Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bush Begs the Question. Big Time.

We at Left Behinds are very sensitive to misuse of the phrase "begging the question."

In today's ridiculously Orwellian press conference defending warrantless wiretapping, Bush did not misuse the phrase (usually it's misused by people trying to sound more educated than they are, which is perhaps the one verbal problem he does not have). Instead, in a spectacular display of question-begging, he exemplified why it's so important to retain the specific meaning of this phrase.

In his fourth bullet point (why does everything he utters sound like he's reading a Powerpoint presentation?), Bush said:
Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans.
Well, that's reassuring. They're not illegally wiretapping innocent Americans. Unfortunately, they're the ones who define "innocent Americans," and their definition amounts to "anyone we are not wiretapping."

So that sentence could be recast as "we are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of people whose personal lives we are not trolling through."

Begging.

The.

Question.

Big time.


>Tags: news and politics, bush, surveillance, wiretapping

15 Comments:

  • At 4:29 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    The other possibility could be that it is as it appears, not a deliberate logical fallacy but a straight-up lie.

     
  • At 4:42 PM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

    I personally object to his use of the word 'ordinary'. I object to almost everything about this guy but particularly today its the judgement implied by his use of 'ordinary'.

     
  • At 5:42 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Heh, true. I think the "ordinary" goes along with "innocent" in his question-begging. It also, as you're implying, sneaks in a racist/anti-Muslim subtext.

    AO, I actually do think he's deliberately using question-begging legalese. Over the past year or two, especially, he's become fond of Clintonian language-parsing - i.e., what he's said has only been strictly true because of misleading language. This whole speech seemed heavily vetted by White House lawyers.

     
  • At 6:26 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I don't see the wiggle room in what he said where you see it. "Innocent" cannot possibly be defined to mean "anyone we're not wiretapping." To me it seems more likely that their fig leaves are "personal lives" (read Glenn Greenwald, who thinks they may argue that data held by telecoms does not have a presumption of privacy) and "mining" or "trolling" (which are very hard to define). Isn't this fun, though? We're trying to figure out how our dictator is lying to us. Hell, I wasn't using my democracy anyway.

     
  • At 7:02 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Hm, maybe. But the logic of "innocent" would go something like:

    "Q: How can you tell they're not innocent?

    A: Because we're wiretapping them."

    But you're right, the other language has some legalistic wiggle room, as well.

     
  • At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Coco Seven Mile said…

    It nearly broke my heart when Jon Stewart misused "beg the question" a couple weeks back.

     
  • At 7:37 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    NO!

    We should start a Daily Show letter campaign. I'm not kidding.

     
  • At 10:59 AM, Blogger Pliny said…

    Apparently, some people can't tell the difference between collecting data and wiretapping.

    In my case, I would rather have the government collect my data (as would 63% of all Americans), than collect my remains comrade.

     
  • At 11:55 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Well, Dennis, those are, luckily, not the only two options. Some of us still want to 1) protect civil liberties and 2) fight a historically unprecedented power grab by the executive branch.

    The data collection that USA Today wrote about on May 10 is probably not technically illegal or precisely wiretapping, but it is closely related, which is why I made the ellision. Bushie himself connected the two in his speech that I linked to, which is why I referred to the overall scandal as warrantless wiretapping.

     
  • At 1:59 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    A sophist visits. Hi! As I'm sure you know, terrorism vs. civil liberties is a false dichotomy. The issue is not just that the administration is keeping our data, though that creeps me out, but that it's doing so in direct contravention of the law, without trying to have the law changed. If this is really so necessary, the President should have gone to Congress and said so. He can spy on us only within the limits of what our elected representatives tell him is legal.

    And Solomon, it is probably illegal, but probably not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Check out this analysis.

    To summarize, my very preliminary sense is that there are no Fourth Amendment issues here but a number of statutory problems under statutes such as FISA and the pen register statute. Of course, all of the statutory questions are subject to the possible argument that Article II trumps those statutes. As I have mentioned before, I don't see the support for the strong Article II argument in existing caselaw, but there is a good chance that the Administration's legal argument in support of the new law will rely on it.

    The Article II nonsense being that the President gets to do whatever he wants just because.

     
  • At 2:11 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Oh, and you can have your favorite slanted polls, but how about ours?

    May 13, 2006 - Has the Bush administration gone too far in expanding the powers of the President to fight terrorism? Yes, say a majority of Americans, following this week’s revelation that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone records of U.S. citizens since the September 11 terrorist attacks. According to the latest NEWSWEEK poll, 53 percent of Americans think the NSA’s surveillance program “goes too far in invading people’s privacy,” while 41 percent see it as a necessary tool to combat terrorism.

    President Bush tried to reassure the public this week that its privacy is “fiercely protected,” and that “we’re not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans.” Nonetheless, Americans think the White House has overstepped its bounds: 57 percent said that in light of the NSA data-mining news and other executive actions, the Bush-Cheney Administration has “gone too far in expanding presidential power.” That compares to 38 percent who think the Administration’s actions are appropriate.

     
  • At 2:15 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Finally, if this is really so necessary and keeping our data is no big deal, why do they keep lying about it? Why are they scrambling around, hiding and covering up?

     
  • At 2:23 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    That link to the Volokh analysis was from Glenn Greenwald, by the way, who further argues the illegality here.

     
  • At 1:49 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Of course, as Billmon argues here, our rights should never be dependent on their popularity in the polls.

     
  • At 1:35 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Nice summary of the issues.

    In today's press conference, Tony Snow tried to cite that poll about Americans not caring about wiretapping, and Helen Thomas was like "well, they do now," then she cited the other poll. He was trying to be all convivial and "c'mon, you know we each get to manipulate the statistics for the sake of argument" and she was all "you're a lying liar."

     

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