November 29, 2011

Why Clinton's book is worse than Bush's: Bill wrote it himself

At the VDARE blog, I write:
Central to contemporary Democrats' self-image is their conviction that they are more intelligent and refined than Republicans. Thus, millions of Democrats fell hard after their 2000 and 2004 Presidential defeats for an absurd hoax claiming that Blue States like Connecticut have average IQs as much as 26 points higher than Red States like Utah. 
This may help explain why Bill Clinton is insistent that he personally “wrote and rewrote” his lumpish new book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy. Since, as the subtitle implies, Democrats are smart, a super-successful Democrat like Bill Clinton must be a natural prose stylist in little need of a competent ghostwriter. In reality, however, Clinton’s verbiage is embarrassingly amateurish, especially when compared to George W. Bush's 2010 bestseller Decision Points. 
Clinton seems to believe that being able to extrude long sentences demonstrates intelligence. Thus, on p. 6 of Back to Work, I tripped over a sentence of 85 words. Forewarned, I began to track Clinton's XXXL-size sentences. By page 20, I had found additional leviathans of 91, 105, 110, 98, 118, and a full 200 words. On pp. 23-24, Clinton discharged a blue whale of a sentence lasting 346 words, after which I gave up looking.

Read the whole thing there.

60 comments:

Henry Canaday said...

"Clinton seems to believe that being able to extrude long sentences demonstrates intelligence."

As a German student, he must have read Thomas Mann, whose sentences can run much longer, with the main verb saved for the very end, like the solution to a frustratingly difficult detective story.

Anonymous said...

To quote Samuel Johnson,"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure."

I'm guessing that Bill was frequently masturbating while writing this diarrhetic screed.

Anonymous said...

speaking of long sentences, try reading John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University--the only book I've ever literally flung across the room.

John Craig said...

A sociopath's ego knows no end, and Clinton can't be understood unless viewed through the prism of sociopathy:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2010/08/sociopath-alert-bill-clinton.html

not a hacker said...

Steve, you did it to me again:

That shouldn’t (be) too hard of a case to make.

Jeez that's annoying. There's no need for the 'of'. I beg you, please, get used to the more literate construction omitting the 'of'.

Anonymous said...

Who reads these things anyway?

For political theory, they can't compare to Locke et al.

For history, they can't compare to (name some good historian; I'm ignorant but as a Germanophile I like Geoffrey Wawro).

For persuasive political writing, they can't compare to articles 1/100 of the length.

What's the market for this?

Samson J. said...

Back to Work appears to consist of Powerpoint bullet points strung together with the favorite punctuation mark of the ex-President (but almost nobody else): the semicolon.

Hey!

The semicolon is also my favourite piece of punctuation, and in fact I regard the ability to use it well as one telltale mark of a skilled, erudite writer.

That 346-word sentence includes five semicolons.

*swoon*

icr said...

You should write a review of the newly published book by President Hoover:
http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/bookman/article/herbert-hoover-revisionist/

Anonymous said...

The semicolon is also my favourite piece of punctuation, and in fact I regard the ability to use it well as one telltale mark of a skilled, erudite writer.


The operative phrase there is "use it well". That rarely happens. Typically when you see a sentence with multiple semicolons it's a sign that the writer was too stupid or lazy to express himself better.

edgy gurl said...

Counting words in sentences. I love it when you go all
aspergerie. But you could quit with making everything into an -ism, couldn't you?

Matt said...

Honestly I'm, morbidly curious. Steve (or someone else with the book), would you mind posting the 346-word sentence?

John Craig said...

Speaking of egos (above), sorry, but I don't know how to take my picture off my comments if I just use my Google account.

dearieme said...

Churchill really could write, but he used assistance when it suited him. I gather that he was too vain to admit to it, though.

Geoff Matthews said...

I liked the note of where 346 words ended. It gave a real sense of the awfulness.

Anonymous said...

"That shouldn’t (be) too hard of a case to make."

Yes. There should be no pandering to illiterates with stonerisms like this.

A young fellow of my acquaintance was keen on the following contruction: "The point being is...". I thought he was using it with irony or something until I challenged him and dicovered that he had no idea.

