Friday, October 14, 2005

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Some say critics of Harriet Miers are sexist. Some say critics of Harriet Miers are elitist. I say: Who cares?

In the assessment of Miers as a potential Supreme Court candidate, the personal characteristics of those involved in the debate are irrelevant. For example, there might exist a Miers supporter who takes pleasure in fricasseeing kittens. On the other hand, there might be a Miers critic who founded the Society for the Advancement of Scratching Chalkboards. Does it really need to be said that these facts would have nothing to do with the soundness of nominating Miers as a Justice on the Supreme Court?

Sexist, racist, elitist, "anything"-ist. It doesn't matter. Debating the characteristics of the debaters is a time-waster that diverts intellectual energy from the real debate: Would Harriet Miers make a good Supreme Court justice?

Of course, the Miers nomination is not the only public debate poisoned by ad hominem attacks. They are everywhere. The Nation seems particularly fond of them. In an article currently on The Nation website fearlessly titled The Young Chickenhawks, Clarisse Profilet exposes the not-so-shocking lack of military experience among the leadership of the Young Americans for Freedom and the College Republicans. She concludes:
Conservative campus groups like YAF and College Republicans are growing in strength and numbers. And since the start of the Iraq War, these outfits have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush to support the war, but they have not stood alongside the soldiers doing the actual fighting and dying. They want someone else to do the hard work.

If the proponents of these arguments merely intend to denigrate their opponents, they may in some cases be successful, but are always petty. If, on other hand, the proponents of the arguments sincerely mean to address the underlying debate, the arguments are not merely unsuccessful, but prototypes of logical fallacies.

Some Miers critics are elitist.
Therefore Miers would be an excellent Supreme Court Justice.

Some supporters of the war have not joined the military.
Therefore, the war in Iraq is unjust.



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