Quote: “…you said something that struck me: that sometimes it just came down to these were not the right people at the right time. If I applied that standard to you, what would you say?” Senator Lindsay Graham to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Figure of Speech: paromologia (pa-ro-mo-LO-gia), the sacrifice-fly figure. From the Greek, meaning “partial agreement.”
Why were the 13 district attorneys fired? For “cause,” Gonzales said at first. He later switched his story, admitting that the motive was political. Now he offers the Dick Cheney “He Was In the Line of Fire” defense: they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Senator Graham, a Republican and a former prosecutor himself, takes that point and flings it back at Gonzales’ head as a paromologia: Might one reach the same conclusion about you, Mr. Gonzales?
A form of concession, the paromologia grants the opponent’s point only to use it against him. The other guy feels like he just got smacked with his own boomerang — or, as rhetorically trained William Shakespeare put it, “hoist with his own petard.”
Snappy Answer: “If you’re referring to these hearings, Senator, I can’t agree more.”
For more on using your opponents’ words, see page 98 of Figaro’s book.