Setting the Record Straight

July 8, 2008

Tongue-Tripping Candidates

Voters and The Art of Losing Elections

         What did that candidate just say?
         Whether it is a straight-out lie, willful deception or an artless attempt to provide a shorthand explanation, many candidates are hitting the campaign trail ill-prepared to address an electorate that is woefully ignorant. Voters are looking for simplicity and receiving too much of it delivered with careless language, and are not bothering to be discerning about the source of their information.
          We do not endorse the old shibboleth that all politicians, including those running for president, are crooks and are the same, blah, blah; the cop-out excuses of the non-electorate. We’ve met far too many of them to dismiss them as a class.
         But how they make their promises to you should be looked at carefully. It is all about being a good voter. We present here not only a few of the ungrammatical claims, but also the bald-faced claims and how to recognize them.
         We offer these two links to claims of presidential candidates as a start: Obama on the economy and McCain on the economy.

          Only the weirdest of political junkies would actually wade through these economic claims of the two presidential candidates we expect to be offered Nov. 4. Being somewhat junkie-weird ourselves, we offer them as part of the forthcoming lesson on how to read or, if your iPod is not working, listen to the candidates. These lessons apply to the presidential race, but one can apply them to political offices right down to dog catcher (is there really such a job today?).
         First, each of the economic-issue statements on the Web sites makes the same claim, “I will.” We get a bit schoolmarmish on this site, so for a bit of relief, we shall avoid in this item pointing out the verb “will” is applied only to the second and third person, “shall” to the first. Even we “shall” acknowledge that is a bit formal, but it would be nice to hear the usage from a presidential candidate, particularly after the past eight years of gibberish.
          A person saying “I will” do something is someone who is making an unconditional promise to you. Both of these guys are not going to be president, so one of them is lying to you. Grammatically, each should be saying, “I would,” as in “if elected, I would” do this and that. Neither is going to keep that promise if you do not elect him, ergo: lie.
         That brings us to the next big type of lie, that of past and future tense.
         We begin with Barack Obama, the newer of the politicians seeking the White House. To his credit, Obama’s site begins well and qualifies some of his promises as “calling for” and “we should,” but then it, representing him, gets a bit power-hungry.
          “Obama will cut income taxes by $1,000,” “Obama will restore fairness to the tax code,” “Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less,” “Obama will dramatically simplify tax filings” and on and on.
         Those claims are not true. Obama as president, just as John McCain as president, neither will (would) nor can do any of those things. In the United States, at least not yet, the president is not king–he, or eventually she, is just president.
         The U.S. Constitution, the right-wing anti-tax nuts notwithstanding, puts the power of taxation in the hands of the Congress (“Section 8: The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises,..,”), not the presidency. All the president can do is sign into law or veto tax bills passed by Congress.
         Similarly, McCain begins with some “we shoulds,” but then gets power-hungry himself and starts saying what he “will” do, paying no heed to the subjunctive form of the verb or to his lack of power to fulfill the promise. Even if you have to shout down a speech, make the candidate use the subjunctive form of a promise. (By the way, the security person who then wrestles you to the ground will not [we promise] be the Secret Service [that’s not its job], it will be a local thug hired by the local party.)
         Incumbents, at the very least incumbents of lesser jobs they no longer wish to “incumb,” often will tell you, usually through an advertisement, how great they were in a past political job or the one they wish to leave. “He passed legislation that…,” or “She passed new housing legislation.…”
          Why is this person not already a king? Because he or she did not pass the legislation alone. He or she was only one of a multitude of those on the winning side for the legislation. Yes, a mere cog in the wheel–no single person “passes” legislation alone.
         What really counts is the amount of effort, influence, creativity, muscle-power, elbow-grabbing, what-have-you, the office-seeker used in bringing about a majority vote for that legislation. Only a journalist is likely to be able to tell you the actual role played.

Next: What Did That Bill Say?

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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