Ad Wars, Part Two: Two Short Lessons in Logic

On Monday I posted a little piece about how Republican members of Congress responded to General Petraeus’ first day of testimony by attacking MoveOn’s full-page ad in the New York Times.

Not to be outdone, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani has responded with his own full page ad in the New York Times, attacking not only MoveOn, but Hillary Clinton. Here’s today’s ad:

2007-09-14_rudy_petraeus_ad.gif(click twice to enlarge)

Giuliani’s ad implies that and Hillary Clinton are somehow in cahoots, and claims

She said: that General Petraeus’ progress report on Iraq required the “willing suspension of disbelief.”

He said: “Hillary Clinton continued the character attack on General Petraeus and refused to denounce’s ad.”

The Short Logic Lessons:

1. Giuliani claims that Petraeus’ character had been attacked. This would be an example of an ad hominem (abusive) argument. According to Stephen’s Guide, an argument of this type occurs when “instead of attacking an assertion, the argument attacks the person who made the assertion. ” However, because Senator Clinton criticized the report, no ad hominem attack occured.

2. Giuliani implies that because Senator Clinton refused to denounce’s ad, she therefore must be working with in a coordinated campaign. This is a fallacy known as affirming the consequent. Formally, Giuliani’s argument goes like this:

People in cahoots with MoveOn will not denounce the ad.
Hillary Clinton will not denounce the ad.
Therefore Hillary Clinton is in cahoots with

Well, I don’t think Britney Spears denounced the ad. Come to think of it, neither did O. J. Simpson. Wow. That’s a lotta cahoots!

Seriously, it saddens me when seasoned attorneys such as Rudy Giuliani pump out logical rubbish just to score political points. Makes me think of P. T. Barnum’s dictum about who’s born every minute.


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