Thursday, April 10, 2008

March 2008

Today's Debate
March 5, 2008

Hillary Clinton Caricatures George W. Bush

Appearing on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart March 3, 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton (D, NY) caricatured President George W. Bush as being someone who doesn't care about Americans:

"The folks in Ohio desperately need a president who's actually going to care about them."

And, later in the same show, she said:

"I just feel that it's time that we said 'Look, we need to get a president again who actually gets up every day and cares about the American people'. What a novel idea."

These statements are a perfect example of demonizing one's opponent.

Bush's policies are fair game. It's entirely fair for Clinton to say that Bush's policies and decisions have had bad consequences for Americans, and that different policies and decisions are needed in order to improve the fortunes of Americans. Clinton and her supporters can argue her point and offer their reasons for thinking that she's correct, and Bush and his supporters can argue in the other direction, offering their reasons for thinking that Bush's policies are good ones.

But to say that Bush just doesn't even care about Americans at all, and wasn't even TRYING to improve the lives of Americans, that's derisive name-calling. Clinton should apologize for it and not do it again.

Today's Debate
March 5, 2008

Ahmadinejad's Ad Hominem Argument

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on March 1, 2008, tried to dismiss U.S. accusations that Iran is contributing to the violence in Iraq:

"Iran has no need to intervene in Iraq. It is friendly to all groups in Iraq. Isn't it ridiculous that those who have deployed 160,000 troops in Iraq accuse us of intervening there?"

In other words, Ahmadinejad is arguing that, because the U.S. is intervening in Iraqi affairs (in particular, by having 160,000 troops there), it is in no position to complain about other countries intervening in Iraqi affairs. This line of argument, though, is an ad hominem appeal to hypocrisy. Just because the U.S. is intervening in Iraqi affairs doesn't mean that any claim it makes about other countries doing the same is false. Ahmadinejad's reasoning is flawed.

Moreover, you could argue that Ahmadinejad's argument also fails on the grounds that Iran and the U.S. are involving themselves in Iraqi affairs in very different ways: U.S. forces are in Iraq with the approval of Iraq's government; Iran (the U.S. alleges) is providing covert aid to Iraqi militias against the wishes of the Iraqi government. Thus, for Ahmadinejad to say that the U.S. is also "intervening" is to go well beyond what the U.S. means when it uses the term with respect to Iran. Can Ahmadinejad make his accusation more specific - that the U.S. is covertly aiding Iraqi militias against the wishes of the Iraqi government - and have it still be truthful?

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