(Logic) English 2 – Critical Thinking and Writing (Spring 2007)
Is (was) President Bush environmentally irresponsible?
[Students and professors, please read.]
Bob Herbert, in “Bush’s Environmental Record,” answers the question of whether President Bush is environmentally irresponsible. Window-dressing aside, using mostly ‘argument by example,’ Herbert argues that Bush’s past policy decisions show that Bush is environmentally irresponsible by providing many examples of environmentally-unfriendly decisions Bush has made. However, one must wade through thick rhetoric and even some fallacious reasoning to reach the argument.
Herbert starts out using the “Who am I to disturb history?” attitude of Charlie Brown’s Pig-Pen as a false analogy of Bush’s approach to the environment, which he characterizes as “Why stop now?” He tries to get the most mileage he can out of this false analogy by returning to it at various points in the article, especially in the conclusion. He then presents two straw men for why Bush is environmentally irresponsible: 1) fouling our own nest (hyperbole) is a grand (hyperbole) tradition and 2) you can’t have clear skies and progress (false dilemma).
Finally, in the fifth paragraph, he offers a great example: Bush cut funding on toxic clean-up. But, then, using innuendo, Herbert implies this is due to a lack of leadership, dismissing the lack of funding as a poor excuse.
He then speaks for Mother Nature on how she feels about Bush, which would be a “straw woman” if Mother Nature were a real person.
Then he quotes a disgruntled Eric Schaeffer, a former top enforcer at the Environmental Protection Agency, who quit because of Bush’s record, saying “he felt he was ‘fighting a White House that seems determined to weaken the rules we are trying to enforce.’” Since Schaeffer could be considered a credible expert, his opinion of Bush’s ‘determination’ seems to bolster Herbert’s argument.
Then he offers three great examples in succession: “relaxed air quality regulations that applied to older coal-fired power plants” (using innuendo to imply Bush had been on the edge of his seat to do this, but couldn’t until Schaeffer resigned), failure to “regulate the industrial emissions of carbon dioxide” (using innuendo to imply Bush was untrustworthy in this, since it was a campaign promise), and Bush “turned his back (hyperbole) on the Kyoto Protocol”.
Then Herbert says Bush was disdainful of his administration’s report on global warming, implying that he was disdainful of their telling the truth. He does not provide any quotes, so this may be a proof surrogate. However, he compares Bush’s position with those of the “muddle-headed conservative groups in Texas” (personal attack ad hominem) and quotes a textbook without providing evidence (proof surrogate) supporting his claim that those groups influenced the wording. This is a red herring, because this really has nothing to do with Bush.
Herbert then quotes disparaging remarks about Bush’s environmental policy from Joseph Lieberman, who is not an expert in environmental issues. This is followed by a claim that several states are “fed up with Bush’s capitulation to industry on these matters,” without any quotes (proof surrogate), claiming they have “moved on their own to protect the environment and develop more progressive energy policies.” This immediately raises in the mind of the reader a question Herbert should have anticipated: Should states be moving on their own, rather than expecting the federal government to move for them?
Herbert returns to Pig-Pen, strengthening the emotive force of his rhetoric when he admits it is a false analogy because, “Bush is no joke. His thrashing of the environment is a deadly serious matter.” Thus, he ends on a rhetorically strong note.
A critical thinker reading Bob Herbert’s “Bush’s Environmental Record” would be alerted by the many red flags of thick rhetoric and logical fallacies, and put further research into the four solid-seeming examples and the opinion of one expert provided in his article to defend his claim that Bush is environmentally irresponsible.