Politics: April 2008 Archives

I saw this several months ago but didn't get around to linking to it, and I've been spending all my online time looking at the bevy of activity on the Supreme Court blogs, so I wanted to post something that didn't take much time (and I had to drudge the dregs of my potential blogging list to find this). According to Justin Taylor in the above-linked post (there's no citation or link, so I'm taking his word for it), Hillary Clinton seemed to admit in January that she was allowing her supporters to die of exposure at one of her rallies. How so? Well, she said it was so cold that her supporters at the rally were literally freezing to death.

It's so funny that the word 'literally' is one of the most common words used to mean something other than its literal meaning. Here's another example that I love repeating. The great philosopher William Alston told our Christian philosophers' group about a decade ago that he had once heard a football announcer say, "and when he gets down into the red zone, he literally explodes!" I knew football was dangerous, but I didn't know how bad it really was!

What's going on here linguistically is that the word 'literally' is being used as an intensifier rather than to convey its literal meaning. This usage of the word is roughly synonymous to other intensifiers such as 'really', 'truly', and 'completely'. There's nothing linguistically inappropriate about it. Words don't always mean their literal meaning or their usual meaning. What's funny about it is how easy it is to intensify a metaphor by adding the word 'literal' without meaning it literally at all. In this case, it's particularly unfortunate, because if you did take her literally (and she did use the word that might in many cases indicate that you should) she would be admitting to what may well be gross negligence of the sort that could lead to many people's deaths.

I have to agree with Sean Oxendine on this:

But the absolute top of the list is how much the outcome of the race has depended on the ordering of the contests. Imagine, for example, where things would stand if Georgia, Alabama and a few caucus states hadn't moved their dates up to Super Tuesday, but Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas had, in fact, moved up. This race would likely have been over February 3, with calls for Obama to get out reaching the same crescendo that the calls against Hillary are reaching.

Of course, the whole way we got to this position was Obama's magical "ten in a row" during February. But Maryland, DC, Virginia, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Hawai'i, Maine, Washington and Nebraska were all races that he was supposed to win -- and by large margins at that -- with the arguable exception of Wisconsin. Imagine if those races had instead been Indiana, Kentucky, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and a couple of Super Tuesday states (say, MA and TN). The storyline would be completely different.

What a way to pick a President.

This is a criticism of the whole process, not just of how the Democratic primary does things. It's even clearer for the Republican primary. If Florida had been the first GOP state, followed by New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, Giuliani might have been the nominee. If Iowa had been followed by certain key Southern states without New Hampshire in between, Huckabee would have had a real chance. If South Carolina had been first, followed by Tennessee and perhaps Georgia, we might have actually seen Fred Thompson doing well in other states. If Michigan had been before Iowa, Romney would have had enough momentum that he could possibly have done a good deal better, and if more Western states were early on he might have had enough to get the momentum necessary to take states he lost by a large margin.

This process is highly sensitive to small changes in the order of states, and that seems to me to be a very bad thing.

What organization has a weekly death toll more than twice the five-year death toll for American troops in Iraq? Planned Parenthood [ht: Sam].

I don't think it's remotely morally decent to abandon Iraq the way most Americans seem to want to do (and most of the rest of the world wants us to do). Nevertheless, if I had to be a one-issue voter and did share that view, I would have little inclination to prefer the war issue to the abortion issue. Other issues being equal, anti-war pro-lifers will have a very hard case to make if they want to end up supporting the Democratic candidate over John McCain. Other issues aren't equal, of course, but there will have to be an awful lot of very serious issues, all favoring the Democratic side, to overcome this difference (and some people probably do think that). But I've seen people, even commenters on this blog, claiming that pro-life issues are outweighed by the anti-war issue, even claiming that it's more pro-life to support those who approve of the status quo on abortion in order to end the war. I don't know how that view can stand up under these numbers.

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