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George Bush, <Human Rights>, and American Democracy


  • AUTHORS' NOTE: We thank Bob Ivie, Jeff Bennett, Isaac West, and Steve Herro for their help in constructing the essay.

Mary E. Stuckey is a professor of communication and political science at Georgia State University and editor-elect of the Southern Communication Journal. She is also the author of Defining Americans: The Presidency and National Identity and the author, editor, or coeditor of seven other books.

Joshua R. Ritter is a doctoral student at Georgia State University. His main area of interest is rhetoric and religion, and he is currently exploring issues in regard to rhetorical theology.


This article examines the role the ideograph <human rights> plays in George W. Bush's presidential rhetoric. By strategically wielding <human rights> throughout his presidency, and by using it to amplify his use of association and dissociation, Bush connects his actions in important ways to the foundational myths of American democracy. In so doing, he provides powerful warrants for his actions, which undermine the very practices he claims to be supporting. That is, by using <human rights> as a way of tapping into the myth of America as the synecdochic representation of freedom in the world, Bush rhetorically reaffirms that myth while acting in ways that also subvert it.