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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The CPA and the Prosecutor

--posted by Tony Garcia on 8/22/2006

I have said it both directly and implicitly that candidates need to be very careful about the rhetorical games they play. If they fail to connect the dots between their assumptions and conclusions their opponents are afforded a great opportunity of a powerful refutation.

Being careful about what charges a campaign makes against another is crucial as well. The example of that is in this story about the waste of effort "scandals" in the US Senate race.
Amy Klobuchar promises to bring a prosecutor's grit to Washington - only to have Republicans question if she's really a prosecutor. Mark Kennedy suggests that the U.S. Senate could use his CPA's financial sense - only to have Democrats point out that his license is inactive.

Klobuchar as prosecutor and Kennedy as accountant are important aspects of each candidate's argument to voters that they'd be best for the Senate, and both are playing up that part of their resume.
I have to admit that I have not been paying attention to this story. It really is nothing more than a distraction from their issues. Regrettably the supporters and campaigns are all too willing to remove focus from their platforms and positions. Who started this frackus is not important...that both candidates are stooping to play this semantical game with each other is.
Bob McCulloch, the elected prosecuting attorney in Missouri's St. Louis County, said it's rare for the chief attorneys in large counties to personally prosecute cases. He said in his 16 years in the job, he's only prosecuted six or seven cases.

"It's a rather weak argument to suggest that the elected prosecutor is not a real prosecutor," McCulloch said. "You go to any large jurisdiction and you'll find a similar situation. When you're the county prosecutor, you're working on every case."

Similarly, Robert Bunting, a CPA at Moss Adams in Seattle and a past president of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said that accountants only keep their CPA licenses active if they continue to work in public accounting. Kennedy hasn't worked for an accounting firm since the early 1980s, before holding management jobs at a series of companies.

"If he has the degree and passed the (CPA exam) then at some point that says he knows his stuff," Bunting said. "We still view people who are no longer active in accounting, as having expertise in financial matters."
In all honesty what both campaigns are engaged in is finding ways to falsely and intentionally denigrate their opponent. Interestingly they have done so by making it NOT seem like mudslinging...but in essence that is what is going on.

Actually prosecuting a case as the District Attorney is no more important than having an active CPA license. Klobuchar is still the District Attorney and Kennedy is still a CPA. Focus on the issues...and if you're going to sling mud at least make it worth the time to follow.
Kennedy rarely talks about his nearly six years in the House of Representatives, at a time when public approval of Congress is low; Klobuchar, who often speaks of sweeping special interests out of power in Washington, doesn't often mention her own years of experience as a corporate lobbyist.
To all candidates and their supporters...beware the lines of argumentation you take, beware that the logic is solidly explained, beware wasting time on trivial mud because it is really stupid to have trivial matters end up being turned against you.

In debate we would warn new team members about the hazards of an irrelevant thread of discussion. If the opponent refuted that point and made it look like it was relevant than you will lose. If the opponent refuted the point and did not do a good job they simply point out its irrelvancy and you gain nothing. No matter what, you cannot gain ground on an irrelevant point, mostly you can lose ground and at best you end up with a waste of time.

The same is true in the political world of discourse. And BOTH campaigns are engaged in irrelevant points. Like I said, I did not pay attention to which one started this particular line of mudslinging. I only hope that whichever side started this one ends up getting a good chunk of their rear-end bitten off for starting it.

Stick to the issues. If you can't win on YOUR position then you don't deserve to win.

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Blogger Marty said...

The average voters never thinks about "lines of argumentation" "logic" "flow" or "rational reasoning."

Since the target of such mudslinging is to try to influence the average voter, not just wonks, I doubt your warning will be heeded.

August 23, 2006  
Blogger Tony Garcia said...

Sadly, this is more true than not. I think it is a self-feeding circle. Politicians play to the lowest common denominator (to avoid discussing their true positions) and the public gets lazy. Because the public is lazy the politicians can lower the standards further. Because the politicians lowered the standards and the public holds the pols in low regard, the public gets lazy...

It is a shame that people do not demand better. It is a shame that politicians can't be better.

August 23, 2006  

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