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Friday, May 29, 2009

How often does a President have to talk?

[update: I have had a fever since Sunday - which is now being diagnosed as possible Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Thus, my initial post this morning didn't make complete sense, although at the time, compared to the past few days, I was making points like a Nobel laureate. I have edited this post to make a bit more sense]

I wonder. The early month's of the previous President's first term was, of course, a different world, but even after 9-11 and all sorts of other things, I don't remember President Bush giving so many speeches. On the other hand, President Obama is giving almost two speeches a day on average!!

Now, it might be inspiring that the President gives so many speeches, but how much of an authority can he be on any of the individual topics? This is why he has to use the teleprompter - he isn't writing his own speeches and it is simply impossible for any individual to give so many speeches in so few days without the assistance of such technology.

Personally, I would rather a President give fewer speeches than more precisely because of this problem. Which of the speeches our current president gives is really of his own mind and which are only being delivered by him but come from someone else's mind?

I gathered the information on the number of speeches/remarks given by the president, the first lady, and the vice president. Here are some initial tabs:

There have been 270 total comments/remarks by the President, the Vice President and the First Lady (or some combination) that have merited being posted at the whitehouse.gov website. I gathered those data and identified those at which the President (potus) spoke (alone or with someone else), the First Lady (flotus) spoke alone, or the Vice President (veep) spoke alone. Here are the tabs:

. tab potus

potus | Freq. Percent Cum.
0 | 72 26.67 26.67
1 | 198 73.33 100.00
Total | 270 100.00

. tab veep

veep | Freq. Percent Cum.
0 | 230 85.19 85.19
1 | 40 14.81 100.00
Total | 270 100.00

. tab flotus

flotus | Freq. Percent Cum.
0 | 238 88.15 88.15
1 | 32 11.85 100.00
Total | 270 100.00

Of the 270 speaches/comments, 32 where made by the first lady alone, 40 by the vice president alone, and the remainder were by the president, either alone or with one of the other. The first lady is almost as visible in terms of speech making as the vice president? What does that say about JoeBi?

The number of speeches per month by each of the three principals is also interesting. Here are the breakdowns of talks by month:

. tab month if flotus

month | Freq. Percent Cum.
1 | 1 3.13 3.13
2 | 10 31.25 34.38
3 | 7 21.88 56.25
4 | 5 15.63 71.88
5 | 9 28.13 100.00
Total | 32 100.00

. tab month if veep

month | Freq. Percent Cum.
2 | 5 12.50 12.50
3 | 12 30.00 42.50
4 | 9 22.50 65.00
5 | 14 35.00 100.00
Total | 40 100.00

. tab month if potus

month | Freq. Percent Cum.
1 | 9 4.55 4.55
2 | 34 17.17 21.72
3 | 51 25.76 47.47
4 | 61 30.81 78.28
5 | 43 21.72 100.00
Total | 198 100.00

As of the day I gathered the data from the whitehouse.gov website, the administration was 128 days old. Over those days, the First Lady had given 32 total speeches but was mainly on the trail during Feb and May, the Vice President gave 40 total speeches with his most active months being March and May. The President, on the other hand, took it relatively easy in January (he gave nine speeches in 11 days of January while being president) and then has been talking non-stop. He has given 198 speeches/remarks in the course of 128 days for a total of 1.5 speeches per day on average.

One last tabulation for the President's speeches is by day of the week:

. tab day if potus

day | Freq. Percent Cum.
0 | 10 5.05 5.05
1 | 35 17.68 22.73
2 | 38 19.19 41.92
3 | 37 18.69 60.61
4 | 44 22.22 82.83
5 | 28 14.14 96.97
6 | 6 3.03 100.00
Total | 198 100.00

Day 0 is Sunday. The President's most popular speech-making day is on Thursday.

Now, why so many speeches? One cynical answer is that if the president is talking he doesn't have to be actually doing anything. After all with so many speeches being made when can the president actually make other decisions and talk to his wife, see his children, and perhaps toss the basketball around?

The vast number of speeches ensures that the president is in the news just about every day being seen as dictating what should/will be done in the United States and that dictation is new and fresh - the media isn't rerunning coverage from last week's speech. The vast number of speeches almost assures that the media does not have the time to question what is being said in the speeches, much less the last three over the past two days (on average) because the media want to cover today's news, not yesterday's news.

The vast number of speeches, however, has caught up with me. I am tired of seeing the president on the stump every day. It bothers me that the president might be giving yet another speech while North Korea is playing roughshod in their corner of the sandbox. I don't imagine that President Obama has much more of a direct line to a rational Kim Jung Il than President Bush did, but for the matter of appearneces you would think the President would want to appear to be concerned about the issues. Howver, as it turned out, he flew on the taxpayer's dime to Las Vegas to give a fundraising speech for Senator Reid.

I wonder if the only President that had a comparable speech-making record might have been FDR? After all that seems to be the president Obama most wants to replicate and supplant in history.

I am looking for similar data for President Bush's first 128 days, but I haven't found them yet.

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I catch your general drift, but I'm not sure how to read the first three tables. They're not really crosstabs, and I don't know what your 270 "elements" are.
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