September 28th, 2008

Not Seeing It

I have boycotted professional baseball for much of the year, for reasons that long-time readers of this journal will know. But my resistance has flagged in the closing weeks, as the pennant races have heated up. And now I want to watch today's crucial final-day-of-the-season contests. Unfortunately, though, the only thing showing on my cable television line-up is professional football. How stupid is that? I am no NFL-hater. Still, it makes me angry that the sport in which the drama is peaking must be shunted to the side for the sport that has months to go.

Political Language Poet or Pull-String Puppet: You Decide

As I've written here before on several occasions -- I even wrote in defense of our current President -- the transcription of speech provides a lot of room for maneuvering. Interviewers can give their subjects the benefit of the doubt. They can fill in the gaps in syntax that even the most fluent speakers are bound to leave in the course of ordinary conversation. They can eliminate the utterances, such as "um" or "like," that serve a function in oral communication but appear pointless on the page. And they can prune away the inevitable redundancies that occur when a person seeks to answer a question thoroughly. Or they can opt, instead, for as faithful transcription of their recording as possible. The latter move is one that all but the most perverse individuals would eschew unless they wanted to make someone look bad. I do believe that George W. Bush has been the victim, as his popularity has plummeted downward, of this sort of professionally justifiable dedication to accuracy.

With Sarah Palin, though, I'm not even sure that it would be possible for a sympathetic transcription to be made without abandoning the record of her speech altogether. Consider this excerpt from her moose-in-the-headlights interview with CBS News's Katie Couric:
COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.
I have edited some very messy prose over the years. But despite my experience, I lack what it takes to turn Palin's response here into anything that resembles grammatically and syntactically acceptable English.

I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and say that Palin is mentally incapable of taking a national leadership role. She speaks clearly enough about the subjects she knows, though from an ideological perspective that I disagree with entirely. However, despite the best efforts of the McCain campaign to educate her in the art of responding to interviews, she clearly has not learned to reconcile the talking points which they are insisting she repeat over and over and her own command of the English language. And that does not bode well for her, should she find herself suddenly in charge of the United States. Needless to say, I'm hoping that she goes back to Alaska where she is not out of her element.