By Jim Robbins
Sarah Palin’s critics routinely mock her intellect, so when the state of Alaska released 24,000 emails she wrote while serving as governor, “AOL Weird News,” an offbeat component of AOL.com, had a representative sample analyzed to see how well she wrote. They expected the results to confirm their anti-Palin bias, but they were in for a surprise.
Far from being an illiterate bumpkin, the standard Flesch-Kincaid readability test showed that Ms. Palin’s emails were written at an 8.5 grade level. This was “an excellent score for a chief executive,” AOLWN reported. To put some perspective on this number, Martin Luther King’s August 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech — much more heavily edited than Ms. Palin’s emails — ranked at 8.8 on the same scale, while Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address came in at 9.1.
A study by Smart Politics on the readability ratings of recent State of the Union addresses also showed Ms. Palin in good company. President George H.W. Bush’s average SOTU score was 8.6. Bill Clinton came in at 9.5. Ronald Reagan, who like Ms. Palin was heavily criticized by liberals and regarded as a doddering old fool, logged an impressive 10.3 rating. And George W. Bush, who earned even more left-wing contempt than Mr. Reagan, if that’s possible, edged the Great Communicator with a10.4 ranking.
Then there is President Obama, heralded as the smartest president and the most gifted orator in living memory, but whose 2008 “Yes we can!” victory speech came in at a comparatively anemic Flesch-Kincaid rating of 7.4. Some numbers just speak for themselves.
James S. Robbins is senior editorial writer for foreign affairs at the Washington Times. His latest book is “This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive,” published by Encounter Books. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.