March 4, 2004

Argument 101: Why Kerry Is Wrong

Listening to the The Hugh Hewitt Showtonight and I came across this gem from John Kerry: "I believe this president has run the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country. And we need to hold him accountable."

I have heard many complaints against President Bush and the one thing they often have in common is apparent in this claim. They are just that - claims without warrants. As a former debater that is a pet peeve of mine, as a Communications scholar it is an understandable political strategy. Let's go for the soundbyte and make it a good enthymeme and let the audience supply their own evidence (not caring that we do not have any ourselves). As a mother and educator I think it is important for people to recognize and defeat bad argument when they see it. Remember to be an argument there must be a warrant to go with the claim.

So let's take a closer look at Kerry's statement. I would like to examine the words he chooses to use and define them each individually. I choose to use for definitions as I believe the site represents a good common person understanding of terms.

Kerry begins with using the words "the most" which mean "Greatest in amount, extent, or degree" so by choosing this term he is saying that President Bush has done "x" more than any of the other president's before him. Using his modifier of in "modern history of our country" (which he does not define) we can consider John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. As the audience we are to compare President Bush's actions to the actions of these 8 president's that have gone before him with respect to foreign policy, be defined as "a policy governing international relations".

Kerry claims that President Bush has surpassed all 8 of these men in being "arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological". Look at the definition of each word carefully.

1. Arrogant: Having or displaying a sense of overbearing self-worth or self-importance.

2. Inept: Displaying a lack of judgment, sense, or reason; foolish

3. Reckless: Heedless or careless. Headstrong; rash.

4. Ideological: Of or relating to ideology - defined as " A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system."

You may ask why define all the terms? Well based on the criteria Kerry set up himself all is takes is ONE counter example to any ONE of his issues to disprove his statement. Of course I contend you need not even have a counter example when there is no warrant given in the first place. But for fun, can we come up with some? I encourage all my readers to add some of their own in the comments. But all it takes is one to prove Kerry is wrong.

A few that jump to my mind:

The Cold War: I do believe one would have a hard time defining President Bush as more ideological than any of the president's during the Cold War. It seems to be that ideology defined much of foreign policy during the years of Vietnam, the nuclear arms race with the USSR and the fall of Communist Russia.

Bay of Pigs : The handling of the Bay of Pigs situation emboldened Cuba to increase relations with Russia and may have led to the Cuban Missle Crisis.

Iran Hostage Crisis: The presidential handling of this led to over a year of the hostages being held.

Captain Ed offers up several more counterexamples to this claim by Kerry, such as:

"1979 - 2000 - America either retreats in the face of successive attacks by Islamofascist terrorists or attempts to negotiate with them, instead of attacking them outright. Incidents include the Teheran embassy hostages, the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, a string of hostage-taking in Lebanon, the first World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, simultaneous attacks on two American embassies in Africa, and a suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen."

He also provides a nice defense of Bush. Any one of these points is enough to disprove Kerry's statement. Irregardless of what you may think of President Bush - you need to realize that Kerry's statement is just plain false and hyperbole. It is easy to disprove and impossible to prove. But it will make the news and some Americans will sadly fill in their own rationale and believe it to be true - when it plainly is not. Learn to recognize, question and disprove poor argument and teach your kids to do the same.

Perhaps it is John Kerry who needs to be held accountable for his word choice and his senate record.


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