The Rhetorical Power of Always Being at War

American Presidents Both Overstate Constant Threat and Understate the Human Cost as a Way to Ensure Faith in Government

An essential goal of American presidential rhetoric is to keep the public thinking the nation is constantly under threat, and thus reliably deferential to their ostensibly protective government.

You can see that war footing—and the appeal for deference—in the open-ended “war on terror,” declared by President George W. Bush in 2001 and continued by President Barack Obama under less grandiose rhetoric. That notion that we’re a nation under siege has emboldened the president and the Congress to expand the national security state—think of the new Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot …

The New Deal Origins of Homeland Security

During FDR’s Administration, the First Lady and the Mayor of New York Clashed Over Guns, Butter, and American Liberalism

Ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have faced a set of seemingly unprecedented national security challenges and anxieties. Our society has been consumed with debates …

Mind If We Dig You Up, Mr. Lincoln?

Why the 16th President Can’t Be Left in Peace

Election night 1876 arrived full of uncertainty. The presidential race was something of a referendum on Reconstruction, and the results were so tight that the winner was unknown. It would …