Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

Dumbest analogy of the year? We have a Wehner!

I don’t want this site to spend too much time focusing on idiocy in the right-wing blogosphere because a) sites like MediaMatters and The Carpetbagger Report already do such a good job of it, and b) I only have so many hours in the day. But yesterday I read something that was so mind-boggingly stupid, I just couldn’t let it pass. I also think it offers a telling window into the right-wing worldview. But more on that in a second.

Writing in The Corner, Peter Wehner goes on an extended analogy comparing Iraq to a sick child:

Assume that your child was ill and had a fever. You took him to the doctor and the primary physician recommended medication. Another doctor, not the primary physician, said medication wasn’t needed and, in fact, it would be counterproductive. The fever continued; in response, the child’s physician increased the dosage of medication (over the objections of the second doctor). The child’s condition continued to worsen, to the point that you took your child to the hospital. Medication was then combined with other interventions, over the strong objections of the second doctor. In fact, the second doctor not only recommended against medication, he felt at this stage the child was a lost cause and it would be a waste to devote much more effort on the child’s behalf.

Slowly, however, the child, because of the increased medication and other interventions, began to improve. In a few days, in fact, he was released from the hospital, with the fever going down. Finally the child got to the point where he was healthy enough that the primary physician said he now envisioned that the child would soon be able to come off the medication, provided we continued to see conditions-based progress. Now imagine if the second doctor declared that because the child would one day be off medication, he had been right all along. Such a claim would be absurd; the child would have gotten worse, and probably would have died, if the secondary doctor’s recommendation had been followed. The child’s recovery demonstrated why the secondary doctor’s judgment was deeply and dangerous flawed rather than right.

Where to start? First, as long as we’re dealing with overly elaborate analogies, let’s flesh this out a little more:

What if the child didn’t passively become “ill”, but rather became sick due to medical malpractice by a chief surgeon who recommended an overly invasive surgery, which others (including the second doctor in the example above) said wasn’t necessary, and then proceeded to completely botch the procedure? And what if the primary physician not only was part of the original consult on the surgery, but loudly proclaimed the chief surgeon’s wisdom, even after everyone else had long concluded he was incompetent? What if giving so much medication to that patient meant there was less available for other, sicker patients? And what if, far from “envisioning that the child would soon be able to come off the medication,” the primary physician had said he could imagine the child continuing to take the medication for up to 100 years, furthering speculation that his goal was less the health of the child than it was advancing the interests of the pharmaceutical company that produced the drug?

I could go on and on, and of course, any analogy is going to be imperfect. But here’s what I found particularly interesting: As I started to read this post, I assumed that at some point in this narrative the child would express his wish to go home, and Wehner would explain why we shouldn’t take the child’s views at face value. But of course, he didn’t go there, because doing so would highlight the fact that Wehner is literally infantilizing Maliki and Iraq.

Go re-read the analogy again and ask yourself whether there was any reason that Wehner’s patient needed to be a child. Couldn’t he have told the exact same story with an adult patient? He could have, but then it would have raised the question of whether, when an adult says he wants to stop taking medication, we should take him at his word and stop giving him medication.

In fact, the analogy is turning out to be a fairly accurate description of Republican attempts to spin away Maliki’s comments. We’re told he was just playing to a domestic audience, that he didn’t really understand the political impact his statements would have. In other words, don’t listen to silly little Nouri. He’s just a kid. Papa McCain, meanwhile, knows what’s really good for the Iraqi people. And as long as they’re living under his (security) roof, they’ll do what he says.

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July 22, 2008 - Posted by | Iraq | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Reading Wehner’s column made me sick.

    I know, I know, but I had to.

    Comment by dansac | July 22, 2008 | Reply


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