Monday, May 18, 2009

Sloppy Thinking, Ear-Candy Rhetoric: Obama at ND

Didn't really want to read the speech, but ...

Take a look at this graf:

The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.

This is an example of what I'll call "The Rhetoric of Evasion." Obama's teleprompter elides distinctions. One could hear Dr. Ralph McInerny screaming "DISTINGUISH!!" throughout this neatly deceptive bit of flim-flammery.

Sure, you kinda-sorta know what he meant, and it felt good to kinda-sorta know that. But what he said doesn't really mean anything; the appositions fail for lack of clearly voiced differences.

The obvious example is his use of the term "stem cell research." Anyone who pays attention knows that there are TWO kinds of "stem-cell research;" one is flat-out immoral (embryonic); the other is perfectly acceptable (adult.) Obama does not want to make that clear.

Somewhat more subtle is his false apposition of "gay activist"/"evangelical pastor." Surely, each is unhappy with the effects of AIDS. But Obama's rhetoric suggests that opposition to disordered sexual activity is on the same plane as calling for research for cure to the disease.

Similarly, he establishes a false dichotomy between "lawyers" and "soldiers" in the arena of defense-of-country. Umnnnhhh...the battles these entities fight are literally on different grounds--which call for very different actions.

All that ear-candy is preparation for his attempt at the home run, of course.

"...Because when we do that _ when we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe-that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground...So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let's reduce unintended pregnancies. Let's make adoption more available. Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term....Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words."

Well, who could object to being civil? Who could object to caring for people?

He very, very, carefully tiptoed around the distinction between the parties here. Some hold that killing pre-born children is circumstantially justified. Others hold that killing pre-born babies is a first-order and invariably evil act.

Without that distinction, it's all Unicorns and Balloons.

Without distinctions, it's Ear-Candy.

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