Posts Tagged ‘casuistry’

[…] On TW, Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said that he erred in calling the McCain immigration plan “amnesty” even though it was “amnesty.” You see, he said, though it was not “amnesty” by the dictionary definition, it was “amnesty” by the “normal, colloquial definition.” (Would he know it if he saw it, under the alternate definition of “saw”?) Steph argued that after Saturday night’s debate, it seems the term “flip-flop” had stuck to Romney. Romney blamed McCain […] writes Mark Kilmer in a blog burst titled The Sunday Morning Talk Shows – The Review

[…] Wallace asked Romney about his false claim that John McCain’s proposed legislation would have granted amnesty to illegals. Romney said that McCain would have offered a “form of amnesty.” Wallace asked Romney about his false assertion that McCain would have granted Social Security to illegal immigrants. Romney argued that he had read in newspapers that this is what McCain’s measure did. He further argued that the McCain bill he had called “reasonable, quite different from amnesty,” was not the same as the one which passed. Romney said that he has opposed McCain’s bill “from the outset.” He reiterated that he thinks McCain’s bill offered a “form of amnesty, though technically it is not.” [NOTE: See the notes on Romney’s TW interview, below.]

Wallace asked Romney how much of his personal fortunate he had spent to try to secure the nomination. Romney answered that he’d spent “more than I’d like, but not as much as I’m willing” to spend to get the nomination. Wallace asked him if there were a limit on what he is willing to spend, and Romney replied that while he had no limit, his wife did […]

[…] MITT ROMNEY ON TW. Steph asked Romney about his use of the term “amnesty” to describe John McCain’s immigration plan. Romney admitted that he “was incorrect,” then he made the case for why he was correct.

“You’re going to have to define the word for me,” Romney said regarding amnesty. (There you go again.) He said that under the dictionary definition, it wasn’t amnesty, but it was amnesty under the “normal, colloquial definition.” Well, “is” is what? Would we know it if we saw it, under the alternative definition of “saw”?

Steph played a few clips from last night’s debate, some of the various jabs at Romney for his position-changes, and proclaimed: “It seems ‘flip-flop’ has stuck.” (It certainly was underscored at Saturday night’s debate.) Romney blamed McCain […]


In Goffman’s terms, Romney’s line that Sen. McCain does not support amnesty only he does support it, requires

(a) heroic face-work as the candidate must labor to clarify and defend his position against all encounters with common sense meanings of the relevant terms


(b) casuistry in the form of strained distinctions, i.e. the distinction between dictionary and colloquial definitions

Here is the problem for Romney—and it is a dynamic and evolving problem—(a) Romney’s face work, and (b) Romney’s casuistry, together complete a causal loop. It goes like this. Romney issues a flat contradiction. This requires face work to repair, i.e. Romney must justify his claim to save his reputation. So Romney issues distinctions that strain credulity. This further damages Romney’s face. This requires face work to repair etc., etc.

The last time Romney caught himself in one of his death-spiral causal loops was on the question of whether, or in what sense, Romney “saw” his father (may his name be for a blessing) march with MLK.

Parker: “casualness with the truth [by figures like Romney] is what has alienated good citizens across the country from the elites who are running our political machinery”—and: was Mike Allen Romney’s unwitting dupe, or was he complicit in Team Romney’s campaign of lies and obfuscations?

The effect is cumulative. It supports the fixed point that Romney is cynical, dishonest, and that he simply cannot let things go.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


“While trying to defend his weirdness over MLK a couple of days ago”—writes John Amato for Crooks and Liars in a post titled Quote of the Day“Mitt Romney made it worse by saying this”:

He added, “You know, I’m an English literature major as well. When we say, ‘I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn’t necessarily mean you were there — excuse me, the Super Bowl. I saw my dad become president of American Motors. Did that mean you were there for the ceremony? No, it’s a figure of speech.”

You and every Starbucks barista, Romney.

Memo to Romney: We have a BA in English literature too—not American literature, but English—and an MA in English with a concentration in Rhetoric, and a PhD in Rhetoric. (Not this should mean anything to anyone except, say, you, Boy Romney, since you seem to suggest that holding a degree should make your questioners shut up and sit down.) And we almost never use the term “saw” in the tormented sense that you seem to want your listeners to accept on its face.

