Ad hominem does not mean what they pretend it means

As I noted last week, Rep. Ilhan Omar tackled Washington veteran Elliott Abrams over his record, which includes lying to Congress and helping cover up for massacres by U.S. supported governments. For a number of his colleagues, the idea Abrams should even be questions over his past actions was outrageous, an ad hominem attack! Why can’t we see the best in people instead of the worst?

An ad hominem attack is one based on the person, not their argument: You can’t trust X, they’re Jewish! However, as LGM notes at the link, sometimes it’s entirely appropriate to assess the person: that’s why we don’t allow pedophiles to teach in elementary school. It’s why we consider malpractice records when we decide if a doctor is trustworthy. Abrams record of lying about our allies’ atrocities is a perfectly valid standard for judging his role as envoy to Venezuela.

We also have some former diplomats and Foreign Service officials declaring “we should try to see the best rather than the worst in people” and “build bridges” and “not tear people down.” These are wonderful sounding sentiments, but they aren’t really a good basis for government policy. That requires seeing people as they are and sometimes at their worst.

Related: criticizing CNN for picking Sarah Isgur (a Trump spokeswoman and Republican operative who’s never worked as a journalist) as a political editor is also not ad hominem.

In other news:

Kansas lawmakers file a bill to end the state’s recognition of same-sex marriage. Tennessee filed its own. Just political posturing, or are they hoping that if this reaches the Supreme Court, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh can repeal Obergefell?

Meanwhile Trump administration plans to hammer Iran by pushing to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide. As discussed in comments at Joe My God! some good could come of this or it could turn into “well, we’re not going to criticize Saudi Arabia or Russia over a trivial matter like anti-gay legislation.”

True, slave-owners were men of their time. But so were abolitionists. And at some level, Fred Clark suggests, even the slave-owners knew theirs was the wrong side.

Bryan Fischer thinks the federal government should totally step in to protect Christian rights in state and local cases. Not if the rights involves Muslims.

A growing challenge for the legal system: interpreting emojis.

The rabbit-hole of YouTube conspiracy theories and the difficulty of reining them in.

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