As a long-time professor of rhetoric and communication, I am particularly attuned to persuasive style in political candidates.
Tonight on “60 Minutes” veteran correspondent Bob Schieffer interviewed Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his choice for vice president, Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan. Throughout the interview Ryan in particular was asked leading questions, such as whether his role would be the attack dog role that some vice presidential candidates have taken in the past.
Schieffer could have asked simply what Ryan’s emphasis would be in his role as vice presidential candidate, but typically for an interviewer he tried to lead the respondent to the answer he desired.
To his credit, and I don’t wish to say that this is definitive evidence of how he will handle his persuasion throughout his candidacy, Ryan did not use the words of the question in his answer and insisted that his role was to explicate policy — particularly economic policy — and articulate the Romney-Ryan positions on critical issues of the day, not distractions fomented by the other side.
Throughout the interview Ryan was substantive, substantive, substantive. His implied philosophy was that there are too many real exigencies facing the country to waste time on personal attacks and irrelevant matters.
When describing how the Democratically-controlled Senate wouldn’t pass a budget despite the law requiring such, he called the government “dysfunctional,” not “criminal.” Good choice of language again, Rep. Ryan.
Good start, Mr. Republican Vice-Presidential candidate.
Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2013)