Huh? Self-Cancelling Statements in American Public Life

12/18/2007 01:30 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I'm always surprised - and entertained - by the way the press and the public let their public figures say such illogical things. These "self-cancelling" (or sometimes just incoherent) statements betray sloppy thinking on the part of the speaker and a lack of critical analysis on the part of the listener. Here are some examples that are free and fun for the whole family:

Republicans (and others) who say waterboarding's not that unpleasant, and we should continue to use it:

Take Kit Bond, who just said that waterboarding's "like swimming, freestyle, backstroke." If Kit's getting that much water in his nose and throat swimming freestyle, he needs to take some lessons down at the YMCA.

But here's the real point: If it's not that unpleasant, then why should we use it? To make terror suspects more "water wise"? Because, jihad or no jihad, when we're in the pool we wear our lifejackets? And why would they ever confess to anything, when that would interrupt the progress they're making on that all-important "breathe/stroke/breathe" rhythm?

And to think Kit Bond's father was a Rhodes scholar. You know ... I looked at that motley crew at the GOP Presidential debate the other day and thought: "Maybe they're right. Maybe there is no such thing as evolution." Which brings us to ...

Mitt Romney saying "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom ... Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

Did anybody ask, "Why?" Or, more precisely, "Huh?" This statement is entirely free of anything resembling a coherent thought. Those who know me know I'm not anti-religion - I'm anti-political fundamentalism.

But what is Romney talking about? I challenge any one of those who called his speech "Kennedyesque" to explain what these sentences even mean. And his demonization of atheists and secularists in the same address was hate speech, pure and simple. Romney apparently defines religious freedom as "everybody's ability to worship Jesus in their own way."

It's sad what people will do to become President.

Calling the "estate tax" a "death tax".

How can anything be a "death tax" if it's paid ... by the living?

Democrats who say it's wrong to criticize another Democrat.

When Dems like Steny Hoyer complain about candidates who criticize other Democrats ... they're criticizing another Democrat.

(I thought that was what primaries were for - as long as campaigns don't engage in smear jobs or rumor-mongering.)

Self-proclaimed "Democratic strategists" who say that Lieberman's endorsement of a Republican ... proves that Democrats were wrong to mistrust him.

Somebody who reportedly managed Alfred E. Smith's campaign, and was then apparently frozen in that ice floe with Captain America for 75 years, claims that Joe Lieberman only endorsed McCain because MoveOn and the bloggers weren't nice to him. They had the temerity to back another candidate, and made "uncivil" comments that suggested Lieberman was essentially a Republican posing as a Democrat. Now, thanks to their rudeness, it's payback time.

The other interpretation - which is that they were right all along - isn't mentioned.

Other people are floating this argument, too. They're the same ones who said Lieberman's a straight shooter, a lofty and genteel statesman, a "man of integrity." But people with integrity don't make Presidential endorsements just because they're miffed. A high-minded nonpartisan wouldn't make such an important decision out of resentment or vanity. So, as with these other "self-cancelling statements," anyway you look at it they're wrong.

As Jerry Lee Lewis would say, "Think about it, darlin'."