Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: November 22, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
HILLYARD: Mr. Trump, why would Muslim databases not be the same thing as requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany? What would be the difference? Is there a difference between the two?

TRUMP: Who are you with?

HILLYARD: I’m with NBC News. Is there a difference between requiring Muslims to register and Jews in Nazi Germany?

TRUMP: You tell me. You tell me.

HILLYARD: Do you believe –

TRUMP: Why don’t you tell me?

HILLYARD: Do you believe there is?

TRUMP: You tell me.

HILLYARD: Should Muslims be, I mean, fearful? Will there be consequences if they don’t register?
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, November 20, 2015, being questioned by Vaughn Hillyard of NBC News. Trump had faced several questions in the preceding days about whether he thought American Muslims should be registered with the government.

Comment: Hillyard is proposing whether registering American Muslims is comparable to what Jews had to do in Nazi Germany, with the understanding that millions Jews in Nazi Germany were eventually sent to concentration camps, victims of the Holocaust. Trump likely finds the implication of genocide unfair – which is probably why he ultimately ignores Hillyard – but Trump doesn't reject the idea of a database. Despite several discussions on the topic – and despite Trump's insistence that other people (not Trump himself) were raising the idea of a database for registering American Muslims – Trump passed up on plenty of opportunities to reject the idea by simply saying, "No, I won't register Muslims" or to accept it by saying, "Yes, I would register Muslims." In other words, Trump simply evades the question and doesn't answer it.

At the moment, Republican rhetoric is spiraling out of control. Donald Trump, for example, is open to a “database system” to track Muslims. “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases,” he said. And in an interview with Yahoo News, Trump said that “we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” with regards to surveillance of Muslims. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, likewise, wants a religious test for refugees: We’ll accept the Christians and reject the Muslims. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t as extreme — although he’s open to monitoring any place that spreads “radicalism” — but he believes the Western world is in a fight against “radical Islam,” and is bewildered by those who don’t follow his labeling. “I don’t understand it,” said Rubio when asked about Hillary Clinton’s pointed refusal to use the term in the last Democratic presidential debate. “That would be like saying we weren’t at war with the Nazis, because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi Party but weren’t violent themselves,” he said, comparing Islam — a vast religion with 1.6 billion adherents — to Nazism.
-- Pundit Jamelle Bouie, November 20, 2015, criticizing Republican presidential contenders Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Donald Trump for their remarks on Syrian refugees.

Comment: Bouie is accusing Cruz and Trump of being "extreme". He is also accusing Rubio of comparing Islam to Nazism, but this is a distortion: Rubio is saying radical Islam stands to Muslims as Nazism stands to Germans. As such, he is comparing Nazism to radical Islam, not to Muslims in general.

"Politics in the United States increasingly is defined by personal attacks and saying very sensational things in the media. Now, that's true for politics everywhere to some degree. But I think that for young leaders like you, as you get into politics, trying to focus on issues, and trying to debate people you disagree with without saying that they're a terrible person -- I think that's something that you always have to watch out for."
-- President Barack Obama, November 20, 2015.

Comment: Obama is calling for us to set a higher standard of political debate, though as usual, he doesn't mention how he has often described his opponents as being terrible people.

Ben Carson likened Syrian refugees fleeing the country’s bloody civil war and Islamic State violence to dogs on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters following a campaign stop in Mobile, Alabama, Carson stressed that the United States wants smart leaders who care about people, but noted there should always be a balance between safety and humanitarian concerns.

“For instance, you know, if there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you’re probably gonna put your children out of the way,” Carson said. “Doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs by any stretch of the imagination.”

Continuing his analogy, the Republican presidential candidate said that screening refugees is like questioning how you protect your children, even though you love dogs and will call the Humane Society to take the dog away to reestablish a safe environment.

“By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly,” he added. “Who are the people who wanna come in here and hurt us and wanna destroy us? Until we know how to do that, just like it would be foolish to put your child out in the neighborhood knowing that that was going on, it’s foolish for us to accept people if we cannot have the appropriate type of screening.”
-- Republican presidential contender Ben Carson, November 19, 2015, as related in a story by Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico.

Comment: McCaskill is using "comparing" rhetoric, but Carson isn't comparing dogs and refugees in an unfavorable way: he's merely saying that, in the same way you want to screen dogs to make sure they don't have rabies, you want to screen refugees to make sure there aren't any terrorists hiding among them; and that, just as you wouldn't treat all dogs the same way you treat a dog with rabies, you wouldn't think of all refugees the same way you treat terrorists who might be hiding among them.

RUBIO: We need to get rid of all these illegal executive orders the President’s put in place. [TEXT: April 14, 2015]

CRUZ: I think amnesty is wrong. [TEXT: August 09, 2015]

RUBIO: DACA’s going to end. [TEXT: November 04, 2015]

TRUMP: They have to go. [TEXT: August 18, 2015]

NARRATOR: These candidates may be different, but their messages are all the same. [images of Trump, Bush, Cruz, and Rubio appear] “No” to DAPA, “no” to DACA. “No” to immigrant families. Now it’s time for our community to say “no”. We will not accept hate, we will not allow anti-immigrant attacks, we will not support the status quo. Because if they win, we lose. SEIU COPE is responsible for the content of this advertising.
-- Political ad released by SEIU COPE (the Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education), November 18, 2015, criticizing Republican presidential contenders former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Donald Trump for their opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

Comment: The SEIU is demonizing Bush, Cruz, Rubio, and Trump as being bigoted. Opposing illegal immigration is not the same as being anti-immigrant, any more than being opposed to corrupt police officers is same as being opposed to all police.

Obama is an "apologist for Islamic terrorism".
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), November 18, 2015, on the 2nd hour of the Mark Levin Show, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Cruz is demonizing Obama, accusing him of defending terrorism.

"But we are not well-served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don't make good decisions if it's based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks. I think the refugee debate is an example of us not being well-served by some of the commentary that’s been taking place by officials back home and in the media. … And so if there are concrete, actual suggestions to enhance this extraordinary screening process that’s already in place, we’re welcome -- we’re open to hearing actual ideas. But that’s not really what’s been going on in this debate. When candidates say, we wouldn't admit three-year-old orphans -- that’s political posturing. When individuals say that we should have a religious test and that only Christians -- proven Christians -- should be admitted -- that’s offensive and contrary to American values. I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate. ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there is a war between Islam and the West. And when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility, suggesting that Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop. And I would add, by the way, these are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL, or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there. But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion. First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me. … They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns. And it’s irresponsible. And it’s contrary to who we are. And it needs to stop, because the world is watching. I was proud, when the attacks in Boston took place, and we did not resort to fear and to panic. Boston Strong. People went to the ballgame that same week, and sang the National Anthem, and went back to the stores and went back to the streets. That’s how you defeat ISIL. Not by trying to divide the country, or suggest somehow that our tradition of compassion should stop now."
-- President Barack Obama, November 17, 2015. He was remarking on objections (frequently from Republicans) to allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, based in part on concerns that some might be terrorist infiltrators from the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq.

Comment: Perhaps Republicans are wrong to object to taking in Syrian refugees, but that doesn't mean their objections amount to politicizing and fear-mongering, as Obama says. They certainly aren't afraid of widows and three-year-old children; that's a straw man Obama has concocted to make Republicans seem ridiculous.

FORBES: Wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude if you took terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and located them in the city that it could very well enhance that city’s being on one of these targeted lists? Yes or no? That's a pretty easy question. If you disagree with that, you can say "no". If you agree with it, "yes".

LYNCH: Well, Congressman, I thought you were referring to the service members who were on the –

FORBES: I'm making it clear, any list that targets a city or state in the United States, if you bring terrorists from Guantanamo Bay wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that that can enhance that city's ability to be on one of those targeted lists?

LYNCH: I think there are any number of factors –

FORBES: Would you not agree that that would be a factor that would enhance that ability?

LYNCH: I think there are any number of factors –

FORBES: Would that be a factor?

LYNCH: There are any number of factors –

FORBES: But you would disagree that that would be one of those many number of factors?

LYNCH: Congressman, I don't agree or disagree. I said that there would be any –

FORBES: So you, as the attorney general of the United States, you do not have an opinion on whether or not bringing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and locating them in a city would have any capability at all of putting that city on a hit list by ISIS? You don't even have an opinion on that?

LYNCH: Congressman, I think there are any number of factors –

FORBES: I'm asking you would that be one of those factors.

LYNCH: I believe I've indicated there'd be any number of –

FORBES: No, you indicated you wouldn't answer the question, and Madam Attorney General, I think that's atrocious that you don't even have an opinion of that.
-- Attorney General Loretta Lynch during a congressional hearing, November 17, 2015, being questioned by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA).

Comment: Lynch is evading the question, refusing to say that the presence of Guantanamo Bay terrorists would or wouldn't – or even if she's unsure whether they would or wouldn't – incite attacks by ISIS (aka, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) on the city housing the terrorists. If you were to ask your doctor, "Will this medicine I heard about help my illness?" and your doctor routinely answered, "There are a number of factors that will influence your illness", your doctor would be evading the question just as Lynch is. She (and the doctor) could simply say, "yes", "no", or "I'm not sure" instead of withholding any answer whatsoever. I doubt this form of evasion in a court of law would be allowed.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: November 15, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Before we knew all that much about what had happened, before many Americans had even caught word of it, before the ones who were aware had moved past horror and numbness, Paris wasn’t just a massacre. It was a megaphone to be used for whatever you yearned to shout. That’s how it works in this era of Internet preening, out-of-control partisanship and press-a-button punditry, when anything and everything becomes prompt for a plaint, a rant, a riff.
-- Pundit Frank Bruni, November 14, 2015, referring to the November 2015 attacks in Paris.

Comment: Bruni is accusing people of exploiting or politicizing the Paris attacks.

"I recognize that Barack Obama does not wish to defend this country, he may have been tired of war, but our enemies are not tired of killing us and they are getting stronger."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), November 14, 2015.

Comment: Cruz is demonizing Obama, saying he lacks the patriotism to defend his country.

"So I have a belt. Somebody hits me with the belt, it's going in because the belt moves this way! It moves this way! It moves that way! He hit the belt buckle! Anybody have a knife; they want to try it on me? Believe me, it ain't gonna work. You're gonna be successful. But he took the knife, he went like this. And he plunged it into the belt! And amazingly the belt stayed totally flat and the knife broke. How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?"
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, November 12, 2015, referring to Republican presidential contender Ben Carson's claim that, as a teenager, he stabbed a friend whose belt buckle deflected the blow.

Comment: Trump is saying that those who believe Carson's story are stupid (which is unfair; couldn't a large belt buckle stop a small knife?).

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've called Hillary Clinton a good friend, strong friend, one of America's finest secretaries of state and said she'd make a great president. So is it fair for Democrats to conclude she's your candidate?

OBAMA: George, I'm not going to make endorsements when, you know, I've said in the past it's important for the process to play itself out. I think Dem I think Hillary's doing great. I think, you know, Bernie Sanders is really adding to this debate--

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would he make a great president?

OBAMA: -- in a very serious way. You know, I think Bernie is capturing a sense among the American people that they want to know the government's on their side, that it's not bought and paid for, that you know, our focus has to be on hard working, middle class Americans not getting' a raw deal. And I think that is in in incredibly important. I think Martin O'Malley has important things to say. So we'll let this process play out. I am confident that we're going to have a good, strong Democratic candidate, and that they'll be able to win in November.
-- President Barack Obama, November 12, 2015, during interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Obama never answers who his favored candidate is. Many people have chosen a candidate, despite the fact that the nomination process is still underway, why can't Obama do the same?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say we're a nation of laws. On the issue of Guantanamo, one of your big promises, closing Guantanamo Speaker Ryan says you can't close it on your own, don't have the authority. He says the law is the law. Do you have the authority to close it on your own?

