Sunday, November 13, 2005

RHETORICAL DEFLECTION

Just a quick note before I return to the pressing responsibility of revising my (never ending) dissertation.

This week President Bush chose Veterans Day to attack Democrats for saying we were misled into the war in Iraq. Shrub suggested the dissenters were "rewriting history." This Sunday morning, I came across CNN's Howard Kurtz interviewing former CBS producer Mary Mapes about the ill-fated National Guard story, which was based on forged documents. And two weeks ago we were hearing much about special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and his indictment of Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby.

Examine the Republican talking points on all these issues and a clear, discernible pattern emerges: Do not talk about the issue--deceiving the American people into war, shirking responsibility to the Texas Air National Guard, exposing classified information. Instead, derail the debate by attacking those who insist on talking about the issue. In other words, invoke one of the oldest rhetorical and legalistic strategies of debate: attack the character of the person making the charge, rather than discuss the specifics of the charge itself. This, as we all know, was the strategy of O. J. Simpson's defense team, which went after LA police detective Mark Thurman and his racism. But in spite of the jury's verdict, everyone knows who killed Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Moral point: When you see this strategy going into overtime, you can be quite sure that there is some truth to the accusations against the fulminating character assassins. Like the child caught red-handed eating the stolen cookie: "He's lying. I didn't take it."

Mr. President, your approval rating is at 36%. You've been caught. Whine all you want for the next three years. We know you're lying. You're toast. And you know it too.