by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Timothy Carney of the Washington Examiner looks beyond the standard “fallacies, sophistries, oversimplifications, and utter absurdities” to detail 2013’s worst political arguments.
“If we can save only one life…”
The demagoguery started early in 2013, as Democrats tried to push gun-control laws in the wake of the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The White House argued for gun restrictions using a litany of facile talking points, most absurdly this gem by President Obama: “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.” …
… It sounds nice — in a high school Model Congress sort of way — that we ought to take any action that would save one child’s life. But we all know policies have costs, in terms of freedom, unintended consequences and using up enforcement resources. Obama’s “just one child” argument pretends his gun control proposals have no costs.
Outlawing party balloons would save the handful of kids who choke to death on them. Outlawing swimming pools would save hundreds of children who drown in them every year. A national speed limit of 10 mph would spare untold numbers of Americans who die in automobile accidents. Why didn’t Obama push these laws in 2013? …
… “Defund it or you’re for it…”
The Tea Party’s central mistake in the government shutdown debate was confusing differences in tactics for differences. Utah Republican Mike Lee put this mistaken view most succinctly on the Senate floor: “Defund it or own it. If you fund it, you’re for it.”
The provision in question would have blocked all federal funding for Obamacare’s implementation. But the “defund Obamacare” strategy never made political and rhetorical sense.
To start with, the defund proposal had near zero chance of passing. Defunding Obamacare required Obama to sign a bill defunding Obamacare. So “defund it or you’re for it” boiled down to: “Join in our doomed posturing, or you’re a big liberal.” That’s not exactly the way to build a coalition within a party. …
… “It’s the LAW”
The dumbest argument made during the defund debate, though, was the Democrats’ assertion that GOP efforts to delay or change Obamacare were illegitimate because Obamacare “is the law of the land.”
This was an official Democratic talking point, repeated by Democratic politicians and liberal talking heads at every available opportunity.
Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland implied that using the legislative process to change the law somehow violated the oath of office. “We put up our hands to swear to uphold the Constitution and the laws of this country,” Cummings said on CNN. “It is the law.”
The notion that Congress can’t change or delay a standing law is a hard one to dispute, mainly because it’s so mind-bendingly nonsensical. Congress, after all, is the branch empowered to make laws. The president can veto a law, but he then must send the bill back to Congress for revisions — or a vote to override his veto.