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Eric Cantor's 'false choice' dodge

Maybe it's a verbal tick. Or maybe it's the politician's inability to pick a side on a tough question for fear of ticking someone off. But for the second time in a week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declared something to be "a false choice." My hunch is on the latter.

You'll recall that a week ago I asked Cantor if the soul of the Republican Party rested with Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) or Sarah Palin. He began his response by saying, "I'm going to probably say that's a false choice...." Yesterday, David Chalian of ABC News's "Top Line" asked Cantor whether he agreed with fellow Republicans who say the new Arizona immigration law goes too far or those who say it's just right. And, once again, the minority whip said, "I think that's a false choice."

Both answers bothered me, because I thought the whip's job was to get caucus members to vote "yes" or "no" on legislation. So I reached out to a knowledgeable source to ensure that my Schoolhouse Rock notions about American government was still operational. "Correct," I was told. It's the whip's job "to build consensus among his conference -- keep people in line/on board -- help them get to 'yes' through education, amending the legislation, etc." Given that job description and the strong-arm tactics needed to be effective, I'm certain Cantor wouldn't accept "I think that's a false choice" from his caucus. So he shouldn't expect us to accept it from him.

By Jonathan Capehart  | April 29, 2010; 2:48 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Comments

Cantor was correct in asserting that the questions you posed are a false choice fallacy, sometimes called a black or white fallacy. Consider the following: Imagine someone asking, "Are you with us or against us?" You might be tricked into deciding between those two options, but the best response would be to say, "Wait a minute! Those are not the only two possibilities."

Your first response, then, should be to establish whether A and B, the two options you've been given, are either contradictory or contrary in the context. The following questions should help:
Does rejecting A necessarily mean accepting B? If so, A and B are contradictory.
Does accepting A necessarily mean rejecting B? If so, A and B are either contrary or contradictory.
But a simpler way would be to ask:
Are any other pertinent responses possible?
If there are, you are dealing with a false dilemma.

Posted by: sclarkbyrdparkcourt | April 29, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Cantor like the rest of the republican so-called leadership wants to spew talking points.

Posted by: knjincvc | April 29, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Well said, sclark.... I doubt Mr. Capehart has the intelligence or capacity to understand your point...he just wants to make "gotcha" comments and questions. And, I thought these liberals were so into "nuance" LOL

Posted by: dcmowbray1 | April 29, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Eric Cantor is a weasel and everytime I see him on TV I wish I could get that perpetual insincere smirk off his face.

I'm amazed that you actually expected a straight answer from Mr. "I'm going to claim I was shot at, though the police said it was a stray bullet that was shot up in the air and it hit a different office in the same building, and I wasn't even in the vicinity when it happened".

Posted by: sambam | April 29, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Tic, Mr. Capehart, not tick.

Posted by: angelas1 | April 29, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

The question put Cantor between a rock and a hard place. Do the right thing and condemn the overreach you lose Tea Party support (20% of electorate 60% of the GOP). Take the AZ governor's side you alienate hispanics (30-35% of electorate and growing). The GOP/Tea Party speaker modus operandi is to prey on people's prejudice to put forth ridiculous positions. We want to reduce the deficit but not kill grandma (cut services) nor raise taxes. Medicare vouchers are the way to reduce expenditures but when they run out where people can't pay themselves for care, you're not rationing. The ten point plan is not a plan, it is a talking point without the how.

Posted by: jameschirico | April 30, 2010 3:00 AM | Report abuse

Cantor is weak and fearful of causing problems for himself with the GOP leadership. Of course most politicians are in the same boat with him.

Posted by: Puller58 | April 30, 2010 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Interesting that at the same time the media is trying to create the image that the Republican party is in trouble because its becoming too conservative and having a smaller tent, Capehart asks a question with the premise that the party can't have a big tent. That it has to choose. That's why its a false choice. You can favor more limited government (as both Palin and Brown do) and have differences in other areas. The immediate future of the Republican Party is to focus on reducing the debt and limiting the size of government - that message has a big tent.

Posted by: jay22 | April 30, 2010 6:37 AM | Report abuse

Is Capehart a moron, or is he full of bull? Now, that's NOT a false choice. The answer is "C - ALL OF THE ABOVE."

Posted by: Fourthfilos | April 30, 2010 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Capehart asks a cheap trick question and then criticizes Cantor for not falling into his trap.

Is Capehart a moron, or is he full of bull. Now, that's NOT a false choice. The answer is "C - BOTH of the above."

Posted by: Fourthfilos | April 30, 2010 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Capehart asks a cheap trick question and then criticizes Cantor for not falling into his trap.

Is Capehart a moron, or is he full of bull. Now, that's NOT a false choice. The answer is "C - BOTH of the above."

Posted by: Fourthfilos | April 30, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

You sound worried Mr. Capehart. You should be.

Posted by: ProudAmerican1 | April 30, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

I'm no fan of Eric Cantor, but you can't blame someone for challenging the frame you put on an issue. What if I asked you whether David Broder or Charles Krauthammer represented the soul of the Washington Post editorial page?

