Tag Archives: Cal Thomas

Analogy and hypocrisy

Cal Thomas thinks Newt Gingrich is being unfairly criticized for his consulting work for Freddie Mac.  The charges of hypocrisy, he holds, are off base.  Here's the defense:

That Gingrich took money from Freddie Mac, an agency he now derides, may seem like hypocrisy to some, but not to me. I, for example, think the Department of Agriculture should be closed, though I once worked for them. I also received a student loan, which I repaid, though I am now critical of how some of the government's student loan programs are run. I attended public schools, but believe parents ought to be able to send their kids to a private school if it promises to offer a better education. Am I hypocritical?

I wonder what Thomas would have to say to someone who said: Yes, all that is hypocritical.  Now, it may be the case that Thomas worked for the DOA and thereby learned that they don't do anything worthwhile.  So he believes that the agency should be shut down.  He may have taken a student loan because it was a sweet deal.  Now he sees that the government shouldn't give such sweet deals, because it can't be on the hook for the loans.  And it may be the case that he attended a public school, but because there were no other options.  So he now believes there should be private school options, too.  That's the story to tell.  In these cases, we have someone who was part of the system being criticized who saw something negative about it and now has critical things to say.  That's perfectly intelligible. And it's not hypocrisy. (My own view is that he's not a hypocrite, just wrong)

But are these cases analogous to the Gingrich case?  I don't think so, as Newt knew what Freddie Mac was about before he took the consulting job. He had choices of alternatives as what companies or corporations to be an advocate for.  If he's hired as a consultant, he should be knowledgeable enough to know what he's getting into. Thomas may not be a hypocrite for the incongruity between his past and his current views, but that's not enough to get Newt off the hook for the hypocrisy charge.

But now a broader question:  of what relevance is the hypocrisy charge against Gingrich, to begin with?  There's already so much about the guy I don't like, the fact that he's a hypocrite about this is not very important.  But I think the importance of the point is more for deep red Republicans.  Hypocrisy, especially on an issue like this at a time like this, is really important to anyone who is looking for the right (right-wing) fiscal conservative.  If Newt has a history of getting into bed with failed companies  that contributed to the mess, it's harder to sell him as someone who can fix it.  The issue, really, isn't his hypocrisy, but his judgment generally. 

Let’s pretend you don’t know who I am

Cal Thomas has made the astute observation that Washington suffers from political logjam with budget issues.  What's worse is that partisan bickering has made it so that no one in one party trusts what the other party would propose to solve the problem.

The problem with so much of Washington today is that no Democrat will accept a good idea if it comes from a Republican and, conversely, Republicans will reject any good idea that comes from Democrats.

Okay. That sounds about accurate, but it's usually because they for the most part know what sorts of things the other side will propose.  But let's give him that.  So what's Thomas's plan?  To propose the following exercise:  report about a bold new plan to fix the budget crisis, but keep the author anonymous until we think hard about the plan.

So here's a plan whose author shall remain anonymous until the end of this column in hopes you will read on.

Excellent!  I love party games.  This time around, I'll listen to the plan and then weigh its worth based on the merits of what is contained in the plan.  Not on the basis of who proposes it.  That's, like, unique.  Okay. Let's hear the plan.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, this author contends, "consumes 43 percent of today's federal spending." Most people might agree there is ample evidence the federal government is bloated, overextended and not living within its constitutional bounds, which has caused its dysfunction.

Elevators have weight limits. Put too many people on one and it might not run. The federal government has no "weight limits." Increasing numbers of us worry America may be overweight and in decline. We are mired in debt and government seems incapable of telling anyone "no" or "do for yourself" for fear of a backlash from entitlement addicts.

Oh my goodness.  Not knowing beforehand that the author of this plan is a rich, well-fed Republican makes me ever so much more sick to hear it.  And so, before I got to the bottom of Thomas's column, I tried to make a few guesses about who the author was.  Who'd slash 'entitlement spending,'  not have anything about tax revenue beyond proposing the flat tax, encourage self-sufficiency and not mention anything about safety nets for those who need help, and propose reducing the size of government?   Okay… here were my first three:

Cato Institute

Hoover Foundation


Cal Thomas himself

Make your predictions in the comments.  A hint:  I was wrong.

