The Meaning of the Absence of Reasoned Argument

Here is a sample of the kind of campaign that President Obama is running in his attempt to get reelected.

They’re obsessed

By Jim Messina, Campaign Manager on

In just about 24 hours, Mitt Romney is headed to a hotel ballroom to give a speech sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a front group founded and funded by the Koch brothers.

Those are the same Koch brothers whose business model is to make millions by jacking up prices at the pump, and who bankrolled Tea Party extremism, and committed $200 million to try to destroy President Obama before Election Day.

So in the hours before Romney courts two men obsessed with making Barack Obama a one-term president, let’s see how many of us can chip in to the Two-Term Fund.

Here’s what Mitt Romney told his supporters just after his victory in the Florida GOP primary:

“We must not forget what this election is really about: defeating Barack Obama.”

Pitch in $3 or more over the next 24 hours to show that, while that message may fire up two oil-industry billionaires, it’s also one that plenty of us are tired of hearing.

The Koch Companies’ President of Government and Public Affairs, Philip Ellender, responded to this in a well-publicized manner.  I won’t go into that letter; however, a copy of it can be seen here.

What’s interesting, though, is Obama’s response, through Messina, to the Koch Industries letter.  I’ll cite relevant parts; the whole letter can be read at the link.

I am writing in response to your letter, in which you portrayed the oil and gas executives you represent as average citizens trying to make their voices heard.

Of course, no such representation was made. They did mention the “tens of thousands of members and contributors from across the country and from all walks of life” with respect to Americans for Prosperity.  Of course Obama knows that there are not “tens of thousands” of oil and gas executives all across the country; this is deliberate, Alinsky-esque distortion.

But it is a cynical stretch to describe the political activities of your employers as furthering democracy when they are courting huge checks from special interest donors to pay for negative ads, with no public disclosure of the identity of those donors.

Hmm.  Obama claims to know of “huge checks from special interest donors,” but there is “no public disclosure of the identity of these donors.”  Which side of Obama’s mouth should we believe, here?  Or is Obama confessing to domestic spying on private American citizens?

You argue that Americans for Prosperity is a grassroots organization of everyday citizens. But its emphasis on rolling back environmental protections and blocking a clean energy economy appears to be nothing more than an effort to promote the corporate interests of your employers and others who lavishly, and secretly, fund its operations.

This is another deliberate distortion.  AFP doesn’t espouse rolling back environmental protections or blocking clean energy.  AFP, along with all thinking Americans, do espouse eliminating excessive EPA regulations that hinder business—of any type—with no discernible gain for the environment.  Nor do we Americans seek to block clean energy.  We do object to Obama wasting our money on the Solyndras of the nation, and we do object to Obama wasting our money on “green” enterprises whose product cannot survive in an honestly competitive free market without those props.

You note in your letter that Americans for Prosperity has tens of thousands of members and contributors from all walks of life across the country, suggesting that this is the source of AFP’s funding. There is one way to verify your point: disclose those donors for the public to make that judgment.

How very Axelrod of Obama.  He doesn’t have to supply any evidence.  He just has to accuse, and given the accusation, of course the accused is perforce guilty unless he can prove his innocence.

But, even though I’ve spent some time on this, it’s all just cynical distraction, which is Obama’s intent with his Messina letter.  What’s most important here is that at no time does Obama address the issues raised in the Koch Industries letter response to his original ad hominem attack.

If the President’s campaign has some principled disagreement with the arguments we are making publicly about the staggering debt the President and previous administrations have imposed on the country, the regulations that are stifling business growth and innovation, the increasing intrusion of government into nearly every aspect of American life, we would be eager to hear them.


It is understandable that the President and his campaign may be “tired of hearing” that many Americans would rather not see the president re-elected. However, the inference is that you would prefer that citizens who disagree with the President and his policies refrain from voicing their own viewpoint. Clearly, that’s not the way a free society should operate.


I…hope the President will reflect on how the approach the campaign is using is at odds with our national values and the constitutional right to free speech.

Oh, yeah—Obama did pretend to address the nation’s debt explosion:

That is why the President introduced a plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion and put us on a path to solvency.

Obama’s “plan” is two budget proposals so ludicrous that even the Democratic party voted it out of town unanimously, and the second proposal, just last month, doubles down on that bad joke.

But he carefully elided the Progressive regulatory environment and the increasing intrusion of the Progressive government into the lives of ordinary Americans and our businesses.

And on free speech,

When you attempt to drown out their voices through unlimited, secret contributions to pursue a special-interest agenda that conflicts with what’s best for our nation, you must expect some scrutiny of your actions.

Once again, cynically unsubstantiated accusations of secret donations (since you know of them, Mr Obama, provide the data), while continuing the free speech of ad hominem attacks.

Two reasons come to mind for such a campaign.  One is the naked intimidation of those with dissenting speech in which Obama is so plainly engaged.  He simply will not brook any disagreement with his own hallowed positions, and he attacks, personally and with demonization, all those who do disagree.  Is this the sort of President of which we want another four years?

The other reason is that Obama simply is incapable of forming an argument that defends his own position, and so he runs away from the issues at hand and dives for the cover of the ad hominem as a means of changing the subject.  He knows his policies have failed utterly, but he lacks the moral rigor to acknowledge that and change course: he is capable only of avoiding the issues and engaging in personal attacks.  Is his the sort of President of which we can afford to risk another four years?

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