While we're on this, has anyone noticed that SWPLs now start every sentence with the word 'So...'? If it was written today, the Bible would start 'So in the begining...' Mark Anthony would have said 'So friends, Romans and countrymen...'

Gilbert Pinfold.

Anonymous said...

Here is the 85 word sentence from amazon.com preview
"In other words, the crash occurred because there was too little government oversight of and virtually no restraint on risky loans without sufficient capital to back them up; the recession was prevented from becoming a depression because of a government infusion of cash to shore up the banking system; and the downturn hurt fewer people because of the stimulus, which supplemented wages with a tax cut, saved public jobs, and created jobs through infrastructure proj- ects and incentives to create private-sector jobs, especially in manufacturing. "

Anonymous said...

"As a German student, he must have read Thomas Mann, whose sentences can run much longer, with the main verb saved for the very end, like the solution to a frustratingly difficult detective story."

MOST German writing is like that. To this day. I haven't seen this in any other language. I'm familiar with all the major European tongues and with Chinese. German is the only language I know that does this. Ideas that in normal languages would be expressed in 3, 5 or more sentences are routinely expressed in a single sentence in German. You often can't make sense of these sentences until you reach their ends. I sometimes forget the beginning before I get to the end.

I've seen it claimed that working memory has an extremely high correlation with IQ. The working memory threshold for making sense of German newspaper articles or novels is very high, much higher than in the case of English.

Does anyone know why German does this? How did this peculiarity develop, in what century?

Anonymous said...

346 words?

He's a piker.

I can think of a book-length sentence that begins "Yes because he never asked for breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs..." and ends with "...yes I said yes I will Yes."

Anonymous said...

What's the market for this?

Signaling. You leave it on the coffee table. Or a bench in the hall. Friends and visitors see it. They're meant to infer something from it. You don't read it, for heaven's sake.

ricpic said...

Ever try to get through a NY Times opinion piece? They're interminable. My conclusion is that lefties are high self-esteem types who really believe that every word they write is a gift from on high to us lesser breeds. Ergo longer is better.

Delon said...

The classical Latin "periodic" style, exemplified by Cicero and Livy among others, is characterized by multiple subordinate clauses and the main verb coming only at the very end of a sentence.

Truth said...

"The semicolon is also my favourite piece of punctuation, and in fact I regard the ability to use it well as one telltale mark of a skilled, erudite writer."

The sentence actually would have worked better with a semicolon, rather than the comma after "punctuation", and the "and."

Truth said...

"As a German student, he must have read Thomas Mann, whose sentences can run much longer, with the main verb saved for the very end, like the solution to a frustratingly difficult detective story."


Now Hank...

poiuy said...

@not a hacker:

> That shouldn’t (be) too hard of a case to make.

I want to weigh on the other side - without the 'of', it's still there, just implied. It does feel clumsy with it there, but without it it's like a missing tooth. I prefer it there.

Harry Baldwin said...

Bill Clinton's autobiography, "My Life," starts off with this clunker of a sentence: "Early on the morning of August 19, 1946, I was born under a clear sky after a violent summer storm to a widowed mother in the Julia Chester Hospital in Hope, a town of about six thousand in southwest Arkansas, thirty-three miles east of the Texas border at Texarkana."

I'll bet he wrote that himself too.

Anonymous said...

Andre Agassi's autobiography was suspiciously well written for a book with only his name on the cover, but in the acknowledgements he thanked the ghostwriter.

The Clinton years were indeed economically good for much of the country, finally achieving growth rates close to the postwar decades. This growth was the reason for reduced deficits, not the other way around. However, it was not sustainable, being based on an asset bubble in the stock market from irrationality in the private sector. Rubinomics also created the basis for the economic distortions harming us today, as his high dollar policy, NAFTA/GATT/WTO deals, and exploitation of East Asia in its 1997 crisis together helped create the trade deficit that is making it so hard to decrease unemployment.

Kylie said...

I'm surprised you didn't refer to Clinton's verbose sentences as "Jamesian".

Five Daarstens said...

Clinton seems to want to redeem his reputation vis-à-vis this financial crisis we are in. In large part the bubble that exploded was built up in the 1990's, and was helped along by Clinton and Rubin deregulating and making the economy more of a financial one. I recently read a recent Bogle book about the crisis and couldn't believe that Clinton wrote the forward.

