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The Unintended Utility of The Straw Man Argument

Posted by ColoradoPatriot at 6:16 pm - April 19, 2009.
Filed under: American Self-Hatred,Obama Bashing America

One of the most ubiquitous (and my most favorite to pick apart) argumentative fallacies is that of the Straw Man. The Straw Man Fallacy is a cop-out in a debate wherein if an arguer has no (or insufficient) defense of his own position, he’ll simply argue against a point that nobody is making. In doing so, he can claim victory without ever having to face an actual intellectual challenge.

A favorite example of this from the Left is that of questioning someone’s patriotism. Although we hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden about how patriotic it is to pay higher taxes, never have I heard a prominant Republican raise the issue of anybody else’s patriotism. Never. Nonetheless, it is a constant theme of the Left when the efficacy of their policies are questioned to resort to the Straw Man argument that their opponent is “questioning the patriotism” of said Leftist politician.

But then something curious usually happens: in so defending himself, ironically, the Leftist in question actually does raise the question of his own patriotism where otherwise it wouldn’t even be a thought in a voter’s mind. I remember first hearing this bizarre line of accusation during a presidential election several cycles ago and thinking to myself, “Yea, well nobody’s questioning your patriotism. But come to think of it, isn’t it a good idea that we elect someone president who is patriotic? That’s not asking too much, is it? To have a president who’s patriotic? Maybe we should ask candidates about their patriotism. I’d kinda like to have a president who loves America.”

Comes along Barack Obama (who, in spite of his constant drumbeat of anti-American rhetoric as he tours the world, I believe really does love America after all), who’s turned straw man-building into a way of political life. His latest is brought to us from (once again) foreign soil. Not content to simply diss us as “disengaged” and selfish, now we’re bullies.

The quote from The One was: “We’re not simply going to lecture you, but we’re rather going to show through how we operate the benefits of these values and ideals.” The straw man here is obvious. Who, Mr. President, has been lecturing? And who suggested we should?

More importantly, this kind of raises the question: Perhaps Americans don’t want a president who “lecture”s other nations or their leaders about liberty and freedom. But is it asking too much for a president to embrace these ideals at least? To advocate them? We have a president whose reply to those who feel he’s gone too far toward nationalizing the banking system and the automotive industry, who feel his forrays into nationalizing a private health industry, whose profligate spending and borrowing will only further weaken an already hobbled US (and world) economy, is “we won”.

Lecture,” Mr. Obama? No. We wouldn’t expect you (nor even consider asking you, with the track record you have) to “lecture” other nations or their leaders. But how about if you showed us you believe in American principles in the first place?

-Nick (ColoradoPatriot) from Undisclosed Alternate HQ

It Takes Time to Awaken a Sleeping Giant

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 4:04 pm - April 19, 2009.
Filed under: Big Government Follies,Tea Party

Reminding us of the spendthrift ways of President Bush and the Republican Congresses of the early 2000s, Democratic officials and liberal bloggers attempt to deny the sincerity of Tea Party protesters and conservative Republicans decrying the excessive government spending proposed by President Obama and passed by a Democratic Congress.  Their line of attack shows they would rather dwell on our alleged hypocrisy than defend their excessive spending.

It is shocking that some of the very people who attacked then-President Bush for increasing the debt burden we are passing onto the younger generation support his successor’s plan to increase that debt far quickly than W ever dreamed possible.

Now, I do agree that our critics have a point when they wonder why we take to the streets to protest increased spending in the Bush era.  To be sure, we did speak out against his profligacy, but not to the extent we are doing so now.

I think that’s because it takes time for a movement to coalesce.

The roots of this one lay in the TARP bailouts last fall.  Back then, some of the conservative bloggers most strongly supportive of the Tea Party movement (notably Michelle Malkin) spoke out against such multi-hundred billion dollar plans.  Those bailouts sparked the outrage at government profligacy which would coalesce in the tea parties.

Perhaps, some who opposed the bailouts found solace in Obama’s election, believing that he, being of a different party than the then-incumbent President represented a real change.  I mean, it was a Republican Treasury Secretary who proposed such bailouts.

But, when they saw that that change was just more of the same, only on steroids, with a spendthrift “stimulus,” followed by excessive increases in government spending (i.e., as advanced in Obama’s budget), the outrage began to grow.

It takes time to awaken a sleeping giant.  In under six months time, the American people saw our elected leaders propose successive increases in federal spending.  As we watched deficits increases, we just wondered if thought the federal treasury was a never-ending source for their largesse.

Yeah, maybe we should have been awakened sooner.  But, just because we didn’t react more strongly earlier doesn’t mean we are wrong to address it now.  It takes some gall for those on the left to fault Republicans for deficits in the hundreds of billions of dollars and then question the sincerity of those who get upset at deficits twice and three times that number.

Instapundit links.  Thanks, Glenn, much appreciated. He builds on my point with perhaps the perfect analogy (perhaps more on this anon):  “But you know Al Gore’s story about the slowly-boiling frog? Obama’s turned the stove up to 11, and the frog has started to kick.

UPDATE: Commenting on this post, Jehuda at Rhetorican offers, “Hypocrisy has nothing to do with the Left’s gripe about the Tea Parties.” Exactly. They’ll just use whatever club they can to attack us.

Steve Schmidt’s Comments on the GOP & Gay Marriage

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 3:25 pm - April 19, 2009.
Filed under: Gay Marriage,Republican Resolve & Rebuilding

Last month, former McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt advised Republicans to “steer clear” of divisive social issues.  This month a headline in USA Today suggested he had gone a step further, calling on the GOP to back gay marriage.

