Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hypothetical questions

Atrios highlighted this bit from Jeb Bush:
Bush also dismissed "hypothetical" questions about the origins of the Iraq war as a "disservice" to U.S. troops who died or were injured in the war, and to their families.
Putting aside Jeb's absurd (and very familiar after 8 years with his brother as president) notion that questioning the wisdom of the Iraq War is somehow disrespectful to soldiers, why is being "hypothetical" a grounds for dismissing a question?

It's not just Jeb Bush, either. Just a few days ago, the President dismissed Elizabeth Warren's criticism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact as merely "hypothetical":
She and I both taught law school, and one of the things that you do as a law professor is that you spin out hypotheticals. This is all hypothetical, speculative.
What is wrong with hypothetical questions? Hypothetical questions can often be good questions. Besides, the TPP has not been finalized yet, Jeb Bush has not yet become President. Right now if we want to ask something that will tell us how the TPP will work or what kind of decisions a President Jeb Bush would make, they have to be hypothetical questions.Where did this idea come from that labeling a question "hypothetical" makes it less valid?