Lexical Analysis of the Second Presidential Debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry (8th October 2004, St Louis, Missouri)

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Lexical Analysis of the Second Presidential Debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry (8th October 2004, St Louis, Missouri)

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The transcription used is the one published by the Commission on Presidential Debates

(Commission on Presidential Debates: www.debates.org)

The lexical analysis programme used is Alceste 4.0

(IMAGE – Informatique Mathématique Gestion: www.smess.egss.ulg.ac.be/lejeune/logiciels/alceste.html)

The analysis of lexical correspondences statistically summarises the language used by the two candidates during the second presidential debate.
Moderator and audience interventions have been excluded from the analysis.

Kerry: “I have a plan”. Bush: “He is changing positions”

In the second presidential debate the two candidates answer questions from the floor. The two contestants left away most of the fair play displayed during the first presidential debate and exploit most of their airtime for reciprocal accusations. The general rhythm of the debate is more lively, a number of topics enter the agenda of this second debate; the variety of themes is represented by the most frequent words used.

Compared to the first confrontation, Mr Bush shows a more aggressive attitude, an attitude often effective compared with his previous televised performance. He depicts himself as protector of Americans, capable to take decisions to safeguard America and its people, with a strong leadership, understanding and determination, kin to protect the domestic small business and promote the American values.

Mr Kerry often refers to kids, future, education, health system, a global coalition, the role of the United Nations, the middle class interests. He pays also attention to national economy that, according to him, has been undermined by Bush’s choices. He often refers to the opinion of Republican representatives (Senators Lugar, Hagel) and subjects symbolising US military engagement and experience (General Shalikashvili, Admiral Crowe, General McPeak, General Clark, General Baca) to support his arguments against Bush’s military management.

The confrontation between the two candidates is shaped by recursive concepts through which each of the contestant attacks the other. Mr. Kerry defines his opponent on the basis of:

wrong judgements (“he’s really turned his campaign into a weapon of mass deception”);

international isolation of the US;

no plan (“to win the peace”);

the issue of the back-door draft on military service;

the increase of taxation.

On his side, Mr. Bush stresses:

the alleged inconsistency of his opponent (“I don’t see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics”);

Kerry’s plan for national social policy that will lead to an increased fiscal pressure;