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Parsing Bush's State of the Union words over 7 years

January 29, 2008 |  6:18 am

Here's something you can't do with your newspaper.

The Times' Ben Welsh has deconstructed online the most common words from every one of President Bush's seven State of the Union speeches and one Budget Address. They total 40,655 words and it took Bush six hours and 57 minutes to deliver them all over his entire term. (Although last night's address, the longest by 174 words, was likely Bush's last State of the Union, some presidents like Ford and Johnson have chosen to speak to joint sessions one last time just days before they leave office.)

Now, don't ask someone who blogs with two fingers how Welsh did this, but he's imaginatively created what's called a word cloud. You can find it here on this website. Using the president's own words and the frequency in which he uses them, it's an amazing and creative tool for even non-historians to measure right before their very eyes how national times and presidential priorities change over the years.

Notice how the words in Welsh's word cloud are different sizes; the more often they're used, the larger the type. Now put your cursor on the little thingy with the arrows that runs across the top of the type and drag it to the left. The dates of the speeches change.

You are literally moving back through time and all eight speeches. See how the words change in size. "America" and "Americans" are usually large as are words like "Congress," "health" and "must" because they're used so often, perennially. So was "Saddam" and "Hussein" and "weapons" back before 2003. Now, not at all.

"Al Qaeda" doesn't appear until 2002. "Security" appears more often as time passes. "Children" are there along with "health" and then "retirement."

You can detect your own patterns over the years. Feel free to offer your observations in the comments below.

--Andrew Malcolm

Correction: An earlier version of this post included a comparison of exact word counts between years that was mistakenly drawn from an incomplete draft analysis. It has been removed.