Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Speaking of Dana Milbank

One more post before I'm finally off either to bed or another chapter in The Recognitions, whichever is easiest to achieve....

Two Dana Milbank articles in one day is perhaps overkill, but I cannot resist. His column today highlights one of the many things I truly loathe about the current administration: its unabashed love of the strawman.

On May 19, Bush was asked about a plan by his Democratic opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), to halt shipments that are replenishing emergency petroleum reserves. Bush replied by saying we should not empty the reserves -- something nobody in a responsible position has proposed. "The idea of emptying the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would put America in a dangerous position in the war on terror," Bush said. "We're at war."

The president has used a similar technique on the stump, when explaining his decision to go to war in Iraq in light of the subsequent failure to find stockpiles of forbidden weapons. In the typical speech, Bush explains the prewar intelligence indicating Saddam Hussein had such weapons, and then presents in inarguable conclusion: "So I had a choice to make: either trust the word of a madman, or defend America. Given that choice, I will defend America every time."

Missing from that equation is the actual choice Bush confronted: support continued U.N. weapons inspections, or go to war.

Now, of course, both sides do this -- this is why it's called it's called a 'rhetorical technique', and not simply Republican obfuscation. But there comes a point at which one man's rhetoric becomes another man's deep cynicism and disregard for intelligent political discourse.