Clinton Speechwriter: Bush 43 Is the One Who 'Was Inarticulate Off the Cuff'

October 13th, 2014 10:58 PM

Apparently the folks at Vocativ, who took a look at over 600 presidential speeches going all the way back to George Washington, were a little reluctant to document what their "scientific" analysis of those speeches told them about this nation's two most recent chief executives.

After finding that there is very little difference between the "sophistication" of speeches made by President Obama and former President George W. Bush, the former Clinton speechwriter the firm enlisted to comment on the results couldn't resist taking a gratuitous and I believe false swipe at Bush 43, one which I daresay most readers here will find absolutely hysterical.

Here's the methodology Vocativ used:

Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test—the most well-known reading comprehension algorithm—Vocativ analyzed over 600 presidential speeches, going back to George Washington. We measured syllables along with word and sentence counts, and gave each speech a numerical grade. For instance, a grade of four means the content is accessible to a fourth-grader, while a grade of 12 corresponds to that of a high school graduate, a 15 to that of a college graduate and a 21 or higher to that of a PhD. Ultimately, we drew five conclusions, each of which was analyzed by Jeff Shesol, a historian and former speechwriter for Bill Clinton.

I guess a former Obama speechwriter wasn't available.

Here's the graphic comparing the grade level of Bush 43's formal speeches (in red) and President Obama's:


Here's what Shesol had to say, including said gratuitious swipe (once at the link, click through to the final slide):


"President Bush was often inarticulate off the cuff"? I guess no more so than on September 14, 2001:

Meanwhile, President Teleprompter is so articulate off the cuff that someone didn't have to work very hard to assemble this montage of 236 "uhs" from one of the 2012 presidential debates:

As to the chart comparing formal speeches, if Obama's grade level is higher than Bush 43's, it's by the barest of margins. It's undeniable that Obama's worst speech — and a pretty long one at that — is an obvious dead last, and equally obvious that Bush 43's best topped Obama's best by a significant margin. It seems to me that Bush 43 might be the winner on an average grade level per minute basis, even if — emphasis if — Obama wins the average grade level per speech given.

Somehow, a UPI writer took the following

from all of this:

The analysis found that President Obama has raised the bar, in terms of speech, but the gap between him and President Bush is not as wide as many make it out to be.

Only if you're deaf in one ear and can't hear out of the other.

But the press has a meme to preserve: Obama - brilliant; Bush - dummy. Where's the convincing evidence of either?

Cross-posted at