I went to a Jesuit high school, and in the religion classes I had to take there, I was often the token doubter, and thus the center of many a debate. On one occasion, I was asking why, if the world was created and overseen by a loving God, the world was so cruel, arbitrary, and, ultimately, profoundly flawed. This flustered a girl in the class to the point where she blurted out "YOU'RE not perfect, so you can't expect God to be, either!"
I mean this girl no disrespect; actually, at my tenth high school reunion a couple of years ago, I had a 45-minute conversation with her and enjoyed her company immensely. She is not an idiot. But, forgive me, that was one of the most humorously stupid arguments ever.
Another time, a guy explained to me why he was voting for George W. Bush in 2004 this way: "He's been so successful because he surrounds himself with advisers and he's smart enough to listen to them."
Apparently, in this person's mind, a president having advisers is some sort of great innovation, and not, say, something every president in the history of presidents has done automatically. It's like saying someone is a great baseball manager because he "surrounds himself with players and he's smart enough to put them on the field."
I bring this up because there is a monumentally stupid argument I sometimes hear from people who e-mail me, and I've actually been subjected to it twice in recent weeks, and I want to take a minute to make fun of it.
It's this: "You can't criticize the job Bush is doing as president because YOU couldn't do any better."
I have no idea why this argument, in some people's minds, applies to the presidency and to pretty much nothing else. I would suck at being a major league baseball player, but I reserve the right to say that a pitcher who beans 35 consecutive batters is doing a crappy job. I would suck at being a plumber, but if I hire one and my sink begins shooting sludge, I reserve the right to say he didn't do his job very well. I would suck at being a truck driver, but if one drives his truck into the side of a children's cancer ward while drunk, I feel entitled to criticize his performance. I would suck at being a heart surgeon, but if one puts someone's heart in upside down and then leaves a sponge in her chest cavity, I don't think I have to be a world-class heart surgeon myself to evaluate that performance negatively.
I would suck at being the president of the United States. I'm lazy, disorganized, forgetful, flighty, cranky, and self-absorbed. If I were suddenly president, we'd all be in trouble.
But if someone becomes president and then gets us into a ruinous, expensive, and intractable war by lying about weapons of mass destruction; ignores a pending environmental collapse that just about every other civilized country on earth wants to address; pushes and funds sex education programs that every study shows are totally ineffective at best; appoints his incompetent, unqualified cronies to important federal agencies, thereby leaving the country unequipped to deal with unforeseen disasters like hurricanes; and shreds the constitution's separations of powers, triggering a constitutional crisis almost weekly...
In that case, I definitely reserve the right to say he really really sucks at his job.
Also, since I believe I can make well-reasoned arguments, I definitely feel qualified to say that anyone who makes any of the above arguments needs to go take arguing lessons immediately.