Column on Besmirch & Divert

Besmirch & Divert

Tibor R. Machan

since President Obama took office, his proposed public policies have
been defended doggedly by all those who favor an increasing large scope
for the federal government.  Health care/insurance is just one of these
policies but, of course, his way of dealing with the recession conforms
to it as well.  Bail them out, increase their regulation, order their
CEO’s to take lower pay than they agreed they would receive, etc., etc.
 All these are fully consistent with a program of making government–all
of the employees of which are, of course, infinitely competent and
supremely moral–an all mighty force in the lives of American citizens.  

reactionary approach to the presidency–one that, if successful, will
return the country to the age of George III, a former monarch with
actually less power than the current federal government has over us–is
very difficult to justify in general political terms.  It goes directly
against America’s founding principles, as they were identified in the
Declaration of Independence, and it’s oppressive and economically
suicidal to boot.  And sure enough, the defenders of Mr. Obama, such as
economist Paul Krugman,
The New Republic, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books,
to mention but the more visible ones among them, do not have any
arguments to offer, so instead they engage in besmirching those who
offer arguments against the policies they favor. Same goes for Professor
Gary Wills (see it here:

recent case in point was where an author supporting Mr. Obama insisted
that despite their efforts to hide the fact, the Tea Party folks are
mostly racists.  This author kept repeating this charge, thus managing
to divert attention from the substance of the criticism.  The examples
given included criticism of policies such as the welfare state which
supposedly comes to nothing other than wishing ill for most African
Americans.  So opposition to small or limited government then amounts to

way of defending unwise, wrongheaded public policies can produce the
result of diverting attention for the substance at issue, namely,
whether the welfare state and similar measures pushed for by the
president and his cheerleaders is a sound idea by which to govern a
country.  Never mind that!  Let’s make it appear that what is going on
is insidious racism.  That pretty much consigns the critics to the ranks
of the ultimately vicious among us with whom there is no need to argue.
 No one, after all, argues with Nazis!  No one argues with people who
regard other people morally inferior by virtue not of what they do
wrong, their malpractice, but because of their color or ethnicity.  Such
people then can be viewed as unworthy of the respect that’s shown to
someone with whom one chooses to engage in argument, whose views one
decides to take seriously enough to confront intellectually.  No, let’s
just dismiss the critics as bigots or racists or fundamentally,
incorrigibly vicious; that way we ca avoid having to answer their
substantive criticism of our public policies.

this shows just how unsuccessful are all those college and university
courses that most students are required to take, namely, basic
reasoning, elementary logic, and the like wherein the formal and
informal fallacies are discussed and it is shown just why they are
fallacies and should be avoided in presenting one’s viewpoint or
criticism.  Besmirching one’s critics is what is called an
ad hominem
argument, one that demeans or attacks the person who advances a point
instead of the case made in support of it.  And such attacks have no
bearing on the validity, soundness or related merits or demerits of a
case being made.

Mr. Obama and his accolades cannot produce anything that’s better than
charges of racism and bigotry against their political or intellectual
adversaries, they are in effect admitting that their viewpoint is
bankrupt.  No one with even a modicum of merit to his or her argument
will resort to
ad hominems.
 The arguments being advanced are supposed to carry the weight of the
position and there would be no need for trying to discredit with smears
those who oppose it.

everyone, of course, resorts to these methods of attempting to shore up
the case for Mr. Obama’s public policies but enough do that the
conclusion is difficult to escape that they are being a tad desperate.
When a Nobel Laureate professor of economics at one of America’s most
prestigious universities, Princeton, keeps attacking the character and
personality of the likes of Sarah Palin in numerous forums instead of
taking issue with them point by point with no reliance on badmouthing
them, that suggests, strongly, that what the man has to offer against
the criticisms is pretty empty of substance.

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