Saturday, September 16, 2006

Rhetorical Dualism Is No Substitute For Real Debate

I am convinced that the next time the President, the Vice President or another of their GOP surrogates suggest that they are open to honest, “healthy debate” about the issues facing our country, we should simultaneously stand up and say: “Okay, lets have one right now.” The trouble is, as we have seen over and over again, the W, Rove and Co is very good at espousing a desire for debate, but not so good at following through with that promise.

If said politician does not agree to the debate then and there, ask: “When are you going to host one?" It would be entirely refreshing to have a debate rather than subject the people to more speechifying at great expense to the American Taxpayers. Speeches delivered in front of friendly audiences and from podiums equiped with telepromters and microphones hold no room at all for opposing views.

But the issue is bigger than the simple void of real, healthy debate in the town halls across America and on national stages. Do the republicans truly welcome healthy debate or are they simply blowing more smoke up our skirts, not unlike the smoking "mushroom cloud" Condi was hinting at a while back?

Certainly, if you review the text of many of the W, Rove and Co's top brass over the course of a hand full of days (and stretching way back to the outset of their political travesty started long ago when W was selected, not elected), you will find evidence that they are not the least bit interested in "healthy debate," unless they control your side of the argument.

Beware the dualistic argument, my friends. It's a simple, but deliberate trick issued by the W, Rove and Co to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Rhetorical dualism is no substitute for genuine, healthy debate. You are right or wrong, black or white, or "with us or against us." Rhetorical props such as these are not a form of debate, but debate killers. Would you call this healthy? Not me.

Using dualistic rhetoric as a surrogate for debate is like handing your opponent broken crutches and telling him or her to use the sharp end under one arm. It hurts when you lean on one side of the argument. This practice is not only deceitful and disingenuous, it is dangerous for America. It presents only one viable choice for voters. Folks with little to no time to digest very complex issues rest their decisions on whom to vote for based on which option they believe to be the answer to all of America’s ills.

The W, Rove and Co has proven time and again that they are getting nothing but rich by appealing to the lowest common denominator as they present their arguments to the American people. Dualistic rhetorical arguments riddle the speeches of those in the W, Rove and Co.

Dualistic thinking is almost at the very lowest rung of behavioral development for responsible humans. It is dangerous for America because it reduces complex situations that require complex thinking and complex solutions to sound bites that further divide our country. They do nothing to forward positive solutions to very troubling geopolitical problems created by the same dualistic thinking.

Let’s have a look at some illustrations from speeches given by various W, Rove and Co agents so you can see for yourselves how pervasive this practice is. Together we can "out" this practice as the Rovian designed political parlor trick it is, shall we?

Let's start with a classic case. We are all now, unfortunately, deeply familiar with the post Nine Twelve slogan "You are either with us or against us," made famous by our glorious president. It is only one small example of the dangerous dualistic surrogate for diplomacy that has put America at great risk. Moreover, it is a terrible approach for argument, debate and political reason because the W, Rove and Co. brand of dualism is a forced choice option where one side of the choices is always wrong. There is always one false argument presented as one side of two options. The latter is almost always bad, and the former the GOP party line. What is more, if you choose neither, you are seen as a treacherous traitor.

Here's a classic double dose from the Big Dick:
But there is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. We have only two options in Iraq -- victory or defeat.
Of course, we can't just have one day of this rhetorical nonsense from the Big Dick. The very next day, he gave another speech to yet another friendly (and maybe even captive) audience at an Air Force base in Nebraska.

Here The Veep hits the Political dualist's trifecta: Three pairs for the price of one. To finish it off, the Big Dick gives you a double couplet, where in one fell swoop he hands us two broken crutches with the pointed end inserted directly under our armpits.
But there is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. We have only two options in Iraq -- victory or defeat. And I want you to know, as members of the United States military, that the American people do not support a policy of retreat or defeat.
Oh, don't you love that last couplet - it even rhymes.

The President takes lessons from his pals and even tries to sway us with dualistic arguments that split the world into only two camps: The good guys (that would be us) and the bad guys (that would be those against us):
The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.) On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation -- the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism -- the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty. (Applause.)
Isn't magical the way W paints us such a stark and easily definable picture of the good and bad. Unfortunately, he leaves out a whole lot of ugly ignored by this Administration.

