Chapter 19. Higher-order strategic maneuvering by shifting standards of reasonableness in cold-war editorial argumentation

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A content analysis of the New York Times editorial page shows that political reasonableness can be defined in several, sometimes competing, ways. These meanings can be summarized as prudence, soundness, equity and social cooperation. At the heart of many of the extended political controversies the Times editorial page has commented on disputes over which of these definitions of political reasonableness should prevail. One of these controversies concerned Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1959 proposal for complete nuclear disarmament; a proposal that presented several argumentative dilemmas for US President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration. The public debate over Khrushchev’s proposal occurred largely on the editorial page of the New York Times. The Times offered its own assessments of the proposal and served as a platform for publicizing the Eisenhower’s administrations’ concerns and counterarguments. A rhetorical analysis of these editorials reveals how the meaning of political reasonableness itself became the object of strategic maneuvering in the Cold War. In particular, the higher-order conditions of argumentation, namely the ethical and political commitments underwriting reasonableness, served as the locus of strategic maneuvering in the editorial argumentation of the New York Times.


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