This essay is drawn from and quotes several of the author’s op-eds and letters from the last week — including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Houston Chronicle, and Dallas Morning News.

July 30 & 31 Democratic Debates

Watching Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s Democratic presidential hopefuls spar on stage, there are reasons to be disappointed.

On both evenings it again was clear that these at best are pseudo policy debates. As someone who has taught communication for 45 years, the current television debate format doesn’t permit a rigorous and thorough clash of different ideas. Sixty-second soundbites and lightning-round responses are not arguments.

[NOTE: Versions of this commentary were published by the National Communication Association’s Communication Currents and several other media outlets — including the Waco Tribune-Herald, the Herald-Banner and several others.]

At no time in my forty-one year career as a communication professor has the discipline’s knowledge been more critical to the public at large than today. Applying principles of rhetoric to the nation’s political challenges in 2019 is essential to restoring objectivity in processing the news — which in turn is requisite to democratic deliberation.

Allow me to offer the most recent evidence for this claim.

Since the release of special…

Versions of this op-ed were published by the Houston Chronicle, Iowa City Press-Citizen, Herald-Banner and several other newspapers.

Since its inception in Ancient Greece, the academic discipline of rhetoric — not to be confused with the knack of sophistry or what often is labeled “mere rhetoric” — has focused on the art of symbolic influence and persuasion.

Perhaps unlike other fields of study, rhetoric is the bridge between theory and practice. That is why as a scholar of communication it has become enormously important for me to write op-eds linking theories of rhetoric to the world of prudential conduct.

Versions of this essay were published by Citizen Critics and several other media outlets.

As a scholar of communication, allow me to offer few random observations about Tuesday’s State of the Union speech that were made in real time:

First, President Trump began speaking prematurely, forgetting to allow Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially to introduce him — a ritual performed prior to almost all State of the Union speeches. Inadvertent oversight or calculated move? If intentional, this could be read as slap in the face to the woman who thus far has effectively called the President’s bluff and frustrated him. …

Versions of this op-ed will be published in the Buffalo News, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Iowa City Press-Citizen and several other newspapers across the country.

Last week President Donald Trump spoke in the Rose Garden, declaring that, after thirty five days of nearly one million people out of work and not being paid, he temporarily was ending the government shutdown. His speech and the chosen setting — including cabinet members applauding his every word — seemed more like a victory lap than a resolution of a debilitating national crisis. …

Versions of this essay were also published in the Houston Chronicle, Des Moines Register and several other newspapers.


Will President Trump really use disaster relief funds to build the border wall? He might, and if he does he’ll be following a path traveled by another Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt.

When Roosevelt wanted to send the U.S. Navy on a goodwill world tour in 1907, in what would become known as the voyage of the Great White Fleet, he couldn’t convince Congress to appropriate the required funds. So Roosevelt used what available presidential discretionary money he had to send them…

Versions of this op-ed will be published by Communication Currents, the San Antonio Express-News, Des Moines Register and several other newspapers.


Permit me to be begin this op-ed with two observations that initially may seem unrelated.

First, putting aside our political leanings, perhaps we can all agree that at the heart of current disagreements about President Donald Trump is the lack of a shared understanding of what constitutes “truth” and “facts.” …

Versions of this essay will be published by the Des Moines Register, Houston Chronicle and several other newspapers.

Chris Wallace interviews Rudy Giuliani

With the holiday season upon us I find myself engaging in a lot of difficult and awkward conversations with family and friends about politics. What immediately becomes clear is that some of these people are avid Fox News viewers while others watch CNN and MSNBC. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that these conversations frequently degenerate into unpleasant exchanges.

Sadly, in our current political climate, the all too often knee-jerk refrain about the media is that they have become disseminators of “fake news”…

Shorter versions of this essay were published as op-eds in the Des Moines Register, San Antonio Express-News and several other outlets.

It was unintended but funeral speakers couldn’t help but highlight contrasts with President Trump

As a communication scholar I have spent my career studying the rhetoric of presidents and other public figures. Among the things I have learned is that, irrespective of a speaker’s intent, words have consequences.

Regardless of political affiliation, most of us recognize that we are witnessing numerous examples of this during President Donald Trump’s tenure in office.

On Wednesday (December 5) additional evidence emerged during…

This essay is an expanded version of an op-ed of mine that was published in the Texas Tibune’s TribTalk on December 6.


As a Jew and proud American I am horrified and deeply offended by the increasing number of — almost daily — stories about the rise of anti-Semitism and racism both at home and abroad. This week’s attack on a Columbia University Holocaust professor is the anti-Semitic incident de jour.

Close to where I live, Renee LaFair of the Austin Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports an almost 90 percent jump in Anti-Semitic incidents in one year. …

Richard Cherwitz

Cherwitz is the Ernest S. Sharpe Centennial Professor emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin.

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