How is it that contemporary presidents talk so much and yet say so little, as H. L. Mencken once described, like "dogs barking idiotically through endless nights?" In The Anti-Intellectual Presidency (CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2008), Elvin Lim tackles this systemic problem and argues forcefully that it is because we have been too preoccupied in our search for a "Great Communicator," and have failed to take presidents to task for what they communicate to us. Lim warns that we must do something to recondition a political culture so easily seduced by smooth-operating anti-intellectual presidents. Drawing on interviews with over forty former presidential speechwriters and an analysis of over 20 million words spoken by every president in US history, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency sheds new light on the murky depths of presidential utterances and its consequences for American democracy.
"Recent American presidents have dumbed down democratic discourse, Elvin Lim shows in his disturbing new study of presidential leadership. The chief culprits are presidential speechwriters, who prize style over substance and subvert the reasoned articulation of policy. Timely, well written, and highly recommended."--Jeffrey K. Tulis, author of The Rhetorical Presidency
"That 'Presidents and speechwriters have killed oratory and gone anti-intellectual' will come as no surprise. But why? No scholar has thought more carefully and analyzed more rigorously this historic change in presidential communication with the public. This book will spawn important debates about the meaning and consequences of the 'dumbing down' of presidential rhetoric. It is a tour de force."--Elizabeth Sanders, Department of Government, Cornell University
"Elvin Lim documents a disturbing trend. Presidents are talking more, but their speech is getting less substantive and less informative. Simple declarations have come to substitute for reasoned arguments. Lim's findings ring true, all the more so for their careful empirical grounding and elegant presentation. I know of no book on presidential rhetoric that cuts more directly and effectively to the point."--Stephen Skowronek, Pelatiah Perit Professor of Political and Social Science, Yale University
"Elvin Lim argues convincingly that politics has been dumbed-down but that enlightened civic conversation is possible if politicians will only try. Lim also believes that the American people want to be stretched intellectually and emotionally. The dark trail he traces therefore ends in a sunburst of hope that I find heartening." --Roderick P. Hart, Dean Shivers/Cronkite Chair in Communication, UT Austin