the ratchet effect
random friday, 1963 edition: lesley gore, “it’s my party”

you know i’m a sucker for this stuff

Nate Silver did a “word frequency analysis” of the President’s speech, comparing it to speeches from other presidents at similar points in their tenure. Not sure it means anything, and, as Nate says, “were I evaluating the speech on policy grounds, I would evaluate it more skeptically.” But it’s the kind of thing I love reading. Silver concludes that compared to his predecessors, Obama sounded most like Clinton.

Silver clearly had fun with this, but he is also quite clear that “most State of the Unions have had a fleeting impact, at best.” Still, since I wanted to barf when Obama said “I have embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan,” it’s nice to see that, at least in “word frequency analysis,” the President’s speech had a low correlation to the speeches of JFK and Reagan, and this correlation was also mostly lower than was his speech of last year. IOW, he evoked Kennedy and Reagan explicitly, but otherwise didn’t really echo them.

One last note. As I looked over Silver’s charts, I realized that when I wanted to compare Obama to someone I “liked,” I kept going back to the same person. You can take this with a grain of salt … I am not much of a fan of any president from my lifetime … but I am surprised to find that the guy I seemed to check with most often was … LBJ.



It's not that surprising, the LBJ thing. He's a favorite of mine, too, mostly because he "sounded" so good. If you look at the content of his speeches he was really the first "progressive gone bad", the guy who raised hopes with what he said but dashed them equally with what he did (and didn't do; he was quick to compromise on his high ideals).

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