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Robert Cox (2005) has called upon environmental communication scholars  to consider their work as part of a "crisis discipline." Drawing upon the work of Michael Soule in environmental sciences, Cox asks environmental scholars to consider the rhetorical needs of environmental advocacy along with their own academic study. Cox says "the field of environmental communication arises at a moment of conjunctural crisis, defined principally by human-caused threats to both biological systems and human communities, and also by the continuing failure of societal institutions adequately to engage these threats" (p. 4). The crisis Cox discusses, however, is fundamentally different from the crisis appealed to in the environmental speech I discuss in this essay. In a 2003 forest-fire policy address in Summerhaven, Arizona, President George W. Bush draws upon the crisis of terrorist endangerment in a rhetorical shift from natural protection to citizen security (Bush, 2003). This invocation of crisis moves the focus away from natural protection in a way that should trouble environmental advocates. If environmental communication is to consider itself a crisis discipline, its scholars must take note of all uses of crisis rhetoric within environmental discourse. Ultimately, it is evident that crisis is in the eye, or the ear, of the beholder, and how we define the crisis and what rhetorics are drawn upon for its definition will bear powerfully on the function of a crisis-driven discipline.
My central argument is that Bush's address in Summerhaven demonstrates that rhetorical invention can cross lines between seemingly distinct exegetical situations. Only by broadening the analysis, following the shift beyond the environmental domain, do we find the implications of inventional boundary-crossings meaningful. I analyze George W. Bush's speech in Summerhaven as forest policy discourse shifts away from the rhetoric of natural resources and toward the rhetoric of national security. Thus, my analysis not only draws on the text of the speech and forest policy discourse but also on the seemingly superfluous association with the discourse of the "war on terror." Connecting a rhetoric of security in the Summerhaven address to the discourse of a "war on terror" is understood when considered through preceding studies in the rhetorics of crisis, war, apocalypse, and demonology. I maintain that the speech in Summerhaven sidesteps a disadvantageous media frame through a rhetorical shift, taking a rhetorically inventive exigency out of its expected context and placing it implicitly in an un-associated discourse. The bulk of my textual analysis demonstrates how a rhetoric of security, an inventive resource associated with the "war on terror," functions in a speech on forest policy. I conclude by pointing toward the dangers of implicit rhetorical shifts in political discourses.
Press, Public and the President
Few would disagree that President George W. Bush lacks credibility when it comes to environmental policies. The League of Conservation Voters, citing initiatives that "would weaken and eliminate fundamental protections for our air, land and water," gave him an F for his environmental record (Malone, 2003). President Bush's own Environmental Protection Agency head resigned amid rumors of dissatisfaction with the President's role as conservator-in-chief (McCarthy, Cray, Dawson, Roston, & Zagorin, 2003). Lastly, one poll found that on environmental issues, the public mistrusted Bush by a two-to-one ratio (Services, 2003).
Analyses of news-media coverage of environmental issues have repeatedly shown that media conventions set so-called pro- and antienvironmentalists against each other in "frames" (Davis, 1995; K. M. DeLuca, 1999; Karlberg, 1997; Miller & Riechert, 1999; Paxton, 2004; Schlechtweg, 1996; Wolfe, 2002). Media frames are repeating patterns of interpretation used to organize the excess of available data and bracket information into socially recognizable narratives. Hannigan (1995) writes: "Frames, like news angles, are organizing devices that help both the journalist and the public make sense of issues and events and thereby inject them with meaning" (p. 61). Commonly, scholars use frames as a method of analysis by identifying a specific frame and critiquing the underlying assumptions or ideological predisposition of the frame in use (Trasciatti, 2003; Watkins, 2001). For example, this type of analysis is used by Michael Karlberg (1997), who discusses the media's use of adversarial framing of environmental issues. Adversarial frames are defined as featuring a stereotyped duality and the amplification of confrontation (p. 22). Some newspaper coverage of the Summerhaven address exemplified the adversarial frame by positioning environmental organizations like the Natural Resource Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Wilderness Society against President Bush's speech and policy (Bumiller, 2003; Chen, 2003; Gambrell, 2003).
