Politics Skepticism/critical thinking

Oops, he did it again

Just yesterday, I commented about an article that analyzed President Bush’s penchant for using rather artless straw man fallacies when answering his critics. By an almost amazing coincidence, that very day he was busily engaged in doing more of the same in a press conference. For example, when asked about the terrorist surveillance program in which he used not one but two straw men argument in the same response:

I did notice that nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that’s what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say the tools we’re using to protect the American people shouldn’t be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we’re not going to have a terrorist surveillance program. That’s what they ought to be doing. That’s part of what is an open and honest debate.

There’s straw man number one. No one is saying that we shouldn’t have a terrorist survellance program. The point of disagreement is over what form that survellance program should take and what power the President has (or does not have) under present law to spy on American citizens. What critics of the President’s authorization of wiretaps are opposed to is a terrorist surveillance program that won’t submit to judicial oversight through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts. What they (and I) are opposed to is giving the President–any President–carte blanche to spy on American citizens without even the weak oversight the notoriously NSA-friendly FISA court enforces.

Here comes straw man number two:

I did notice that, at one point in time, they didn’t think the Patriot Act ought to be reauthorized — “they” being at least the Minority Leader in the Senate. He openly said, as I understand — I don’t want to misquote him — something along the lines that, “We killed the Patriot Act.” And if that’s what the party believes, they ought to go around the country saying we shouldn’t give the people on the front line of protecting us the tools necessary to do so. That’s a debate I think the country ought to have.

No, the reason there was opposition to renewing the Patriot Act was not because anyone thinks that “we shouldn’t give the people on the front lines the tools necessary” to protect us, but rather because of concern that some provisions in the Act endangered Constitutionally-protected rights. In a free society, we have to balance those rights against the need to protect our citizens against terrorist attacks.

Worse, not only did he use two straw man arguments, but he in essence accused his opponents of either lying about or hiding their true agenda, and he had the chutzpah to claim that he was the one for “open debate.”

You know, I wonder what Bush apologists who attacked Jennifer Loven, who wrote the original article deconstructing Bush’s love of the straw man fallacy, would say about Bush’s latest demonstration of his intellectually lazy use of this common fallacy.

No doubt they’d deny that it was a straw man at all.

You know, it occurs to me that I’ve posted multiple political posts two days in a row. Yes, they were concerned with critical thinking and the examination of a logical fallacy common in politics or with the NIH budget, but they were way more political than what I usually post. I think that’s enough for now. It’s time to get back to my more usual fare, and that will happen tomorrow.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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