Obama: The King of the Straw Men

straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.
STRAW MAN: argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.

President Barack Obama has a neat trick that he plays over and over again.  He used it in the campaign, and now regularly uses it as President.

It is the classic ‘straw man’ argument.

What is a straw man argument? It is an argument that bases its rationale on a fallacy or misrepresentation of your opponent’s beliefs.  Mr. Obama is a master of this.

It’s a classic political maneuver – when you are in trouble, create a crisis and then create a straw man to blame for the crisis.  Mr. Obama does this on a regular basis.

For example, last month’s AIG bonus brouhaha illustrates this.  I think there is a unanimous belief the bonuses were wrong, when the taxpayers had bailed out the company.  But ultimately, who was to blame?  AIG and their employees entered into the bonus contracts in good faith a year ago, well before the credit tsunami hit.  Were they to blame for not forseeing this crisis?  I think that is a big logical leap.  Then, it ultimately falls on the shoulders of the government beurocracy who was assigned to provide oversight of the TARP funds.  In this case, it was the New York Federal Reserve; headed previously by none other than one Timothy Geithner, now the Treasury Secretary.

But instead of just taking blame, Democrats and Obama went on the offensive against AIG.  And don’t get me wrong, AIG is far from excused from blame.  But on this singular issue, what were they supposed to do?  Negating the contracts would have ensured legal fights.  And the current CEO was not even in charge when these contracts were awarded.  Their was no rational thinking involved, just an emotional knee-jerk response.  They misdirected the blame, because the blame ultimately would fall on their own shoulders.

Obama frequently uses his straw man attack on Republicans.  For example, on tax cuts:

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems…

or this…

… that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures…

or …

“There seems to be a set of folks who — I don’t doubt their sincerity — who just believe that we should do nothing,” he said.

…or maybe his most oft used line…

“I reject the view that . . . says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.”

Can you name anyone that thinks tax cuts are the ONLY solution to our problems?  No such person exists…yet Obama seems to be fighting again such a person.  Who supports half measures, or says we should do nothing?

Keep an eye out for these straw men that Obama sees everywhere.  Whenever you hear one of these arguments, you can bet that there is a underlying issue for which Obama knows that his arguments are weak at best.  Why use a straw man argument when you don’t have to?  It is a troubling precedent.  Think of it this way:  each time he makes these arguments, it is fundamentally based on a falsehood.  He is basing his entire rationale for policy measures on a lie.  Now, I am not saying he doesn’t have a rational argument, just that he is not using one.  And on top of that, he is misleading the public on what his opponents believe as well.  Why do that if you arguments are superior to your opponents?

If nothing else, Obama should stop using these straw man arguments for his own sake.  It undermines his own credibility when he uses falsehood as the basis for his policy arguments, especially when many of his policies have legitimate (albeit questionable) basis in fact.

2 thoughts on “Obama: The King of the Straw Men

  • April 6, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Actually, yes the republicans’ proposed budget was pretty much just tax cuts. They don’t want any of the programs Obama is proposing. And Obama accepted blame and responsibility for the AIG bonuses. You just weren’t paying attention.

  • April 7, 2009 at 4:54 am

    With the same breath, Obama took blame for the AIG bonuses…and at the same time would blame someone else: Bush, Republicans, Execs. You can’t take blame and then blame others at the same time. That is not claiming responsibility.

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