The Mail Bag Weeps Again; Can I please get just one well-reasoned critical letter?

crying2Here’s the latest addition of Arguing 101: Lessons from the Folks Who Write to Me. (Please note: When I post these replies, I am NOT seeking sympathy from those who support my writing. I truly just want to share with you the stuff I get and how I address that stuff. I love the encouraging letters I get, but please understand, the senseless attacks and personal insults mean nothing to me. I had a nun in seventh grade who taught me well that “considering the source” is the best protection from attacks by dummies.)

In keeping with my pledge to answer every detractor who either gets into the Petoskey News-Review or who writes me privately, I offer another set of letters. I’m not being selective here. I reproduce their letter in its entirety and you can follow along as I try to see if there’s even a shred of something noteworthy in their complaints. The only edit I will make is to delete the person’s name if they chose to write me privately.

Exhibit I: An email received on 10/23/13

It may surprise you to know that there are millions of Americans who don’t necessarily buy into Fox news reporters, who believe the our President is a weak leader who lacks the ability to work with Congress, is the most un-American president ever to hold office, are convinced he’s doing everything he can to lead this country towards socialism and don’t trust his word.   You and the liberal media cannot find any words of criticism for Obama no matter what goes wrong in his administration.   The voters in Michigan’s 1st Congressional district elected Republican Benishek twice but The News Review Editorial Board tends to lean strongly Left.   It would be refreshing to read a few better balanced articles. Thank you.

At least he’s polite. As I said in response to this gentlemen, nothing really surprises me, including yet another letter with completely unsupported allegations about the President. But let’s take them one by one:

1) I am NOT surprised millions of Americans don’t buy into Fox News. In fact the vast majority of Americans don’t. Fox may lead in viewership among cable viewers but they are dwarfed by the mainstream over-the-air news like NBC, ABC, and CBS. Fox draws about 2 million viewers during it’s 5 pm-7 pm time slot, while the big 3 draw about 22 million. So I am not surprised in any way that millions of Americans reject Fox. They do so in droves.

2) I am surprised to “know” that President Obama is “a weak leader who lacks the ability to work with Congress.” I would have loved some evidence of this claim from the writer. I have plenty of evidence to suggest the President has found many ways to work with a divided Congress, whose House is dominated by a party who has sworn publicly to never work with the President and whose Minority Leader in the Senate has declared that the number 1 priority of the GOP is to make sure President Obama never gets credit for doing anything. Yet despite this difficult climate, President Obama has negotiated our first plan to make sure all Americans have access to private health care, has kept the government from defaulting, and has begun the painful process of lowering our national debt.

3) I am surprised to “know” that President Obama is the “most un-American president to ever hold office.” But again, with a little bit of evidence, I might be convinced. Just what does it mean to be an “un-American president?” Sadly, the writer doesn’t tell us. Just one more unsubstantiated attack on the President’s character. Ho-hum.

4) I am not surprised that many people feel he is leading us to socialism. That’s because so few people know what socialism is. Since the writer delivers not a single example of what he means by this, I just can’t accept his word.

5) I am surprised many people don’t trust him. The writer doesn’t tell us why, but if I were to make a guess, I’d be attacked for playing the race card again. So I won’t.

6) The writer calls the media in the United States “liberal.” This is such a tired and false claim that it hardly bears addressing. The writer fails to provide a shred of evidence to support his claim and expects us to just accept it. If the number pne cable news show is Fox News, then it’s pretty hard to paint all of cable media as liberal. As for the over-the-air media, I don’t watch it much, but I can’t recall anyone documenting a liberal bias…unless “liberal” somehow means informed and principled. Then I guess those networks are guilty as charged.

7) Apparently the fact that Dan Benishek was elected twice in our district should shield him from criticism. It is also apparent that Barack Obama being elected twice offers no such similar shield. In either case, it’s simply silly to claim that just because someone is elected they are above scrutiny.

8) For the first time in history, someone has declared the Petoskey News-Review as leaning strongly to the left. My sense is that most people to the left of center spit coffee all over their computer screens or newspapers when they read this claim. I guess if you are so far to the right that you think the News-Review is “leftist” then you can be safely thought of as a radical. Also it is not the News-Reviews job to protect any politician from criticism just because the politician was voted in. Nor is it their job to pander to prevailing local political thought.

9) Apparently, I support everything the President does. Well, I guess I’ve wasted lots of words criticizing domestic surveillance, drone strikes on civilians, etc.

That’s it…just 800 words to debunk every single claim in this man’s letter.

Exhibit 2: An interesting take on playing the race card appearing in the PNR on 10/24/13.

You can read Dick Selvala’s complete letter here. I only want to address the most glaring problems with his claims.

Mr. Selvala accuses me “arbitrarily playing of a race card as motivation behind a significant emergence of discontent” in the country. Well, unless I don’t understand the meaning of arbitrary, I’m going to have to passionately disagree. First, in ANY of my references to race, I have simply said that if a person can’t come up with a real reason to hate the President, perhaps they ought to consider race. I’m borrowing here from our old friend Friar Okkam, who famously suggested back in the 1400’s that sometimes the simplest explanation is the best.

As to whether my suggestion amounts to an “assault on expression of dissent and free speech,” I suppose my readers will have to decide. On the other hand, if my suggestion indeed makes someone consider whether they should continue to spout lies and exaggerations about the President, then we should all be grateful for such an “assault.” Mr. Selvala goes to to glorify the patriotic work of the Tea Party in trying bring an out of control government to its knees. As I have said on more than one occasion, I strongly support more responsible government spending. That’s why I so strongly resisted spending trillions in an illegal war in Iraq. Mr. Selvala wants me to back off Tea Party officials who have been elected and re-elected. Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Selvala?

Exhibit 3: In which I wriggle free of some crazy logic.

A Michael MacLachlan comes after me for my article a week ago regarding the possible existence of race in attacks on the President. You can read it here. Here is the logic behing Mr. MacLachlan’s first paragraph: “People hate Obama because they are so ignorant they elected him.” Or something. He’s referring to the Jimmy Kimmel video where people hate “Obamacare” but like the Affordable Care Act. These people are stupid (here Mr. MacLachlan and I agree.) but they are so stupid they elected the President in the first place even though they hate him. (OK, sorry…my head is hurting too.)

Later in his piece he accuses me and the Democrats of being the first to play the race card. A careful reading of my arguments on race shows that it’s the LAST thing I’m “playing.” I’m desperately searching for the reason President Obama is so hated. He has done so much for the rich in this country, and is now bringing health care to millions of the poor. I’d like to believe he’s hated for a real reason, but no one who writes me, or gets their letter in the News-Review, can ever offer me one.


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