Vice Presidential Debate Analysis

Akin to my last entry, I’ve run the transcript of the Vice Presidential Debate through a part of speech tagger and identified the most popular noun phrases for each speaker (listed below). I’ve also updated the Debate Spotter to handle both scripts. Simply change the debate field and the transcript and speakers will be changed accordingly.

Have fun, and of course let us know if you identify any interesting phrases.


john kerry (36),
american people (28),
tax cuts (16),
saddam hussein (14),
health care (14),
united states (14),
four years (11),
al qaida (10),
osama bin (10),
mr. vice president (10),
drug companies (9),
thursday night (8),
insurance companies (8),
75 percent of the world (7),
cases out of the system (7),
nuclear weapons (7),
no-bid contract (6),
department of homeland security (6),
israeli people (6),
9/11 commission (6),
ceo of halliburton (6),
mess in iraq (6),
spread of nuclear weapons (6),
good judgment (5),
prescription drugs (5)


saddam hussein (11),
fact of the matter (10),
united states (10),
al qaida (7),
significant progress (7),
wrong side of defense issues (7),
vice president (7),
united states senate (6),
making significant progress (6),
senator kerry (6),
first time (6),
weapons of mass destruction (6),
families of suicide bombers (6),
senator edwards (6),
global war on terror (6),
states that sponsor terror (6),
u.n. security council (6),
speaker of the house (6),
several things (5),
half years (5),
tax cuts (5),
wrong place (5),
prescription drugs (5),
states senate (5),
small businesses (5)

24 thoughts on “Vice Presidential Debate Analysis

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  2. Thats interesting that Edwards said John Kerry’s name 36 times, whereas Cheney only mentioned Bush 4 times – under half as many times as he mentioned Saddam Hussein.

  3. The Vice President’s performance creates a credibility gap. Who is the President? The Vice President looked more Presidential last night than Mr. Bush did in his debate, indeed, more than Mr. Bush generally does. The Vice President hardly referred to Mr. Bush. Was that an oversight, or is it simply that George Bush is window dressing for a government of Mr. Cheney’s creation? “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

  4. I was under the impression that there was a ground rule prohibiting each speaker from saying their running mate’s name unless the moderator mentioned it first. Amy I wrong? If not, why would they do that? A stunning amount of fact errors on Cheney’s part, but boy he sure LOOKED like he knew what he was talking about.

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  7. Well, the “fact of the matter” is that that phrase is a pretty common phrase to say among a lot of people. It’s just a matter of speaking, a style if you will. I myself say it a lot. It just means “key element” or “big point” of a topic.

  8. Moderator’s One-Sided Use of Descriptions

    During the Vice Presidential debate, moderator Gwen Ifill outlined the Republican agenda, often heard in Republican campaign commercials, rephrasing Republican assertions as questions, e.g., “You and Senator Kerry have said that the war in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time. Does that mean that if you had been president and vice president that Saddam Hussein would still be in power?” There were a number of questions like this (see below). At the same time, there were no “rephrasings” of criticisms (about Bush or Cheney) from Democratic PR/commercials as questions, e.g. the high level of job losses during the Bush Administration, the invasion of Iraq on the pretext of WMD, and the attempt to link Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda.

    In addition, Ifill quoted Kerry out of context, and then asked a very leading, but not very logical question based on the quote: “He said, “You’ve got to do” — you know, he was asked about preemptive action at the last debate — he said, “You’ve got to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you’re doing what you’re doing and can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons. What is a global test if it’s not a global veto?” I’ve only seen this assertion used as a purposeful misstatement in Republican PR. Also, she never quoted Bush to Cheney, asking him to clarify any of Bush’s statements.

    Ifill’s body language at the end of the debate was oddly “one-sided.”. She shook hands with Edwards in the usual way, but when she shook Cheney’s hand, she grasped his wrist with her other (non-shaking) hand. This appeared to be a more warm acknowledgment of Cheney than of Edwards.

    Ifill neglected objective questioning on substantive issues such as the budget deficit, education, etc. that could be answered by both sides. She did ask questions about issues contrived by one side (Republican) to create divisiveness, e.g. gay marriage.

