Linguistics isn't political. So I'm about to look at language in order to defend Sarah Palin against some recent and common attacks. It's a risk†. Believe me -- I have no political interest in defending her. I disagree with just about every single policy position that she has endorsed. Not that my view matters.
I haven't worked too hard to conceal my political opinions lately. Certainly many readers have no interest in my political leanings and would rather not have to stop in only to find my judgmental polemics. Most readers so far only trust me on matters of language (if that). Anything else and my opinion isn't worth the paper it's not written on. Is it ever?
So here's the quote being used against Palin.
Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from (AP article*)
The headline of the article: Palin: Iraq war 'a task that is from
Watch this video and notice the pullquote that floats down the screen.
These citations claim that Palin uttered a phrase of her belief regarding the nature of the war. But it's a misleading quote. Even tho she uttered the words
our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from it's not fair to say that she called the war a task from
Our is not the first word of the phrase. The first word of the phrase is
that. It's a complementiser introducing a complement clause. So we look at the full quote to answer an important question: of what word is the phrase a complement? Here's the full quote as I transcribe it from a full video of her talk.
Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also for this country: that our leaders -- our national leaders -- are sending them out on a task that is from
G-d.That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for: that there is a plan and that plan is is G-d'splan. So uh bless them with your prayers: your pr- prayers of protection over our soldiers.
So it's a complement of pray. There's a verb phrase ellipsis in the second sentence: a fragment. Let me set this out visually from the quote.
____ for our military men and women
(also) ____ for this country
____ that our leaders are sending them out on a task that is from
Then she adds that "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for"
This isn't an opposed difference in the semantics. It's not as radical a misquote as if she had said I don't believe that our leaders are sending them out on a task that is from
If I want to be charitable I'll say that she's praying that this war be directed by a desire to do good and to spread peace and to liberate a country. I'll add that she obviously has faith in war to do that. And so she hopes that all decisions by the war pigs will further those tasks of good service. That's as charitable as I can be.
If I want to less charitable I'll say that she's hoping her
Just a little more. She says
Pray … that our leaders … are sending them out on a task that is from
It's a football that's already in the air. So let's all just cross our fingers and hope that the job being given to the military is already a righteous one.
I will only defend Palin's statement against the misrepresentations by incomplete quotes. I used it against her in conversations with Buffy and some office mates. When I saw the full quote I realized that I was claiming she had said something that in fact she hadn't.
I still disagree with her belief that war can be a task from
Here's a fuller version of these and other statements she made at her church in Wasilla. The passage in question begins around 3:39.
† The only real risks of course are 1) that you'll think I'm a supporter of Palin 2) that you'll get upset with me for defending her at all for any reason 3) that you'll get sick of hearing me talk about politics. The first isn't likely. The second is fine with me. On the third I ask for your indulgence.
*In several places I have taken the liberty of using an orthographical representation that is different from the original source. This is out of respect to varying sensibilities of readers. In a quotation this is sort of like choosing well-formedness over faithfulness. Ironic.