I think it's worthwhile to keep track of the ways the sides in a debate try to paint the character of the other. Sometimes, it is simple observations about what kind of person would hold such and such a view, other times, it's about what kind of person would be blind to evidence of such and such degrees of obviousness. Often, it's mere rhetorical window-dressing, and often enough, it's direct ad hominem. I've been keen on the recent presidential character-painting. Romney's a robot (a very funny meme) or vulture-capitalist, Obama's either a socialist-totalitarian or a decent but unqualified doofus. These all seem fine to me, at least in the sense that they're at least capable of being put in the service of evaluating the character of the person who's to be the President of the United States and the Commander in Chief. Who occupies the office matters, so character evaluation is relevant.
One line of argument that I don't see the point of, though, is what I've come to call the ad rockstarium argument against Barack Obama. Mark Steyn at National Review Online runs it in his recent "Our Celebrity President." Here's the basics from Steyn:
Last week, the republic’s citizen-president passed among his fellow Americans. Where? Cleveland? Dubuque? Presque Isle, Maine? No, Beverly Hills. These days, it’s pretty much always Beverly Hills or Manhattan, because that’s where the money is. That’s the Green Zone, and you losers are outside it.
As I can gather, here's how the argument runs:
1) The President goes to fundraisers in California and New York, not Middle America.
2) You live in Middle America
So: The president isn't interest in you or your money. Well… maybe your money. How much you got?
Steyn goes on:
It’s true that moneyed celebrities in, say, Pocatello or Tuscaloosa have not been able to tempt the president to hold a lavish fundraiser in Idaho or Alabama, but he does fly over them once in a while.
That's right! He went to the 'fly-over' line. OK, so if I'm right that some evaluations of character are relevant, does this one count as one? I don't think so, as the issue isn't whether Obama is popular and adored but whether he's the kind of person who can be trusted with policy decisions. I think the best that this line of evaluation can do is say that Obama is a rockstar, and rockstars do things differently from you… I'll be trying to keep up with more of the rockstarium argument as the campaign goes on. Any help on seeing how the line is relevant? Is it a form of upside down ad populum: he's not like us, so he's wrong?