rhetorical sleight

Chairman Trey Gowdy

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, speaks in an interview 16 October 2015.  (Detail of photo by Getty Images)

“I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life. Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically―at least it is for me.”

Rep. Trey Gowedy (R-SC04)

The first point, to wonder what it is Mr. Gowdy, the chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, thinks he is doing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should meet resistance; set that urge aside. There is a lot going on, here. Rachel Bade of Politico hopes to explain:

Gowdy says the specifics of his rebuttals don’t matter; he feels he “just can’t win.

“I think that’s just [the Democrats’] MO: If you can’t attack the facts, you can attack the investigators … just attack, attack, attack and something will take hold,” he said. “[A]t some point, maybe something will stick, or maybe you get them off track or you get them to do or say something stupid, then you can seize on that.”

He also lays some blame at the media’s feet, arguing they’re too quick to report Democrats’ accusations without checking the merits, or the story of an ex-committee staffer who accused the panel of focusing on Clinton.

“You can work your entire career to have a reputation, and then someone you have no recollection of ever meeting sits down with a reporter and you’re immediately in a position of having to defend and it’s impossible to prove a negative,” he said.

This is a basic political maneuver very much associated with Karl Rove: Assign your greatest weakness to your opponent. With Republicans, it has pretty much become a tell: “I mean, honestly,” Gowdy complained of Huma Abedin’s testimony, “have you ever heard a more absurd critique than leaking the fact that one of the more recognizable people in the world was coming to Capitol Hill?”

This is a problematic complaint. Trey Gowdy is simply not an honest man.

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The Carly Fiorina Show (See Dick)

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina talks to a restaurant patron during a campaign stop at the Starboard Market, Friday, 14 August 2015, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

“There was no major scandal or faux pas to bring Fiorina down. While the impact of her debate performance may have worn off over time, why did she suffer this fate while Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio have continued to gain from their debating styles?”

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann

Call it a personal weakness: I love me some Dick.

Dick Morris, that is.

It is an eternal question: How does Dick Morris still get work? After all, who the hell still listens to Dick frickin’ Morris? True enough, people like me, but that’s the thing. Check this out:

Fiorina showed an eclectic knowledge of national affairs and fluently recited key facts about our weakened defense posture. She seemed like a nonascorbic, scandal-free alternative to Clinton.

Then, what happened?

There was no major scandal or faux pas to bring Fiorina down. While the impact of her debate performance may have worn off over time, why did she suffer this fate while Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio have continued to gain from their debating styles?

While The New York Times contributed to her fall with a front page article chronicling―and bashing―her record at Hewlett Packard, it was the bloggers who brought Fiorina down. The Times story regaled the saga of how Fiorina had induced HP to buy Compaq despite evidence of its declining clout, and emphasized the 30,000 layoffs under her tenure as CEO.

The bloggers really did a number on Fiorina, explaining her lack of conservative credentials. They quoted her 2010 comment, during her contest with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer that Roe v. Wade was “settled law” and noted her endorsement of Marco Rubio’s plan for amnesty for immigrants here illegally, her support for Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and her willingness to weaken Proposition 13, which holds down property taxes in California.

The blogs left Fiorina bleeding.

For Morris and McGann, “the larger story here is the extreme sensitivity of the Republican primary electorate’s evidence of impurity in the presidential candidates”, which itself leads off the sort of petulant paragraph that reminds why we all love us some Dick. The entire article is historical-romantic comedy―hiroco? Gesundheit!―gold. And the thing is that there is plenty of evidence of conservative electoral puritanism, but what of the rest of the Republican Party? It is not just that Morris and McGann omit entirely Ms. Fiorina’s astounding dishonesty about Planned Parenthood, and her stubborn, clumsy retort to the resulting controversy really would not seem encouraging to establishment Republicans who still bear questions of electability in their analyses.

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The Marco Rubio Show (In Not Of)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, heads to the Senate floor for a vote on July 9, 2014. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Yes, I’ve worked in the Senate for four years. But I’m not of the Senate.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Presidential candidate and, by the way, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) wants people to know that despite being a career politician, he’s not really a career politician.

No, there is not any rule that says you must be surprised. Just like there isn’t any rule regarding Mr. Rubio and wariness about trying to pull a threadbare rhetorical sleight like that; it’s pretty much what career politicians do.

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Image note:Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.

Leary, Alex. “Rubio: ‘I’m not of the Senate'”. Tampa Bay Times. 30 September 2015.