A "Strawman" argument, according to Freethoughtpedia, is a classic logical fallacy where a person manufactures a caricature (usually a misinterpretation or oversimplification) of his opponent's argument, and then sets out to attack or dismiss the exaggeration. i.e. Building a straw man and then knocking it down.
This is a very dishonest line of argument, since a person puts words into his opponent's mouth then ridicules them.
Here's Jay Cost at the RCP Horserace Blog:
Some of the criticisms really are with the basic idea that government should intervene at all in this moment of crisis. Now, you have some people, very sincere, who philosophically just think the government has no business interfering in the marketplace. And, in fact, there are several who've suggested that FDR was wrong to interfere back in the New Deal. They're fighting battles that I thought were resolved a pretty long time ago.
As I said, the one concern I've got on the stimulus package, in terms of the debate and listening to some of what's been said in Congress, is that there seems to be a set of folks who -- I don't doubt their sincerity -- who just believe that we should do nothing.
Mr. Cost then goes on to claim that no one genuinely advocates that position!
Another example....Here's Karl Rove writing in the Wall Street Journal:
On Tuesday night, Mr. Obama told Congress and the nation, "I reject the view that . . . says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity."
Rove then goes on to state "Who exactly has that view? Certainly not congressional Republicans, who believe that through reasonable tax cuts, fiscal restraint, and prudent monetary policies government contributes to prosperity."
(Can ANYONE tell me what Republicans are supposed to know and believe about "fiscal restraint and prudent monetary policies" ????)
Jay Cost and Karl Rove are badly mistaken when they accuse Obama of rhetorical trickery in these cases.
I hold the view, along with many other libertarians, that most of the government should call in sick for the next six to twelve months. Take some time off. Since they are incapable of doing no harm, the least they could do for us is nothing.
Please. Do nothing.
Not only is President Obama's argument not a rhetorical "Straw Man", but he's basically daring the spineless Republicans to advocate what a few of them know to be right.
And the Republicans are now claiming that nothing of the sort has ever crossed their minds.