Friday, January 23, 2015

Ad Hominem Reasoning Examples: 2008

EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS: 2008 Ad Hominem Reasoning
"This action, which is politically motivated, is the result of three years of leaks, rumors and spectacle designed to harm me. ... I want to assure the people of Puerto Rico that I have never solicited or accepted a donation in exchange for a government contract, have never permitted misuse of funds or acted illegally. I know several of the accused very well and am convinced that they have never accepted a bribe or stolen a cent. If anyone did it, I would be the first to request that they be charged. Since the federal authorities know this is true, they have decided to extend their jurisdiction and distort the truth."
-- The governor of Puerto Rico, Anibal Acevedo Vila (D), March 27, 2008, responding to news that he and 12 other people were being charged with campaign finance violations.

Comment: Like most politicians who are denying some accusation or other, Acevedo isn't content to just stick to the facts at issue. Instead, he goes on to question the motivations of his accusers by calling the charges "politically motivated," which is just an attempt to argue that the charges against him are false because those making them have bad intentions. So, yet again, we have a politician trying to defend himself by using ad hominem reasoning.

"'Human rights police' like [Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy] Pelosi are habitually bad tempered and ungenerous when it comes to China, refusing to check their facts and find out the truth of the case ... Her views are like so many other politicians and western media. Beneath the double standards lies their intention to serve the interest groups behind them, who want to contain or smear China."
-- Chinese government, March 23, 2008, responding to Pelosi's comments on China's handling of the March 2008 riots in Tibet.

Comment: The Chinese government is trying to dismiss Pelosi's criticisms -- of it's handling of the March 2008 riots in Tibet -- on two grounds: first, that she has bad intentions toward China; second, that she hypocritically employs double standards. But both of these arguments are ad hominem. Even if Pelosi does have malicious intentions toward China, that doesn't prove that her criticisms are unfounded. And, even if Pelosi is hypocritically holding China to a standard that she doesn't hold other countries to, that doesn't mean that the standard she is currently holding China to is an unreasonable one.

"[Chairman of the Democratic National Committee] Howard Dean's hypocrisy is breathtaking, given that in 2003 he withdrew from the matching funds system in exactly the same way John McCain is doing today."
-- Brian Rogers, spokesman for the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), February 24, 2008. Rogers was responding to Dean's call for McCain to be prevented from withdrawing from the system providing public funding for presidential campaigns. Dean made this call on the grounds that McCain had used the prospect of receiving public funds to obtain a loan for his presidential campaign.

Comment: Rogers seems to be making an ad hominem appeal to hypocrisy. That is, he's arguing that, since Dean did the same thing that McCain is doing, Dean can't say that McCain's actions are wrong. But this is ad hominem. Maybe Dean did engage in the same behavior, and maybe he is being hypocritical by criticizing McCain. But that doesn't mean that that behavior is acceptable. Dean's hypocrisy may be breathtaking, but it doesn't prove that McCain is doing nothing wrong.

"The one thing that is clear is that when power is confronted with real change, they [referring to Bill and Hillary Clinton] will say anything."
-- President Barack Obama's wife, Michelle Obama, January 23, 2008.

Comment: This is name-calling, and perhaps ad hominem argument as well. Although it is certainly the case that the Clinton campaign has resorted to unfair tactics, this "stop at nothing to hold on to power" accusation is false and derisive. (This accusation is made in lots of political contests, but is it ever true? Is there ever a candidate or politician who would literally say or do anything to achieve power? I doubt it.) Plus, pretty much every campaign uses unfair tactics at some point or another, Barack Obama's included. Does that mean it's fair to say "Barack Obama will say anything to become president"?

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