Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Lesson in Grammar for CNN

The McCain/Palin campaign has been using Obama's "spread the wealth around" comment to emphasize the danger in his political philosophy (yes, the "S" word). So, CNN ran a "fact check" on the statement and concluded that the McCain and Palin were being misleading by ignoring the rest of the 5 minute conversation.

Here is a message for CNN's fact-checkers that will improve their precision:

When a subordinate clause is separated from the main clause, the meaning can be significantly altered. An example here is Sarah Palin's now famous quote regarding Iraq: "our leaders are sending them [soldiers] out on a task that is from God." The media excitedly severed this quote from the rest of the statement: "pray that our leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God." Palin was not showcasing a crusader's spirit! Rather, she was exhorting a church congregation to pray that God's will be done.

However, an independent clause such as Obama's statement, "I think that when you spread the wealth around, its good for everybody" is just that, independent. It stands alone. The larger context does nothing to alter the meaning of this statement, as it is a statement of a redistributive philosophy of taxation. (For inquiring or doubting minds, here is the original conversation.)

So CNN, let's review:
Subordinate clause- a part of a sentence or statement that is dependent on the other part of the sentence or statement.
Independent clause- A complete sentence or statement that is able to stand alone.

Thank you fact-checkers for yet another example of the importance of grammar.


Adel Thalos said...

Thank you for the linguistic clarification. Excellent post, once again!!!

I firmly believe that this short statement is clearly unintended. But this socialist slip of the tongue reveals a lot more about Obama than his dogmatic rhetoric.

May the Lord bless your studies.
I hope that you will continue to spread your wealth (insightful thoughts) around. Though you must be careful not to toss them before swine.

Sarah Geis said...


Thank you for the encouraging words!


Anonymous said...

Very good. I am completely enjoying your blog being on my Google Reader now. I wish I had done it sooner when I first linked to your blog!

Heath Countryman said...

So, do you think anyone from CNN has read this yet? I bet they google "CNN" all the time, so maybe!

David Strunk said...

Funny, incisive, and true. So when are you going to be writing for the newspaper? We could use your eye for logical fallacies and good grammar to do some good reporting!


David Strunk said...

Hey Sarah,
This isn't related to your post but given our conversation on Sunday I thought you'd appreciate. I'm putting here bc I don't have your email on me right now.

See what you think.

Doug Groothuis said...

Sarah, you swing--once again.

Sarah Geis said...


That link is a good illustration. Thanks.


Thank you!