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Pandering Destroys Purpose

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Political pandering is telling a voter what they want to hear in order to solicit their vote.   It is a timeless political technique.   However, when it is done irresponsibly, without any limits, pandering directly destroys purpose.


The Teachings of Law School


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It is no accident that many politicians are trained as lawyers.   At the very beginning of my law school experience I was taught an essential principle about legal argument, whether oral or in writing.   In drafting an argument we were taught that opposing briefs were to be like "two ships passing in the night."   For a long time I was confused as to what this meant.   I mean, if two people are writing about the same set of events, shouldn't there be some agreement, some overlap in their positions?   The answer to this question, according to the quote is, "No." The two positions should be presented as so diametrically opposed that you would not easily recognize them as the same event, hence, "ships passing in the night."


This method, called argument or persuasion, seeks to present the client's position in the best possible light. Accordingly, Squires and Rombauer, the authors of our legal writing text informed the reader that:

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"The facts must be candidly set forth, but the writer may arrange them, phrase them, and expand or condense treatment of particular events so as to emphasize favorable facts and to diminish unfa vorable facts."


So the art of persuasion depends on skillfully emphasizing what we call the "favorable facts" and diminishing what we refer to as the "unfavorable facts."


Now any reader of intelligence will soon realize that this kind of factual manipulation comes very close to the border of downright factual distortion.   Some people call factual distortion "lying."   But, as you can see from the explanation, lying is not what lawyers are taught.   They are taught to manage the facts.   That this process brings one continually into the danger land of distortion is taught as merely one of the hazards of the practice of advocacy or persuasion.  

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And these days, because of the prominence that lawyers have in our public life, even non-lawyers engage in this sometimes hazardous activity.


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Eric Z. Lucas is an alumnus of Stanford University (Creative Writing Major: 1972-1975), the University of Washington (1981: BA English Literature and Elementary Education) and Harvard Law School, J.D. 1986. Since law school he has been a public (more...)

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