Reading Comprehension—It’s Not Just for Lit Class

If you’re going to condemn someone based on their words, it behooves you to employ your reading comprehension skills so that you can actually understand what they wrote.

[This is no longer topical, because I didn’t realize I had never hit the “publish” button at the time. But the lesson still holds, and the example is still valid. Plus, the GOP will probably attempt to indict someone (anyone but the Congress that denied additional security funding for embassies before the attack, that is) for Benghazi again—9th time’s the charm!]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OzrFDBMd0g

In this video, Rep. Jim Jordan “grills” Clinton by building a case on a mix of things that people never said, and things that people said that he claims are proof of truth (rather than just proof of what that person said).

He claims that Susan Rice, the State Department press secretary, saying something is indication that it was what State Department, and specifically Clinton, knew. His evidence is internal memos saying that Rice was “off the reservation”. When I read that, all I get out of it is “she’s not supposed to be saying that”. It could be because it’s supposed to be secret, but it could just as easily be because the State Dept doesn’t think it’s true. In fact, based on previous usages of the term during the W. administration, I would read it as evidence that, in fact, the State Dept did *not* have any evidence to support those statements.

He then goes on to quote Clinton’s official statement the day of the attack:

I condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today.…Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet.

According to Rep. Jordan, this is an “official statement that the State Dept blames the video.” Later on, he even says that the official statement said “in plain language” that the State Dept blames the video.

That’s not what that says. That isn’t “plain language”. That is at best subtly nuanced language that requires careful parsing. It is more likely lawyerly weasel words—a statement specifically constructed to allow multiple interpretations. This is pretty much the opposite of “plain language”, and if you try to treat it as such you can’t possibly interpret it correctly. Yes, it could be an intentional attempt by Clinton to get an idea out there while denying responsibility for it. It could equally plausibly be an acknowledgement of an idea that is already out there, while disagreeing with it.

If you’re going to get all flummoxed every time some lawyer comes at you with nuanced phrasing, you need to hire a lawyer (or even just an English major) for your staff to interpret these things for you—‘cause there are a lot of lawyers in government.

And, in any case, even if Clinton or Rice had actually said these things that they didn’t say, that would not be proof that they were true. They could be mistaken. Or lying. Funny how quick he is to jump to accusing them of lying about the parts he doesn’t like, while taking them at their word for the parts he does. I mean, if you truly believe that Clinton is a lying liar without an honest bone in her body (which seems to be Rep. Jordan’s opinion), then you can’t hang her on her words—because you can’t presume any of them are honest. You have to find actual facts to pillory her, something that the GOP has determined, repeatedly, don’t exist on this topic.

 

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