The presidency was once a carefully scripted and carefully controlled site of speech production. Today's media environment has not lessened efforts at control, but it has rendered these efforts increasingly difficult. Previously disruptive and disfluent ways of speaking now serve a useful role in presidential address, allowing mass-mediated audiences to apprehend the presidency in ways that appear to be more intimate and more authentic than careful scripting allows. In response to this new and fast-evolving rhetorical landscape, this essay develops an analytically, historically, and conceptually wide-ranging argument, inviting rhetorical scholars to supplement their abiding interest in traditional forms of presidential eloquence with a commitment to the study of presidential disfluency. Awkward pauses, verbal hiccups, botched colloquialisms, confessionals, and overly personalized speech-all transgress the norms and expectations of presidential eloquence, allowing scholars to reflect on the longstanding, rhetorical discrepancy between presidential speech as it appears in the official historical record and presidential speech as mass-mediated audiences actually hear it.
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