Idealism and Pragmatism in American Foreign Policy Rhetoric: The Case of John F. Kennedy and Vietnam
Format of Original
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Kennedy's rhetoric on Vietnam serves as an exemplar of how presidents balance idealistic arguments, which apply principles of genus to public problem-solving, and pragmatic arguments, which emphasize the efficacy or practicality of politics. Through idealistic appeals, Kennedy legitimized his Vietnam policy and depicted himself as a principled leader. The President's pragmatic appeals helped him deflect criticism, justify slow progress, and build an image of expertise. The analysis of Kennedy's Vietnam rhetoric also indicates that had the President lived, his public discourse may have led him to face many of the same persuasive difficulties that plagued Lyndon Johnson.