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Hillary’s Fatal Love Of The “False Dichotomy”

From her campaign’s website:

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks about her health care policy at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, Sept. 17, 2007.

Remarks on American Health Choices Plan

September 17, 2007

… We can talk all we want about freedom and opportunity, about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but what does all that mean to a mother or father who can’t take a sick child to the doctor? To someone who can’t take the job of his dreams because it doesn’t offer health care? To a family filing for bankruptcy or losing their home because their medical bills were just too high?

This statement stunning on the face of it. Apparently Mrs. Clinton is willing to give up on the founding tenets of our country, freedom and opportunity, and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — if they stand in the way of affordable healthcare.

But we should also note that this is a rhetorical sleight of hand that Mrs. Bill Clinton has employed for many years now. Even going back to when she first burst upon the national scene to (falsely) defend her husband against (true) allegations.

From Carl Bernstein’s book, “A Woman In Charge,” pg 200:

… The crucial test of the Clinton campaign came in New Hampshire on January 23, [1992] with a call from Bill to Hillary: the Star tabloid was about to run a story that Gennifer Flowers, one of the women who had sworn in an affidavit in 1990 that she had not had sex with Bill Clinton, now was claiming she, in fact, had had a twelve-year affair with him. Bill denied it.

Hillary set the tone of the campaign’s response at a rally in Bedford two nights later. “From my perspective,” she said, “our marriage is a strong marriage. We love each other, we support each other, and we have had a lot of strong and important experiences together that have meant a lot to us.” Yes, there had been “issues,” as she called them, in the mar­riage. But that was between them, and they deserved a “realm of protec­tion. . . . Is anything about our marriage as important to the people of New Hampshire as whether or not they will have a chance to keep their own families together?” The cheers of the crowd made it impossible to hear the rest of her answer…

Rhetoricians and logicians have several terms for this kind of flawed argument.

From Wikipedia:

False dilemma

The informal fallacy of false dilemma—also known as false choice, false dichotomy, falsified dilemma, fallacy of the excluded middle, black and white thinking, false correlative, either/or fallacy, and bifurcation—involves a situation in which two alternative statements are held to be the only possible options, when in reality there exist one or more other options which have not been considered.

Whatever one calls it, it sure has proved to be a handy device for Mrs. Clinton.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, September 24th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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