It's been uh nearly impossible to understate the far right's hatred
of President Obama's health care law.
Among our dozens of posts on misnegation — the confusions arising from our poor monkey brain's inability to deal with combinations of negations, modals, and scalar expressions — there are a dozen dealing with (lack of) ability to under (or over) state (or estimate):
"We cannot/must not understate/overstate", 5/6/2004
"Overstating understatement", 6/22/2004
"Multiplex negatio ferblondiat", 7/14/2007
"Weird logic and Bayesian semantics", 7/15/2007
"'Cannot underestimate' = 'must not underestimate'?", 11/6/2008
"Gov. Cuomo and our poor monkey brains", 1/21/2011
"… not understating the threat", 6/5/2012
"(Not) Underestimating the Irish Famine", 9/16/2012
"Overestimating, underestimating, whatever", 1/11/2013
"CIA unable to underestimate the effect of drone war", 4/7/2013
"Misnegation of the week", 5/17/2013
Chris Matthews is not alone — the current Google News index has seven hits for "impossible to understate", and all of them technically mean the opposite of what they say:
For a number of reasons it is almost impossible to understate the importance of the jobs numbers as an indicator of economic health …
It's almost impossible to understate how much Canadians love hockey.
It is impossible to understate just how fit and committed the players have to be simply to survive until half-time, let alone the end of the season.
It is impossible to understate what an asset the WLU Opera program, and the faculty of music in general, are for the cultural life of our community.
It's impossible to understate Kromah's value to the team.
There’s so many groups that embed and imbue their values upon gaming, and gaming imbues and embeds its values upon those groups in turn, that make it nearly impossible to understate its complexity.
It is impossible to understate the danger the industry faces from the miserable experience and cavalier approach to privacy to which research participants are subjected.
Similarly for "difficult to understate":
This is accurate and it is difficult to understate the influence that such writers have had in a state that is very urban, and where newspapers exert an enormous influence.
Toure’s influence is difficult to understate: Chelsea showed that if you can keep him from linking up play from back to front — and then exploit the gaps he leaves behind him when he roams forward — you can get at City’s soft underbelly.
It's difficult to understate what a discless version of the Xbox One at such a price point — one that would then reroute all game purchases through the Xbox Live marketplace — would be for the industry.
It’s difficult to understate the importance of recruiting in college football; the foundation of a college football program is built in recruiting, and competing in the SEC requires bringing in talent at the highest level.
Some readers are sure to wonder how a descriptive linguist can remain convinced that 100% of the users of a certain construction are wrong.