Tag Archives: Jonathan Chait


I thought this segment of the Daily Show underscored just what distinguishes it from much of the rest of Cable TV media.  Despite being a comedy show, they somehow managed, by the art of just stopping and thinking for a second, to show just how awful an arguer Paul Ryan is.  For Ryan, the former Republican Vice Presidential Candidate, accused Obama of straw manning him in his inaugural address.  From the Washington Post:

“I think when the president does kind of a switcheroo like that, what he’s trying to say is that we’re maligning these programs that people have earned throughout their working lives,” Ryan said. “So, it’s kind of a convenient twist of terms to try and shadowbox a straw man in order to win an argument by default, is essentially what that rhetorical device is that he uses, over and over and over.”

Yes, I found that incoherent as well.  In any case, the Daily Show pointed out in exquisite detail just how accurate Obama had been in referring to (without naming) Ryan.  Here’s Jonathan Chait doing the same thing.

Obviously Obama hasn’t done anything wrong.  So Ryan’s accusation of fallacy is specious.  Worse, it’s a akin to flopping: calling foul when there isn’t one is itself a kind of fallacious move, an attempt to sidetrack the conversation.  It deserves its own name.  Anyone?

Flopping is annoying in sports and it’s annoying in argument.  There should be some kind of penalty.


Romney won’t say anything to get elected

Mitt Romney has learned a thing or two about electoral politics.  He's learned, for instance, that if you say anything specific about anything, people will challenge it.  What he takes away from this is that if you make an argument, people will distort it.  He says:

One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don’t care about education,” Romney recalled. “So I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we’ll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now.

Sadly, this has been reported this way by the "liberal" media (in this case, Jonathan Chait): "Mitt: I Won’t Detail Plans, Because Then I’d Lose".  This is not really what it says, but it kind of makes his point.  His point is that if he says anything, people will attack a distorted version of it.  And this is exactly what Jonathan Chait has done with this one. 

Ironically, Romney is clueless as to how the "liberal" media works.  You see, when Republican Paul Ryan outlined a plan undoing the single-payer health system called "medicare," replacing it with a voucher-based Obama/Romney model called by the same name, Democrats rightly pointed out that such a move amounted to eliminating medicare.  This correct observation earned the Democrats, not the Republicans, the "lie of the year" award from politifact.

Doubly ironically, Romney's failure to offer any kind of plan at all for fear of having is plan misrepresented forces everyone to do what he fears: make them up.