The all-seeing Eye of issues a rejoinder that caused us to laugh-out-loud:

… You know, I don’t know any serious person who cites their college and graduate school education as authority when they talk. Experience, sure. That just strikes me as a weird, weird trait. And also note that it is ad hoc. He didn’t cite his lawyerly authority when he said “I’d have to ask my lawyers” about Iran …

Does anyone remember that interview with Romney on Jan Mickelson’s radio talk show, carried by WHO Radio in Des Moines, Iowa?—the one where to this day Romney claims that he was caught on hidden camera?—We remember a particular Romney-rejoinder to Mickelson: “Would you agree with me that I know more about my faith than you do?”

Romney’s message to America: I’m smarter than you are. So shut up.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Mark Halperin writes in The Page blog:

Campaign tells Detroit Free Press “He was speaking figuratively, not literally” in religion speech reference after paper finds no record of it.

More: Romney spokesman tells Boston Phoenix that they did march together June 1963 “although possibly not on the same day or in the same city.”


Romney refuses to acknowledge that his church was wrong to exclude blacks; instead, Romney offers his father’s march with MLK as proof of his progressive values, yet there is no evidence that Romney’s father ever marched with MLK

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

… “Strict Federalism. Romney says that a “one-size-fits-all approach is wrong,'” writes the estimable Tommy Oliver quoting the person of his serene and most-high majesty, the aloof and imperious Willard Milton Romney himself, in a post titled, appropriately, Mitt Romney’s Social Distortion

That he would say “one-size-fits-all” when making a statement about Roe vs. Wade, but then turn around a support the Human Life Amendment, is very unlikely, at least on that date.

What happened? Only Governor Romney really knows, but it’s a direct contradiction that dates from 2007, not 1994 or 2002. Other than saying he wouldn’t overturn the platform in his ABC interview, he didn’t say that he would support a Human Life Amendment. If he has said that since, it easily could have been a political calculation … etc.

Just so. This is normally where we would insert unflattering remarks about Kevin Madden. But not today. Today we want to salute the man for his heroic efforts to clarify what cannot be clarified. It cannot be easy trying to be Romney’s communications director. Here was our far less thorough or refined take on this issue:

Romney’s Madden: Romney wants it both ways on the question of abortion and the prerogatives of federalism

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. Whatever happened to Social Distortion? We used to love that group. Good times.

“Or, to put it another way, does he now have to win Iowa to get any kind of significant shot at the nomination?”—writes someone in a Crossed Pond post titled Has the Expectations Game Turned on Huckabee?

Reverse: does Iowa mean anything to Romney if all he has to do is not lose it?

Double-reverse: should any of the candidates besides Romney and Huckabee give a crap about Iowa?

Steven Stark at RCP has some intriguing analysis that I, for one, agree with. It’s starting to seem like the only possible winner out of Iowa, in the momentum sense, is Huckabee. But now that it IS starting to seem like that, is second place going to be enough? … etc.

The estimable Rojas condescends to issue this rejoinder:

Whether second place is enough depends how strong a second place it is.

First place, of course, eliminates Romney entirely, and makes Huckabee the de facto conservative in the race. A very strong second (within five points) cripples Romney and more or less forces him to win NH to remain viable…with, again, Huckabee as the main benificiary if he doesn’t.

A middling second-place finish (five to ten back) probably retains Huckabee’s position as a viable challenger to Romney’s position on the right. Less than that and Stark’s analysis starts becoming important.

The bottom line is that if the caucus goes off and Huckabee stays where he is in the current polls, it won’t be enough. Huckabee still has work to do. My belief in Huckabee (as a gambler) is based on my feeling that he has the skills to accomplish that work … etc.

Note the gleefully speculative casuistry of the two interlocutors. (For our part we appreciate the Crossed Pond writer’s method of reverses and double-reverses of governing assumptions.)

What interests us is this: the casuistry itself indicates that Romney has denied himself an unequivocal victory in advance, regardless of outcome and not despite, but rather because of, the upwards of US$20,000,000.00 that he has squandered on his vanity, and at the expense of his beloved sons.

Note to the Romneys: a high-burn rate in advance of profitability is expected for an entrepreneur or entrepreneurial enterprise. But political campaigning is not like commercial or financial enterprise—however much you may wish it were otherwise, the process is governed by other norms, other values. By massively out-spending your rivals with your own money, Mr. Romney, you have denied yourself the perception of a clean win on fair or equal terms in any of the early state primaries.

See related:

Romney poised to fail in Iowa no matter what the outcome (ii)—Romney’s Iowa-New Hampshire salient

yours &c.
dr. g.d.