Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Difference Between "I hope you fail" and "I think you'll fail"

To all those trying to defend Limbaugh by saying "He doesn't want *the President* to fail, just his *ideas* to fail": I think your ideas are fair -you're trying to defend the guy who doesn't want the President's *ideas* to succeed.

But even if that's true - the fact that he says he wants him to fail, which means *the country may fail along with him*, is what most people have a problem with.

Let me show you how other people see it.

Imagine there's a patient with a failing kidney - they're own fault, really. They were told to lay off the alcohol and the fatty, salty food. And now all of their bad habits have caught up with them.

Dr. Ron Paul says "You know what, just let it fail. The other kidney will pick up the slack, and if it doesn't, then I guess other people will learn." Nobody listens to him, though, so he won't be in the story any more.

Dr. Obama says "I think we can let him keep the kidney - prop it up a little with some medicine, and tend to him. Eventually, the kidney will come back, and the patient will be well again with two fully functioning kidneys. Yes, he was stupid, and he'll have to learn his less, but we have to think about the patient."

Dr. Limbaugh says "Are you nuts? If you just put him on medicine, he'll be on that medicine for the rest of his life, and it'll be more expensive, and he'll always be sickly. The best thing to do is just remove the damaged kidney permanently - he can function with one, and he'll act better in the future by not abusing his last kidney."

Dr. Obama comes back "Why do that? I think he'll only be on medication for a little while, he'll have to change his habits, and he'll be as good as new."

Dr. Limbaugh responds "You fool - once he starts that medication, he'll never be off of it!"

Now, at this point, we have two differences of opinion. Dr. Limbaugh thinks Dr. Obama is going to fail. That's reasonable. He thinks that the patient is going to suffer long term consequences and be on medicine for the rest of his life that he'll become dependent on, when surgery will cause less long term harm and expense (in Dr. Limbaugh's opinion).

This is where Dr.Limbaugh, though, loses it. "Yeah? Well, I hope you fail! I hope you fail so people will see that your ideas are stupid! I hope the patient goes into shock as the failing kidney completely dies and the patient is forced to come into surgery like they should have in the first place! Because if your idea works, then every other patient is going to go looking for a drug decision instead of the surgery they really need!"

Dr. Limbaugh might have a point, and he might even, possibly, maybe, be right. But the second he started with the "I hope you fail so your ideas don't take root" - he lost any moral standing in the argument. Because if Dr. Obama fails, then the patient stands a good chance of dying.

And hoping the other guy fails and the patient dies just because you think he's wrong isn't noble or patriotic - it's being a dick.


Iron Knee said...

This is an excellent analogy. I've made a similar argument at http://politicalirony.com/2009/03/03/why-rush-limbaugh-is-a-dick/ that takes it a step further.

Anonymous said...

Imagine if the "bad" doctor believed that this procedure beign undertaken was exceedingly risky, and that while there's a chance it might succeed, over the long haul it would kill more far more people than another procedure.

Now imagine this procedure was particularly hgih-profile...maybe performed on a celebrity. Would it really be evil for the "evil" doctor to hope it fails, if it means saving thousands of lives of folks who might take notice and want this risky procedure instead of the safer one?

John Hummel said...

@Anonymous: I still believe, even a Dr. House character wouldn't say "Man, I hope that patient fails just to prove you wrong."

It's all about the attitude. You can keep saying "You will fail. I foresee you will fail. Your plan so stupid, risky, and irresponsible that the odds are so great you're going to fail I might as well buy stock in it."

But "I hope you fail even though that means the patient suffers and perhaps dies?" Again, that's just being a dick.

I might tell my sister that her husband is a jerk (and he's not, BTW), but I don't "hope her marriage fails" just so she can find someone else. I hope that I'm wrong, actually, and that things turn out pretty well.

I might tell someone that investing in a stock is stupid, but I don't "hope they fail" just so I can crow later about how right I was.

Maybe it's a difference in empathy. I don't think its right to hope people crash and burn because of their actions just so I can feel superior and convince them to change their ways. I usually hope that their actions will turn out well for them *even if I believe that it won't*.