Ray Sawhill said...

Ghostwriters deserve a lot more appreciation than they generally get.

jody said...

well, he was a rhodes scholar. sometimes when you got a big brain with a lot of big thoughts, you want to make an elaborate point. but often, verbose doesn't get ya close. usually, terse is not worse.

lol @ thomas mann. never read much of him in german but if his sentences are very long, it would be so hard to follow and comprehend what he was writing, when you combine a LONG sentence with those german split verbs, which come at the end. (43 word sentence, steve beware!).

Anonymous said...

"he Clinton years were indeed economically good for much of the country, finally achieving growth rates close to the postwar decades."

Six successive amnesties, and free trade deal after free trade deal sadly took their toll.

jody said...

"MOST German writing is like that. To this day. I haven't seen this in any other language."

ha! what about when they make up new words by ramming together 2, 3, even 4 disparate words? and they mash them up a bit too, so it's not always a simple case of making up a new word by collecting existing words into a string, like say, menssoccerstadiumbathrooms.

so you end up with some highly specific idea expressed as a single new word that is 20, 25 letters in length, maybe even more. then the sentences REALLY get hard to plow through. time needed to comprehend each paragraph = forever!

Marc B said...

This book is an insult of monstrous proportions considering this former president successfully pushed for a bipartisan coalition for NAFTA, GATT and entry into the WTO. He sold out the working class whites way back in the early 1990's, but they caught on rather quickly.

Anonymous said...

""The semicolon is also my favourite piece of punctuation, and in fact I regard the ability to use it well as one telltale mark of a skilled, erudite writer."

The sentence actually would have worked better with a semicolon, rather than the comma after "punctuation", and the "and."

What difference does it make? I read it the same way. If we spoke the sentence there wouldn't be any punctuation. Language is really meant to be spoken. Writing is secondary.

As long as I get the meaning it shouldn't matter. Commas seem to be overused. Some people put a comma before a but and before an and in a sentence. The meaning doesn't change.

Dr. Johnston said...

Somebody said: "I want to weigh on the other side - without the 'of', it's still there, just implied."

This person obviously has no idea what he's talking about, and should refrain from commenting on matters about which he is clearly completely uninformed.

Anonymous said...

"Yes. There should be no pandering to illiterates with stonerisms like this.

"A young fellow of my acquaintance was keen on the following contruction: "The point being is"

What about Obama? He's very fond of saying, "The point is is that we know that blah, blah, blah."

The second "is" is not the result of a stutter. I guess he's using it as a conjunction connecting his subject /verb combo to a relative clause.

I guess a Harvard degree means nothing.

Gilbert Ratchet said...

Hegel's house burned down, and he rushed in to save the third volume of his collected works, because that's where the verb was.

Drunk Idiot said...

So Gilbert Pinfold said,

"[Has] anyone noticed that SWPLs now start every sentence with the word 'So...'? If it was written today, the Bible would start 'So in the begining...' Mark Anthony would have said 'So friends, Romans and countrymen...'"

So I started to really notice this about six or seven years ago, but back then, beginning declarative statements with 'so' was mainly a SWPL (or whatever SWPLs were called at the time -- 'Stuff White People Like' debuted in 2008) female trait. It seems like it came into vogue with upscale college girls and post-collegiate single girls at least a decade ago, but didn't become a standard unisex SWPL trait until a little bit later on (after 2006 or so).

Now it's as ubiquitous (among both sexes of SWPL) as ending a declarative sentence as though one were asking a question?

'So' essentially means 'thus.' So it's kind of annoying when somebody strikes up a conversation by saying something like, "So I like your 'Che' T-shirt ... I've got one just like it ... great minds think alike." Annoying though it may be, starting statements with 'so' is essentially used to signal the speaker's level of education, class, and tribe (not as in "The Tribe," but as in SWPL tribe vs. "meathead" jocks, SWPL vs. "douchebags," SWPL vs. Guidos, SWPL vs. "wingnuts," etc.). Thus, it's here to stay.

Drunk Idiot said...

