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I'm currently reading this article, and a paragraph says,

“I honestly don't say this lightly, but I don't know how you could look at the things that have happened over the last year … [and] under the new leadership of the bureau and not say that it is a complete failure in doing its job on behalf of student loan borrowers,” Frotman said. “The current political leadership at the CFPB has prioritized the interests of the student loan industry over the very real plight of the 44 million Americans who have student loan debt.”

How is the bold part functioning?

"Not say that" is doing what?

Or anyone else does not say that?

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There's a bit of a shift in what the pronouns are referring to over the course of the sentence (exacerbated by the fact that the quote appears to have been cut in an awkward spot) that makes it harder to interpret.

Simplified, the sentence goes:

I don't know how you could look at [the situation] and not say that it [the bureau/the leadership] is a failure.

It may be a little confusing because there is both a positive and a negative action that are linked to the same introductory clause "I don't know how you could..."

Simpler example:

I don't know how you could [do x] and [not do y].

I don't know how you could try ice cream and not like it.

Frotman is arguing that a reasonable person who sees what the CFPB is doing will admit that the bureau is failing to look after the interests of student loan borrowers.

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I don't know how you can

a) see this

b) and call it that

a) and b) do not fit together. It is impossible to believe in the truth of both facts at once.

PS: "this" and "that" are determiners. I choose to use the for brevity. The determiners represent parts of the longer phrase: this = the beauro; that = not a failure. One could rephrase: "Do you believe the beauro is not a failure?", "Can you (see the beauro) and (believe it is not a failure)?", the given variant "... and (not believe ...)" is just a little bit less strong. That is the basic structure of the sentence. The omitted parts describe with more detail the two noun phrases "beauro" and "it", which happen to have the same referent, and matching descriptions. The disagreement which is expressed in the sentence rests on the verbal phrases, "can see" and "can not believe". It would be helpful to read the conjunction "and" as if it were "but".

  • ahm.....I'm afraid I don't understand you completely and can not find any of your words near by the line at contention. – Kentaro Sep 8 '19 at 13:23

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