Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Robert T. Craig

Second Advisor

Peter D. Simonson

Third Advisor

Leah Sprain

Fourth Advisor

Bryan C. Taylor

Fifth Advisor

Benjamin S. Hale


On July 25, 1980 President Jimmy Carter signed Presidential Directive 59 (hereafter PD-59). PD-59 was an attempt to operationalize the concept of limited nuclear options into United States nuclear weapons policy. This nuclear policy was unique in that the story of its existence was broken by the press and the Carter Administration lost control of the representations of PD-59. In this study I analyze the events leading up to the creation of PD-59 and its subsequent debate in newspapers as well as secret policy meetings using Habermas’s theory of deliberative politics from a critical rhetorical perspective. This analysis unpacks the complex legitimizing process that functions to legitimize policy that is created outside of the public eye.