US Department of American Redundancy Department

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The Doonesbury site's "Say What?" feature today reports Mitt Romney as having recently said:

I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in. That's the America I love.

I often find I disagree with the views of Republican candidates, and my initial inclination was to mock this remark; but thinking very carefully through what it says, I find to my embarrassment that I have to agree with it.

Let me first acknowledge something I had not recalled when the first version of this post went up: Mark Liberman wrote about this very quotation way back in January. I had forgotten that. He diagrams the structure, and notes the origin: It is not really a quote from Romney, and the Doonesbury research staff have been very careless. It is an artful construction due to Mark Steyn, intended to give a sense of how empty Romney's rhetoric about America is.

I was ready for a vapid piece of affectionate rhetoric about America, though. It's nearly the 4th of July. And on Monday I arrived in Providence, Rhode Island, to start getting used to life at Brown University, where I'll be teaching this coming semester as a visiting professor in the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences. As usual, I love being back in America. It's like slipping into an old pair of shoes that really fit. (Remember, I spent 25 of the last 30 years living in the USA.)

And the America I love definitely is the one where millions of my fellow citizens believe in an America that actually is this one… Yup, my head is spinning a bit as I work through the different clauses, and I'm sure yours is too, but I don't think I can find anything mistaken in the passage. I think I believe in that America too. God bless it, anyway.

[Mark Steyn published his creation in a National Review Online article in January. He puts the passage between quotation marks as if it was from a Romney speech, and follows it with the comment, "Mitt paid some guy to write this insipid pap." But Mitt apparently never said it and certainly never paid anyone to write it. However, we should not be too surprised to find Mark Steyn being a little bit dishonest, should we?]

[Rewritten 7 a.m., June 29, 2012. I believe in an America where I can rewrite my posts (and close comments) whenever I feel like it. The alert reader who kindly alerted me to the Liberman post was Rebecca Freund.]

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