Friday, July 23, 2004

Part I- The Straw Man of "Presidential Style"

There's an argument that President Bush's international style is too arrogant and inflexible, thus creating hard feelings, and leading to less economic and security cooperation with other nations.

The real argument is not about style, it's about policy. Were certain policy goals worth the risk of angering certain other nations? Any international hard feelings were spawned by policy disagreement, as in "If you disagree with me you are inflexible and polarizing."

"Bush's style" is a straw man. An argument about policy can morph into a separate argument about style, with the style winner hoping to declare proxy victory in the policy argument, even though the policy argument has not actually been resolved. It's sometimes hard to see this, whether you are the morpher or the morphee, so to speak. It was a long time before I saw the fallaciouness of the "style" argument.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The straw-man rhetorical technique [...] declaring one argument's conclusion to be wrong because of flaws in another argument.

When Senator Kerry says he would "reestablish credibility in the rest of the world," he's making a straw man argument about style. Kerry hopes to win the straw man argument and go on to declare victory in the policy argument.

Update 7/26/04
Andrew Sullivan in The Sunday Times of London- "The argument Kerry must make is that he can continue the substance of the war, but without Bush's polarizing recklessness."

"Continue the substance of the war" is code language for discontinuing large portions of the current war policy. Sullivan is trying to win a policy argument without arguing policy. He's setting up Bush's leadership style as a straw man. The real argument is about policy. If Bush's policy equated to police action, his current critics would not accuse him of "polarizing recklessness." Style is a straw man. Policy is what Sullivan is not addressing.

No comments: