Friday, February 03, 2006

Bush and the Straw Men
Bush and the Straw Men
Byron Williams

If Republicans during the Clinton Administration were frustrated by the former president's ability to use triangulation, Democrats must be equally irritated by President Bush's use of the Straw Man fallacy.

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position.

The president has perfected his role as politics answer to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen using the Democrats as the Charlie McCarthy. At the State of the Union, with the nation watching, the president placed a facsimile of the Democrat's argument on his lap and proceeded to effectively put words into the dummy's mouth.

In addressing the NSA eavesdropping scandal the president stated: "It is said that prior to the attacks of Sept. 11 our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy.

"So to prevent another attack, based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute, I have authorized a terrorist-surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected Al Qaeda operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have, and federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed.

"This terrorist-surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with Al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again."

This "terrorist-surveillance program", in which the president admitted in a press conference last week requires that he circumvent the existing laws, is necessary; and to follow the Straw Man Democrat's way of thinking could result in another attack.

In order to believe that we are safe, we must have bankruptcy legislation that benefits primarily the banking and credit card industries while punishing those who cannot pay catastrophic medical expenses, tax cuts ad infinitum that have furthered the gap between rich and poor while adding to record deficits, and a war that the administration has shrewdly manipulated so that only a very few actually feel its pain.

This administration was wrong about WMD, wrong about torture, and is being proven wrong about democracy in the Middle East, as recent elections will attest. But it is the Straw Man Democrat who doesn't mind if we are attacked again that offset these facts.

Where are the courageous Democrats willing to stand up to Karl Rove's nonsensical assertion that there is a Mason-Dixon line that delineates a pre-9/11 versus a post -9/11 worldview?

Is Rove suggesting that in this Post-9/11 world we can attack countries with flawed intelligence, bankrupt our own nation, a pay lip service to the victims of natural disasters and that's okay?

This administration loves to point out that there has not been another attack on America since 9/11--this somehow justifies their otherwise dubious behavior.

Suppose, god forbid, there is another attack.

Will the administration cease and dissent its present course? Or will it use fear to become a bigger, stronger, less caring version of itself?

The tragedy of 9/11 does not change everything. It does not make the president above the law. Nor does it suggest that we must forgo our values in order to hang onto to the slender thread of perceived safety.

As for the Democrats, to call them an opposition party would be an insult to every member that has gone before them who has risen on behalf of those in the minority. By capitulating through their willingness to accept their Straw Man role, they have become the "Costello" to the GOP's "Abbot."

This does not bode well for a party that is hoping to gain seats in the Senate and House this fall. Frankly, if they cannot break out of the Straw Man mold I question whether they deserve to be put in control.

It is not enough to be right on the issues. For as the president has successfully demonstrated it is possible to be wrong on the issues and merely appear to provide leadership--especially when you can also put words in the other party's mouth.