So leaving SWPL aside for the moment, the practice of beginning a declarative statement with the word "so" is extremely pronounced in academia and in the sciences. Try to find a professor (particularly in the humanities and social "sciences") or a scientist under the age of 55 who doesn't do it. You'll be looking for a long time. Ask any physicist how the universe came into being and he'll say something like, "So quantum fluctuation led to the 'Big Bang,' and inflation caused the it to expand rapidly."

Instapundit readers may even notice that Libertarian law professor Glenn Reynolds often publishes blog posts that begin with sentences like the following:

"So today I was taking some pictures in downtown Knoxville with the new camera I just got from Amazon. Check out how cool the new bridge they're building over the Tennessee River looks with the new fisheye lens I also just got from Amazon."

Mr. Anon said...

"Second, celebrities should use a ghostwriter. They are busy people and they owe it to the public not to inflict their hypomania on them in book form."

Or, alternatively, we could instead elect the kind of politicians who are thoughtful enough to write well. And that would have the added benefit that, being more thoughtful, they might actually think more and act less.

Nobody summed up Bill Clinton better than did Jesse Jackson. Speaking of what Clinton was at root, he said "....there is nothing, nothing but an appetite."

Douglas Knight said...

Have you read Clinton's book on giving? Do you think he wrote it?

Anonymous said...

Why Clinton's book is worse than Bush's: Bill wrote it himself

You mis-spelled hisself*.










*That link is for the [definitive] definition, at Urban Dictionary [obviously], but the Derb will be pleased to learn that the word actually dates from the 12th Century [which, for all y'all OWS protesters, is another name for the 1100's].

Gene Berman said...

Truth:

Absolutely right. The guy with an
erotic fixation on the semicolon doesn't realize failing to cleave two thoughts with one (or a period) exemplifies a cardinal (English Comp I) sin: the "comma splice."

Six (including aforementioned): misspelling, misplaced modifier (including the infamous "dangling participle"), and lack of agreement in number, case, or tense. Chastisement was neither verbal nor corporal; an example of any one (and each and every one) simply cost a letter grade. No fuss or bother, no individual or special "help" (except perhaps from classmates). Draconian? Perhaps; but extremely effective, as almost all became nearly perfect in this respect.

The single big difference between "then" and "now" in what's taught is that, with words or phrases in series, a comma is no longer used between ultimate and penultimate. I say it's neither improvement nor simplification but, rather, idiocy; I find frequent examples where lack of separation actually causes ambiguity (i.e., meaning varies with whether members are comma-separated, interpretation is indeterminate, not possible under the older rule.

Samson J. said...

The sentence actually would have worked better with a semicolon, rather than the comma after "punctuation", and the "and."

Of course, I deliberated over that very issue, and decided at the time that a semicolon would have felt "forced" and unnatural. This morning, though, I agree with you. Well, it only goes to underscore Steve's point that you should always have your work checked by someone else! (Or at a minimum, by yourself again after having put it aside for 24 hours or so.)

Gene Berman said...

Truth:

Regardless of rules (old or new), there are elements of style in English where meaning must be rendered through appropriate punctuation not necessarily conforming to particular rules.

"He was running at full speed, she was trying desperately to keep up, and, as the terrain grew rockier, the nimble rock-monsters were narrowing the distance."

It just ain't the same with semicolons or periods, according to any ordinary rules. Try it. Something important is lost (there's probably a word or phrase for it, similarly to "lost in translation" when attempting to render specific meaning in one language into another).

Gene Berman said...

First Anonymous:

We really don't know much about Bill "while writing." We know just a bit more about YOU (and what YOU think about).

Or, were you trying to explain to us that Bill is ambidextrous (it's difficult to do anything else with a hand with which you're writing)?

NOTA said...

Drunken Idiot:

So, younger researchers in my field definitely do this. It's a pecuiliar kind of conversational marker, often used either to answer a question,or to introduce a new topic or idea.

"How does this paper compare with the previous work of Finkelstein and Putzenbaum in the Journal of Obscure Results?"

"So, the Finkelstein and Putzenbaum algorithm was only shown to be O(N lg N) in the average case, whereas our result proves O(N lg N) in the worst case."

Anonymous said...

"....being able to extrude long sentences..."
I have always assumed he DID inhale.
His devotion to hedonism is merely a element of a large degree of psychopath trait. His father is portrayed in a KANSAS CITY STAR feature article back in the early 90's--a flaming psychopath. It is a not unreasonable hypothesis that varied substance abuse over time has give rise to his loose goose verbal style.

