Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » September 2005 » Gratuitous ad hominem? Here's why I don't think so....

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09/06/2005: Gratuitous ad hominem? Here's why I don't think so....

Today's comment du jour is a point well taken from a not-infrequent commenter:

Excuse me? The president is a bad man because "his mother is a heartless bitch," according to one out-of-context quote?

I'm as liberal as you are, but this kind of sleazy, partisan, ad hominem attack is precisely why I don't read your political posts (or pretty much anyone else's) anymore. When you attack your target's
family, you throw away any credibility you might once have had.
Conceding that the point is well taken, I'm not going to back off from the original assertion, which, I don't think is a gratuitous ad hominem. My reasoning (you may, if you wish, add scare quotes around that if you want; I won't be offended) runs along the following lines:

1. Barbara Bush is a heartless bitch. My primary data point for that is the (to my mind) incredibly offensive statement she was quoted as making (and not just in print; today the Rachel Maddow Show and Morning Sedition have been playing an audio clip of Mrs. Bush making that statement), that the evacuation of refugees from persons displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina was "working very well" for them.

Even looking at that statement in the light most favorable to Mrs. Bush, it shows an astonishing (to my mind) callousness and lack of sympathy and sensitivity to the plight of the persons displaced by the hurricane. It's certainly possible, even probable, that some (possibly many) of these persons are going to wind up having things "work out quite well" over the long term. But that's most certainly not going to be true for all (possibly not even for most), and to make so light of the plight of the victims of the storm during a tour of the evacuation centers suggests to me that Mrs. Bush is an egg roll and side order of fried rice short of a combo plate in the area of basic human sympathy.

That's my primary data point; I don't have the time and the inclination to go digging into her past for more evidence, but my personal impression of Mrs. Bush, dating back to before her days as First Lady, has left me with the impression that, far from being the benign, "America's grandmother", that her press coverage during her husband's term as President led many (if not most) of us to believe, she's a cast iron bitch.

2. George W. Bush is a bad man. I'm going to qualify that in the terms of two of yesterday's "Gems":
Bush is just a bad human being, not just morally bad, but deficient in character, judgment, skill, relevant experience, empathetic capacity, and maturity.
from Brian Leiter, and:
...his belated and indifferent reaction to the suffering caused by the hurricane, have made people see him as the lazy, self-centered, smug, privileged, uncaring, and deeply unreflective man many of us have been calling him from the start.... he continually, constantly hits false notes in trying to show and express the simulacrum of caring (for dead troops, for suffering Gulf Coast victims, for the opinions of anyone who doesn’t agree with him)....
from Progressive Blog Digest.

In this particular case, the issue is, of course, Bush's lack of sensitivity and sympathy for those not a member of the privileged classes of which he, himself, is a member. This has been a defining character trait of Bush's since long before his successful Presidential run placed him into the national limelight.

3. (This is, perhaps, the hidden part of the "argument") Bush wasn't born an unsympathetic, uncaring individual; he had to learn that behavior. And where did Bush learn that behavior? As the idiomatic expression has it, "at his momma's knee". I have no doubt that George W. Bush is an uncaring, unfeeling, unsympathetic aristocratic classist precisely because his mother is that type of person, and he imbibed such values "in his mother's milk", as it were.

So, Q.E.D., "Dubya Bush is a bad man because his mother is a heartless bitch."

Granted, I could have made the same point more temperately, and appeared less "sleazy, partisan, [and] ad hominem" than the original post in question did. However, as I often point out when asked "why do you blog?", basically this blog isn't an exercise in dispassionate, fair and balanced seeking after truth (sometimes it is, but we make no promises). I started the blog way back when (January, 2003), because venting here was preferable to the alternative ways of venting (most of which might subject me to a lengthy term of imprisonment, or worse).

So that's my "defense" (such as it is) to the charge of "ad hominem". As to the others:

"Partisan"? I respectfully disagree. Actually, I've pretty much given up on partisan politics in the United States, because the political spectrum here (roughly two standard deviations either side of the mean) ranges from the rabid paranoiac and religious right, on the right side of the aisle, to the just-to-the-right-of-center (what the conservatives demonize as the "liberal" mainstream of the Democratic party). If I'm forced to come up with a description of my political stand, I'd have to say "social democrat"--far to the left of the current "mainstream" of the Democratic party. When I vote, I tend to vote for the Democratic candidate as being closer to my views than the Republican, but I'm not by any means a partisan Democrat--for example, I'm publicly on record that it'll be a cold day in hell before I vote for Harold Ford, Jr. for any political office he runs for as long as either of us live.

"Sleazy"? Well... I'll cheerfully plead guilty there. If you can't indulge in the occasional sleazy, snarky, rhetorical low blow... well, what's the point of having a blog, then?


Len on 09.06.05 @ 06:59 AM CST

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