Richard Stalling’s Personal Attack on Mitt Romney
- 6 December 2012 by Author 1 Comments
Richard Stalling’s Personal Attack on Mitt Romney
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 12/02/12
Note: This column was written in response to a tasteless personal attack column written by former Idaho 2nd District Congressman Richard Stallings which appeared in the Idaho State Journal two weeks before the general election. His ad hominem attack can be read at http://www.pocatelloshops.com/new_blogs/politics/?p=9703.
Just before the election, a column was printed in the Journal authored by former Congressman Richard Stallings. While ostensibly written to call into question the political philosophy of erstwhile presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the column was little more than a contemptible assault on the character of the Republican nominee. It was replete with subjective judgments against the man, mischaracterizations and misrepresentations of his policies and comments, and displayed shocking ignorance of Christian theology.
The column impugned the integrity of the candidate, and his campaign by accusing “dishonesty” in representing certain positions. The examples cited were claims that President Obama raised taxes and had attempted to remove the work requirement for welfare recipients. The author claimed both of those were “lies” that Romney told the American people.
Certainly the congressman is aware that there are 21 new taxes in Obamacare, and that the Supreme Court ruled the Act constitutional by virtue of it being a tax increase. That makes the Romney statement accurate. Representing it as a lie is disingenuous at best.
Robert Rector who helped write the 1996 Federal Welfare Reform Act that included the work requirement for welfare recipients says Obama did in fact “gut” the reform by substituting work requirements. A Health and Human Services directive last year granted states the authority to issue “waivers” which allowed recipients to not work, but pursue “career pathways” which don’t require work. Since many of the self-appointed “fact checkers” have taken issue with the Romney claim, which seems at direct odds with those who actually drafted the legislation, it can hardly be called a “lie,” but more accurately, a difference of opinion based on the same set of facts.
Based primarily on these arguments, Romney was accused of being a dishonest man. The columnist capped this alleged moral deficiency by stating, “As a general rule, Mormons are interviewed annually by the Bishops and one of the questions is about honesty. They look you in the eye and ask if you are honest in all your dealings. The Church expects honest answers. From what I have seen from the Romney campaign his answer should be no.”
What the columnist did was engage in a logical ad hominem fallacy, which is literally an “argument against the person.” This tactic is employed frequently by those who, in order to discredit their adversaries, attempt to marginalize them personally by making unsubstantiated accusations or allegations against them. In effect this redirects attention to the individual, in this case Romney, rather than their policies. It is a linguistic misdirection to make the opponent the center of the argument, rather than the issues or policies at hand; something akin to a magicians’ trick. By employing the ad hominem logical fallacy, Stalling’s attack was rendered logically impotent.
It’s not a new tactic, but seems to be used with increasing frequency, not just by politicians today, but by the media.
That last statement by the columnist also is ambiguous as it relates to an “annual interview.” The only “annual interview” that members of the LDS faith have with their ecclesiastical leader is at tithing settlement where the member makes an accounting of his donations to the church. The interview Stallings seems to be referencing is a Temple Recommend Interview which occurs bi-annually. Allegations of dishonesty are of dubious veracity when simultaneously misrepresenting their contextual relevance. Such a misrepresentation might be construed as being dishonest.
And if I’m not mistaken, the congressman appropriated to himself the mantle of prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner in declaring Romney “dishonest.” He is not in an ecclesiastical position to determine worthiness for Romney. I believe Jesus proscribed such unrighteous judgment, when he said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
And finally, on the issue of Christian theology, the congressman apparently subscribes to the notion that citizens forced by the government to pay taxes, which in turn redistributes it to the needy, is a Christian act of charity. There are no salvific acts for government, and forced “giving” is not charity. We are, as he says, to be our “brothers’ keeper,” but not through forced tax payment and government largesse. Such a concept is utterly antithetical to Christ’s teachings. Jesus taught us individually to give, he didn’t go to the Sanhedrin to convince them to levy exorbitant taxes so the government could do what we are expected to do individually.
There’s a fine line between criticism of policy and casting aspersions at the character of those who seek elective office. Clearly the line was crossed in this case. A need must’ve been felt to try to knock Romney down a few notches with his vindictive personal attack, but the congressman only succeeded in diminishing his own stature.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.