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The unlikely orator: Congressman Hank Johnson

11:42 AM, May 30, 2012   |    comments
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Rep. Hank Johnson (D)

ATLANTA, Ga. -- The rhetoric seems to be as incendiary as ever.  But is it dumber?

A transparency-in-government foundation called Sunlight issued a report it called The Dumbing Down of Congress? Its analysis of congressional speeches shows members of Congress speak, on average, at the level of a tenth grader. That's compared to an eleventh-grade level seven years ago.

RELATED| Low-soaring political rhetoric embodied by Woodall

The good news is that three Georgia Congressmen use college-level language, according to the study. 

From the Georgia delegation, Congressman Hank Johnson ranked highest -- even though his most celebrated rhetoric may have been his puzzling 2010 remarks about the island of Guam, wherein he wondered out loud whether Guam would "tip over and capsize" due to overpopulation. Johnson said later the remark was an attempt at humor, "one of the gifts I think that I have."

Congressman Sanford Bishop and Senator Saxby Chambliss were the other college-level speakers from Georgia, according to the rhetoric analysis.  

Conversely, the foundation concluded that freshman Congressman Rob Woodall of Gwinnett County speaks at the level of an eighth grader and has the second lowest grade level of anybody in Congress.

"I value directness," said Woodall, a law school grad, saying he has no complaint about the grade. "As a freshman in Congress, I'm not trying to impress anybody with my oratory. I'm trying to get things done."

All this goes to an undoubtedly rhetorical question -- how much do grades matter in Congress?

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