Damn Lies, and the Polls
by John Larson
I remember when I was enrolled in a Logic 101 class, studying
the subject as part of a requirement towards getting an Associate's
degree. There were, oddly enough, exercises that had to be
worked out at the end of the chapter, somewhat like a cross
between basic grammar and mathematics. One had to give special
consideration to not just what was said but how it was said
because an obscure word or phrase could give a completely
different meaning to what was supposed to have been conveyed.
The whole point was to expose the fallacies made in claims
that were being made on an everyday basis, whether spewed
relentlessly by advertisers or politicians.
One example clearly stood out in my mind since it was so
obvious that it was overlooked. It used an example made famous
by Playboy's review of some writing by Stephen King: 25 Million
Readers can't be wrong. Very persuasive of course, so I had
to look and see what the fallacy was when I saw an example
of a reply: "75 million people haven't read Stephen King and
maybe you shouldn't either."
How I hadn't seen the solution to that was surprising, but
I take a little comfort in knowing that I wasn't the only
one who could fall for that kind of an argument. However it
was tempered with knowing that a lack of exercise of critical
thought is a very, very common affliction and it is easier
to be blinded than I ever could have imagined.
This form of an argument, that if many agree on something
then they must be correct, is a myth that is perpetuated everyday
these days by the desperate politicians who are in the White
House. George W. Bush is a man who has been completely besieged
by the scandals growing within his ranks and continued embarrassment
of his personal misconduct (products of the arrogance and
ignorance that are characterizing his stay in the Oval Office)
and gross ineptitude.
One need not look further than the infamous conclusions that
Zogby made quite recently that George W. Bush was ranking
very highly among the greatest Presidents in the of the last
100 years, beating out a strong number of historical figures
in the process.
So here we are, left with someone who came into office with
the taint of an election scandal (or at best came in under
extremely dubious circumstances), someone who among other
things has to contend with the Enron mess, Funeralgate, a
DUI offender married to someone involved with vehicular manslaughter.
He dodged the draft and is a known alcoholic (according to
the strictest definition of AA's definition) who's known to
have been a drug abuser, someone who can't properly enunciate
or spell even after having attended Yale of all places, who
likely also has an abortion with another woman to his credit.
He's a failed business leader in several ventures, an ex-governor
who refused to make a case for civil rights despite the pleading
of the daughter of James Byrd, and has presided over a high
number of executions in his state. This is also a man that
has been given a position by the Supreme Court (which Sandra
Day O'Connor, a Reagan appointee, has expressed remorse over
even being involved in, which certainly does not look good
There are also the highly disputed ballots from Florida that
confirmed that Gore was in fact the winner if the over votes
were ever allowed to have been counted. There are purged voter
lists in Florida and several reports of Civil Rights violations.
There's also that "vacation" that he took after only two
months in, which was at least several weeks.
And if that weren't enough, extreme negligence on the part
of the Bush administration is likely the culprit behind the
911 terrorist bombings. When you think about it, there's much
to answer for, including the faith-based $43 million that
the Taliban received prior to the bombings, not to mention
the heavy involvement between Osama Bin Laden's and Bush's
family. There was also of course the lack of preparedness
on behalf of the big airlines not to put into place better
protections (something that Gore had in fact lobbied to have
put in place while he was still in office).
There were the warnings by the Mossad, the special forces
of the Isreali military. There were also warnings from Gary
Hart that something like that would happen (which were cast
aside by Condoleeza Rice). In short, there was a catastrophic
failure by the intelligence community to keep this from happening,
which in some circles is raising some suspicious eyebrows,
especially in light of the so-called Patriot Act. And a Senate
Investigation is likely into this matter.
And there's the economy going south once Bush came into office
- a record surplus that was completely erased in less than
a year. There's also his opposition to campaign finance reform
that's forcing John McCain, a former Republican Primary opponent,
to square off with his former rival.
Yes, we're left with a lazy, deficit-running draft dodger
who has neglected his personal responsibilities, someone who
has left everyone with little doubt that he has no sensibilities,
has let down his guard and allowed the Trade Tower bombings
to take place while letting his Attorney General supervise
the elimination of our civil liberties. This isn't a person
that could even be liked by factions of Republicans within
his own party (sadly enough congressional Republicans have
often fought with him more bitterly than congressional Democrats).
This is a man that somehow Zogby claims is worthy of stature
among men such as Truman, FDR, Eisenhower, and JFK. It has
been just a year that he's been in office but I'm sure that
conservatives have to shake their head and wonder how in God's
name Bush managed to rank above Ronald Wilson Reagan, a very
highly popular two-term President who arguably brought an
end to the Cold War.
It is more than painfully obvious that the polls have became
a purely propagandist tool for the White House. Look at any
poll and Bush's approval numbers are abnormally high, especially
given his share of predicaments he's forced to deal with.
The polls are the proverbial fig leaf meant to cover up the
growing shame of the current White House. In fact, if anything,
Bush is terrified and so are his handlers and they damn well
should be. The mid-term elections are coming up and there
has already been a shift from the extreme right-wing policies
to those on the left. The 2001 elections went overwhelmingly
Democratic and in a number of local races Green party members
have won some seats with a minimal amount of campaigning.
Tom Daschle is becoming more prominent as someone the White
House fears. After this November, there won't just be more
Tom Daschles but also more Henry Waxmans and Jan Schakowskys.
And if that isn't enough there will be more John McCains out
there too in Congress.
Congress is fundamentally the most important chamber of our
government. However Bush should also be worried about the
lack of leadership that leaves him with a disadvantage. Whether
you liked them or hated them, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton
were both highly effective presidents because of their charisma.
Bush II doesn't have as much charisma as his dad did (who
basically got his by riding Reagan's coat tails for just a
couple of years). He's had to depend on staged rallies and
has refused to hold any more press conferences himself to
address the public.
Yet the polls would tell us that this is a man held in high
esteem, the man who was supposed to somehow bring honor and
dignity to the White House. Apparently honor and dignity didn't
care to be part of Bush's staff after all.
Another lesson we learned in my Logic class was how to analyze
the conclusions the polls made. Its very common these days
not to have any sort of margin of error included in the results
or to include the numbers of people who may not provide a
more favorable answer to a particular question. Many questions
are left vague and any sort of interpretation can be made
if one wanted to try hard enough. Oddly enough these same
polls consistently ranked Bush with a higher approval over
Gore, who holds the distinction of winning the popular vote
without getting enough electoral votes to be given the White
House. Needless to say the polls simply can't be trusted anymore.
So now whenever I see a poll giving Bush another gaudy approval
rating like say 80% or so, I just think that another 180%
didn't approve of him. And neither should I.