In Defense of Mitt Romney: Understanding 6 Logical Fallacies

This article was written by request. It is intended for those who are in support of the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.  

On October 4, 2019, Utah Senator Mitt Romney posted on his official Facebook page @mittromney this post.


When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated. By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.



This post is in reference to an impeachment inquiry opened on September 24, 2019 by Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.  This inquiry is the result of a whistleblower's complaint that the President of the United States, Donald Trump, used abuse of power and subsequent cover-up by the administration in order to advance Trump's personal interests.  This complaint has been corroborated by more than 6 U.S. officials.

I think it's important to first point out that an impeachment inquiry is not the same as impeachment.  An impeachment inquiry is just the first step towards a lengthy process.

Here's a humorous yet informative explanation of all the necessary steps needed to impeach a President of the United States.



Peach mint cocktail any one?

Source

What Mitt Romney's post is inferring is that POTUS has committed a high crime or misdemeanor, which is an impeachable defense according to Section 4 of Article Two of the U.S. Constitution.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Note: The word "high" is not in reference to the offense, it's in reference to the position of the person who committed the offense.  In other words, they hold a HIGH office.  

So what actions are considered to be high crimes and misdemeanors?

 According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a federal law enacted by Congress, it includes the following:


  • perjury of oath
  • refusal to obey orders
  • abuse of authority 
  • dereliction of duty 
  • failure to supervise
  • moral turpitude
  • conduct unbecoming 


So what crime is Donald Trump accused of exactly?  According to the Whistleblower Report  it is this:

pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President's main domestic political rivals


This complaint is an abuse of authority.  "The use of legislated or otherwise authorized powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain."

Are you all wondering what I'm wondering?  Why aren't we looking at moral turpitude? "An act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community" His Twitter account alone! 

Now that we have a better understanding of what an impeachment inquiry is and why this whistleblower's complaint was the impetus for one, let's revisit Senator Romney's post.  I've bolded the words that I believe best make his case for abuse of authority.

"When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated. By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling."
In other words, Trump has targeted his political opponent for his own personal gain by seeking a foreign power for help.

Now let's look at some of the comments that have been made underneath Senator Romney's post and see if we can find some logical fallacies.

I don't know if Senator Romney will read these comments, but I will, so let's go logical fallacy hunting.  







Ad Hominem:

This is an attack on the character of a person rather than his or her opinions or arguments.  Fortunately this is the majority of the comments so I can skip most of them.

When you are trying to exchange ideas with someone and they use this argument, don't accept the premise.  The premise is that we should only accept the idea if the person is of high moral character (or in this case not a liberal).  It's easy to then fall into the trap of debating whether Mitt Romney is a traitor to the Republican Party.  Doesn't matter.


Red Herring: 
This is a red herring argument with a little ad hominem thrown in.  A red herring is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issue or opposing argument.  Whether Joe Biden needs to be investigated has nothing to do with Trump's alleged abuse of authority.  That's a different topic.

When you are trying to exchange ideas with someone and they use this argument, don't accept the premise.  The premise is that Joe Biden's actions warrants investigation thus justifying Trump's actions.  It's easy to fall into the trap of debating whether Joe Biden is corrupt or not.  Doesn't matter.

Straw Man:

This is a straw man argument.  He has misrepresented the other side by saying Joe Biden is not Trump's political opponent.  Joe Biden has officially declared that he is running for President of the United States.  Trump has officially declared he too will be running for President of the United States.  They are political opponents.

When you are trying to exchange ideas with someone and they use this argument, don't accept the premise.  The premise is that Joe Biden needs to be nominated by the DNC to be an opponent.  It's easy to fall into the trap of debating whether Joe Biden is an opponent or not.  He is.

Moral Equivalence: 
This is known as moral equivalence.  Normally it is done by comparing minor misdeeds with major atrocities, but in this case he is comparing the actions of a current president with well-known and respected leaders.

When you are trying to exchange ideas with someone and they use this argument, don't accept the premise.  The premise is that Trump is as great as Lincoln and Churchill and should be respected as such.  It's easy to fall into the trap of debating whether Trump is as great as these two men.  Whether he is or not, doesn't change whether he committed abuse of authority.

Begging the Claim: 

Here the writer is validating his own claim inside of the argument.  Of course someone should be called out if they have done something wrong whether they are someone's political opponent or not, even if it was done in a foreign country. 

When Trump campaigns against Biden, he can absolutely make those claims if he wants to.  Attacking your political opponent with unfounded claims seems to be a tradition in our country.

  • John Adams called Alexander Hamilton "a bastard brat of a Scotch pedler [sic]."  
  • Kenneth Rayner called Franklin Pierce the "pimp of the White House." 
  • John Quincy Adams called General Jackson's wife an "adulteress."
  • Senator Ben Tillman called Grover Cleveland "the corrupt tool of Wall Street."  
When you are trying to exchange ideas with someone and they use this argument, don't accept the premise.  The premise is that Trump should be allowed to let his constituents know that his opponent is corrupt so it's okay to use his position to ask a foreign power for help.  

Ad Populum/Bandwagon Appeal:


This is an argument that since most people, or a group of people, agree with Trump's actions, then his actions are correct.  

When you are trying to exchange ideas with someone and they use this argument, don't accept the premise.  The premise is that Americans want Biden investigated so it's okay how Trump went about it.  Even though no credible evidence has been found that Biden or his son acted inappropriately, if Americans want him investigated, this isn't how to go about it. 


Source

I hope that you are in a position where you can actually have a civil dialogue with someone who has opposing views.  I hope that both you and the other person understand that the true definition of the word "argument" is to offer differing viewpoints that contradict each other.  Not to scream, yell, or belittle each other.  I also hope that you are able to recognize a logical fallacy when you see one.  Then you can do what I recommend to those who are involved in political debates: 

DON'T ACCEPT THE PREMISE.   


If you want to learn more about logical fallacies with examples to help you spot them, click here.  

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