The presidential debate phrase analyzer story

It all started when I was watching the first 2004 presidential debate. It seemed to me that Bush was saying "it's hard work" an awful lot — did he not want to be president anymore? And was it me, or were they both talking a lot more about Saddam Hussein than Osama bin Laden?

Factoid #1

President Bush's favorite three-word phrase in the first debate was either "a free Iraq" or "war on terror". He said both an inspiring 11 times.

Senator Kerry's favorite three-word phrase in the first debate was "the United States". He said it a 19 times, probably to hide the fact that he is actually French.

Back in those dark days, all one could do to answer these questions was wait until the newspaper came the next day, hope it had a complete transcript in it, take a photograph of that page if it did, get the film developed, scan in the photo, use expensive photo-editing software to painstakingly type over each letter in the image, copy all the text you just entered into a different file, print it out, and then start counting how many times a given phrase appeared ... assuming you weren't dead tired and broke by then!

Well, no more! With the dawning of a new age comes a new tool for analyzing the phrases uttered in the debates — the so-called debate phrase analyzer!

The great thing about this tool is that it doesn't only look for the phrases that you type in — it looks at all the phrases of a particular length! So if you want to know the most — or least — popular nine-word phrases that were learned by rote by the commander-in-chief of the United States (George Bush), with a click of the mouse, you can. Why wait for someone to publish a book that has a list of the most frequent phrases uttered in these debates? This knowlege can be yours right now!

Factoid #2

Guess who's simply parroting a list of phrases he memorized rather than admit his ticket is dumb. That's right, it's John Edwards!

He repeated:

Of course, as with all new technologies, this great power can be used for both good and evil. While it can't actually change the meaning of what was said — only the candidate's campaign managers can do that — it could be used to fuel nasty rumors, such as the fact that George Bush hates America because he never once said the phrase "the United States". Of course, we all know Bush loves America (unlike some candidates I could name), so using this tool to spread such a rumor would be wrong.

On the other hand, using the debate phrase analyzer to educate people is a good thing. For instance, why did John Kerry talk about "war" 54% more than Bush did? Bush is the war president, not Kerry! Was Kerry trying to look more presidential by talking more about war? What a liberal blowhard!

So go ahead — enjoy this new tool and this wonderful new age we live in! Who knows, maybe if you memorize enough of the information found in the debate phrase analyzer, you'll be asked to become a star cable news pundit! (I would think four or five frequency factoids would suffice.)

And if you don't like this debate analysis tool (too slow, hate the hastily-chosen fonts in the logo, mildly if incorrectly offended by the domain name), there are other debate analysis tools out there. Nerds are so predictable.

What did they say?


Words per phrase: