My Straw Man Can Beat Up Your Straw Man

[Updated with more straw]

Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches
Associated Press Writer
Sat Mar 18, 12:52 PM ET

WASHINGTON -“Some look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day,” President Bush said recently.

Another time he said, “Some say that if you’re Muslim you can’t be free.”

“There are some really decent people,” the president said earlier this year, “who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care … for all people.”

Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.

When the president starts a sentence with “some say” or offers up what “some in Washington” believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

“The girl from I-pa-nema goes walk-ing… Ack! It’s wingnuts!”


Your mission, should you wish to accept it… [updated, with links; please continue adding to the “straw men” arguments]
…is to find the historical proof, via Google / Lexis Nexus searches (or what have you), that this newly-minted meme—that the President is using arguments that “no oneâ€? of importance has actually ever made* (“Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches,” by the AP’s Jennifer Loven)—is a complete and utter airbrushing of recent history, not to mention a glaring example of media projection (just about every argument the media has made against the NSA has been a straw man argument, given that the particulars of the program remain classified) and overstatement (the formulation “some sayâ€? is fairly common shorthand in political speeches, which makes it unnecessary for the speaker to provide a litany of specific names at the expense of the general point).

*This is an exaggerated misquotation.


Our first question: did President Clinton never use a straw-man argument in a speech? How about San Fran Nan or Dingy Harry? Hillary or John Kerry?


Apparently Ms. Loven hasn’t been reading the prominent Democrats* and influential columnists** who have said repeatedly that “the war is lost.” And maybe she hasn’t read John Murtha’s resolution,*** with its recitations of purported failure in Iraq and its demand that the war be “hereby terminated.”
[If] Ms. Loven doesn’t think that under the “single payer” health care (i.e., socialized medicine) systems advocated by many liberals the government is “the decider of health care,” she’s never been to Canada.****

*[link to Sidney Blumenthal piece at, not ‘in mainstream political debate.’]
**[link to Frank Rich column at, not ‘in mainstream political debate.’]
***[link to DailyKos post on Murtha resolution, incl. recommendation: “Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.” Statement not as characterized.]
****See Washington Monthly re: single-payer and ‘many liberals’. Re: avoidance of quoted phrase, ‘for all people,’ see language in Clinton health care bill (via Tapped/Ezra Klein): “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibiting the following: (1) An individual from purchasing any health care services.â€? Additionally, Canada now allows private medical care.

“Agh! Ow! Help me up here, dammit!”
“Are the wingnuts gone?”
“Man, I frickin’ hate those guys.”


Comments: 21


I’m kind of dense- is the whopping, monstrous, colossus bestriding the Earth Sadly, No! just inferred here?


Meanwhile, back in realityville, Christian culture is proving itself to also be incompatible with Democracy.


Our first question: did President Clinton never use a straw-man argument in a speech?

Hi, I’m Jillian, and I’m here with a Very Special Message from the Philosopher’s After School Special Network.

Tonight, our Very Special Message is called “Johnny’s Double Dare”, and it shows what happens when Johnny’s friends pressure him into experiementation with the dangerous fallacy tu quoque.

This is a show that should be watched by all members of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, together with their parents, so that the important lessons learned can be discussed afterward.

sexual harrassment panda

You know, at some point, smacking these people down begins to look a bit like rolling the autistic kid for his lunch money. And then doing it again the next day. In other words, utterly cruel.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it, of course.

Hysterical Woman

Who are San Fran Nan and Dingy Harry? I’m not up with my wingnut “nicknames that sound like hobo nicknames”.

Worst. President. Ever.

“But Clinton lied too!”— what a comeback!



Ignoratio elenchi.


At Protein Wisdom they were driven into an absolute parsing frenzy over this one. The idea that anything less than pure liquid truth could come from Bush’s lips is unthinkable to them.


Re: the parsing. At what point does it stop being technically correct if parsed to the 18th degree and start becoming what it simply is: language used to perpetuate or transmit a falsehood or lie.


Holy shit- pols use misleading rhetorical devices? I’m utterly stunned (must have forgotten to read my Cicero for the day…or taken my meds).


Ah, good ol’ Cicero — a rich conservative lawyer, who, although an upstart “new man” (novus homo), championed the “status quo” (status quo) and supported the dictator Sulla.

Fortunately, in the past 2000 years, many things have changed. In particular, conservatives no longer support dictators nor do they use antiquated rhetorical devices. Hurrah, progress!


Shorter NewsBusters: Moooooooooooooooooom! Billy did it too! We’re only repeating what he did! That means it’s okay, right, Mommy? Mommy? Wake up Mommy!


I don’t know what the fuss is all about. All Bush has to do is substitute “13 year old Chad ‘Whassup’ Dillwinkle of Draino Junction, Ca. told his friend Stinky Dave that” for “some say” and his statements are perfectly valid. That Chad has got “Gitmo bound” written all over him, especially if he doesn’t give me back my Green Day album….


That kind of reminds me of that part in that FOX news documentary “outfoxed” where they have that series of clips with all the reporters prefacing statements like “Kerry looks french” or “Kerry dined on a lunch of Brie before surrendering to the waiter” with “some say”.


Wait, don’t we here in the S,N! community knock down the strawiest of straw men on the right every day? Maybe it’s just funnier when we do it. (Well, it’s definitely funnier.)


My strawman and your strawman
sittin by the fire,
My strawman said to your strawman,
“I’m going to set your flag on fire!”


I’ll take a side of red herring with my straw man, please.

Oh, and I think all the good little wingnuts might want to remember what happens when a fundamentalist Christian hangs out with heathens and gets too close to the straw man.


Nice Iko Iko, t- you are class!


I’ve heard it said that Jeff Goldstein is an cum-guzzling ass monster twat. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just cabin fever is all.


if you understand what the strawman REALLY is you would be “strawman redemrtion”and read these things,it will tell you the way the” WORLD” really works.this is the way BOTH POLITICL PARTIES control us.


bye the way lookup and inform yourself on theUCC-1 lawes.


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