That headline, however, did not accurately reflect the content of his remarks.  Schmidt merely urged that Republicans, in the words of a Washington Post headline writer, “rethink gay marriage:”

For the party to be seen as anti-gay, that is injurious to its candidates in places like California and Washington. . . . Republicans should reexamine the extent to which we are defined by positions on issues that I don’t believe are among our values and that put us at odds with what I expect will [be] over time, if not a consensus view, then the view of a substantial majority of voters.

Given the support Republicans enjoy with social conservatives, it would be folly for the party to back gay marriage (heck, even the Democrats don’t back gay marriage), but given the need for the GOP to win back suburbanites and reach out to young voters, it would be an even greater folly to let the party be defined by such social conservatives.

The perception that the party’s focus is social issues is a killer to building a broad-based coalition that can win elections.  And the GOP seems to gain that perception when it loses sight of the fiscal conservative principles which drove its success in the 1980s and 1994.

When we lose sight of those principles, for example when President George H.W. Bush raised taxes despite pledging not to do so, then the party’s social conservative principles seem to dominate as they did at the 1992 convention and in that fall’s election.

So, Steve Schmidt is spot on.  We can’t let the party be seen as anti-gay.  We need to better articulate our common principles and develop an agenda based on them as House Republicans did in 1994 with the Contract with America.

Obama and Ortega’s Anti-American Tirade

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 1:18 pm - April 19, 2009.
Filed under: Anti-Americanism Abroad,Leadership,Obama Watch

Something struck me as incredibly self-serving, narcissistic even, when I read than in response to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s lengthy and angry tirade against the United States at the Summit of the Americas, the President of the United States responded, “You can’t blame the U.S. for every problem in this hemisphere. . . . I am very grateful that President Ortega didn’t blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.a’  (Emphasis added.)

Well, Law Professor William Jacobson, referencing the times the President attempted to use his youth to excuse the behavior of a terrorist associate, helped me find the words to express why Obama’s response to Ortega was so off-putting:

There is something truly bizarre about this reasoning. If something happened when Obama was not of a certain age (we know it is at least eight years old, although we don’t know where the line is drawn) then he accepts no responsibility. That is fine if one is talking about personal responsibility only. Obama is no more responsible on a personal level for what others did, be it yesterday or 30 years ago, than anyone else.

But Obama no longer is “anyone else.” Obama is the President and bears the burden of dealing with accusations and attacks on this country related to events which did not take place on his watch.

Exactly.  Obama is no longer “anyone else.”  He speaks for the nation, for all of us.  Not just himself.

“Amorphous” Aspect of Tea Parties:
Evidence of Their Grassroots Nature

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 4:08 am - April 19, 2009.
Filed under: Tea Party

Perhaps the most accurate description of the tea parties in one of Andrew Sullivan’s tirades against this grassroots phenomenon was his use of the adjective “amorphous” to slur the rallies  To be sure, he used that word to modify our “rage.” (Wonder if, after February 24, 2004, he ever found “rage” to be a defining quality of the anti-Iraq War protests.)

Having now attended three tea parties (one back in February), I agree that the movement is kind of amorphous.  The rally in Santa Monica was a particularly “haphazard” affair.

But, this is how grassroots movements begin, as amorphous affairs, gatherings of a diverse array of individuals with a common concern, but lacking a set agenda on how to address that concern.  So, we take the streets, meeting others who share that concern, in this case about an ever-growing federal government.  Once together, we start working on means to improve our amorphous movement so we might better reach our goals.

If they were astroturf, they would have had been better organized, had more structure.  A platform would have preceded the protests.  And now, let’s hope the protests lead to a platform.

Those who criticize us are welcome to do so.  It’s their right as Americans.  But, when they let their rage define our activism, they become blind to the legitimacy of our movement.

On the Social Benefits of Being a Gay Conservative

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 3:37 am - April 19, 2009.
Filed under: Blogging,Liberal Intolerance

This past week I’ve been working my way through a Clint Eastwood collection I bought on sale last week at Best Buy, so movies haven’t provided the source of humor they normally do.  But, I haven’t needed turn to the silver screen to find a source of laughter.  I just needed follow an “Incoming Link” on our dashboard to a left-wing blogger who tried to pillory a post of mine.

I don’t think his goal was to elicit peals of laughter from me.  But, if it was, then, my hat’s off to him.  He did a swell job.  A Mr. Oliver Willis accused me of sounding “that old conservative woe-is-me song” for pointing out that “all too many [but fortunately not all] on the left seek to insult and otherwise strive to discredit conservatives rather than engage them on the level of ideas.

While comparing conservatives to simians who hurl excrement, Willis called our ideas “the crazed rantings of lunatics” and defined conservatives by our most extreme elements.  I won’t make the mistake of defining all liberals by Mr. Willis’s angry rant.

But, it’s that “woe-is-me” thing that’s kind of sticking in my craw.  You see, it sounds kind of similar to an accusation a reader hurled against me in the comments section not even a week ago, accusing me of playing the victim.  It’s something I got a lot when a left-wing blog linked a post I wrote about the intolerance some gay people harbor for gay conservatives.

What was funny was that, in that post, I wasn’t complaining about the intolerance of a man who proposed marriage to me on learning of my love for mythology, but refused to deal with me after learning of my politics.  I was just using his intolerance as an example of a phenomenon in the gay community:  the animus so many left-leaning gay people harbor against their conservative fellows.