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.