In our hyper-partisan politics and media environment, it is not enough to take words at face value. The impulse to make analogies and jump to conclusions while making inferences about the speaker or writer is overwhelming. To be clear:
You don’t have to be a conservative to criticize Obamacare or spying on reporters.
You don’t have to want Hillary Clinton knocked out of the 2016 race to want to get to the bottom of Benghazi.
You don’t have to want Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for president to appreciate his proposals for reforming drug laws.
You don’t have to defend whatever comes out of Jay Carney’s mouth to be a liberal.
You don’t have to assume the president ordered IRS targeting to understand he set a tone of vicious partisanship that made such targeting seem acceptable.
You don’t have to be against all government to favor restraints on government.
Erroneous connections are a sign of the intellectual dishonesty that seeks to discredit the speaker:
You must be a conservative if you are criticizing Obamacare or spying on reporters.
You must simply want to destroy Hillary Clinton if you want to get to the bottom of Benghazi.
Such assertions are false (some liberals criticized spying on reporters). Moreover, no matter who the accuser is, the conclusion may be correct. The classic example of this is that paranoid people have enemies, too.
This technique is a not-so-sly attempt to bully people on your side into adhering to the party line. (You don’t want to be like those conservatives and criticize spying on reporters.) And it is a way of avoiding a discussion on the merits, akin to “But Bush did it, too” or “No one complained when….” It also explains why pundits resort to cherry-picking polls. It is easier to find a poll that says X percent of Americans haven’t heard of Benghazi than it is to deal with the misstatements and gross negligence at issue (which, by the way, you don’t have hate Hillary Clinton to recognize and which doesn’t mean you want Rand Paul for president.)
What is refreshing about the recent spate of scandals is that it has restored skepticism and intellectual honesty among mainstream reporters. What is distressing is that so many in the liberal punditocracy still resort to illogical and phony arguments, revealing how devoted they are to defending a president rather than illuminating events. If they want to do the latter, they should replace White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, which would elevate both the White House staff and the state of journalism.