The main reason so much of partisan punditry of any stripe doesn’t qualify as rational discourse–that is to say, the kind of discourse a rational person should have and expect of others in an enlightened democracy such as our own–is that so often the partisan pundit refuses to entertain the idea that his opponents are rational. Since her opponent isn’t rational, she makes only the most ludicrous arguments, and has only a tenuous and self-interested grasp on the facts. In the end, of course, it doesn’t take much to defeat such nincompoops in argument. Easy victories, however, are not worth winning, as Charles Krauthammer’s triumph over the inane illustrates for us today:
>In less enlightened times there was no catastrophe independent of human agency. When the plague or some other natural disaster struck, witches were burned, Jews were massacred and all felt better (except the witches and Jews).
Pat Robertson knows something of this claim (cf. feminism and 9/11), but naturally Krauthammer has someone else in mind:
>A few centuries later, our progressive thinkers have progressed not an inch. No fall of a sparrow on this planet is not attributed to sin and human perfidy. The three current favorites are: (1) global warming, (2) the war in Iraq and (3) tax cuts. Katrina hits and the unholy trinity is immediately invoked to damn sinner-in-chief George W. Bush.
As readers of *The Nonsequitur* know, some variation of the causal fallacy is being invoked here (to be nitpicky: the analogy with the witches and Jews only holds insofar as some group or individual is held responsible for *causing* the event–only global warming could possibly qualify as a cause in that sense). Krauthammer in fact goes on to challenge the causal efficacy of each of the above:
>this kind of stupidity merits no attention whatsoever, but I’ll give it a paragraph. There is no relationship between global warming and the frequency and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes. Period. The problem with the evacuation of New Orleans is not that National Guardsmen in Iraq could not get to New Orleans but that National Guardsmen in Louisiana did not get to New Orleans. As for the Bush tax cuts, administration budget requests for New Orleans flood control during the five Bush years exceed those of the five preceding Clinton years. The notion that the allegedly missing revenue would have been spent wisely by Congress, targeted precisely to the levees of New Orleans, and that the reconstruction would have been completed in time, is a threefold fallacy. The argument ends when you realize that, as The Post noted, “the levees that failed were already completed projects.”
Excellent points all of them. Whether or not they are true–and we have no reason to doubt them–is someone else’s domain. We might also add that Krauthammer goes to list those he considers responsible (in descending order: Mayor Nagin, Governor Blanco, FEMA, President Bush, Congress, the American People). Such a complex event as the ongoing disaster along the Gulf coast hardly bears reduction to the three items Krauthammer mentions. So for this reason we couldn’t agree more with the first sentence quoted above–this kind of stupidity does not merit our attention. We know of many other well-reasoned and well-supported arguments that do deserve careful scrutiny. Perhaps Krauthammer can talk about them.