Skip to main content

Presidents Creating the Presidency

Deeds Done in Words

Arguing that “the presidency” is not defined by the Constitution—which doesn’t use the term—but by what presidents say and how they say it, Deeds Done in Words has been the definitive book on presidential rhetoric for more than a decade. In Presidents Creating the Presidency, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson expand and recast their classic work for the YouTube era, revealing how our media-saturated age has transformed the ever-evolving rhetorical strategies that presidents use to increase and sustain the executive branch’s powers.

Identifying the primary genres of presidential oratory, Campbell and Jamieson add new analyses of signing statements and national eulogies to their explorations of inaugural addresses, veto messages, and war rhetoric, among other types. They explain that in some of these genres, such as farewell addresses intended to leave an individual legacy, the president acts alone; in others, such as State of the Union speeches that urge a legislative agenda, the executive solicits reaction from the other branches. Updating their coverage through the current administration, the authors contend that many of these rhetorical acts extend over time: George W. Bush’s post-September 11 statements, for example, culminated in a speech at the National Cathedral and became a touchstone for his subsequent address to Congress.

For two centuries, presidential discourse has both succeeded brilliantly and failed miserably at satisfying the demands of audience, occasion, and institution—and in the process, it has increased and depleted political capital by enhancing presidential authority or ceding it to the other branches. Illuminating the reasons behind each outcome, Campbell and Jamieson draw an authoritative picture of how presidents have used rhetoric to shape the presidency—and how they continue to re-create it.

384 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1990, 2008

Political Science: American Government and Politics


Presidents Creating the Presidency updates, expands, and revitalizes its previous incarnation—the valuable Deeds Done in Words—while retaining all of its strengths, notably the accessibility of the material and the historical sweep, which now covers all the presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush. Scholars in rhetoric, politics, and presidency studies will read this work with profit.”

David Zarefsky, Northwestern University

“In this book, two fine scholars detail how rhetoric gives presidents supra-Constitutional powers and what happens as a result.  Although chock-full of facts, Presidents Creating the Presidency retains a subtlety befitting the nuanced institution it seeks to describe.  To fully understand the dynamics of political power, one must know what this book knows.”

Roderick Hart, University of Texas at Austin

“Campbell and Jamieson have taken another leap forward in establishing the essential relationship between rhetoric and the presidency itself. They argue successfully that the genres they have identified actually help define what the presidency is and how that office interacts with the other branches of government and the American people.”

on Deeds Done in Words | American Political Science Review

“Campbell and Jamieson argue that the powers and parameters of the presidency are negotiated through rhetoric. . . . In this updated version, the authors have made significant structural changes to their 1990 book, adding sections on national eulogies, Clinton and Bush’s oratory, and ‘de facto item vetoes.’ The authors tie together overarching themes and functions of various ’genres’ of presidential rhetoric, dwelling on specific speeches with depth and clarity. . . . A comprehensively researched and stimulating read in an election year.”

Publishers Weekly

"This is an important, insightful consideration of rhetoric in the US presidency."


"An impressive and ambitious project, a close reading of which will be of enormous benefit to other scholars working in this field."

D. M. Ryfe | Political Communication

Table of Contents


1.         Introduction: The Rhetorical Presidency
2.         Inaugural Addresses
3.         Special Inaugural Addresses: The Speeches of Ascendant Vice Presidents
4.         National Eulogies
5.         Pardoning Rhetoric
6.         State of the Union Addresses
7.         Veto Messages
8.         The Signing Statement as De Facto Item Veto
9.         Presidential War Rhetoric
10.       Presidential Rhetoric of Self-Defense
11.       The Rhetoric of Impeachment
12.       Farewell Addresses
13.       Conclusion

Appendix: Other Rhetorical Forms


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press