Illogic And Rhetoric

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Media-driven maelstroms like Bittergate tend to bring out illogical impulses on all sides. Here are some to watch for:

1. Reverse, contrived, conservative elitism against "the wealthy" big cities, Democrats, Ivy League colleges, and San Francisco. (where did President Bush go to business school, again? Condi Rice was provost of which school?);

2. Dumb assertions about Obama's upbringing; he was never poor, but he did not grow up rich, and though he went to an elite Hawaiian private school, he did so on scholarship. In any event it is silly to believe that one cannot make an argument about working class politics because one has never been a laborer.

3. Although John McCain is married to a wealthy beer company heiress, that does not or should not preclude his campaign from saying whatever it wants about Obama's remarks. Nothing John McCain has done has any bearing on whether Barack Obama's remarks are true or false or are offensive or not.

4. Assertions from pro-Obama types that Obama's argument is self-evident and self-justifying. It is not.

5. Willful misinterpretations of Obama's remarks, like this one from the chairman of the Pennsylvaniia Republican Party, who said that Obama characterized "Pennsylvanians as bitter gun-toting, racist, religious fanatics."

6. Reading immigration out of Obama's remarks. I have heard Republicans make this argument. Ryan Lizza listened to John McCain make the argument.

"It's the influx of illegals into places where they've never seen a Hispanic influence before. You probably see more emotion in Iowa than you do in Arizona on this issue. I was in a town in Iowa, and twenty years ago there were no Hispanics in the town. Then a meatpacking facility was opened up. Now twenty per cent of their population is Hispanic. There were senior citizens there who were—'concerned' is not the word. They see this as an assault on their culture, what they view as an impact on what have been their traditions in Iowa, in the small towns in Iowa. So you get questions like 'Why do I have to punch 1 for English?' 'Why can't they speak English?' It's become larger than just the fact that we need to enforce our borders."

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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