Discover | Conversation Analyst Steve Clayman

So with these little bits of conduct, then, you can actually chart a decline in deference to the president over time and the rise of a more vigorous, aggressive way of dealing with public figures. You can also isolate the circumstantial factors that predict aggressiveness. Here’s a little factoid that we think holds up really well: In general, the questions are softer when they deal with foreign affairs or military affairs than when they deal with domestic affairs; the forms of aggressiveness I’ve described are less common. Presidents get a kind of buffer or shield against aggressive questioning if the questions deal with foreign affairs. And the magnitude of that shield—the gap between the foreign and domestic questions—has remained more or less constant over the last 50 years.

What accounts for that?

There’s an old expression: Politics stops at the water’s edge.

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