Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Moral authority

Ann Coulter is in the news (again) for her latest book's attack on some of the 9/11 widows. Here's an excerpt from that article:

'Ann Coulter, the conservative pundit with a penchant for creating controversy, caused a ruckus when she called 9/11 widows "witches" and accused them of using their husbands' deaths for their own political gain.'

I saw her interviewed on TV and she coupled her playground insults with an actual argument. She said that what frustrated her was the fact that she saw the widows as saying "Because we're widows, our positions simply can't be attacked and our motivations simply can't be questioned." Now, I've not heard them claim this directly, but technically she's right: to say that one's stance guarantees the truth of one's statements is a logical fallacy. Unfortunately, to talk about this in such a manner is basically another, subtler ad hominem attack. Instead of taking the high ground and doing what she thinks they should do, which is attack arguments on their own merits, she's poisoning the well: everyone leaves the discussion viewing the war widows' putative unimpeachability as arrogance.

What then do we do with John Murtha, whose Vietnam experience doesn't guarantee the truth of his claims, or Cindy Sheehan, whose loss doesn't guarantee the truth of hers? One word: respect. It's possible to combine an attack on someone's position with a deep respect for their experiences. How not to do this was demonstrated on the floor of the House by Louis Gohmert.

Rep. Gohmert: Let me close by saying some have not had nice things to say about our colleague Mr. Murtha, and others wanting to pull out of Iraq quickly. I understand the faithful visitation that he does routinely. So I say thank God for his big heart. I say thank God for his compassion. Thank God for his visits to the wounded. Thank God for his ministering to grieving families. But thank God he was not here and prevailed after the bloodbaths at Normandy and in the Pacific or we would be here speaking Japanese or German. Thank you.
Rep. Murtha: Was the gentleman at any of those locations? Either at Normandy or any of those locations?
Rep. Gohmert: You want to know which locations?
Rep. Murtha: Yeah. Normandy?
Rep. Murtha: I say were you there?
Rep. Gohmert: No, sir. I wasn't.
Rep. Murtha: Were you in Vietnam?
Rep. Gohmert: No, sir.
Rep. Murtha: Iraq?
Rep. Gohmert: No. I have been over there. I haven't been fighting.


So, to sum up:

Left: takes experiences as guarantors of truth. WRONG.
Right: takes possible arrogance because of such experiences as excuse for ad hominem attack. WRONG.
Gohmert: to attack a decorated Vietnam vet by saying thank God he wasn't at Normandy, while simultaneously comparing Iraq to World War II? Wow. I mean, wow.

Final score: Dr. Trammell 2, John Murtha 1, Ann Coulter 0, Louis Gohmert -957.

9 Comments:

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

I don't know how to comment, but I totally agree.

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous dadman said...

I would like to say Rep. Gohmert is clinically insane--he sounds it--but he's just an example of the current GOP's useful strategy of saying one thing is another, even though it isn't, and going on saying it no matter what.

For example: Saddam = 9-11
Questions about the war = undermining the troops/treason/etc.
Murtha = someone who would not have resisted the Germans.

And so on. The second side of the equation tends to be so awful that people forget to wonder if the equals sign is legit.

 
At 4:43 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

"he's just an example of the current GOP's useful strategy of saying one thing is another, even though it isn't, and going on saying it no matter what."

Easy there Dadman- last time I checked the Bush=Hitler campaign had been going strong for years, neither side has a monopoly on truth.

 
At 5:48 PM, Anonymous dadman said...

What, Bush doesn't equal Hitler?

 
At 5:50 PM, Anonymous dadman said...

Honestly, though, jacks, I think it's people like me in the grassroots who do the Bush-Hitler thing, not the Democratic establishment. I do believe the GOP establishment is more prone to these wild equivalencies. The Dem. establishment is prone to wild confusion. I could be wrong, I'm not trying to get on a high horse here.

 
At 8:22 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

jacks, your ship is sunk here. You can't possibly counter dadman's examples of Republican substitution with anything you've brought up so far. He asserts that Republicans are constantly conflating Saddam and 9/11. You're going to oppose that by saying Democrats are constantly conflating Bush and Hitler?! That there are as many examples of Democratic talking points juxtaposing Hitler and Bush as Republicans juxtaposing 9/11, the war on terror and Iraq? No way. Two completely different things.

And dadman's exactly right that your Bush = Hitler "campaign" is, if anything, the grassroots and not the establishment. Find me an example of Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, HIllary Clinton, Joe Biden, or any of their crew saying something like that. I want quotes. MoveOn? Fine. House members? Maybe. But the powerful senators? The establishment? Again, no way.

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

Dick Durbin- Guantanamo=Soviet Gulag, but I'm not going to argue this point by point, case by case, article by article. I'm not saying the Republicans aren't more in the wrong on this, I'm only disagreeing that less wrong = blameless, and I didn't think the point of this post was to make blanket statements like,

"The second side of the equation tends to be so awful that people forget to wonder if the equals sign is legit."

which may seem perfectly reasonable to you on the left, but perfectly objectionable to anyone not there...

and yes, Gohmert is an assclown, but he isn't the only assclown in congress, and they aren't all republicans.

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

1) Comparing Guantanamo Bay to a Soviet gulag is not the same thing as comparing Bush to Hitler.

2) Despite that, I think I had a blog post hating on Durbin for complaining about something he facilitates.

3) So I guess we still agree on everything.

4) Shut up.

 
At 2:55 PM, Anonymous dadman said...

jacks:

"I'm not saying the Republicans aren't more in the wrong on this, I'm only disagreeing that less wrong = blameless"

As the Good Book says, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God..."

And when you write

"which may seem perfectly reasonable to you on the left, but perfectly objectionable to anyone not there..."

I think you miss part of my point--this is GREAT stuff the Republicans are using, it's wonderfully effective. If I or anyone on the left had one of these "equalities" that would work as well as "Saddam = 9-11" for example, we would be shouting it from the housetops.

I would want to question Durbin's equals sign just as you do--I was making a point about those equals signs in and of themselves, not partisanly.

Of course there are Democratic clowns in Congress. But you guys are in charge! You're the top dogs, the head honchos, the big cheeses. Relax already!

 

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