In 1980, then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan appeared alongside President Jimmy Carter to discuss the environment at an event in Steubenville, Ohio.
Reagan, who we all know as the great communicator, said:
“I have flown twice over Mount St. Helens out on our West Coast. I’m not a scientist and I don’t know the figures, but…”
Thus was born what has been called by GOP strategist Mike McKenna “the dumbest talking point in the history of mankind.”
And this is on page one of Dave Levitan’s book, “Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science.”
You can only imagine where it goes from there.
We send our representatives to decide lots of things for us that they’re not experts in, so, why should science be any different when it comes to policy? As long as good testimony is being given by qualified experts, saying “I’m not a scientist” can only be considered a crutch.
The array of rhetorical devices politicians employ are numerous: Whether it’s oversimplifying the complex, cherry-picking data, buttering up only to undercut, or my personal favorite, blaming the blogger, there’s a convoluted pretzel of an argument that you’ve likely heard before – and probably, if you’re like me – accepted hook, line and sinker.
Levitan joins me to talk about how he came up with the idea for the book, how he collected and cataloged the information, and then he explains the rhetorical devices that politicians employ to “advance” their agenda. Spoiler alert – they only undermine it.
This book is a must-read for all Republicans – if only to stop the embarrassment.