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March 26, 2007

"Some people" have lots of questions

Posted by David Postman at 10:09 AM

These were among Katie Couric's questions to John and Elizabeth Edwards on 60 Minutes last night:

And I think some people wondered if you were in denial, if you were being realistic about what you were going to be facing here. ...

And some say, what you're doing is courageous, others say it's callous. Some say, "Isn't it wonderful they care for something greater than themselves?" And others say, "It's a case of insatiable ambition." ...

Some have suggested that you're capitalizing on this. ...

Some people watching this would say, "I would put my family first always, and my job second." ...

I guess some people would say that there's some middle ground. ...

Even those who may be very empathetic to what you all are facing might question your ability to run the country at the same time you're dealing with a major health crisis in your family. ...

SOME MORE: At the Huffington Post, Nora Ephron writes about "some people."

"Some people" are saying that Katie Couric went too far on 60 Minutes. I don't actually know who those people are, because I haven't done any reporting on it. Why bother? "Some people" must be saying it. "Some people" will say anything. And there's no real need to mention their names, because I can just say that "some people" are saying it and get away with it.

Ephron says: "I kept waiting for John or Elizabeth Edwards to ask her who 'some people' were exactly, but they didn't."

That's what they should have done, says Rich Galen, a former press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. At his "cyber-column" Mullings, he says that when a reporter started a question with something like "Some people say," he'd always respond this way:

"Who. Who is saying that? Give me a single person - not in your newsroom - who is saying that." And, of course, the reporter couldn't quote anyone and I had the upper hand from that point forward.

Galen says:

If you are a grownup interviewer you ask: "Senator Edwards, aren't you putting personal ambition ahead of your family's needs?"

And a friend reminds me that President Bush has his own version of "some people."

This AP story from last year was the first of several takes on Bush's use of the straw man.

When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Mr. Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

He typically then says he "strongly disagrees," conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

There's more in this Dan Froomkin column in the Washington Post. (Scroll down to the "Rhetoric Watch.")

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