By the numbers |

By the numbers

The First Amendment guarantees our freedom of speech, but it doesn’t guarantee that the speech must be rational or honest. Rather than seeking true dialogue, many on the left and the right focus on promoting their own agenda. When confronted with an opposing political position these dissemblers respond with tactics meant only to silence those whose opinions are different from their own. The following are the most common tactics. See how many you recognize.Tactic No. 1: They do not answer the questions they are asked. Instead, they answer the questions that they wished they were asked.Tactic No. 2: They use a first cousin to tactic No. 1 – not staying on task. When asked to respond to a specific issue, they reply with dissertations that move the debate away from the original subject matter. These are the people who when discussing the Clinton legacy forget that he balanced the budget, made great strides in welfare reform and oversaw eight years of prosperity – their singular focus is Monica Lewinsky. Conversely, when discussing George Bush, all discussions deteriorate into a tirade about his father’s “vendetta” against Saddam or how he “stole” the election.Tactic No. 3: They never explain or defend their own position. Instead they attack and or belittle the opposing position, person or political party with mindless name-calling – “radical,” “neocon,” “ultra-liberal,” etc. It’s important that Americans are able to disagree without becoming mean-spirited. We don’t have to all think alike, but it would sure help our nation if we thought together.Tactic No. 4: They have little use for information that does not fit their paradigm, so they conveniently leave out what they don’t like. President Reagan was honored for his many accomplishments while he was in office. We were told by conservatives that Ronald Reagan’s vision and determination brought the end of Soviet communism because he understood the Soviets could not keep pace with our military expansion and it would bankrupt their treasury. Perhaps so, but America’s military build-up actually began during the Carter administration. That fact does not diminish President Reagan’s legacy, but many conservatives conveniently omit that information.Conversely, President Bush is criticized for allowing the intelligence lapses that resulted in 9/11. But departed CIA Director George Tenet stated that it takes five years to implement viable intelligence networks. If so, then logic dictates that the Clinton administration must have been at least partially at fault for the tragedy of 9/11 because it oversaw U.S. intelligence for the eight years prior to 9/11, while the Bush administration oversaw it for eight months before the attacks. Also missing in the castigation of Bush and Clinton is the role of Congress in the tragedy. During 1996 Congress passed a law that has come to be known as the “Torricelli Principle,” named for the then representative and later a senator from New Jersey, Bob Torricelli. Under the law, the CIA was forbidden from using terrorists or paying terrorists for information. Think about it. Who better than terrorists would know about what other terrorists or doing? Who did Congress think we were going to get our intel from, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers? Tactic No. 5: They support their opinions with other opinions rather than factual information.Tactic No. 6: The respond with absolutely pollyannaish solutions that have no basis in 21st century reality. The following is from a respected personality when asked about the war: “The best way for peace is not to have enemies.” Or this from a nationally syndicated radio talk show host when asked about the price of gas: “If we just threatened to drill in the Arctic, the price of gas would come down because the nations we import from would know we’re serious about alternative sources.”And finally, Tactic No. 7, which is a favorite of the cerebrally challenged. I call this the “no-debate” tactic – responding with arguments so lacking in rational thought that they prove the maxim, “Never argue with an idiot because they will bring you down to their level and they’ll win because of their experience.”The following is an actual response to the question, “How should America defend itself from another 9/11 type attack?” “Peace is free. … We need common interests.” What did he say? Whew, I hope this person is not a school teacher. Expressing opinions about the state of our nation and the world is as American as apple pie, and clear-thinking Americans will embrace most arguments as long as they’re well-reasoned. But the hacks who respond with bumper-sticker ideology and specialize in verbal bomb-throwing are not worthy of reasoned debate. So it occurred to me that the next time I respond to a political argument that is patently biased or lacking in cognitive thought, I’ll simply reply with “Ah, nice try, but you’re using tactic No. 1,” or “tactic No. 3,” or “No. 4,” whichever fits the occasion. It will certainly save a lot of time and energy.Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at

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