The other day during our massive blog fail outage, I read this piece from Colbert I. King in the Post. King argued that certain leading conservative spokespeople for traditional values–such as Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh–are hypocrites, because they're serial adulterers or husbands. Well, to be more precise, that's what it should have argued. Instead, here's what it set to establish:
Family, marriage and the contribution of fathers come together as topics for reflection on Father's Day. So I'd like to know why Barack Obama, a husband and a father in a family structure that encompasses bonds deemed essential to our society, is constantly and savagely attacked by conservative leaders whose personal circumstances undermine the family values they espouse?
Had King been arguing that when it comes to family or traditional values, the likes of Gingrich and Limbaugh ought seriously to STFU. His mistake, I think, is the overly general nature of his criticism–they ought to shut up in general. And that's just silly–and such an obvious example of abusive ad hominem that I almost feel bad pointing that out.
But, on come the letter writers. It's weird how people react:
Colbert I. King's column on President Obama's critics was the most irresponsible piece of ad hominem commentary I have ever read. Mr. King went to ridiculous extremes to denigrate key conservative spokesmen Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. They have had some significant marital and family issues, to be sure, but what does that have to do with many (if not most) of the political stances they take in opposition to the president?
According to Mr. King, they have the audacity to "look down their noses at our president," as though his commendable family life makes him immune from other scrutiny. Mr. King seemed to be saying, "Obama has a solid marriage and two cute kids: How dare they criticize his health policy, his economic policies, his foreign policy?!" The writing is a masterpiece of non sequitur. If only Mr. King were trying to champion "family values" instead of just using them as a weapon.
To continue along the same vein, no one who thinks for a second that Limbaugh, Gingrich, or Palin has anything to add to our public discourse can accuse other people of "the most irresponsible piece of ad hominem ever." Having said that, the letter writer has the right idea about this article, unfortunately.