Now comes Mitt Romney's description of his father's actions. In an effort to soften the image held by some in the public of the Morman church as racist, Romney recently said this: "My dad marched with Martin Luther King."
Not to be the grammar police, but that is a very simple sentence that states a clear fact. Romney's father marched with Martin Luther King. How could it mean anything else?
Well, after reporters began looking into the timing and location of when this "march" might have happened, things got a little ugly. From the Detroit Free Press:
Romney's campaign cited various historical articles, as well as a 1967 book written by Stephen Hess and Washington Post political columnist David Broder, as confirmation that George Romney marched with King in Grosse Pointe in 1963.So now that the facts are out, Romney has a new explanation:
"He has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb," Hess and Broder wrote in "The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the GOP."
Free Press archives, however, showed no record of King marching in Grosse Pointe in 1963 or of then-Gov. Romney taking part in King's historic march down Woodward Avenue in June of that year.
George Romney told the Free Press at the time that he didn't take part because it was on a Sunday and he avoided public appearances on the Sabbath because of his religion.
Romney did participate in a civil rights march protesting housing bias in Grosse Pointe just six days after the King march. According to the Free Press account, however, King was not there.
On Wednesday, Romney's campaign said his recollections of watching his father, an ardent civil rights supporter, march with King were meant to be figurative.Just to be clear, the Oxford English Dictionary definition of figurative:
"He was speaking figuratively, not literally," Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the candidate.
adjective: not using words literally; metaphorical.So Romney's description, "My dad marched with Martin Luther King," really means "My dad was like others who marched with Martin Luther King." And I'm sorry, but sounds an awful like "This washer comes with a lifetime guarantee," which in "figurative" speak means "We'll repair this thing once, but not forever." In other words, misleading if not downright dishonest.
I know it's asking a lot for politicians to be honest, but could they just not abuse the English language when they lie? When something is figurative, it means it represents something else. When you say someone took an action, it means they took that actions, not that they took an action similar to the one you stated. Otherwise, if I said I went for a walk, I could mean I though about going for a walk .... which is not at all the same thing.
I need some fresh air. I'm going for a walk. really.
UPDATE: I think when you have to parse your sentences on the campaign trail, it's time to jump the shark. From MSNBC:
"The reference of seeing my father lead in civil rights," he said, "and seeing my father march with Martin Luther King is in the sense of this figurative awareness of and recognition of his leadership."
"I've tried to be as accurate as I can be," he continued, smiling firmly. "If you look at the literature or look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of -- in the sense I've described."
The questioning did not relent. "I'm an English literature major," he insisted at one point. "When we say I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn't necessarily mean you were there." (He meant the Super Bowl, of course.)