Friday, January 23, 2015

Ad Hominem Reasoning Examples: 2012

EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS: 2012 Ad Hominem Reasoning
"the current budget deficit is overwhelmingly the result of the depressed economy … So, the whole deficit panic is fundamentally misplaced. And it’s especially galling if you look at what many of the same people now opining about the evils of deficits said back when we had a surplus. Remember, George W. Bush campaigned on the basis that the surplus of the late Clinton years meant that we needed to cut taxes -- and Alan Greenspan provided crucial support, telling Congress that the biggest danger we faced was that we might pay off our debt too fast. Now Greenspan is helping groups like Fix the Debt."
-- Columnist Paul Krugman, December 29, 2012.

Comment: Krugman is making an accusation of hypocrisy. That is, he is saying that Greenspan (and others, though he doesn't name them) are expressing concern about the debt and deficits even though they didn't previously. First, this change isn't necessarily inconsistent. One might claim that circumstances earlier were different from now, and that therefore the deficit and debt that might have been unproblematic earlier may no longer be. Second, supposing that it is inconsistent, is it a change of position that is negative -- as in a "flip-flop" -- or positive -- as in an "evolution"? If Krugman is arguing that the hypocrisy demonstrates that Greenspan's position (earlier or later) is wrong, then he's engaging in ad hominem reasoning.

OBAMA: When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China and is currently investing in countries -- in -- in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks. That’s -- Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.

ROMNEY: Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in -- in Chinese companies. Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: You know, I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it -- it doesn’t take as long.

ROMNEY: You also investments in Chinese companies.
OBAMA: Yeah.
ROMNEY: You also have investments outside the United States.
OBAMA: Yeah.
ROMNEY: You also have investments through a Caymans trust, all right?
OBAMA: All right.

OBAMA: Now Governor Romney talked about China. As I already indicated, in the private sector, Governor Romney’s company invested in what were called pioneers of outsourcing. That’s not my phrase; that’s what reporters called it.
-- President Barack Obama, October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Obama's argument -- that Romney as president will outsource jobs just like he did when he worked in investment -- is not valid reasoning. It would be akin to arguing that, because Obama organized protests as a community organizer, therefore that's what he'll do as president. Obviously, that didn't happen. When people switch jobs, they frequently behave differently. Also, Obama avoids Romney's question about the contents of his pension. Finally, Romney risks engaging in ad hominem reasoning (of the "you too" variety) by pointing out that Obama is doing the same as Romney is doing (i.e., investing in Chinese companies). He can't simply argue that what he's doing is OK because other people are doing it (even if the other people doing it are the same ones who are criticizing what he's doing). He has to make the case that what he's doing is OK regardless of whether his critics are also doing it.

"These fact-checkers come to those ads with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs. We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."
-- Neil Newhouse, a pollster for GOP presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign, August 28, 2012.

Comment: This is ad hominem reasoning. Perhaps the fact-checkers are biased and already have political affiliations. But that doesn't mean what they say is false. To prove that, you have to see whether the content of what they say reflects the facts.

"Now, my opponent and his allies in Congress -- and the special interests that support them -- they've got a particular idea of how you grow an economy. ... if we eliminate all those regulations and we combine those with the tax cuts, then wealthy investors and companies will do very well, and the benefits then will spread to everybody else."
-- President Barack Obama, July 6, 2012.

Comment: Is Obama implying that a particular idea of how to grow the economy is suspect because of the "special interests" supporting that idea? If he is, he's engaging in ad hominem reasoning.

SHEPARD SMITH: [Israel's] ambassador to the United States today called out the chairwoman to the Democratic National Committtee and categorically denied that he ever said Republican policies were bad for Israel. … Earlier today Ambassador Oren issued a statement denying that he had ever called Republican policies harmful for Israel … Debbie Wasserman Schultz is with us. He says he didn't say that.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): And I didn't say he said that. And, unfortunately, that comment was reported by a conservative newspaper. It’s not surprising that they would deliberately misquote me. What I always say is that unfortunately the Republicans have made Israel a political football, which is dangerous for Israel. And Ambassador Oren has said that we can’t ever suggest that there is any daylight between the two parties on Israel because there isn’t. And that that’s harmful to Israel. That’s what I said, and that is accurate.
-- Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), September 4, 2012, during interview with Fox News anchor Shepard Smith.

This was in reference to what Wasserman Schultz said earlier:
"We have a "Mitt's VS Facts" document, which addresses a lot of the typical baloney that is spewed by Republicans. And, let me just close by telling you this, and sharing this with you: We know -- and I have heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this -- that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel. They're undermining Israel's security by suggesting that the United States and Israel don't have anything other than a unique and close and special relationship."
-- Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), September 3, 2012.

Comment: Wasserman Schultz clearly did make the statement she was accused of making, a blatant contradiction. More, she attempts to dismiss the revelation by using ad hominem reasoning -- "reported by a conservative newspaper" -- which is irrelevant. The political affiliation of the newspaper doesn't determine whether or not what they said is true. And it looks like their report was true, given that their report included audio of her saying that Oren had told her Republicans were harming Israel.

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