President Bill Clinton may have explained what the meaning of is is.
But President Barack Obama is making sure we understand it.
That ”double-is” — “what I’m saying is, is that” — which cropped up in the presidential debates is a pesky construct — with a bipartisan tradition, too — that has proven hard to shake when Obama is speaking on his own.
So note’s Slate’s “Lexicon Valley.”
Back in the campaign debates with Republican Mitt Romney, the word-watchers at the University of Pennsylvania noted, Obama was recorded saying such things as:
“Governor, the problem is, is that on a whole range of issues whether it’s the Middle East whether it’s Afghanistan whether it’s Iraq whether it’s now, uh, Iran
you’ve been all over the map.”
“But what the American people understand is, is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and to move our interests forward and I make those decisions. ”
“Consider the following three sentences:”
`What has to happen is is that the money has to come from somewhere.’
`What I’m telling you is is that the economy’s strong, it’s getting stronger.’
`The thing is is that the pickle selection on this menu is staggering.’
“The first is from Obama during a presidential debate, the second from a speech Bush II gave to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the third from me during a late-night dinner at Jacob’s Pickles on 85th and Amsterdam.”
What this is, is about extemporaneous speaking.
The speechwriters deftly write around this trap — note the remarks Obama made to the Business Roundtable yesterday:
“But what is also true is that if we’re going to be honest about our debt and our deficits, our real problem is the long term, not the short term. ”
Yet speaking without a script, what that double-is is, is it’s habit-forming.
Such as Obama’s remarks at a news conference at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg: “And what’s also true is, is that that experience with the war in Iraq colors how people view this situation not just back home in America, but also here in Europe and around the world. That’s the prism through which a lot of people are analyzing the situation.”
At a “town-hall” styled event at Binghamton University last month in a tour touting the importance of higher education, the president said:
`And the young people who have served in our armed forces just do extraordinary work. One of the problems, though, is, is that they don’t always get credit for the skills that they already possess when they come home. ”
It’s just what it is, is.
All of which is, is a lot more benign than this explanation: