Literally Not Figuratively

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 6 2012 10:37 PM

Literally Not Figuratively

CHARLOTTE -- Ad-libbing: It's what Irish-American pols do best. There was nearly as much riffing in Joe Biden's speech as there'd been in Bill Clinton's.

TEXT: That’s the President's job.

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SPEECH: That's what presidents do, or at least what they're supposed to do.

TEXT: I just don’t think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant -- to all of America

SPEECH: What I don't understand -- what I don't think he understood -- was what saving the automobile industry meant.

The extra ands and repetitions and literalies -- folks, literally not figuratively, they work in a setting like this. And Biden's speech-crafters have figured out how to say odd things without setting off the fact-check monitors. Who were these mystery opponents complaining that "America is in decline?" Has anyone literally said to Biden, "hey, I'm betting against America?" If Clinton tried to talk through an intellectual argument in jess-folks language, Biden started with jess-folks and ended up parked on the ranch house's lawn.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.