On Barack Obama (not George Bush)
He often reverted to his favorite rhetorical devices — straw men — to make his points to the students. For instance, he said that “some people say that I’m being too idealistic” and ask him why he’s reaching out to Iranians, saying that trying to use diplomacy to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb is “too hard.”
On nuclear Weapons Newt Gingrich (who is not, technically, made of straw)
GINGRICH: The president’s in a world where Hamas is firing missiles every day into Israel, Iran is building nuclear weapons, and the North Koreans today during — basically during his speech fired a missile, and he has some wonderful fantasy idea that we’re going to have a great meeting next year. […] I just think that it’s very dangerous to have a fantasy foreign policy, and it can get you in enormous trouble.
The accusation that Obama is too idealistic is not made only by straw men. I wonder if Cooper understands the conventional meaning of " rhetorical devices — straw men." It refers to making up an non existent opponent who says something which is easy to refute. It does not refer to describing real live critics briefly and without naming names.
I'm glad that the New York Times is willing to criticize public figures and not just report what they said. However, it would be nice if they managed an accurate criticism instead of claiming that Obama was setting up a straw man when he was responding to his critics.
I don't recall reading that George Bush liked to debate straw men in the New York Times. That was the only debate he could tolerate.
I'm sure Obama uses the rhetorical divice. However, in the quoted passage he was not debating a straw man.
In the cited case, Obama was not inventing an imaginary opponent who doesn't exist, he was accurately albeit generically discussing the most common really existing genuine criticism of his foreign policy made by real flesh and blood people. Furthermore he wasn't choosing some obscure opponent with unusually extreme views. He was mentioning the main stream, virtually unanimous, position of the Republican party.
The article is innaccurate. Cooper's claim on a matter of fact is false. I think the New York Times should publish a correction.
update: Cooper's distortion is much worse than I thought. She suppressed the very clear reference to very real people who very clearly accused Obama of being too idealistic. The quote which she butchered to make her totally false "straw men" allegation is as follows
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, some people say that maybe I'm being too idealistic. I made a speech in Prague about reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons, and some people said, ah, that will never happen. And some people have said, why are you discussing the Middle East when it's not going to be possible for the Israelis and the Palestinians to come together? Or, why are you reaching out to the Iranians, because the U.S. and Iran can never agree on anything?
My attitude is, is that all these things are hard. I mean, I'm not naïve. If it was easy, it would have already been done.
He's clearly listing specific accusations that he is too starry eyed. All correspond to real flesh and blood critics, but Cooper totally supressed the one which refers to extremely recent and widespread criticism and which makes her claim that Obama was setting up "straw men" plainly false and not just false as I asserted based on her quotation.