Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Circular Argument

It was fun hearing the prototype for Barack Obama, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, on the radio today giving the standard democrat lament about how all this focus on Pastor Wright constricts critical issues talk. Patrick, who appears once a month on WTKK in Boston with hosts Jim and Margery, was elected 18 months ago as the "Yes We Can" candidate, refusing to lay out any policy specifics, instead talking about the Power of Hope.

This twisted logic of the issues argument frustrates those who are still using their heads, but for the choir, provides a sentence to repeat that makes them feel justified in feeling indignant. It's like all the Bill Clinton supporters, whose true contempt for the Clintons is revealed now by their zealous attempts to save Obama from Hillary, ran around saying that Bill was only lying about sex. Repeat utter nonsense enough times, and it starts to feel like an argument.

For those who feel pulled by the issues argument, consider this:
  1. Barack says there's no need for any more debates, as he's already faced Hillary 21 times. Enough with the issues, his actions say. Even if you want to argue that in the last debate it took 45 minutes to get to the issues, my answer would be, "fine. If talking about the issues is so critical, we can do it after the character questions."
  2. Candidates for President lie about what they believe to fit the political imperatives, like Barack did about Reverend Wright. To try to get a sense of what a president will do in office, you look at the candidates' record. For example, President Clinton's time in Washington was very similar to his leadership in Little Rock. Since Barack has virtually no record to look back on, each stone we can turn provides important insights into who he is and what sort of leader he would be if he wins his first management job ever.
  3. Character is critical in a president, much more important than what he says about the issues. Just look at all the problems the country went through under Bill Clinton due to his character flaws. And Clinton's strength as president, his supporters argue, was his competence, not how he fought for liberal causes. Character, competence, experience - these are qualities we want to investigate, and hearing about the differences between Barack's and Hillary's health care proposals is hardly going to be of any importance when the final legislation is written. We know they're both eager to get universal health care that's government run.
Please explain all this to Scot Lehigh, an often good columnist for the Boston Globe who made the very same ridiculous point yesterday in his column entitled "Let's focus on Obama's views, not Wrights:

What's really relevant here is not what Jeremiah Wright says but what Barack Obama believes.
And in his remarks yesterday, Obama said unmistakably that Wright does not speak for him.

So we trust what he says, Scot, when this is a position that he's evolved into under political pressure and contradicts common sense? These liberal newspapers are without conscience in shilling for candidates.
Fair-minded people should judge him on his own beliefs - and not on the rhetorical sins of his former pastor.
But Scot, how do we learn what he believes when we can't trust what he says? Aren't there lots of old sayings about judging a man by who he hangs with?

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