How do you run the clock in politics and diplomacy, the art of evasive display? Say a lot–even as you say nothing. (Clearly this is an art that Jay Carney and most Presidential spokespersons have mastered.)
Language is used for all sorts of reasons other than to convey thought accurately. We use it to suggest a general attitude, to distance ourselves from others—and sometimes just to say something rather than nothing. Mr. Carney didn’t intend any of the many words in his answer to convey specific content. At one point, manifestly needing to fill silence with words, he remarked that “it’s important to understand that there’s not some magic number—6,999,999—and the system collapses, one more than that and it functions perfectly.”
But this isn\’t to criticize Mr. Carney. Politics necessarily involves the use of words and sentences stripped of content.