Roger’s Rules

Hillary and Quintilian, or Sophistry on Parade

“Some ideas which you could not actually make good should be sown in the mind with the help of rhetorical figure. The hidden dart sometimes sticks; it cannot be removed, because it cannot be seen; but if you were to say the same thing openly, the defense can justify it and it needs to be proved.”
–Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria

Quintilian would be proud of the Clinton campaign. He took 10 long books to set out “the education of the orator,” and here they are putting it all into action flawlessly, just through intuition or natural aptitude. Hillary and her minions are masters of insinuation, what the sophists (that’s Greek for “politician”) called apophasis or paralipsis, i.e., asserting something by feigning to ignore it. First we have Bill Shaheen, until last week co-chairman of the Clinton campaign. As a story in MSNBC noted, Shaheen was forced to resign after observing to a reporter that Republicans would likely use Obama’s admitted drug use against him in the campaign. “Was Shaheen’s commentary truly a blunder?” the writer asked. Well, what do you think? The Clinton position seems to be (I paraphrase):

We are not going to make Obama’s drug use an issue–no, no matter what the nasty Republicans say, we are not even going to mention the fact that, at least when young, Obama took drugs. It just isn’t fair to make such youthful indiscretions as taking illegal drugs–cocaine or whatever it was–an issue, so we definitely are not going to raise the matter of Obama’s drug use, even though he admitted taking drugs in his autobiography.

Or, as Mark Penn, a Clinton pollster, put it when asked about the Shaheen incident on Hardball: “Well, I think we’ve made clear that the issue related to cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising.” And Brutus, as Mark Antony continually assured us, “is an honorable man.”

What do you suppose the Greek word for “sleaze” is?