    A large percentage of the questions appeared to be carefully chosen to shape the character of the debate:

    IFILL: Mr. Vice President, a new question for you. You have two minutes to respond.

    When the president says that Senator Kerry is emboldening enemies and you say that we could get hit again if voters make the wrong choice in November, are you saying that it would be a dangerous thing to have John Kerry as president?

    —Ifill takes her question directly from the Republican political agenda.

    IFILL: Senator Edwards, new question to you, and you have two minutes to respond.

    Part of what you have said and Senator Kerry has said that you are going to do in order to get us out of the problems in Iraq is to internationalize the effort.

    Yet French and German officials have both said they have no intention even if John Kerry is elected of sending any troops into Iraq for any peacekeeping effort. Does that make your effort or your plan to internationalize this effort seem kind of naive?

    —Again, phrasing as a question the often-repeated Republican PR claim that Kerry, Edwards, and the Democrats are naive.

    IFILL: OK, then we’ll move on to the next question.

    This one is for you, Mr. Vice President. President Bush has derided in John Kerry for putting a trial lawyer on the ticket. You yourself have said that lawsuits are partly to blame for higher medical costs. Are you willing to say that John Edwards, sitting here, has been part of the problem?

    —Once again, a Republican commercial restated as a question. Where are the Democratic commercials?

    IFILL: Senator Edwards, new question to you, same topic. Do you feel personally attacked when Vice President Cheney talks about liability reform and tort reform and the president talks about having a trial lawyer on the ticket?

    —She does it again.

    IFILL: This goes to you, Senator Edwards, and you have two minutes.

    Ten men and women have been nominees of their parties since 1976 to be vice president. Out of those ten, you have the least governmental experience of any of them.

    What qualifies you to be a heartbeat away?

    —Hello? Did President Bush have a lot of governmental experience before becoming President? I didn’t hear any questions about his lack of experience. Once again a restatement of the Republican agenda.

    IFILL: Time for a new question but the same topic. And this time to you, Senator Edwards.

    You and Senator Kerry have said that the war in Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time.

    Does that mean that if you had been president and vice president that Saddam Hussein would still be in power?

    —Rephrasing of alarmist Republican claim: “Saddam Hussein would still be in power if the Democrats controlled the White House.”

    IFILL: OK, we’ll move on. This goes to Senator Edwards.

    Flip-flopping has become a recurring theme in this campaign, you may have noticed.

    Senator Kerry changed his mind about whether to vote to authorize the president to go to war. President Bush changed his mind about whether a homeland security department was a good idea or a 9/11 Commission was a good idea.

    What’s wrong with a little flip-flop every now and then?

    —“Flip-flopping.” Source for using this term to define Kerry is Republican PR/commercials.

    IFILL: Senator Edwards, as we wrap up the foreign policy part of this, I do want to talk to you about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…

    But what would your administration do to try to resolve that conflict?…

    IFILL: In that case, we’ll move on to domestic matters. And this question, I believe, goes to Senator — to Vice President Cheney.

    The Census Bureau…

    CHENEY: I think it goes to Senator Edwards.

    IFILL: It goes to the Senator. I see you. I just asked him about Israel, even though we didn’t actually talk about it much.

    —Actually, Edwards did talk about it:

    EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I do agree that we’ve been largely absent, not entirely absent, but largely absent from the peace-making process over the last four years.

    And let me just say a couple of preliminary things and then talk about where we are now.

    First, the Israeli people not only have the right to defend themselves, they should defend themselves. They have an obligation to defend themselves.

    I mean, if I can, just for a moment, tell you a personal story. I was in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, actually three years ago, in August of 2001, staying at the King David Hotel.

    We left in the morning, headed to the airport to leave, and later in the day I found out that that same day, not far from where we were staying, the Sbarro Pizzeria was hit by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed. Six children were killed.

    What are the Israeli people supposed to do? How can they continue to watch Israeli children killed by suicide bombers, killed by terrorists?

    They have not only the right to the obligation to defend themselves.

    Now, we know that the prime minister has made a decision, an historic decision, to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. It’s important for America to participate in helping with that process.

