Bearing in mind the historical backdrop developed in the preceding chapters, chapter 4 examines how American political leaders—especially U.S. President George W. Bush and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani—interpreted the events of September 11, 2001. Carefully tracing how the official rhetorical response unfolded, this chapter works to capture the unique interpretive challenges posed by September 11—was it a crime, or an act of war?—and the rapidity with which this complex and ambiguous event was incorporated into a dualistic narrative that drew sharp binary distinctions between good and evil. In more general terms, this chapter underscores the existential dimensions of political speech and the importance of consolation to the role of contemporary American leaders, describing public mourning rituals at the National Cathedral, Yankee Stadium, and the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.
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