distinct roles in the rhetorical campaign that leveraged access to national media outlets and featured pivotal speeches in support of a war. These advisors elaborated a comprehensive policy scene of crisis, increased the imminence of possible threat, and legitimated the arguments for war through appeals to an international audience. These advisors are shown to extend the implications of presidential arguments, defend the president against criticism, and augment the credibility of the administration's arguments for war. The movement arguments are presented as a systematic strategy of epideictic threat amplification that discouraged debate while consolidating support for the Iraq war policy.