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    Congress Discovers Constitutional Fine Print

    republican_constitution.jpgQuote:  “The Constitution says we will provide for the common defense, not provide for the criminal defense.”  Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) in the Washington Post.

    Figure of Speech: fallacy of composition. Also antithesis (an-TIH-the-sis), the figure of opposition.  From the Greek, meaning “opposing ideas.”

    Congress is rushing through a bill that allows the president to detain American citizens as long as he wants, without charge, and without letting them see the evidence against them.  The bill’s sponsors are already accusing opponents of coddling terrorists.  Representative Gohmert puts the case in a neat antithesis, thus proving that some white people really do have rhythm.

    His logic, however, can’t dance.  The Constitution does indeed provide for the common defense, but it also provides for defense of the innocent.  The federal government itself has concluded that most of the detainees at Guantanamo are not terrorists at all; many were sold to the Americans for the bounty.

    Of course, some of the detainees are truly evil.  But by assuming that these bad apples define the whole bunch, the congressman commits the fallacy of composition:  because a few members of a group have these qualities, the fallacy falsely assumes that everyone in the group shares those qualities.  In other words, if you’re captured, you must be guilty.

    This makes a suspicious-looking character like Figaro very nervous.

    Snappy Answer:  “Where does the Constitution say the president decides who’s a criminal?”

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