Friday, December 9, 2011

Straw Man

Peter Wehner has a low view of the presidential rhetoric emanating from the White House. He's evidently insufficiently appreciative, for example, of Mr. Obama's undeniable skill at constructing straw men and his artful use of the ad hominem:
In his speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, President Obama took another stab at summarizing the philosophy of the Republican Party. And this is the best Obama could do: “Their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.”

This is a silly and intentionally misleading statement — silly because it’s so transparently false and intentionally misleading because the president surely cannot believe his own rhetoric. The problem for Obama is it’s becoming a pattern. Earlier this year, he charged that Republicans want the elderly, autistic children and children with Down syndrome to “fend for themselves.”

After that, he told us the GOP plan is ”dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance.” Given his rhetorical trajectory, Obama will soon be insisting that Republicans favor reinstituting slavery at home and genocide abroad (or perhaps it’s favoring genocide at home and slavery abroad).

These are the kinds of things a politically desperate and intellectually bankrupt politician says. The president must believe he cannot win a debate on philosophy on the merits, so he instead employs the crudest caricatures he can.

The point is that there seems to be no limit, no check, on what Obama will say in order to demonize his opponents — or, to quote Obama’s own words, his “enemies.”
Now I think this is too harsh. Mr. Obama is a gentleman, a good husband and father. Such men are not demonizers. After all, it was Mr. Obama, wasn't it, who during the campaign repeatedly promised us "hope and change" from the tawdry politics of the past.

It was Mr. Obama, Wehner admits, who in an interview once declared, ”I want us to rediscover our bonds to each other and to get out of this constant petty bickering that's come to characterize our politics.” Does that sound like the sort of thing we'd expect from a man who would demonize his opponents?

Moreover, even Mr. Wehner acknowledges that it was Mr. Obama who during the campaign proclaimed that "We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism… [...] That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ’not this time….’” And it was Mr. Obama who said on the night of his election, on a stage in Grant Park, ”I will listen to you, especially when we disagree… [...] Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for too long.”

Those sound to me like the words of a high-minded intellectual, a man too noble to be grubbing about in the political gutters. Mr. Wehner should apologize for thinking that Mr. Obama is just a typical political opportunist and moral pragmatist who says whatever he needs to say to discredit his opposition in the eyes of the voters.

Indeed, he should be ashamed for even thinking such a thing about the leader of the free world. Read his column and see if you don't agree.

Fast and Furious Scandal

For those who need to get caught up the Fast and Furious operation was an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) scheme to secretly encourage American gun dealers to sell guns to suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels. They hoped to be able to track these guns to the top thugs in the cartels, but they lost track of thousands of weapons which fell into the hands of Mexican killers. Many were used in hundreds of violent crimes in Mexico. Two were found at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. The operation was a violation of both Mexican and American law.

Sharyl Attkisson of CBS has been almost alone among reporters in investigating this scandal and is now reporting that emails have been uncovered which show that the Justice Department, or at least the ATF, wanted to use the proliferation of weapons, which they caused and abetted, as a reason for imposing stricter gun controls on American dealers:
ATF officials didn't intend to publicly disclose their own role in letting Mexican cartels obtain the weapons, but emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called "Demand Letter 3". That would require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or "long guns." Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.

On July 14, 2010 after ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. received an update on Fast and Furious, ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait emailed Bill Newell, ATF's Phoenix Special Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious:

"Bill - can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks."
In other words, the ATF would pour weapons into Mexico and then when these weapons started turning up at crime scenes they would use their proliferation and use in homicides as a justification for stricter regulations on the very gun dealers they encouraged to sell the weapons in the first place.

And then we wonder why people don't trust their government.