Iowa Representative Steven King reminds us of an important characteristic of ad hominem arguments–viz., calling someone names is not a sufficient condition for an ad hominem. The matter begins with the following remark concerning granting amnesty to illegal immigrants:
“Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King tells Newsmax. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”
Naturally, people were quick to notice that this remark was “wrong” (to use the words of John Boehner, House Republican Majority Leader). Yet, in an all too common response to criticism such as this, King attempted to turn the tables:
“You know when people attack you—in this business, when you’re in this business, you know that when people attack you, and they call you names, they’re diverting from the topic matter,” King told Breitbart. “You know they’ve lost the debate when they do that. We’ve talked about it for years. Tom Tancredo and I joked about it that that’s the pattern. When people start calling you names, that’s what confirms you’ve won the debate.”
No, that isn’t actually a rule.
This rule only works this way: Person A is wrong about policy X because Person A is an a-hole”. But this isn’t how it went. In the present case, we have Person A said something false so Person A is wrong. It’s an inference to Person A’s character from Person A’s actions, deeds, or words. This is very different.