What's worse than going to the dentist? The "straw-man".
My dentist, who I have been going to for twenty years is in Burbank. I call him the "Dentist To The Stars" because his offices are near many movie and television studios and there are frequently "persons of note" who use his services. Not too long ago I ran into Smokey Robinson in the hallway! "Hey" to Smoke, if you're out there in the blogosphere!
Being the office of the DTTS, the accommodations are deluxe and each dental chair has a flat screen television attached to it with full cable access. I could have watched anything but this morning at 7:30 AM, after I showed up for my appointment to repair a filling, and filling in the time that the DTTS was seeing other patients (i.e., late for mine!) I was presented with President Bush's news conference.
Here's an excerpt from today's press conference where the now not so secret but illegal NSA wiretaps are questioned:
Q …. On the subject of the terrorist surveillance program --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q -- not to change the tone from all this emphasis on bipartisanship, but there have been now three sponsors to a measure to censure you for the Implementation of that program. The primary sponsor, Russ Feingold, has suggested that impeachment is not out of the question. And on Sunday, the number two Democrat in the Senate refused to rule that out pending an investigation. What, sir, do you think the impact of the discussion of Impeachment and censure does to you and this office, and to the nation during a time of war, and in the context of the election?
THE PRESIDENT: I think during these difficult times -- and they are difficult when we're at war -- he American people expect there to be a honest and open debate without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program. That's what they ought to be doing. That's part of what is an open and honest debate.
OK, so one would reasonably expect a follow up question calling Bush on the fact the no Democrat has called for "getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program", but they are calling him on breaking the oversight law in conducting surveillance. But no ... no follow-up. And since I was sitting in the chair for so long, will no impending drilling, I got to flip over to a cable news channel. The issue of Bush being asked about Feingold's censure motion was mentioned, but they passed over the the fact that Bush didn't address the real issue and that the reporters at the press conference let him slide. Maddening!
There was an excellent story that came over the AP last Saturday that called Bush on his use of "straw-man" statements:
"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.
Another time he said, "Some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free."
"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."
Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.
When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.
The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.
He typically then says he "strongly disagrees" — conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.
By the way, my mouth is still numb.
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