August 21, 2008

More patent dishonesty from WMC

So James A. Buchen, one of the handful of characters in charge of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce's political activities, claims that WMC "actively lobbied for final passage of the [University of Wisconsin] budget."

"But no such lobbying effort shows up in WMC's report to the state Government Accountability Board," according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Patrick Marley.

Instead, Buchen points to one sentence from its Legislative Agenda, buried in a .pdf file deep within WMC's website.

Buchen was responding to outgoing UW Chancellor John D. Wiley's plangent asskicking that appeared online this morning.

Even better, Chancellor Wiley also accused WMC of engaging in personal attacks against former State Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, which WMC unquestionably did.

Yet James Buchen flatly asserts, "WMC did not engage in personal attacks, and that is simply false."

Unfortunately for James A. Buchen, what's utterly false is his own statement. The truth is that in two of WMC's teevee ads, the business outfit did nothing except engage in personal attacks.

WMC's personal attacks are otherwise known as circumstantial ad hominem, a logical fallacy, in which WMC freely indulged.
A circumstantial ad hominem is one in which some irrelevant personal circumstance surrounding the opponent is offered as evidence against the opponent's position. This fallacy is often introduced by phrases such as: "Of course, that's what you'd expect him to say." The fallacy claims that the only reason why he argues as he does is because of personal circumstances, such as standing to gain from the argument's acceptance.
This is precisely what WMC did.

During this year's State election campaign, WMC produced and aired spots devoted to Justice Butler's lone dissenting opinion in a case called State v. Jensen. In that opinion, Butler enunciated an argument based on the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution and its history that was subsequently affirmed by the most conservative Justices of the United States Supreme Court in a similar case out of California.

However, rather than engaging Justice Butler's reasoning, WMC portrayed him as someone "delivering loopholes" and "siding with criminals who threaten our safety." In its other Jensen ad, WMC referred to the Sixth Amendment itself as a technicality, and suggested through its use of Butler's ancient nickname that Butler was actively seeking to find a "technicality" in the case.

Louis Butler, decades ago, worked for the Wisconsin State Public Defender. He earned the nickname, which WMC put to such shamelessly fallacious use, because he was good at that job. Even assuming that the task of criminal defense lawyers is "finding loopholes," it's completely irrelevant to the role of a Supreme Court Justice, who is an advocate for neither side in disputes.

Here are the texts of both WMC teevee spots:
We count on judges to use practical common sense to keep violent criminals behind bars. But faced with an unspeakable crime, Justice Louis Butler almost jeopardized the prosecution of a murderer because he saw a technicality. When prosecutors needed to show critical evidence, Butler dissented, going against six other Justices. Thankfully, he didn't get his way. Jurors said it was the most important piece of evidence they saw. Call Louis Butler. Tell him to stand up for victims, not technicalities.
We've heard it before. Judge cites loophole, sides with criminal who threatens our safety. Take Justice Louis Butler. His colleagues called him Loophole Louie. A woman beaten to death with a bat. Butler uses a loophole, suppressing critical evidence. A husband poisoned his wife. Butler cites a loophole, almost jeopardizing the prosecution. Butler doesn't mind being called Loophole Louie. He says it's affectionate. Call Justice Louis Butler. Ask him to deliver justice, not loopholes.
This is pure personal attack, nothing more. Neither ad says anything about the constitutional arguments Butler forwarded in his opinion in Jensen. Argumentation attacks arguments. Ad hominem attacks the person: personal attacks. That's what ad hominem means.

And you'll never hear a peep out of WMC that Justice Antonin Scalia arrived at the same conclusion as did Justice Butler based on the same constitutional principles and their historical antecedents.

Not loopholes, and not technicalities. The Sixth Amendment. And because the Sixth Amendment applies not only to the federal government but also to the States, Justice Scalia's opinion is now the law of the land. Justice Butler beat him to it, that's all.

UW Chancellor Wiley is entirely correct in characterizing James Buchen's attempt at defending WMC's personal attacks as "lame." In fact it's beyond lame. It's disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.

But there's nothing surprising about that, as the entire campaign against Justice Butler — including that of his politically motivated challenger — was marked by patent dishonesty from start to finish. And, evidently, it continues still, thanks to those who speak on behalf of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Although the orchestrated campaign against WMC is entertaining to watch, the simple fact remains that Louis Butler has run for the Supreme Court twice and lost both times.

Has it ever entered your mind that maybe, just maybe, the people of Wisconsin are smart enough to seprarate fact from fiction and simply don't want Butler on the bench?

John Foust said...

May the plangent asskicking continue until the organization changes course.

Anonymous: Think about how smart the average person is. Then remember that half of them aren't that smart. If an organization puts out a misleading ad, who are they trying to influence? The smart ones who can see through it? Or the easy prey who won't?

And before anyone starts in, the same goes for WEAC.

I can't remember anyone defending WEAC's policy desires with the same intensity we see people defending WMC's actions, though.

illusory tenant said...

Anon, I'm less interested in outcomes than in the process. WMC's dishonesty may be appropriate to legislative and executive branch elections, but not to the judiciary, for a variety of reasons.

Thanks for distributing today's Charlie Sykes talking point, by the way:

the orchestrated campaign against WMC ...

I'll be sure to let the Maestro, my close personal friend and regular confidante Jim Doyle, know that you're onto us and that I've been revealed as one of his many sock puppets.

Pete Gruett said...

It was apparent from shortly after he was appointed chancellor that John Wiley has a staggeringly low BS tolerance. I can only imagine the pent-up frustration of six years of dealing with state politics.

Before this devolves any further, we need to keep after Wiley's point, which WMC's smear campaign only serves to underscore. The political discourse in this state has become so petty and rancorous that our policy apparatus is paralyzed. Here he is leading a major research institution, one of the state's greatest assets, and he's being lectured on partisan scores by half-wit, wannabe apparatchiks.

Part of Wiley's new appointment involves research in higher education funding. This is one last warning shot before the university gives up on the state. They're going to do everything they can to find alternate funding sources until they've made the clowns on the other end of State Street irrelevant. Then we'll have a first-rate, reasonably accessible research university. We just won't own it anymore.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but it all sounds like sour grapes to me.

Anonymous said...

You should be sorry. That's a silly thing to say.

There are facts about whether a statement is personal, an ad hominem attack. (Indeed, such facts are strictly independent of whether the personal attack is correct.) Wiley correctly reported these facts about the WMC and Butler; Buchan falsely denied them.

Until truth and falsity are mere modes of sour or unsour grapes, your fake apology is ironically appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Money is so intangible, its almost like a promise and a piece of paper.