2006/10/11

Straw man arguments explained

Bush made a statement about his warrantless NSA spying program:

"'One hundred and seventy-seven of the opposition party said, 'You know, we don't think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists,' ' Bush said at a fundraiser..."

This is of course complete nonsense. Democrats don't have a problem with listening in on the conversations of al Qaeda, they just have a problem with doing so without warrants and without agents demonstrating probably cause to believe that those being monitored are indeed al Qaeda and not just some peaceniks plannng their next legal, peaceful demonstration.

Many journalists, including the WaPo's Dan Froomkin, have remarked upon the President's tendency to do verbal sparring with imaginary foes who present made-up arguments. Well, now an aide of his explains:

"White House spokeswoman Dana Perino defended Bush's remark as a reasonable extrapolation of the Democratic position. 'Of course, they aren't silly enough to say they don't want to listen in on terrorists, but actions speak louder than words, and people should know what the Democrats' voting record is,' she said."

Of course Bush didn't say anything suggesting he was re-writing anything that anybody said. Reading his statement, he appears to be quoting a number of people who all say more or less the same thing.

And naturally, the voting records of Democrats shows no such thing. People including Froomkin have commented on the tendency of Bush to make statements like this. Bush has repeatedly made up inane arguments, attributed those arguments to opponents of his and then masterfully and heroically demonstrate to his followers how inane the arguments are. In order to spot the fact that it's a straw ma argument, one has to know what the actual positions of the Democrats are. Accordingly, these arguments are very persuasive to "low-information" supporters, they're "not so much" to opponents and informed people.

The interestig and hopeful part is that enough people are catching on to this to provoke Bush's spokespeople to make up justifications.

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