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Picking Mitt’s Nits

December 21st, 2007 · 5 Comments

Ok, I’m no Romney fan, but I want every blogger who’s making a fuss about how Mitt only figuratively “saw” his father march with Martin Luther King to try the following exercise. Google your own archives for “I saw” or “we saw” and scan for instances where, especially if you’re talking about something that happened a long time ago, “saw” is really just being used as a stand-in for the more literally accurate “became aware of” or “knew about”. I’m guessing most of them will find at least a couple. Not because they’re all pathological liars, but because this is, in fact, a totally normal way for English-speakers to talk. If I tell you that I was disheartened to see the Dems fold on wiretapping this year, it’s not some kind of clever gotcha to question when I sat in on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, or even whether I was tuned into C-SPAN when Reid brought up their bill. It might be helpful if we spent less time obsessing over the literal accuracy of statements whose purpose, in context, is obviously to make a true general point (“I was inspired by my father’s actions on behalf of civil rights”) and more time attacking phrases crafted with lawyerly expertise to be technically-accurate but totally misleading.

Tags: Language and Literature



5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 JM // Dec 21, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    I agree with you about the general “I saw” thing, but I was under the impression that George Romney never did march with MLK, which turns “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King” into “I knew my father liked civil rights.”

  • 2 Joe W // Dec 21, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    The uproar over Mitt’s statement is absurd. But the issue is not the word “saw”, the issue is the word “march”, because technically he didn’t march with the man. But I don’t think it’s a problem to say someone marched with MLK as a way of expressing the fact that he actively supported him. It’s like if he said his father had “stood” by MLK — again, a pretty reasonable figure of speech. Wouldn’t mean he stood right next to him. And assuming George Romney was a supporter, which few are disputing, then Mitt’s use of saw is fine.

  • 3 lemmy caution // Dec 21, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    At least he is getting better over time:

    “My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit.”

  • 4 BostonSatyr // Dec 21, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    Amen, Brother Sanchez, you hit the nail right on the head with that one.

    I’m perplexed as to why these little trivial oddities get so much attention (i.e. did Hillary really leave a tip for that waitress in Iowa?, did Guiliani’s mistress get security on the public’s dime, the details of Edwards’ $400 haircut, etc.). I suppose journalists like to report on them because they will get alot of internet traffic because of their tabloid-esque qualities. Instead, I think we’d all be better served with substantive examinations of candidates’ past records, and their policy positions. PErhaps it would be a bit more dry, but the taboid-obsessed types probably won’t be voting in the primaries anyway.

    This country needs to eat its proverbial vegetables and pass up this frosted “saw MLK” transfat crap.

  • 5 Micha Ghertner // Dec 24, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    I keep reading this title as “Picking Mitt’s Nuts.” I think this says more about me than Julian, though.