Ad Hominem

May 29, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

“Sounds like a left-wing blogger,” said Karl Rove scornfully of the new book by Scott McClellan. I’m not sure which of those terms, left-wing or blogger, Rove intends as more damning, but together, apparently, they are devastating.

Rove’s reaction also reminds me of something my father said decades ago as we watched a TV news item in which some politician was responding to accusations made by an opponent. When the politician had finished, my father said, “He called him a son-of-a-bitch, but he didn’t call him a liar.”

I’ve cited this bon mot before, but it’s relevant again. In case you hadn’t heard, McClellan, a former Bush press secretary, describes in the book how the White House deceived the press and the public. His former colleagues, understandably, are not pleased.

Here are some quotes gathered from various news stories.
  • “Here’s a man who owes his whole career to George W. Bush, and here he’s stabbing him in the back and no one knows why . . . He appears to be dancing on his political grave for cash.” Trent Duffy, Scott McClellan’s deputy.
  • “His view is limited.. . . For him to do this now strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous and unprofessional.” Fran Townsend, former head of the White House-based counterterrorism office.
  • “I’m really stumped. If he had these misgivings in 2002 ... why did he take the job, if he thought it was propaganda?” Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary.
  • “Sad . . . puzzling . . . . This is not the Scott we knew.” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.
  • “If he had these moral qualms, he should have spoken up about them. And frankly, I don’t remember him speaking up about these things. I don’t remember a single word.” Karl Rove.
  • “Scott McClellan was not the press secretary. He was the deputy press secretary who dealt with domestic issues,So, he would not have even been really have access to the types of meetings and deliberations that the president participated in.” Dan Bartlett, a former White House counselor.
As social scientists, we’re supposed to look at evidence. These statements all aim to discredit McClellan’s character and motives but say nothing about the substance of his book. They’re saying he’s a son-of-a-bitch, but they’re not saying he’s a liar. I wonder if anyone will notice.

1 comment:

TDEC said...

Hm, yes, that's a great point, and makes sense of the reactions...nobody I have talked with, even the most conservative of republicans, disagree that McClellan's take is valid, even if he seems, and might well be, morally suspect.