Politicians Abusing Logic

Hillary ShruggingWhen a spokesman was asked whether the State Department would investigate allegations that Hillary had misused her office, he replied, “We’re not going back to do a retroactive examination of each of those cases and we’re not going to make a retroactive judgment,” adding that they are not aware of any cases of such abuse.

Two reporters then asked him whether the Department’s lack of awareness wasn’t precisely the reason they should investigate and find out whether the allegations were true. The spokesman merely repeated his original statement.

What I found even more interesting than the spokesman’s unwillingness to answer the sensible follow-up question was his odd  use of the word “retroactive,” which usually means holding people responsible for meeting a standard that did not exist at the time they acted.

The spokesman was thus implying that it would be inappropriate to investigate and subsequently judge Mrs. Clinton’s activities for no other reason than that they occurred in the past.

Consider the absurdity of that implication. If this were the standard, the criminal justice system could no longer function. Investigations and judgments would have to be completed either before crimes occurred or while they were occurring, not afterward.

For that matter, if this were the standard, it would be inappropriate to conduct research in any field. After all, science experiments must be completed before the data can be analyzed and conclusions reached. Similarly, historical events must occur before the facts can be identified, competing interpretations evaluated, and judgments made. Benedict Arnold had to commit treason before the charge could be investigated and proved. The Holocaust had to have been carried out before the horrible facts were learned, the perpetrators identified, and the Nuremburg trials convened.

One of the most fundamental of human understandings is that, delusions of clairvoyance notwithstanding, we can make sense of events only after they happen. This government spokesman and the authorities for whom he spoke evidently reject this fundamental understanding.

Also fascinating, and more than a little depressing, is the similarity of the State Department’s perspective and Hillary Clinton’s statement about the Benghazi affair.

Recall that she did not hesitate to blame the event on Muslim anger over a video denigrating Mohammed. Later, however, when appearing before a Senate committee investigating Benghazi, she dismissed all inquiry in these words: “With all due respect, the fact is, we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or because guys outside for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?  It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”

Sounds a lot like disdain for “retroactive” inquiry, not to mention the blatant contradiction of saying in the same breath that (a) how it happens makes no difference and (b) our job is to “figure out what happened.”

A few years ago I was reasonably sure that no politician would ever abuse logic more profoundly than Nancy Pelosi did in saying, “We’ve got to pass [the bill] so that we can find out what’s in it.” But Hillary and the State Department spokesman have proved me wrong. As ridiculous as Pelosi’s statement was, at least it didn’t suggest that events cannot be judged after they happen.

Copyright © 2015 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved