In argument, "selective observation" uses the technique of only focusing on part of what is said and ignoring the rest. This type of response in argument might be called "cherry picking." It creates distraction from the overall point and is used by politicians defending themselves. However, a much more common technique, especially with the Bush administration, is that of "personal attack." This form of response is well known in political and communication circles. It refers to the practice of responding to a claim or assertion, by ignoring the point being made and instead substituting a personal attack on the speaker making it. The reason this is a fallacious response is obvious. After all, from the standpoint of logic, no matter what the character of the person might be, their assertions are capable of being accurate. But, most important, the response never addresses the main issue, but instead is intended as a distraction to a non relevant matter. To accomplish it, the person responding simply ignores the point and instead attacks the person making it. We see it all the time with the Bush administration on advice of Karl Rove. Someone makes an truthful assertion. The person responding ignores the assertion and instead responds with a personal attack on the speaker. Attack the president’s Iraq decision to send 20,000 more troops to Iraq as historically ineffective from a military standpoint and risk the Bush Administration attacking you as un-American without ever addressing the main point.
The media fuss over Senator Boxer’s (D-CA) recent statement to Secretary of State Rice is a classic example of this kind of twisted response which ignores the main point. Secretary Rice was being questioned and Senator Boxer said this: "Who pays the price?" "I’m not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You’re not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families."
The point of the statement is: "Who pays the price?" What was the administration’s response, do you suppose? Secretary Rice on the Bush rubber stamp network, Fox, said: "Gee, I thought single women had come further than that." On the same network, White House spokesman Tony Snow called Boxer’s remark "a great leap backward for feminism." Rush Limbaugh the other right wingers were hysterical in their condemnation of this attack on women and disparagement to single women. But, did any of them, including Secretary Rice, address the main point made by Senator Boxer? Other then repeated personal attack responses, none of them addressed the validity of the issue. By the way, Gloria Steinem said Snow’s remark "takes your breath away" because the Senator’s remarks "had nothing to do with feminism. It was perfectly reasonable." You wonder how the public can be taken in by these illogical and transparent tactics. If you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss the fact this Administration uses personal attack as one of it’s primary weapons of response.