The interview conducted by David Halbfinger and Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times with Caroline Kennedy (who seems to have dropped the name Schlossberg permanently), as linked below in today’s Featured Articles, did not have the headline “As A Candidate, Kennedy Is Forceful Yet Elusive” when it first appeared on the newspaper’s site yesterday morning. Instead, it originally read “As A Candidate, Kennedy Is Eloquent Yet Elusive,” and is still identified in those words at the Times’s own website Blogrunner, despite the fact that the quotes attributed to the candidate, as they appeared in the published article, had little of the rhetorical art for which Ms. Kennedy’s father gained renown (with some help from Ted Sorensen).
The interview was one of Ms. Kennedy’s first attempts at a sit-down conversation with the press, following several weeks during which she preferred to deal with the Fourth Estate by giving them written replies to written questions. Within a few hours after its appearance, the irreverent website Gawker pointed out that in one of the audio clips attached to the interview, the would-be successor to Sen. Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate seat managed to use the words “you know” (as a “discourse marker” as the linguists say, rather than in any intelligent grammatical context) a dozen times in 49 seconds. Almost within minutes after that observation was posted, the Times changed the headline to what it is now.
Last night, the Times also put up what is seemingly a word-for-word transcript of Ms. Kennedy’s conversation with Halbfinger and Confessore. In what must have been a conversation lasting about 40 or 45 minutes, she uses “you know” no less than 138 times. Especially impressive are two occasions where she uses the words five different times in one sentence – or what would be a sentence, if it were not, in both cases, a chain of clauses with no grammatical conclusion.
Indeed, throughout the transcript, Ms. Kennedy proves to be nearly as unable to articulate a proper sentence as was the case when she appeared on Meet The Press last spring to endorse Barack Obama for the presidency. As I listened to the clips at the Times’s site and read the transcript, I had to conclude to send her to be America’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom would make this country the object of ridicule in that isle where Shakespeare’s unmoved bones rest.
And while it is true that quite a few Senators, past and present, have been as inarticulate as Ms. Kennedy, very few among them have used what facility of speech they had to assert, as Ms Kennedy more or less does in this interview, that they should be in the United States Senate, well, because they want to be there, whether or not there are more qualified candidates for the job. As Gawker’s Gabriel Sherman pointed out today, Ms. Kennedy’s supply of hauteur, manifested more than a few times toward Halbfinger and Confessore (as the transcript shows), may be her biggest problem of all as she seeks this office.
(Also noteworthy is an entry at the Language Log blog which discusses editing of the audio clips featured with the Times article, and not acknowledged at the site.)