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Sunday, March 19, 2006
 
AP Critiques Bush's Arguments



Here's an oddball little article from the AP that is not labeled analysis, or opinion, but which offers exactly that.

The writer, Jennifer Loven (no doubt headed for 60 Minutes' producer status soon), claims that Bush uses "straw-man" arguments. A "straw-man" argument is when you mischaracterize your opponent's position, then rhetorically demolish it. It is a quite common political technique, and indeed, generally unfair. But check out the "straw-man" arguments she points to:

"Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day," President Bush said recently.

Is that unfairly characterizing the arguments of John Murtha and the antiwar crowd?

Another time he said, "Some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free."

Perhaps not the most felicitous phrasing, but certainly many (both conservative and liberal) have questioned whether democracy can work in Muslim countries.

"There are some really decent people," the president said earlier this year, "who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care ... for all people."

Oh, no, nobody thinks the federal government should be the decider of health care for all people. They just think the federal government should be the provider of health care for all people. And of course, once you become the provider of health care, you quickly become the decider of health care (since anything that is free must be rationed).

But even worse than this part of the article, is where Loven goes to her "experts" to analyze Bush's straw men.

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."


Note that there is no effort to provide balance in the article; nobody is cited who mentions that the Democrats do the same thing frequently. Nobody notes John Kerry's straw-man arguments. Peter Daou will no doubt be pleased with this article.

BTW, this is not the first time Jennifer Loven has written articles that could have been clipped from DNC press releases. Power Line noted her back in 2004 covering for Jean Fraude Kerry, oddly enough in exactly the same way; opining that Bush was unfairly characterizing the Boston Fog Machine's positions.

The Sake of Argument noted her in 2003 writing opinion pieces disguised as news.

This is yet another editorial being passed off as a news report.

For Loven to assert that “so far, none has worked,” would seemingly imply that she has evidence that none of it has worked. And, at the risk of sounding Clintonian, what exactly do you mean by “work?”


Note that in the comments to that piece, a further bit of information about Loven can be gleaned:

Is Jennifer Loven biased in her reporting? Well, consider this: Jennifer Loven is married to Roger Ballentine, who is president of Green Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in energy and environmental issues, and was previously deputy assistant to President Clinton for environmental initiatives and chairman of the White House Climate Change Task Force. He also sits on the board of directors of Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF)along with actors Ed Begley, Jr. and Larry Hagman.

Here's a supposed "straw-man" argument that's not too hard to prove correct:

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."

From a Meet The Press interview with Nuancy Boy:

MR. RUSSERT: But the Republicans, Vice President Cheney included, have pointed out to a comment that you made during a Democratic debate which they think undercuts your support of the war on terrorism. "The war on terror is...occasionally military. ... But it's primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."

SEN. KERRY: Yes.


Others taking a whack at this article: Protein Wisdom, Sister Toldjah and Riehl World View.
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