Saturday’s NYT article on Joe Biden “taking a new look” at a presidential campaign contains a curious opening sentence:
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his associates have begun to actively explore a possible presidential campaign, which would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton, several people who have spoken to Mr. Biden or his closest advisers say.
The problem here is that the sentence contains two separate but related ideas, only one of which is likely coming from people close to Vice President Biden. The point of the sentence, I think, is that, according to people close to Biden, he and his associates have started to actively explore a presidential campaign. Fair enough. But the author, Amy Chozick, also wants us to know that a Biden campaign “would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton.” This may or may not be correct: according to realclearpolitics.com’s poll of polls, Clinton currently leads Biden, 56 percent to 14 percent. But by putting the phrase “which would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Clinton” right next to “several people who have spoken to Biden or his advisers say,” Chozick at least suggests that the People Who Have Spoken To Biden said his candidacy would upend the field and threaten Clinton. I doubt that they did. A clearer (and more honest) way of phrasing this would be:
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his associates have begun to actively explore a possible presidential campaign, several people who have spoken to Mr. Biden or his closest advisers say. If it materializes, a Biden campaign would upend the Democratic field and deliver a direct threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In other 2016 campaign news, slate.com is having a contest to see if anyone can diagram the following gem of a sentence from Donald Trump (I cannot, nor do I think it’s even possible):
Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, okay, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, okay, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.