A while ago we linked to an Associated Press story that said Bush often uses straw man arguments to advance his views. Since Bush doesn’t read “the filter” he never got the memo. But we think it would be nice if Bush reasoned or spoke coherently enough to commit discernable fallacies. Take a look at the following exchange from yesterday’s press conference:
>Q Quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn’t gone in. How do you square all of that?
>THE PRESIDENT: I square it because, imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would — who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East.
>Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was — the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn’t, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question — my answer to your question is, is that, imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.
>You know, I’ve heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of “we’re going to stir up the hornet’s nest” theory. It just doesn’t hold water, as far as I’m concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.
Idiot or not, this is laughably incoherent–especially the last remark. First he makes the “some say” move–“you’ve heard the theory.” But he doesn’t even bother to knock it down. Rather, he turns to his favorite subject–September 11. 9/11 happened even without the inspiration we have provided them in Iraq. That’s true, but it has nothing to do with the question asked. Neither does the hornet’s nest theory (which was, in a sense, Cheney’s theory during the Gulf War I). But nobody had really argued that anyway.
But the question asker–the one with the seersucker suit–kept at it (direclty following):
>Q What did Iraq have to do with that?
>THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?
>Q The attack on the World Trade Center?
>THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it’s part of — and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective. I have made that case.
>And one way to defeat that — defeat resentment is with hope. And the best way to do hope is through a form of government. Now, I said going into Iraq that we’ve got to take these threats seriously before they fully materialize. I saw a threat. I fully believe it was the right decision to remove Saddam Hussein, and I fully believe the world is better off without him. Now, the question is how do we succeed in Iraq? And you don’t succeed by leaving before the mission is complete, like some in this political process are suggesting.
Sadly, there is much the logic professor could comment on. But again take a look at the last remark. Bush repeats something of the one-percent doctrine (see below). But he seems to have forgotten there was no threat to us from Iraq (and that Iraq has made the world less safe). We’ll leave to one side the “better off without Saddam” remark and its implicit false dichotomy.
The last remark, “you don’t succeed before the mission is complete” is questionbeggingly tautologous. Completing the mission defines success in Iraq for Bush, but the question is whether success can be achieved in this way, not, as Bush seems to think, whether success is success.