Thursday, February 02, 2006
Bush Dazzles Audience at the Grand Ole Opry with an "Army of Straw Men and a Fleet of Red Herrings."
Editorial New York Times
The March of the Straw Soldiers
President Bush is not giving up the battle over domestic spying. He's fighting it with an army of straw men and a fleet of red herrings.
In his State of the Union address and in a follow-up speech in Nashville yesterday, Mr. Bush threw out a dizzying array of misleading analogies, propaganda slogans and false choices: Congress authorized the president to spy on Americans and knew all about it ... 9/11 could have been prevented by warrantless spying ... you can't fight terrorism and also obey the law ... and Democrats are not just soft on national defense, they actually don't want to beat Al Qaeda.
"Let me put it to you in Texan," Mr. Bush drawled at the Grand Ole Opry House yesterday. "If Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know."
Yes, and so does every American. But that has nothing to do with Mr. Bush's decision to toss out the Constitution and judicial process by authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a warrant. Let's be clear: the president and his team had the ability to monitor calls by Qaeda operatives into and out of the United States before 9/11 and got even more authority to do it after the attacks. They never needed to resort to extralegal and probably unconstitutional methods.
Mr. Bush said the warrantless spying was vetted by lawyers in the Justice Department, which is cold comfort. They also endorsed the abuse of prisoners and the indefinite detention of "unlawful enemy combatants" without charges or trials.
The president also said the spying is reviewed by N.S.A. lawyers. That's nice, but the law was written specifically to bring that agency, and the president, under control. And there already is a branch of government assigned to decide what's legal. It's called the judiciary. The law itself is clear: spying on Americans without a warrant is illegal.
One of the oddest moments in Mr. Bush's defense of domestic spying came when he told his audience in Nashville, "If I was trying to pull a fast one on the American people, why did I brief Congress?" He did not mention that some lawmakers protested the spying at the briefings, or that they found them inadequate. The audience members who laughed and applauded Mr. Bush's version of the truth may have forgot that he said he briefed Congress fully on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We know how that turned out.
Editor's Note: A straw-man argument is the practice of refuting a weaker argument than an opponent actually offers. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to your opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is also a logical fallacy, since the argument actually presented by your opponent has not been refuted, only a weaker argument.
Editor's Note: A Red Herring is a logical fallacy committed when someone introduces irrelevant material to the issue being discussed, so that everyone's attention is diverted away from the points made, towards a different conclusion. A logical fallacy is used in an attempt to intentionally confuse or distract someone else, it is known as a "red herring". This phrase is thought to have originated from the use of smoked herring fish to distract dogs following a scent trail. The herring's strong smell could obscure the real trail and lay a false one.