    Now, if Gaza’s being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people, that has to be stopped. And Israel has a right to defend itself. They don’t have a partner for peace right now. They certainly don’t have a partner in Arafat, and they need a legitimate partner for peace.

    And I might add, it is very important for America to crack down on the Saudis who have not had a public prosecution for financing terrorism since 9/11.

    And it’s important for America to confront the situation in Iran, because Iran is an enormous threat to Israel and to the Israeli people.

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  11. An insider’s view to the real Sarah Palin aka Kan Iyyyee cahhhl ya Jooooe:

    Hi Friends,

    My brother sent this note regarding his impressions about Sarah Palin (McCain’s baffling VP choice). I thought it was interesting coming from his inside-Alaska perspective, and worth passing along. For those who don’t know my brother, he is a principal of a school up in Alaska, where he and his wife also teach. They’ve been Alaskan transplants for about 10 years.


    Begin forwarded message:
    From: Peter & Bonnie Hauschka
    Date: August 29, 2008 11:58:15 PM PDT

    Good evening, lots of friends and relatives have been asking me (as an Alaskan) what I think of Sarah Palin, our Governor, and new choice for McCain as a VP candidate.
    Here it goes:
    This pick floored me. Sarah Palin is a nice person. I’ve met her, I’ve even talked to her for a few minutes at a principal’s conference a couple of years ago. She has lots going for her superficially. She speaks from the heart, like a spitfire mother; she can even be sort of funny sometimes. She is quite beautiful; athletic, and has that radi ant glow of someone who actually spends time doing things outside. Unlike many politicians, she has lived a “real life” and done things that few living and working in DC could ever do….like dipnettin’ fish, shootin’ stuff and eating it out on the tundra, and havin’ 5 kids.
    Personally, I’d never vote for her. She has an extremely simple view of the world and is harshly judgmental and intolerant of those who do not follow her tight right-wing agenda. I don’t even think she has ever been abroad. As governor she has repeatedly shown us that she is unable to grasp the demands of leadership. She is very prone to cronyism of the worst kind. Every cabinet level political appointment she has made she has over-ridden suggestions of our state advisory boards, and instead promoted those who had granted her direct political favors. Not that other politicians don’t do this, they do, but most of them are able to balance their appointments to ensure that at least a few people with real skill and experience are running big state agencies.
    She also has been unable to pay attention to her Alaskan constituency Personally, I’ve written several of our previous gov’s and been asked to comment publicly on education policy. All the previous gov’s have always acknowledged that contribution, criticism or comment; sometimes by direct reply, or at least by that of a staff member. Palin’s office has been a zone of silence. Not I, nor one person I know commenting has ever gotten any sort of reply. Her claim of running an open or transparent government is totally false; the public simply has no role in her administration.
    Her previous claim to fame was being mayor of Wasilla, a growing town about 40 minutes from Anchorage of about 15,000 people. Wasilla is a hellhole, even by Alaskan standards, where there are plenty of hellhole towns and villages. Wasilla is an ugly place that shows a complete absence of planning, design, or sense of public vision. Gov’t agencies and services are completely overrun in this town; things are so bad that they can’t even track their population or build schools in the right place, because most parts of the town don’t require building permits, so the only clue about where people are settling are utility receipts. Imagine trying to be an emergency responder in this kind of place: Houses don’t just catch on fire in Wasilla, they burn to the ground, because by the time the fire department has figured out which road to take (no signs) or whose house it is (no directory), the place is done for. Palin was mayor this town for at least 2 terms before being elected gov. a year and a half ago.
    Her moral sense is simplistic and not inclusive, with a complete absence of compassion. She is the sort of person who is used to using their “faith” to divide and isolate minority groups of human beings instead of uniting them. To her credit as Gov. she has kept out of this arena pretty well, but when in comfortable company (i.e the Matanuska Valley Republican Women’s Club), she lets her moral cat out of the bag.
    I will do what I can to ensure her defeat and that of her running mate as well. 🙂 Please share this information with those who can use it well.
    Cheers, Pete Hauschka

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