3 Memes That Annoy Me
1. Have you read it?
Lots of folks, including Glenn Reynolds, are chortling over about Attorney General Eric Holder’s admission that he hasn’t actually read the text of the Arizona immigration law he’s publicly criticized. This, despite Holder specifically saying — in the very admission being criticized — “I’ve just expressed concerns on the basis of what I’ve heard about the law. But I’m not in a position to say at this point, not having read the law, not having had the chance to interact with people are doing the review, exactly what my position is.”
It’s perfectly fair to criticize someone for spouting off without knowing what he’s talking about. But it’s, at best, cheap point scoring to ask whether someone has read a law under discussion, even a relatively short one such as this. Who cares whether they’ve read it? Are they wrong in some material way about the law? If not, it’s simple diversion.
2. Stupid number tricks.
Via Taegan Goddard, I see National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein says that, “If the economy produces jobs over the next eight months at the same pace as it did over the past four months, the nation will have created more jobs in 2010 alone than it did over the entire eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.”
Now, in fairness, Brownstein himself admits this is a specious argument four paragraphs in: “To compare job growth in 2010 with Bush’s record ignores the nearly 4 million jobs lost in Obama’s first year, during the freefall that began in Bush’s final months. That’s like ignoring a meteor strike.” And he goes on to argue that his “real point” is to highlight “how few jobs the economy was creating even before the 2008 collapse.”
But Brownstein’s headline and lede factoid will doubtless be widely touted without the intended context. And it highlights an annoying tendency of less numerate or honest journalists: comparing ridiculously incomparable data points.
3. Military unanimously backs president!
Wonk Room‘s Max Bergmann highlights a WSJ editorial by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that contains this argument: “The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership—to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent.”
Now, as it happens, I have tremendous regard for Gates’ integrity and agree with him that the New START Treaty is sound public policy. And I don’t see any reason to think that the uniformed military leaders he cites would think otherwise.
But general and flag officers serve at the pleasure of the president, their Constitutional commander-in-chief, and the SECDEF. The Chairman is also specifically tasked by Congress to serve as the direct military advisor to the president. But, whatever their views of the treaty at the outside, these men are going to do what the president orders — there’s no doubt he’s within his legal right to promulgate a treaty — unless they feel so strongly about it that they feel they must resign in protest. It’s therefore not reasonable to cite their “support” as meaningful.