Tarla Rai Peterson, ed.,
Green Talk in the White House: The Rhetorical Presidency Encounters
Green Talk in the White House: The Rhetorical Presidency Encounters Ecology
offers a collection
of essays intersecting public address, presidential scholarship, and environmental rhetoric.
Compiled by prominent environmental communication scholar Tarla Rai Peterson,
is divided into four thematic sections: Theodore Roosevelt, political pragmatism, Bill
Clinton, and environmental governance. The power of economic considerations is
an overarching theme woven throughout the book’s collected analyses of presidential
In her Introduction, Peterson points to the urgency of environmental issues arguing that
‘‘environmental communication studies require a more convincing demonstration of practical
utility’’ (9) than most public address scholarship. Noting public address theory benefits
environmental rhetoricians in their analyses, Peterson adds that ‘‘environmental communica-
tion studies can help to redeem the promise of practicality for public address scholarship’’ (9).
Of interest to scholars of environmental rhetoric, the Introduction’s historical portion is a
critically engaging overview; furthermore, it provides the public address scholar with a
succinct review of the sub-discipline.
The first section of the collection provides two analyses of the Theodore Roosevelt
presidency. ‘‘Preaching Conservation: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rhetoric of Civil Religion’’
by Leroy Dorsey identifies an intersection of sacred rhetoric and ‘‘secular’’ environment in the
rhetoric of Teddy Roosevelt, criticizing his overemphasis on economic justifications for
environmental policy. Christine Oravec’s ‘‘Presidential Public Policy and Conservation: W. J.
McGee and the People’’ builds on the theoretical concepts of Michael McGee and Maurice
Charland to study how administration official W. J. McGee constituted ‘‘the people’’ in a way
that reached across the American population and established the conservation movement.
Oravec skillfully establishes W. J. McGee’s influence on Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt,
and his administration.
The next three chapters, Section 2 of the text, move from Franklin Roosevelt through the
Reagan Revolution. Here, Suzanne Daughton and Vanessa Beasley address the economic
arguments in presidential rhetoric with their contribution, ‘‘The President and the Reformer:
Rhetoric, Politics, and the Environment under Franklin Delano Roosevelt.’’ Daughton and
Beasley’s well written narrative of the exchange between Roosevelt and the Pulitzer Prize
winning political cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling is meant to ‘‘recover’’ a counter-perspective
to the frequent lauding of Roosevelt’s environmental record by environmental advocates,
historians, and other presidential scholars. Michael Vickery’s ‘‘Conservative Politics and the