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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Proof: Ann Romney Treats Americans Like 6th Graders

Listening to Ann Romney speak last night, I was amazed at how vapid and idiotic her talk was. Even by the low standards of today's politicians (and the even lower standards for their wives), her speech seemed particularly dumb. But, I thought, maybe I'm being politically biased here. So I decided to try a quasi-objective measure. I ran the full text of Ann Romney's speech through an online readability test.
Here was the result:
Approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text: 
Flesch Kincaid Grade level: 6.22

Yes, Ann Romney's speech was aimed at the comprehension level of a sixth grader. But maybe this is something common to the spouses of presidential candidates, who are forced to dumb down what they have to say and how they say it. So I decided to check Michelle Obama's 2008 speech to the Democratic National Convention:
Approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text:
Flesch Kincaid Grade level: 10.60

So, Michelle Obama's speech was more than four grade levels more complex than Ann Romney's speech. Michelle Obama spoke to America at the level of advanced high school students; Ann Romney spoke to us like we were elementary school students. This is a huge disparity, unless you think the English language has a liberal bias.

But let's not blame Ann Romney for this. Her speech is thoroughly vetted by Republican handlers who understand their audience. And the low intellectual level of her speech was only slightly worse than the speech by Cindy McCain at the RNC in 2008:
Approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text:
Flesch Kincaid Grade level: 6.58

But let's not blame Republican women for a problem that really afflicts the entire party and is driven by the men who run it. Here's the rating on John McCain's 2008 speech to the RNC:
Approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text:
Flesch Kincaid Grade level: 7.13

By contrast, this was the rating for Barack Obama's 2008 DNC speech:
Approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text:
Flesch Kincaid Grade level: 9.65

Although not as dramatic as the differences between their wives, there is still a two and a half grade level difference favoring the Democrat over the Republican.

Last year, a study by the Sunlight Foundation found that speeches in Congress had dropped by a grade level since 2005, mostly due to the influence of new Republicans in Congress.

Now, some caveats. I'm using the transcripts of prepared remarks, not what is actually said. (Ann Romney's painfully stupid pandering, “I love you, women,” wasn't in the prepared remarks, and so it doesn't get counted, although it certainly would have lowered the comprehension level further.) Readability tests aren't a complete measure of intellectual heft. It's certainly possible to express complex ideas with simple sentences, and sometimes complex words and sentences are used for obfuscation.

But these results reflect a trend I write about in my book, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason. Limbaugh and his ilk have led the dumbing-down of the Republican Party, pushing an anti-intellectual, anti-science agenda and sneering at educated, rational analysis. Limbaugh has not only made the conservative movement more dishonest, he's helped make it dumber.

And Ann Romney's speech last night (which Limbaugh, not surprisingly, praised strongly) reflects a Republican Party in a serious intellectual decline. When your goal is to treat American voters like they're sixth graders, it shows how the Republicans have given up on making rational, intellectual arguments for their policies.

Crossposted at DailyKos.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rush Limbaugh Confesses to Republican Vote Fraud

Today on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh openly admitted that Republicans engage in electoral fraud by trying to give voters false information:

when Republicans put ads out in Democrat neighborhoods saying they should vote on the wrong day, you know what kind of hell that unleashes. "What, do you think our voters are stupid?" Yes! That's why we try to trick 'em. It doesn't take much.

Media Matters has the audio.

In Limbaugh's home state of Florida, what Limbaugh just talked about is explicitly illegal and a form of voter fraud. Here's what Section 104.0615 of the Florida statutes says about “Voter intimidation or suppression prohibited; criminal penalties”:

(3) A person may not knowingly use false information to:
(a) Challenge an individual's right to vote;
(b) Induce or attempt to induce an individual to refrain from voting or registering to vote;

This is a felony of the third degree, subject to a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Limbaugh is obviously alarmed that Republicans are going to lose this election, and embracing voter fraud is the way to defeat the other side: “the Democrats have calculated that there are a majority of morons that are gonna vote, and they can win 'em.” Stopping those “morons” from voting for Obama is obviously one of the key Republican tactics for victory.

