What English phrase or idiom expresses this thought:
An argument that refutes an idea is technically correct, but it refutes only a very specific definition, and ignores or sidesteps a more fundamental truth behind the idea that it refutes.
I'm thinking I would be able to find a clever turn of phrase, something along the lines of
"extinguishing the candle and ignoring the forest fire", or
"re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic"
As an example, a contributor to CNN (Max Richtman) says that there is "no truth" in any of the "myths" surrounding Social Security.
"No, no one is stealing from Social Security"
Richtman claims that there is "no truth" in the "myth" that Social Security funds have been used for other purposes. He claims the one "myth" is based on a "fundamental misunderstanding" of Social Security's finances.
His argument is technically correct... money borrowed from Social Security trust fund were replaced with debt notes. At some point in the (near) future, that money will need to be returned to the trust fund in order to pay benefits to Social Security recipients.
Richtman's argument seemingly ignores the basic idea that money "borrowed" from the trust fund went into the general fund, and was spent on things other than social security benefits.
The bigger reality is that it is no longer possible for the Treasury to borrow more money from the Social Security trust fund, and that the money already borrowed will need to be returned.
The political reality is that Social Security is no longer a source of money to be spent, and is now actually an expenditure out of general revenue.
In terms of a logical argument, we might say Richtman is knocking down a strawman of his own invention. But that doesn't feel right. And it's not right to say that he's tilting at windmills.
I don't think Richtman's argument attains the level of subterfuge , and I don't think disingenuous works. (I don't want to ascribe a motivation to Mr. Richtman.)
My question is: What English expression or idiom conveys the idea that an argument, while technically true, that argument fails to address a much bigger, more fundamental truth?
(I've searched but, to borrow the words from a 1987 hit by U2, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for.")