Anonymous said...

Drunk Idiot, your assessment of the 'so' thing is exactly what I was thinking. The origin is perhaps German, so maybe it does connect to The Tribe after all via Yiddish.
GP.

Anonymous said...

"What difference does it make? I read it the same way."

Exactly. You are the only person in the world, so only what you do should matter.

Forget "everyone else" and their "rules" since they aren't real people!

Truth said...

""He was running at full speed, she was trying desperately to keep up, and, as the terrain grew rockier, the nimble rock-monsters were narrowing the distance."

Funny, when I read that sentence, it seems as though the first clause "she was running at full speed", is the sort of clause that is too dependent for a period, and too independent to be grouped in with the others with a comma. It seems as a perfect semicolon phrase.

Truth said...

Especially in a dramatic context such as a novel, in a mere, emotionless explanation the comma is probably fine.

Anonymous said...

There is zero evidence that Bill Clinton is actually a high IQ visionary.

His record is the record of a political wind sock who used consultants to forge meager victories in three way races.

One might say there's no there, there. Except the is a bottomless pit of narcissism there.

Quelle surprise. His book is a poorly written borefest instead of the work of a high IQ visionary.

Truth said...

"Quelle surprise. His book is a poorly written borefest instead of the work of a high IQ visionary"

Maybe Ayers wrote it.

edgy gurl said...

I've only noticed one person using "so" obsessively on this blog and I'm pretty sure he/(probably )she isn't white.

As for semicolons:

they can be used to link shorter independent sentences that are closely related

they can link related independent sentences that otherwise would be better connected rather than separated by periods or more verbiage in the form of transitions

Of course, this is a blog and I'm pretty sure there will be a separate set of punctuation rules for making one's words stand out on a webpage.

Brent Lane said...

I can't let this post go by without a belated note of deep appreciation for the anonymous author(s) of the 2004 "red state/blue state" IQ hoax.

I was emailed that meme by a progressive friend in early '05. With my bullshit detector tingling, I promptly Googled "democrat smarter 2000 economist IQ", which led me here...which became my introduction to the alt-conservative blogosphere.

Wish I could thank them in person.

Anonymous said...

Whats the market for this?

Something like this?

Londoner said...

I'd like to weigh in on G. Pinfold's side against the intrusive "of" - it's like nails down a blackboard. Couldn't be any more obvious to me that constructions like "not that hard of a job" are wrong - it has to be "not that hard a job".

Something almost as bad that seems to creeping in though (in the US at least) is using "than" on its own, i.e. without "more" or "less". So we get weird usages like "it's a debate than an argument" - usages that have no value whatsoever because you don't know whether "more than" or "less than" is meant. It's a bizarre trend. Am I the only one to have a problem with it?

David said...

Who reads these things anyway?

For political theory, they can't compare to Locke et al. [...]

What's the market for this?


The market for this is that Locke lived hundreds of years ago and was never President of the United States. He never flew on Air Force One. He never banged chicks in the Oval Office and all around the country.

Nothing succeeds like recent success.

In our Might-Makes-Right culture, Locke is a loser and Bill Clinton is a winner, pal, a winner right now. Who wants to listen to a loser, huh?

Clinton is also RICH. Rich! Case closed.

David said...

>Something important is lost<

Yes, the original conveys the desperate, almost-falling-down scramble over the rocks.

But that is a literary artist with great skill making an exception to convey a special effect. All effects should be used sparingly and with the light touch of a master. You don't want a movie or a book containing nothing but bad, random special effects, because it would be impossible to watch or read. The effectiveness of effects lies in the fact that they are special, i.e., exceptions and not the rule.

Moreover, literary effects are distracting and ineffective in discursive writing. Breathless prose, comma splices, and overlapping dialogue in a scientific report, for example, would make it worthless as a precise, quantifiable description of the subject.

The only annoying use of semicolons which I know of is separating dependent clauses with them; which is ungrammatical; or maybe not; but still annoying.

Nothing better satifies the experienced writer than the crafting of a grammatically correct sentence, especially if it is an accurate one. Ultimately, all the run-on sentences in the world - all the effects you can think of - can't beat that.