At least I tried

Eugene Robinson, liberal columnist for the post, probably means this as friendly advice to democrats (but I’m not so sure, better ask Bob Somerby), but it comes across as instance of the “at least . . .” fallacy. This fallacy is a misbegotten child of the principle that “something is better than nothing.” How does it work? Robinson writes:

>And please, no hiding behind “I don’t do hypotheticals.” The Republican candidates’ view of Iraq, Iran and the Middle East is dangerously apocalyptic, but at least it’s a vision. What’s yours?

Why does he say this? Leading democratic candidates refused to say all of our troops would be out of Iraq by the end of their first term, i.e., 2013. Their view is that their waiting for reality to disclose itself:

>”It is very difficult to know what we’re going to be inheriting,” said Hillary Rodham Clinton.

>”I think it’s hard to project four years from now,” said Barack Obama.

>”I cannot make that commitment,” said John Edwards.

Robinson’s childish gripe reminds me of something I saw on local TV yesterday. Asked which party they support, a group of students at a local community college responded with answers one might expect (democrats–it is Chicago). One, however, responded that he supports the party with “big ideas”–i.e., Republicans. They have big ideas alright. But the size of ideas isn’t a point in their favor. On that score, some vision is not necessarily better than no “vision.”

6 thoughts on “At least I tried”

  1. This stripe of would-be self-admonition from supposedly left-leaning columnists disgusts me, because it parrots the refrain from the right that Dems don’t have any plans, that they are floating in a some populist wishing well, bereft of any design for the future. Drivel.

  2. It seems like “plans” have been defined here as declaring what one will do in advance, without regard to any developments in the actual situation.

    Maybe Dems should at least come together and declare what they would do NOW, for contrast with our current brilliant ‘stay the course’ plan.

  3. This is ridiculous. The front-running Democratic Senators have access to diplomatic and military records that allow them to make current judgments about how they intend to bring the troops home should they be given the opportunity, which they apparently don’t have right now, since they’re Senators, who can vote, to bring the troops home, now if they wanted…

    The Republicans, on the other hand, don’t really have a plan either. Staying the course is equivalent to doing nothing, since they won’t have to change anything.

    I blame the (rich) people, for allowing this type of politics to be predominant. Seriously, folks.

  4. If I were elected President I would bring a nuclear holocaust down upon all the peoples of the world. Hey, at least it’s plan (and a big idea)…what’s yours?

    I had a student give a very similar line of reasoning in a paper on a subject in the philosophy of religion. I read the section back to him and asked if he thought anyone would find that line of reasoning convincing. He said, “No.” So I asked why he wrote it then. He responded that he couldn’t think of anything else to write.

    Makes me wonder if Robinson actually believes he has given a good reason or if he simply doesn’t know what else to write.

  5. Jeremy–

    You said:

    “Maybe Dems should at least come together and declare what they would do NOW, for contrast with our current brilliant ’stay the course’ plan.”

    What is there to declare? Their statements as quoted are evidence enough that the horrific mismanagement of the war effort and the utter lack of foresight in the prior planning have rendered a strategy such as you suggest moot. They are in fact declaring what they would do now: wait and see. The entire situation has been so terrifically botched that they havwe littelt o do than to see what happens to happen when they take office.

  6. Phil-
    I’d just prefer they give a forthright specification of what they’d do with the current situation, if they had executive power. Obviously saying what you will do on January 30, 2009 is stupid–so give the next best thing: use the current situation to give specifics, to showcase your stance toward the war.

    But, as always, actually proffering a specific policy is open to political attack. And given our political climate, any gains from intelligent discourse are lost ten-fold to rhetorical counter-attack. So once again the Dems sit back and show no leadership.

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