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Low-soaring political rhetoric embodied by Woodall | News

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Low-soaring political rhetoric embodied by Woodall

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- Congressman Rob Woodall would be the first tell you that he isn't trying to impress his constituents in Georgia's seventh district with his soaring oratory.

"I'm a simple fellow focused on direct ideas. It doesn't have to be complicated to be good," said Woodall, a Republican first elected to Congress in 2010. "If anything, I would tell you folks in Washington try to make things too complicated."

When he appears on the floor of the House, Woodall says he tries to keep it simple -- and a government openness foundation called Sunlight says Woodall succeeds in spades. The foundation analyzed the rhetorical patterns of speeches given by members of Congress.  Its analysis concluded Woodall speaks at an eighth grade level -- the second simplest speaker in the entire Congress.

"If what they're telling me is I'm the biggest straight-talker in Congress, I'll take that as the compliment they intended it to be," Woodall, a law school graduate, said with a chuckle.

Woodall is generations removed from a time epitomized perhaps by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, when political speech often seemed a bit dense and wordy by today's standards.

We showed Woodall an excerpt of Churchill's 1946 "iron curtain" speech.

"We all know the frightful disturbance in which the ordinary family is plunged when the curse of war swoops down upon the bread-winner and those for whom he works and contrives," Churchill intoned at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. President Truman was at the dais with him.

We asked Woodall to rephrase the passage.

"We have working families here in the seventh district. And we do want to protect our working families from the perils of war," Woodall answered.

As a freshman congressman, Woodall admits only to a modest political presence.

"I'm a big fan of Winston Churchill," Woodall said. "I do not have Churchillian aspirations." Woodall noted that Churchill's career nearly tanked before his rhetoric and charisma inspired Britain to perservere during the darkest days of World War II.

The study found that Rep. Hank Johnson, Rep. Sanford Bishop and Sen. Saxby Chambliss gave college-level speeches. The average member of Congress spoke at the level of a tenth grader, the study concluded.