One of my favorite tasks in English classes was diagramming sentences. As an editor in a technical-publications group in the defense industry, this came in very handy, as engineers aren’t necessarily famed for their adherence to the rules of grammar. Once I had to rewrite a sentence of 106 words that managed to include everything but a verb. However, even I would break out into a cold sweat if required to diagram this sentence:
A lot of people have asked, why is it you seem so calm?
And what I’ve tried to say often — and a lot of times this gets discounted in the press — is that the experience of having traveled throughout this country; having learned the stories of ordinary folks who are doing extraordinary things in their communities, in their neighborhoods; having met all the people who put so much energy and effort into our campaign; having seen the ups and downs and having seen how Washington was always the last to get what was going on, always the last to get the news — what that told me was that if we were willing to not do what was expedient, and not do what was convenient, and not try to govern based on the polls today or tomorrow or the next day, but rather based on a vision for how we can rebuild this country in a way that works for everybody — if we are focused on making sure that there are ladders of opportunity for people to continue to strive and achieve the American Dream and that that’s accessible to all, not just some — if we kept our eye on what sort of future do we want for our kids and our grandkids so that 20 years from now and 30 years from now people look back on this generation the way we look back on the Greatest Generation and say to ourselves, boy, they made some tough decisions, they got through some tough times, but, look, we now have a clean energy economy; look, our schools are revitalized; look, our health care system works for every single American — imagine how tough that was and how much resistance they met from the special interests, but they were still willing to do it — if that was how we governed, then I figure that the politics would take care of itself.
And I thought the 106-word sentence was bad! This is almost three times as long, although it does have a couple of actual verbs in it that aren’t part of a subordinate clause, specifically is and figure. Almost everything else is part of a series of conditionals that remind me of the ObamaCare bill. If we ignore reality, and if we ignore human nature, and if we forget the fact that the cost of every government entitlement program has far outstripped initial estimates, then maybe it won’t be a disaster. Obama manages to offer one of the world’s biggest run-on sentences with absolutely no substance within it.
How does he stay so calm? Maybe he just talks to himself until he falls asleep.
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