Some environmental communication scholars have maintained that the media themselves must be changed to favor the environmental viewpoint (Edwards, 2000; Hager & Burton, 2000; Karlberg, 1997). However, as Schlechtweg (1996) points out, framing may be an inevitability given the ideological nature of human discourse. He writes: "This is not to say that newscasters can do without frames or that this would be desirable. As Hall notes, every account of reality is necessarily partial and reflects social influences" (p. 274). In other words, media framing may very well be a necessity of the reporting process, given the need to process large amounts of information into consumable portions.
Nevertheless, because the media framing process produces a limitation on the rhetor's ability to speak to an audience, most politically minded advocates take careful consideration of the media when constructing their messages (DeLuca & Peeples, 2002; K. M. DeLuca, 1999; Lange, 1990, 1993). Furthermore, adversarial framing can also work against a rhetor who wants to appear environmentally friendly, or at least to avoid the tag of antienvironmentalist. Because the credibility of his environmental policies is often questioned, George W. Bush is frequently "plugged in" to a story by news writers and producers as the natural adversary of the environmental movement. Moreover, environmental movement rhetors are actively sought out by the media to "balance" the President's position. The President therefore often appears as the foe of a generalized "environmental movement." When the adversarial frame pits George W. Bush against those identified as environmentalists, the President can be seen as little other than an antienvironmentalist. Or can he?
Sidestepping Through a Rhetorical Shift
On August 11, 2003, President George W. Bush, aboard the Marine One helicopter, rose over an Arizona mountainside to view the scenes of destruction left by the giant Aspen forest fire. The previous year, Summerhaven, Arizona, had lost 333 structures to a wildfire that burned more than 80,000 acres. Bush's trip punctuates the connection that can be seen between his "Healthy Forests Initiative" and the fire-blackened slopes near Summerhaven, Arizona. After his helicopter flight, the President stood at Inspiration Rock in the Coronado National Forest near Tucson, before a vista of yellowing pines and scorched earth, to speak not only to the community gathered there but also to a wider American populace, the national media, and the U.S. Senate. The rhetoric of President George W. Bush's Summerhaven address correlated the tragedy suffered by local people with the immediate need for a secure, controlled forest policy based on "common sense."
The following analysis argues that the Summerhaven address contains rhetoric of security that functions to sidestep the adversarial frame and public skepticism, thus moving the President from a controversy-inclined discourse of antienvironmental versus environmental dispute to a discourse of affirmed leadership. Although security is a vital issue for some people--including many living close to fire-prone forests--the primary discourse for forest policy generally centers on and is reported in the media as an environmental issue. A shift to rhetoric of security emphasizes dangers to the citizenry and the need for decisive leadership. President Bush's then-popular position in national security, his popularly affirmed role as a leader in time of crisis, created an advantageous arena of speech. Bush's Summerhaven address therefore typifies a turn toward a rhetoric that is both more salient to American audiences as well as more argumentatively defensible as a discursive position. Jane Hall (2003), pointing toward an almost inexplicable approval rating for the President in 2003, finds that "From the trauma of September 11 to the waking fear of terror striking anywhere--in Bali or Home Depot--the American people have rallied behind George W. Bush as the first wartime President in a fearful new age" (p. 115). The rhetoric of security can be closely allied with rhetorics of war and patriotism in the post-September 11 Bush presidency. M1 of these rhetorics are readily available to Bush, a self-described "wartime President," whose rhetoric of security functions within a generally affirmative national discourse of leadership. John Murphy (2003) writes, "I believe President Bush has done a remarkable job defining the attacks of September 11 to his advantage and that his rhetoric is a key factor in his success" (p. 608). Through war rhetoric, tied by Murphy to "crisis" rhetoric, Bush "crafted the authority [he] needed to dominate public interpretation of the events of September 11" (p. 608). Building upon the same formulations of war and crisis rhetoric, security rhetoric seeks to "define the world in which we live" (p. 625).
Theodore Windt (1973) formalizes a category of crisis rhetoric by showing how both Kennedy and Nixon demonstrate the rhetorical possibilities available to the President. Windt argues that the President can make use of a situation to rhetorically invoke a crisis; draw upon the ethos of the office to limit public debate; and push forward policy through moralistic claims. Windt's perspective strongly advocates the view that a crisis situation is a rhetorical construction. Subsequent scholarship in crisis rhetoric hinges on debating this perspective. Kuypers (1997), for example, agrees with Windt that crises are largely rhetorical constructions, but uses the post-Cold War Clinton administration to demonstrate that the President's …