A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you -- even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent -- and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.(It is as true of the spoken language as it is of written discourse.)
This phrase was brought to mind recently by this interview (and this blog post) with the person who was selected by the Republican candidate for President of the United States of America as his running mate, the person who will be one 72-year old heartbeat away from being the leader of the so-called "free world":
It's a jumble. Word salad. Talking point mish-mash. Incoherent. Stupid. It's as if she's trying to say things that will please the listener—she's obviously trying really hard. She wants Couric (and her morning show constituency) to like her and she wants to sell a palatable political product. But because it is so obviously canned (and garbled), the listener can't determine what it is she's selling—whether it's a pig in a poke or well-reasoned policy formulation. "Don't worry about the verbiage. Trust us. It doesn't matter what we say, we're Republicans. We're the good guys. Those other people are bad. You can tell because they come off all high-and-mighty. Elitists, don'tcha know. They want to talk to the enemy. We're tough and we will take a stand. We just can't articulate it right now."
Did her job interview with Senator McCain go equally as well. Did he even talk to her before selecting her? If this woman applied for a job as your office manager, would you hire her? What about your CFO? COO? CEO? If she botches simple declarative sentences this badly, how much worse will she botch the job of Vice Presidency?