Ever hear of a Hobson’s choice?
[A] Hobson’s choice is an apparently free choice that is really no choice at all. The phrase is said to originate from Thomas Hobson (1544–1630), a livery stable owner at Cambridge, England who, in order to rotate the use of his horses, offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in the stall nearest the door—or taking none at all.
Or, in modern terms, it’s like going to rental car agency and being forced to take whichever car they offer you, regardless of its suitability for your needs. But don’t try to explain a Hobson’s choice to George Will. He doesn’t know what it means. Mr. Will thinks the Democrats have two choices, not one. [note to logically impaired: one choice is no choice at all].
[Democrats] lack the will to exercise their clearly constitutional power to defund the war. And they lack the power to achieve that end by usurping the commander in chief’s powers to conduct a war.
They can spend this year fecklessly and cynically enacting restrictions that do not restrict. Or they can legislate decisive failure of the Iraq operation — withdrawal — thereby acquiring conspicuous complicity in a defeat that might be inevitable anyway. A Hobson’s choice? No, Nancy Pelosi’s and Harry Reid’s.
Mr. Will was probably going for what is known as a Catch-22 situation. A Catch-22 situation is one in which two things are required but neither can be obtained until the other is done first. For example, you may not be able to find a job until you have some work experience, and you cannot get work experience without a job.
This doesn’t quite fit Will’s argument either, but the meaning of Catch-22 has been stretched to mean pretty much any no-win situation. So, for the purposes of Mr. Will’s argument, we can say that the Democrats have a choice between:
1) cutting off funds for the war and getting blamed for defeat when that defeat should be squarely laid at the feet of their political opponents, or
2) using the appropriations process to try to restrict the President’s ability to wage war in Iraq and having the President use a signing statement to ignore those parts of the bill. Then having the Supreme Court refuse to settle the issue. And, finally, being ineffectual.
According to Mr. Will, both options are available, but neither is very appetizing. Yet, the Democrats are under tremendous pressure to do something. Thus, the Democrats are in a damned if they do this, damned if they do that, and damned if they do nothing situation.
That isn’t strictly a Catch-22 or a Hobson’s choice, but logic isn’t Mr. Will’s strong suit. He’s also got something else wrong.
Option One (cutting off funding for the war) is not a matter of will power. It’s a matter of votes. The Democrats need more Republicans to join them if they want to end all funding for the war. So, since we can eliminate option one as an alternative, if we are going to use Mr. Will’s paradigm we will have to admit that Option Two (Murtha’s Plan) is the only one we have. And left with only one choice, we are indeed facing a choice of the Hobson’s variety. Mr. Will was right after all.