Cal Thomas and the politics of made-for-TV movies

Cal Thomas just finished watching a movie on the Hallmark channel. Yep.  Now, I, too, love me some Hallmark Channel, as they have been known to play old repeats of Columbo on Sundays (my TiVo knows when).  But Thomas watches Hallmark channel for the movies. 

Today, Hallmark's commitment to quality television hasn't change (sic); it even has its own cable channel, which shows films that affirm the values most of us hold dear.

Well, the movie Thomas saw was called "Beyond the Blackboard," which was a movie about a teacher. I know, a teacher.

It's one of those "based on a true story" projects about a young woman (Stacey Bess) who desperately wants to teach, but finds there are no jobs available in her Salt Lake City school district. There is, however, an experimental program and Bess (played by Emily VanCamp), eagerly accepts the job. There's a problem, though. She is to teach homeless children in a rundown warehouse.

Okay, so this is a movie about the good done by a school and its teachers for the least-well-off.  Perhaps it could even be a case for more experimental programs like this to be started.  Perhaps it could be a case for supporting the programs out there right now that need financial backing.  Perhaps it could be a dramatization of how hard teachers work and how they deserve respect.  Alright, now, I don't think I'd like this movie as a movie (I'll admit, I don't like movies unless there are aliens or zombies), but I endorse its values.  Oh, wait, Thomas sees another set of values on offer.

[T]he film could easily veer off into a political diatribe and a call for more government spending on education. It is a tribute to the restraint of the creators that it does not. What it does depict is the power of one person to make a difference in other people's lives, not with government funds, but with the currency of a loving and dedicated heart.

So, I didn't see the movie, but this is weird.  Where Thomas sees the power of a loving heart to do what it can, I, just from what Thomas has said, see the need for government programs.  The poorest of this community don't have access to public education?  What is wrong here?  A capable teacher can't find work in a school district as big as Salt Lake?  Wuh?  And then the other shoe drops.  Thomas quotes the real Stacey Bess approvingly:

[Y]ou don't have to be sophisticated to love somebody, you don't have to have grand skills, you don't have to have a degree, you just have to want to care just a little bit further than what's expected.

Ah, you don't have to have a degree to be a teacher.  You just have to care a lot.  Remind me to go crazy when Thomas complains that teachers don't teach anything in school.

Argument by Tu Quoque Analogy

Cal Thomas has conjoined two fallacy forms, and it will make all attentive readers smile.  After hearing that Robert Brady (D-PA) has proposed a bill outlawing threatening elected officials, Thomas sees some analogies… some analogies that show some hypocrisies.

In the 1980s when conservative groups tried to "clean up" the bad language, sexual references and violence on TV, the Left cried "censorship." When conservatives campaigned against pornography and "music" that encouraged violence against women and racial epithets, they were told a healthy First Amendment required that even the most offensive speech be tolerated. It was the same argument used to allow the burning of the American flag at political protests. But the Left is intolerant of speech it disagrees with and so wishes to censor what it cannot overcome with superior argument.

Fallacy double-dipping.  Faulty analogy used in order to fix a premise for tu quoque.  It takes a special talent, you see.

The first problem is that Brady's bill is just extending the protections that are already given to the President to other officials.  For sure, enforcing it requires some judgment, but, you know, so do most laws governing speech (e.g., libel).  The crucial thing is that there's a difference between language that contributes to icky culture (profanity, obscenity, sexist and racist language) and language promoting violence on an individual.  This bill is only about the latter. So Thomas' analogy is way too thin to show a real inconsistency here.

Second, by saying that the Left (who says Democrats are of the Left, anyhow?) censors language they can't defeat by argument, is Thomas thinking that this bill extends to criticism?  It certainly seems so.  But that's not what Brady was talking about.  It was about threatening, not disagreeing with, refuting, or holding wrong.  Maybe that's just how Thomas does it, but most folks make that distinction.  I'd noted earlier that Thomas, when warned about tone, seems to get more aggressive.  He thinks he's being censored, not just criticized or given some advice.  (Nothing causes Thomas to be more caustic than his being told that he maybe could try to tone it down.)