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Both presidential candidates committed logical fallacies
during the debates. Bush, for instance, repeatedly
made use of the red herring fallacy, otherwise known as
changing the subject. Ask Bush where he stands on affirmative
action policies and why, and he discusses his support
for small businesses. Ask him about the lack of
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and he commits a tu
quoquo fallacy along the lines of “yeah, but he did it
too.” Bush claimed that he might have thought there
were WMD in Iraq, but so did Kerry, so their mistakes
cancel each other out. This line of reasoning overlooks
the fact that Bush and Kerry were in very different positions
of power when the U.S. invaded Iraq, and Kerry
might have responded differently if his statements and
decisions represented those of the entire country.
Kerry’s main fallacious tactic involved appealing to
authority. He attempted to build up his own credibility
by listing well-known public figures that he admires and
with whom he hopes to be compared. He repeatedly
mentioned former presidents Theodore Roosevelt, John
F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan and their various
achievements. Clearly, Kerry attempted to appeal to
wavering swing voters who are critical of Bush but tend
to align themselves with Republicans. Yet, dropping a
name says little about the person who dropped it, and it
could be argued that Kerry’s comparison of himself to
other political figures is a false analogy.
By the third debate, Kerry stooped to Bush’s level by
appealing to the fallacy of self-evident truth. Bush
repeatedly made claims about “knowing how the world
works” and “feeling” other people’s prayers for him and
his family. It is all but impossible to refute these claims
because there is no logic supporting them. In the second
and third debates, Kerry began to back up his own statements
by claiming he too “felt it in his gut,” therefore
countering Bush’s self-evident truths with his own. Both
candidates would be better served to trade in fallacious
reasoning for well-reasoned, clear arg u m e n t a t i v e

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