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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Straw Dogs

The AP actually takes on the preznit's nasty rhetorical habit of using straw-man arguments to present his "case".

When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.


Yep. Reductio ad absurdum arguments go hand-in-glove with the straw man. I don't know if I want to bother getting into the chicken-egg aspects of all that, but a cursory glance of any of the popular conservative pundits and blogs (no, I'm not going to name or link to any of them) will show those exact same tactics used with predictable regularity.

Bush routinely is criticized for dressing up events with a too-rosy glow. But experts in political speech say the straw man device, in which the president makes himself appear entirely reasonable by contrast to supposed "critics," is just as problematic.

Because the "some" often go unnamed, Bush can argue that his statements are true in an era of blogs and talk radio. Even so, "'some' suggests a number much larger than is actually out there," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.

"It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people," Fields said. "All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent. What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff."


It's turning out more and more that that's all they have to offer, which is why even their own base is starting to desert them. Between Buckley and Fwill and Nooners and the rest of the rats swimming franticcaly away from the U.S.S. Chimpco, you'd think they hadn't endorsed this fucking clown not once, but twice, and condemned the high-falutin temerity of the three-digit IQ set who dared to point out that this guy was nothing but a ball-scratching moron.

Nice try, folks. You wanted him, you got him, and you're stuck with him.

Of course, Bush really shovels on the bullshit come election time. If the last three are any indication, this year's oughta be a screamer. After all, these are the utterly shameless draft-dodgers who threw triple-amputee Max Cleland under the bus. There is literally nothing they won't do or say to mischaracterize an opponent, and the more upright and well-meaning that opponent, the more shameless they are.

Campaigning for Republican candidates in the 2002 midterm elections, the president sought to use the congressional debate over a new Homeland Security Department against Democrats.

He told at least two audiences that some senators opposing him were "not interested in the security of the American people." In reality, Democrats balked not at creating the department, which Bush himself first opposed, but at letting agency workers go without the usual civil service protections.

Running for re-election against Sen. John Kerry in 2004, Bush frequently used some version of this line to paint his Democratic opponent as weaker in the fight against terrorism: "My opponent and others believe this matter is a matter of intelligence and law enforcement."

The assertion was called a mischaracterization of Kerry's views even by a Republican, Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) of Arizona.


Oh, that was back when McCain still retained some small shred of dignity. The man is an embarrassment now. I seriously do not understand how McCain can go home and face his family every night as a man, after what those fucks said about him and them in the SC primaries in 2000. No pride.

Shit, Charlie had nothing on Bush's team, as far as what they could make McCain do. Charlie broke his arms, but Bush broke McCain's spirit, turned him into the worst sort of toadying bootlicker. It's nauseating, much like Bush's oratory and cheap rhetoric.

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