Friday, September 4, 2009

The Subjunctive

In an earlier post on Anderson Cooper, I noted the style of denial/apology that is frequently used by American political figures as they attempt to recover from a verbal gaffe. It has a three-step format:

--The Minimilization
--The Subjunctive
--The Summation

“The Subjunctive” is the step that catches your attention.

Did you see the denial/apology from Van Jones? He is a recently-appointed administration official who specializes in “Green Jobs.” He also seems to have a penchant for making incendiary comments on political issues.

On September 3, Ben Smith at reported that the White House press office has issued this statement on behalf of Mr. Jones:

In recent days some in the news media have reported on past statements I made before I joined the administration – some of which were made years ago. If I have offended anyone with statements I made in the past, I apologize. As for the petition that was circulated today, I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever.
Can you deconstruct the elements of the denial/apology?

Here’s a hint: “The Subjunctive” is sentence number two.

Yahoo! News runs an AP story announcing the resignation of Mr. Jones. About the timing of the resignation, AP notes it was "...disclosed without advance notice by the White House in an e-mail minutes into Sunday on a holiday weekend..." (NTTAWWT).

According to the AP, Mr. Jones had this to say about the pressures he endured:

"On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide."

This may be hubris, but I'm going to assume "The Subjunctive" is the part of the "vicious smear campaign" that nailed the coffin shut on this public servant.

UPDATE 2/19/2013:
Here in Denver, a state legislator got in political trouble during a gun control debate.  Joe Salazar, a Democrat, suggested women are too hysterical to handle a concealed carry permit responsibly. In backing away from his remarks he offered this justification: "I'm sorry if I offended anyone. That was absolutely not my intention... If anyone thinks I'm not sensitive to the dangers women face, they're wrong."

There's that subjunctive again...

Return to Top

Return to Bottom

No comments:

Post a Comment