Just a few months ago, Limbaugh claimed that “voter fraud occurs on the Democrat side. There's no question about it.” Of course, the false accusations of imaginary voter fraud by Democrats are not just a kind of hypocrisy; it's also a justification in Limbaugh's mind for advocating the kind of voter fraud he advocated today. As a man who paid vast amounts of money for illicit drugs to fuel his addiction, Limbaugh obviously doesn't have a lot of respect for obeying the law. But his willingness to openly confess to a Republican agenda for voter fraud suggests just how ugly this election will be. In their obedience to Limbaugh, Republicans are likely to engage in an unprecedented levels of voter fraud in a desperate attempt to steal the election away.

Crossposted at DailyKos.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rush Limbaugh's False Smears about Obama's Harvard Record

Today on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that he got a phone call during a break that revealed Barack Obama had the “lowest grades ever in Harvard, never went to class.” This, of course, is a complete lie.

Here's what Rush said:
I got on the phone with somebody who said they went to school with Barack Obama at Harvard. And the guy told me that Obama got the lowest grades that any Harvard graduate ever got and that a bunch of professors gave him B's and C's when he didn't even show up to class. And then he hung up. Now, this guy from Harvard said that Obama had the lowest grades anybody ever got at Harvard, had professors that covered for him and he wasn't even there.

Rush repeated the charge:
He said, "Rush, this guy got the lowest grades that anybody ever got at Harvard. And he didn't even go to class a lot of times, and he got B's and C's.”

It's quite well known that Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School in 1991, a designation based solely upon grades which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only is it impossible for Obama to have had the “lowest grades that any Harvard graduate ever got,” but also that Obama was one of the top students at Harvard Law School.

I'm sure that some Limbaugh defenders will claim that this is all a joke Limbaugh is making in response to Harry Reid saying he got a call about Mitt Romney's taxes. And it's certainly quite possible that Limbaugh is fabricating this claim of getting a phone call about Obama, just as he regularly fabricates a 99.8% accuracy rating and many other parts of his show. Did Limbaugh lie to his listeners and fake a call, or did he merely report an obviously false rumor?

But Limbaugh's charge is not satire. Limbaugh has made this same false claim about Obama's Harvard Law School grades at least twice before, completely seriously.

In 2008, Limbaugh declared that Obama "probably didn’t get out of Harvard without affirmative action."

In 2010, Limbaugh claimed:
I think this is the first time in his life that there's not a professor around to turn his C into an A, or to write the law review article for him he can't write. He is totally exposed. There is nobody to make it better. I think he's been covered for, all his life.

At the time, I asked Harvard professors to respond to these charges.

Laurence Tribe wrote to me, "The allegation is absurd. Obama earned every one of his enormously high grades. ‘Affirmative action’ had nothing to do with his success there. He was the most impressive student and research assistant I have taught in my 40 years at Harvard."

Charles Fried, a Harvard Law Professor who served as Solicitor General during the Reagan Administration, wrote, "It’s paranoid nonsense. Grading is anonymous by a randomly generated exam number and it takes a vote of the faculty to change a grade."

Limbaugh, the man who flunked out of Southeast Missouri State due to his laziness and intellectual failings, obviously doesn't understand what “magna cum laude” means or anything about academia.

But Limbaugh's attacks on Obama are more than just intellectual jealousy and ignorance about higher education. It's hard not to see racism when a white dropout accuses a black man with academic honors of receiving preferential treatment based on race, despite clear proof of the contrary. And as I document in my book, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason, Limbaugh has repeatedly made racist comments about Obama. When Limbaugh declares that Obama got fake grades at Harvard and dismisses him as a beneficiary of affirmative action, he's not just lying; Limbaugh is also trying to provoke racist feelings among his audience.

Crossposted at Academe Blog and DailyKos.