He’s just trying to talk about something, frankly.
Alvin Greene, the surprise Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina, has a way with words. It’s the way, though, of Sarah Palin and George W. Bush—a tortured relationship with the English language that prevents him from making his points, and that says to voters he may not be up to the job.
Facing calls from fellow Democrats to drop out of the race—and even charges that he is a Republican patsy—Greene doesn’t help his cause with a front-page story in today’s Washington Post, where his verbal difficulties are on abundant display. From the candidate’s home in Manning, S.C., reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia lets Greene’s style speak for itself:
“I’m the Democratic Party nominee. The people have spoken. The people of South Carolina have spoken. The people of South Carolina have spoken. We have to be pro–South Carolina. The people of South Carolina have spoken. We have to be pro–South Carolina.”
Repetition seems to be the most obvious of Greene’s tics. How many campaign fliers did he print? “Hundreds. Maybe thousands. Hundreds. Maybe a hundred. I don’t know exactly.” Did he show pornography to a university student, and ask to go up to her room? “I’m on the not-guilty side of things. I have to be. I mean, I mean, I mean. I have no comment, I mean.”
Greene doesn’t improve once he begins to speak at length. On the subject of those obscenity charges: “Folks should be given a chance to correct themselves. Somebody could just be trying to get somebody in trouble. You see, somebody, you know—you just can’t work around somebody. It’s hard. I’m just trying to talk about something, frankly. I’m just trying to talk from my perspective.”
And then there was this, in response to a question from MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann about how, given his stealth campaign, South Carolinians could have known who they were voting for:
“I think that, you know, I think that they—they saw—I think that they, you know, I just think that they recognize, I think that they, they heard of my name when I was campaigning across the state, you know, to just pass the word on. Just by word of mouth. I just got the word around, you know. It was not—look. I had 60 percent of the vote. I had 60 percent of the vote. Sixty percent of the vote is not luck. That’s a decisive wins [sic]."
Greene’s inauspicious debut recalls that of Sarah Palin, plucked from Alaskan obscurity to be Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election. When thrown into the maw of the national political press, Palin memorably misfired.
“Well, let’s see,” Palin said to CBS News’s Katie Couric, on the subject of Supreme Court rulings she disagreed with. “There's, of course in the great history of there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of , there would be others but—” Couric finally cut Palin off.
The vigilant linguists at Slate attempted to diagram another of Palin’s malapropisms: “I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on Jan. 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people.”
If elected, Palin would have continued eight years of English bedevilment in the executive branch under President George W. Bush. His wary relationship with oral communication filled five full volumes of “Bushisms,” as compiled by Slate’s Jacob Weisberg. To quote just a few would do the breadth and variety of manglings injustice, but those interested can find Weisberg’s top 25 utterances here.
What do you say, readers? Between Greene, Palin, and Bush, who wins the title of Least Comprehensible Pol?