Obama's Adviser: The Straw Man

Former George W. Bush speechwriter Noam Neusner ratchets up the snark in Thursday's Wall Street Journal. Assuming the alter-ego Straw Man of the United States (SOTUS), Neusner highlight's one of Obama's rhetorical techniques, setting up an imaginary enemy—the straw man—and then destroying it. SOTUS tells Obama things like, "Mr. President, you know, I think that in the face of the biggest financial crisis in three generations, you should really do nothing," only to hear his words rebutted in later Obama speeches, such as a Feb 9, 2009 press conference in which Obama said, "There seems to be a set of folks who—I don't doubt their sincerity—who just believe that we should do nothing." Neusner goes on to point out that conservatives "can't imagine anyone is saying the things that Mr. Obama stands up as arguments that he proceeds to knock down." Finally, Neusner employs the technique himself, writing that, "Some say Mr. Obama should make a stronger case for his opponents' positions than his own. The cynics think that straw-man arguments by definition prove that the speaker has no proof or logic on his side. Some would force presidential speechwriters to choose between a nifty setup for a zinger and boring rhetoric that puts audiences to sleep," concluding that "this straw man thing is pretty easy." Zing!