By the way, if it really is an ideological struggle, can't we have the ideologs duke it out instead of having to endure the death of so many of our and their folk in the name of said struggle? But I digresss.

The President even works to amplify his argument by lacing one side of the dualism with the support of the "Almighty."
On this struggle are those who believe in the universality of liberty. I personally believe there's an Almighty, and I believe that one of the great gifts of that Almighty to every man, woman and child on the face of the Earth is the desire to live in freedom. (Applause.)

And on the other side of this ideological struggle are those who are driven by tyranny and extremism, the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views over the rest of us. And that's the struggle. And it's important that our fellow citizens understand that struggle.
The Grand Prize winner for the Presidential Lowest Common Denominator Rhetorical Dualist medal goes to the President himself. This example is taken from GW’s political speech designed to lever our sympathies for the victims of Nine Eleven for his political gain.
At the start of this young century, America looks to the day when the people of the Middle East leave the desert of despotism for the fertile gardens of liberty, and resume their rightful place in a world of peace and prosperity.
Zowie! “The desert of despotism” versus “the fertile gardens of liberty?” Which do you choose: Sodom, Gomorra, or Eden?

The very next day we get to witness Tony the Snow job’s attempt to defend the President once again – a thankless job, and I’m glad it’s his not mine.
Q Last night, the President asked Democrats and Republicans to put aside differences in the war on terrorism. And I wanted to see how you think that's going, a day later, when Harry Reid accuses the President of playing election year politics and House Majority Leader Boehner says of Democrats, "I wonder if they're more interested in protecting the terrorists than protecting the American people. They certainly don't want to take the terrorists on and defeat them." So --

MR. SNOW: Apparently, there are differing points of view. (Laughter.)

Q Even at that, you don't think it's -- so did the President fail in his mission?

MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. It's interesting, we're going to have a lot of political conflict this year. Perfectly understandable, acceptable, predictable. That's the way it works. But yesterday gave the American people a chance to reflect on September 11th and how it froze us in an instant and made us understand that there was something out there we hadn't seen before, hadn't even expected, didn't have any suspicion that it existed. And that was a network of terrorists who would use any means possible, including things that are -- at least for you and me -- unimaginable, which was to turn airliners into weapons of mass destruction.

It also revealed that there was an ideology abroad that said that freedom is a terrible thing and that people were going to twist and pervert the Koran in an attempt to create a holy war, when, in fact, theirs was an ideology of despotism and terror, and that they were serious about it; that they had plans; that they were organized and that they were trying to kill Americans. We all realize that. Before that day, I daresay very few people in this room were then focusing in any serious way on Osama bin Laden.

So we learned about that. And as a nation, we remain united to beat those guys. And we remain united in our desire to remember the people who died -- the President yesterday having met with friends and family of many of them.

So, no, I think Americans are united on the important things, and they also understand that in politics there will be a vigorous debate about how best to pursue the goal. But I don't think there's any disagreement that, ultimately, our freedoms are precious, and that this country is an extraordinary place that remains not only the beacon of the world but the envy of many, and that it is our responsibility to preserve that for this and every future generation. And Americans also understand political seasons.

Q But, Tony, wait --

Q Do you think that both sides -- Democrats and Republicans -- want to defeat the terrorists?

MR. SNOW: Yes, I do. I mean, I think -- I don't think --

Q So you disagree with --

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get in a debate over statements that I haven't seen. I think that there are going to be plenty of debates about who is going to be more effective in waging that battle. But I'll let John Boehner and Harry Reid duke it out on their own. I'll speak for the President.
So you may find yourself asking, "when do we get our promised 'plenty of debate?'” Better yet, if and when we eventually do, we should not swallow the rhetorical dualist’s pill as it certainly does nothing to pull our country out of the mess created by the GOP and their leaders.

Leaning on crutches handed to you by your political foe is not only bad for debate, but it is bad for America. Throw them back at the person offering them to you. Then ask them to debate you on the issues instead of the rhetoric offered. If you look sharply at the current administration's record, they have warehouses full of broken crutches (not to mention morgues and hospitals full of wonded and KIA), and not a single leg to stand on.

No comments: