Skip to comments.Bush's Rhetoric Targets Unnamed Critics
Posted on 03/22/2006 10:44:07 AM PST by Alas Babylon!
"Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day," President Bush said recently.
Another time he said, "Some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free."
"There are some really decent people," the president said earlier this year, "who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care ... for all people."
Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.
When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.
The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.
He typically then says he "strongly disagrees" - conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.
Bush routinely is criticized for dressing up events with a too-rosy glow. But experts in political speech say the straw man device, in which the president makes himself appear entirely reasonable by contrast to supposed "critics," is just as problematic.
Because the "some" often go unnamed, Bush can argue that his statements are true in an era of blogs and talk radio. Even so, "'some' suggests a number much larger than is actually out there," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.
"It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people," Fields said. "All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent. What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff."
Bush has caricatured the other side for years, trying to tilt legislative debates in his favor or score election-season points with voters.
Not long after taking office in 2001, Bush pushed for a new education testing law and began portraying skeptics as opposed to holding schools accountable.
The chief opposition, however, had nothing to do with the merits of measuring performance, but rather the cost and intrusiveness of the proposal.
Campaigning for Republican candidates in the 2002 midterm elections, the president sought to use the congressional debate over a new Homeland Security Department against Democrats.
He told at least two audiences that some senators opposing him were "not interested in the security of the American people." In reality, Democrats balked not at creating the department, which Bush himself first opposed, but at letting agency workers go without the usual civil service protections.
Running for re-election against Sen. John Kerry in 2004, Bush frequently used some version of this line to paint his Democratic opponent as weaker in the fight against terrorism: "My opponent and others believe this matter is a matter of intelligence and law enforcement."
The assertion was called a mischaracterization of Kerry's views even by a Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Straw men have made more frequent appearances in recent months, often on national security - once Bush's strong suit with the public but at the center of some of his difficulties today. Under fire for a domestic eavesdropping program, a ports-management deal and the rising violence in Iraq, Bush now sees his approval ratings hovering around the lowest of his presidency.
Said Jamieson, "You would expect people to do that as they feel more threatened."
Last fall, the rhetorical tool became popular with Bush when the debate heated up over when troops would return from Iraq. "Some say perhaps we ought to just pull out of Iraq," he told GOP supporters in October, echoing similar lines from other speeches. "That is foolhardy policy."
Yet even the speediest plan, as advocated by only a few Democrats, suggested not an immediate drawdown, but one over six months. Most Democrats were not even arguing for a specific troop withdrawal timetable.
Recently defending his decision to allow the National Security Agency to monitor without subpoenas the international communications of Americans suspected of terrorist ties, Bush has suggested that those who question the program underestimate the terrorist threat.
"There's some in America who say, 'Well, this can't be true there are still people willing to attack,'" Bush said during a January visit to the NSA.
The president has relied on straw men, too, on the topics of taxes and trade, issues he hopes will work against Democrats in this fall's congressional elections.
Usually without targeting Democrats specifically, Bush has suggested they are big-spenders who want to raise taxes, because most oppose extending some of his earlier tax cuts, and protectionists who do not want to open global markets to American goods, when most oppose free-trade deals that lack protections for labor and the environment.
"Some people believe the answer to this problem is to wall off our economy from the world," he said this month in India, talking about the migration of U.S. jobs overseas. "I strongly disagree."
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
Clinton always used "...reasonable people (would agree, would have to agree, agree, say)...."
Never once did AP write a story about this.
Guess it looks like this man has "gravitas" after all.
Pres. Bush needs to shrug off the media attacks and keep using the bully pulpit.
Would this "some" mentioned by Bush be related to the "some" who appears constantly in newspaper stories? Or that favorite device of AP and the New York Times, "critics say"? When reporters quit attributing things to un-named "sources," then we can criticize Bush for invoking "some."
Some might call this a piece of crap story.
Bullsh**. This is an editorial.
I wonder who Jennifer Loven voted for in 2004?
Remember, you can't spell "cheap" without AP.
Looks like power line had this ditz nailed a year and a half ago: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/007959.php
--Because the "some" often go unnamed.--
I have a list of 57 names!!! How about John Smurpha, Russ Slimemold, John Con-yours, etc. ?
I love this hissy fit the MSM is going through.
I see WIN/WIN here for us.
BARF ALERT should have preceded this article.
And yet ANOTHER "specialist"; one in "presidential rhetoric". Completely unnecessary. We do not need someone to tell us what the president said, or that we should not like his choice of rhetoric, etc. etc.
Wayne Fields - get a REAL job, and earn money in an honest way with integrity and honor.
The babies in the press are crying again. Nevermind they constantly cite "unnamed critics" and anoynmous sources in their opinion columns...which this is. Actually, it's propaganda from the DNC.
Difference with the President is that he's actually being truthful in his reports of the critics' assertions. Nuances of their arguments and all included. :-)
I think most of the MSM and liberal Dimocraps are still down after the count from yesterday's beating at the hands of the President. Helen Thomas is still out in spite of vast amounts of smelling-salts administered. President Bush showed great skill with his jabs, sticking and jabbing while setting up straight rights and lefts. Helen Thomas's face reveals the severe punishment she received while she failed to slip any of Bush's jabs even while stepping into several rights - or was her face that way from birth?
I loved all two rounds of that fight.
I always interpret this to mean 2 reporters walking by the White House discussing the spin or rumor of the day.
I think so. Reporters never respond well when the tables are turned against them.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.