Straw men

STRAW MEN…. About three years ago, the AP noted that George W. Bush had a nasty “straw man” habit. He’d start sentences with “some say,” the AP noted, omitting “an important nuance” or substituting “an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.” Bush would then “strongly disagree” with the non-existent position of his rival, “conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.”

I thought of this old AP piece this morning when I saw Karl Rove, of all people, complaining that President Obama “routinely” relies on “the lazy rhetorical device of ‘straw men.'” He argued, “Everyone resorts to straw men occasionally, but Mr. Obama’s persistent use of the device is troubling.”

There are two broad angles to this. The first is the hypocrisy. As A.L. noted, “[O]n a hypocrisy scale of 1 to 10, [Rove’s column] is about an 842…. Anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to politics over the last eight years knows that straw man argumentation is Karl Rove’s specialty. He took the practice to never before seen heights during his years in the White House.”

But there’s also the specifics of Rove’s accusations.

[T]here’s Mr. Obama’s description of the Bush-era tax cuts. “A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy,” he explained in his Tuesday speech, after earlier saying, “tax cuts alone can’t solve all of our economic problems — especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few.”

The Bush tax cuts were not targeted to “the wealthiest few.”

Actually, they were.

In his inaugural address — which was generally graceful toward the opposition — Mr. Obama proclaimed, “We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” Which Republican ran against him on fear, conflict and discord?

If Rove really doesn’t remember, Glenn Greenwald offers a refresher: “How about the people who accused him of ‘pallin’ around with Terrorists’ or who said: ‘Terrorist states are seeking new-clear weapons without delay – he wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America – he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights?’ or who accused him of being a ‘Marxist’ and a ‘Communist’ and his wife of being an angry America-hater and who circulated a campaign to convince Americans that he was a secret Muslim and an anti-Semite.”

A lot of writers publish misleading and hypocritical columns occasionally, but Mr. Rove’s persistent habit of writing drivel is troubling.