Also, how is it relevant that he's the whip? If you asked him whether he was for or against a piece of legislation up for a vote in Congress, you'd be entitled to his opinion. Answering *that* question is a whip's job. But that's not what you asked.

Posted by: Sophomore | April 30, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

sclarkbyrdparkcourt @ April 29, 2010 3:39 PM: You have a point. But on legislation you vote Yes or No (or abstain which is not always meaningful).

Further, I do not recall Cantor granting anyone he disagrees with the latitude that he is not a traitor to Truth, Justice, and the American Way. So, if the shoe fits ...

Posted by: AMviennaVA | April 30, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Didn't candidate and now President Obama use the "nuanced" false choice argument to dodge scrutiny all the time? I believe he used it in the last State of the Union? "Let’s reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values."

What's the difference? Pres Obama is an Democrat, and Rep. Cantor is a Republican- it is just another example of double standards in the press.

(Also, I hate how Obama is still not recognized as a word with spell check; it thinks I meant to write Alabama or Obadiah.)

Posted by: xavieryeats1 | April 30, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Cantor, the weasel doesn't know his a$$ from a hole in the ground, so don't ask him him anything, he is too busy trying to be the pretty boy. That's just one of another reason the republican party is in chambles.

Posted by: carolynlebeaufyahoocom | April 30, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

How does Mr. Cantor stand upright without a spine?

The answer should come easy, instead he chose to slither around the issue with nonsensical word soup. I wonder how happy he is in that corner he's painted himself into with the tea baggers.

Posted by: JilliB | April 30, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

"a false choice." That describes Cantor himself, a loser! Cantor couldn't lead children at a school crossing! I am waiting for Cantor to be the same orange color as Boehner!

Posted by: kemcb | April 30, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

The immediate future of the Republican Party is to focus on reducing the debt and limiting the size of government - that message has a big tent.

Posted by: jay22 | April 30, 2010 6:37 AM | Report abuse

---

Ah, Jay, the republicans have supposedly been "focusing" on those two points for the last 30 years. My question is, when are they actually going to do what they say? Or does that question also pose a "false choice"?

Posted by: JilliB | April 30, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

...and since your definition of 'whip', was, indeed, correct, Eric Cantor must have
the easiest job on Capitol Hill.

Posted by: dcunning1 | April 30, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Cantor is the master of "have your cake and eat it, too". He goes to openings and touts the progress in Virginia that is CLEARLY due soley to the stimulus money that the state has received, yet condemns the stimulus as doing nothing. He's a horrible representative from Virginia worried more about his political future than helping his constituents. But of course, that's the kind of representation that Virginia elects (i.e. McConnell and Cuccinelli). At least, Cantor isn't a tele-evangelist like our governor and AG.

Posted by: hockeymom1 | April 30, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Mr. Cantor and his politics very little if at all, but on this issue I totally agree. Answers to most important questions are not yes or no,but are usually in shades of gray.Being black and white on major issues is what got us into Iraq. To ask a question with only 2 answers is completely unfair. I would refuse to answer a question presented to me in this way. It feels like a trap. Much better Mr. Capehart, is asking a interviewee to describe where he stands on an issue. Thank you and keep up the good work Mr. Capehart; you bring important issues to the forefront.
tribebuilder

Posted by: tribebuilder | April 30, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

And the answer

"While I think the bill is a good bill for Arizona, I think the Arizona law could be better on a national basis if the following changes were made:"

Is that a "bill goes too far" answer or a "just right" answer or is the original question a false choice question?

Posted by: Paladin7b | April 30, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Cantor, as the house jew of the Republican party, knows he cannot pi$$ anyone off. He's a mouse.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | April 30, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing wrong with pointing out that giving only two choices when many are available is a false choice, but the issue with most politicians is that they do not go further to offer what their choice/solution would be and instead offer up some canned talking points that may or may not be relevent to the question at hand. There are exceptions to this rule, but sadly regardless of party or issue we are given a false choice - Republican or Democrat.

Posted by: DawnG1 | April 30, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Mr Capehart, You ask a "loaded" question, and you get an "evasive" answer. Just like President Obama, and Nancy Pelosi, he's just being a POLITICIAN. BUT, THAT'S OK,,,,,,,,'CAUSE WE'LL REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!

Posted by: barrysal | April 30, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

To koolkat_1960, You mentioned that Cantor was the "house jew" of the Republican Party. How offensive that statement is!!! If you said that someone was the "house black", or the "house Musilm", we both know how THAT would be received! SHAME ON YOU!!!

Posted by: barrysal | April 30, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Well said, sclark.... I doubt Mr. Capehart has the intelligence or capacity to understand your point...he just wants to make "gotcha" comments and questions. And, I thought these liberals were so into "nuance" LOL
Posted by: dcmowbray1
=========================================================================================

Yet you sit there at your computer reading and commenting on his unintelligible dribble. What does that make you?

Posted by: denise4925 | April 30, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

"a false choice." That describes Cantor himself, a loser! Cantor couldn't lead children at a school crossing! I am waiting for Cantor to be the same orange color as Boehner!

Posted by: kemcb | April 30, 2010 9:23 AM |

==========================================================================================

I literally spit my soda out when I read this. LMAO

Posted by: denise4925 | April 30, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

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