While reading an article, I found a sentence of which I couldn't get the exact meaning, which was:

It is difficult, at the moment, to fully assess the damage Trump is wreaking. We have never had a president like him, so history is a poor guide. For his racism, we can perhaps look back to Woodrow Wilson; his general unfitness to hold the nation’s highest office recalls the hapless Andrew Johnson. Maybe Andrew Jackson was as impetuous, maybe Richard M. Nixon as venal. (Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post, December 24, 2018)

And this is another sentence I slightly changed in a way that it looks somewhat familiar to me:

Andrew Jackson was as impetuous as Richard M. Nixon was venal.

So the questions are:

  1. Is there a significant difference between those sentences in terms of meaning?
  2. Could you grammatically analyze the original sentence? Are there any omitted components or inversions?

You can find the full article on:


  • "as" is in reference to Trump. – Hot Licks Jan 22 at 20:05

This is a common elision. When meaning is clear, especially in parallel structures, some words unnecessary to comprehension are often omitted. Without elision, here is the full sentence, with the elided words in brackets:

Maybe Andrew Jackson was as impetuous; maybe Richard M. Nixon [was] as venal.

  • 4
    I think we should also clarify that Jackson and Nixon are being compared to Trump, rather than to one another. – choster Jan 22 at 16:32
  • 1
    @choster: Since it's right there in the same paragraph, with plenty of pronominal references back to Trump, it didn't seem to me to need clarification, especially since people on this site can be sensitive about political issues. I'm glad you edited his article to include the full citation, however. But if the OP truly didn't understand the linkage, then his difficulties are perhaps more basic, in which case the question itself belongs on ELL. – Robusto Jan 22 at 16:54

The full sentence, with elisions and indirect references restored, would be:

Maybe Andrew Jackson was as impetuous as Trump, maybe Richard M. Nixon was as venal as Trump.

This is not particularly ambiguous if you have good understanding of idiomatic English.

  • I am curious as to why this was down-voted. – Hot Licks Jan 23 at 2:17
  • maybe because of the hundreds of asinine, inane comments you leave on teh site, especially to questions. or maybe not – green_ideas Jan 23 at 3:15

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