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The Conservation of Virtues

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"The Conservation of Virtues"

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I’d like to associate myself with Mike Lux’s puzzlement over this line of argument from Hillary Clinton:

Speeches don’t put food on the table. Speeches don’t fill up your tank, or fill up your prescription, or do anything about that stack of bills that keeps you up at night. My opponent gives speeches. I offer solutions.

And, clearly, speeches don’t put food on the table. But it’s not as if Hillary Clinton doesn’t give speeches. Giving speeches is part of being a presidential candidate. Indeed, it’s also part of being president. And, again, both candidates deliver speeches. So it would seem that Clinton is accusing Obama of giving speeches well. I’ve written previously about this implicit appeal to a conservation of virtues principle from the Clinton campaign — the smart girl must be ugly, the guy who gives good speeches must not have policy proposals — and it doesn’t makes less sense, rather than more sense, when Clinton makes the argument more directly.

Obama does, after all, have an energy plan and a jobs plan and a health care plan. It’s true that he doesn’t have much experience as a legislator, but he has more experience in that role than Hillary Clinton has. Now obviously she’s free to argue that his health care plan is worse than hers (I think it is) or that her environment/energy plan is better than his (I think it isn’t), but the fact that he’s a better orator just doesn’t count as evidence for the inferiority of his proposals.

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