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The following is an excerpt from this NYT article ( 9th paragraph). It is a comment that senator Romney made over Trump's decision to pull back the U.S. troops.

Critics in both parties condemned the president’s approach. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said that by sending Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo to Turkey, Mr. Trump was trying to fix a problem of his own creation.

“It’s very hard to understand why it is the vice president and secretary of state and others are going to talk with Erdogan and Turkey,” Mr. Romney told reporters. “It’s like the farmer who lost all his horses and goes to now shut the barn door.”

Shouldn't it be why is it instead of why it is?

“It’s very hard to understand why is it (that) the vice president and secretary of state and others are going to talk with Erdogan and Turkey,” Mr. Romney told reporters. “It’s like the farmer who lost all his horses and goes to now shut the barn door.”

If why it is is indeed the construction he used, then shouldn't there be a that in his expression?

“It’s very hard to understand why it is the vice president and secretary of state and others that are going to talk with Erdogan and Turkey,” Mr. Romney told reporters. “It’s like the farmer who lost all his horses and goes to now shut the barn door.”

Essentially, is he saying that he can't understand (figuratively) why it is those specific people that are going to negotiate with Turkey (he sees them as unqualified), or that he can't understand why they are even bothering to try to negotiate with Turkey (perhaps because he thinks Turkey will be irresponsive to their demands)?

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When people are speaking and trying to formulate a thought, they frequently add or delete words that might help clarify what they say.

It's very hard to understand why it is that X

It's very hard to understand why it is X

mean the same thing. Yes, "that" would make the sentence more intelligible, but people do not always speak (or even write) in the clearest possible way.

The whole thing is a clumsy locution. Better might be

It’s very hard to understand the rationale for the vice president and secretary of state going to talk with Erdogan. It’s like the farmer who shut the barn door after all his horses were lost.

I have no idea what Romney thinks of Pence and Pompeo, but he is certainly not saying in this quotation that they are incompetent. He is saying that they are too late.

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