Detecting rhetoric

I’ve talked about my appreciation of rhetoric on here a few times. Ed Brayton of Scienceblogs picks out some of Newt Gingrich’s quite nicely:

Here’s an incredible statement from an interview Newt Gingrich did with the 700 Club that shows exactly how not to show remorse for having done something wrong. When asked about his multiple infidelities and hypocrisies, this is the very first thing he said:

There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.

See, he wasn’t driven by passions of the flesh, he was driven by passion for his country. And that’s why “things happened” — not the passive voice. He didn’t do something wrong, something wrong merely happened as a result of having too much patriotism. How utterly pathetic.

This is a tactic that gets used all the time. It removes responsibility from actual people and shifts it to some nebulous floating whatever. Slimey, sure. But good rhetoric? You betcha.