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October 6, 2004

The Surprise of the Veep Debate: Cheney Defeats Bush!

debatephrases

At Overstated.net, Cameron Marlow (a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab) created a clever utility, called the Debate Spotter, to reveal recurrent themes emphasized by the candidates in the Presidential and the Vice-Presidential debate. Specifically, the tool can identify the most popular phrases from the official transcript. In the Presidential debate, for example, one of Bush’s most popular phrases was “hard work” — which he used thirteen times. (Here’s the link to the Bush-Kerry analysis.)

When looking at the results from the Vice Presidential debate, what jumps out immediately is the fact Edwards used the phrase “John Kerry” a whopping 36 times. When I saw that, it made me wonder how many times Cheney referred to President Bush. Curiously, in Marlow’s summary of Cheney’s top phrases (above), the President doesn’t merit a reference.

Using the Debate Spotter myself, I was only able to find 10 instances in which Cheney mentions George Bush or President Bush” or “the President” (independent of himself). It’s not just that Cheney makes fewer references to the top of the ticket, however. According to the Debate Spotter, Cheney has a tendency to put himself on equal footing with Bush or highlight himself alone. (I counted 3 instances in which Cheney refers to himself and the President in partnership–”The President and I “; “the President and myself”; and “working alongside the President”). And, as Marlow indicates, Dick Cheney makes an impressive 7 references to Dick Cheney (through the use of the phrase “Vice President”).

It goes even beyond that, though. What also pops up are references suggesting Cheney either supersedes the President, or is actually calling his own shots. For example, he refers to himself as a top man twice in the same sentence (“Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of the Senate, the presiding officer”). At another point, he points out the most important criteria in a Vice-President is “somebody who could take over.”

Also, he consistently refers to White House policy and decisions, not so much as Bush’s decisions, but decisions and policies “we” have executed. Most revealingly, there is one point — referring to the decision to go to war — where he actually drops the “we” and speaks as if the decision were his alone. He says:

“What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action.” (Italics mine.)

There was also one other speech act worth mentioning. Of course, it might have just been a slip, but it also might have been a Freudian slip. When discussing tax policy, Cheney meant to say that he and the President have a fundamental difference with Kerry-Edwards. Instead, what he said was: “(T)here’s a fundamental philosophical difference here between the president and myself.”

In considering this data, what I’m thinking is that the guy who lost the Vice-Presidential debate Tuesday night was actually George Bush. On the Democratic side, Kerry and Edwards have both demonstrated they belong in the big leagues. On the Republican side, however, you have a President who’s stumbling, and a heavyweight second-in-command who seems to be crowding him out.

  • http://stephensimon.net Stephen

    Very interesting. I can’t decide if Cheney crowding out the President is a bad thing or the only thing that has prevented WWIII.
    Maybe it’s the other way around. Cheney sure likes his war.

  • http://politicalwire.com/archives/2004/10/07/another_look_at_the_debate.html Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire

    Another Look at the Debate

    If you watched the vice presidential debate, you’ll remember Sen. John Edwards was reprimanded several times by moderator Gwen Ifil for using John Kerry’s name in response to a question on how he would differentiate himself from Vice President Cheney. …

  • http://blog.thought-mesh.net Annoying Old Guy

    You’re pushing some very thin material beyond any reasonable bounds, here.

    It goes even beyond that, though. What also pops up are references suggesting Cheney either supersedes the President, or is actually calling his own shots. For example, he refers to himself as a top man twice in the same sentence (“Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of the Senate, the presiding officer”). At another point, he points out the most important criteria in a Vice-President is “somebody who could take over.”

    OK, what exactly is the superseding part there? Anything even remotely non-factual? The Vice-President is, in fact, the President of the Senate. He is the presiding officer. And it’s certainly a key desireable in a Vice-President that he could be President. You’d prefer one who couldn’t?

    There’s also the fact that Cheney was re-iterating something President Bush said. When asked what distinguished Cheney from Senator Edwards, Bush said “Dick Cheney could be President”. So you have two factual statements and a repeat of the President’s own statement – that’s Cheney superseding the President?

    The other stuff is just as weak. Such as

    “What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action.”

    I added my own emphasis there. So Cheney claims to have made recommendations to the President all on his own. Wow, such hubris! Imagine, recommending things to the President without getting those recommendations from the President first! I guess we’ll never have to worry about Edwards doing that, eh? As for the “we”, I suspect that Cheney was speaking of the USA as a whole, which politicians are wont to do.

    As for Cheney not talking about Bush every other word, I like that. It shows that the elevation of policy and principle over the person of the moment, the office over the man. Cults of personality such as you seem to like in Edwards is a symptom of a degenerate politics, not something we want in the White House.

  • Jim Hill

    Political music from the Left Coast:
    A great musician friend of ours, Otis Scarecroe, has been performing a number of – umm – anti-establishment songs for years. We urged him to get them out in time for the campaign. He’s a bit late, but better late than never, we say.
    He’s posted them at Gordyo’s Chickenhawk page, at
    Gordyo’s Chickenhawk Page
    Scroll down to get to the mp3 links.
    The songs are free for the download, and Otis would like to get them distributed as widely as possible to assist in regime change efforts.
    Jim Hill
    Fairfax California

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