OBAMA: Well, here's what I know is that we need to close it. That's not just my opinion. If you take a survey of retired generals folks who are currently in uniform they will tell you that this is a consistent recruitment tool for jihadists. It is contrary to our values. It costs huge amounts of money. And it's not sustainable. So it is my--

STEPHANOPOULOS: did on your own.

OBAMA: So it is my job to, first and foremost, work with Congress to try to find a solution. And what we've been able to do during the course of this administration is to systematically transfer and draw down the numbers who are there. My hope is that by the end of this year we are seeing close to under 100 prisoners remaining and detainees remaining. And then my intention is to present to Congress a sensible, plausible plan that will meet our national security needs and be consistent with who are

STEPHANOPOULOS: And when they say no?

OBAMA: Well they I'm not going to one of the things that I've been consistently trying to do is to give Congress the chance to do the right thing before I then look at my next options. And Congress is going to have an opportunity, I think when they look at the numbers, when they look at how much it costs for us to detain these individuals, when they hear from both current and retired military officers who say this is not what we should be doing they're going to have the ability to make their own assumptions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're not ruling out doing it on your own?

OBAMA: My job right now is to make sure that Congress has a chance to look at a serious plan and look at all the facts and we'll take it from there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you rule out executive action?

OBAMA: We'll take it from there.
-- President Barack Obama, November 12, 2015, during interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Obama never answers whether he believes he has the authority to close Guantanamo on his own (though it seems clear that Obama has not ruled out doing so by executive order, which implies that Obama believes he does have the authority).

STEPHANOPOULOS: Lot of talk about immigration as well. Donald Trump is speaking about history. He wants to bring back Operation Wetback from President Eisenhower and deportation force. What would that mean?

OBAMA: Well, I think the name of the operation tells you something about the dangers of looking backwards. And the notion that we're going to deport 11, 12 million people from this country, first of all I have no idea where Mr. Trump thinks the money's going to come from. It would cost us hundreds of billions of dollars to execute that. Imagine the images on the screen flashed around the world as we were dragging parents away from their children and putting them in what, detention centers and then systematically sending them out. Nobody thinks that that is realistic, but more importantly, that's not who we are as Americans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you think when you hear people cheer for that?

OBAMA: Well, what I think is that there's always been a strain of anti-immigrant sentiment in America, ironically from folks who themselves two generations back or even one generation back were immigrants themselves. And it's the job of leaders not to play into that sentiment. Now, those sentiments get stronger when people feel insecure. And given what happened in 2007, 2008, given the fact that despite the recovery, I think people still have some post-traumatic stress and are still concerned about prospects for jobs and economic security in the future it's easy to play on those fears. But that's not that's not what you want from your president. And to their credit Republican and as well as Democratic senators and or presidents in the past, including Ronald Reagan, including George H.W. Bush, including George W. Bush have understood that we are a nation of laws, but we're also a nation of immigrants and that proposing radical and necessarily cruel solutions to a problem that can be solved by some good, old-fashioned legislation of the sort that passed on a bipartisan basis in the Senate and I would've been able to sign two years ago if the House Republicans had allowed it to come to the floor 'cause there was a majority on that floor to vote for it we don't want I think, a president or any person in a position of leadership to play on those kinds of fears.
-- President Barack Obama, November 12, 2015, during interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: Obama is demonizing those in favor of deporting illegal immigrants, accusing them of being anti-immigrant (i.e., being bigots). But being opposed to illegal immigrants is not the same as being opposed to all immigrants. Obama is also accusing Republicans of fear-mongering, and not being "real Americans".

"We obviously continue to believe strongly in the legal power of the arguments that we’ve been making for nearly a year now about the importance of giving our law enforcement officials the discretion to implement our immigration laws in a way that focuses on those who pose a genuine threat to our national security or to our communities. And the impact of Republican opposition, both to these executive actions and to broader, comprehensive immigration reform legislation is to only perpetuate a system in which our law enforcement resources are diffused, and it results in more families being torn apart. And that is clearly not in the best interest of our national security. It’s not in the best interest of public safety. It’s also not consistent with the values of this country."
-- White House press briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, November 10, 2015, referring to a Court of Appeals ruling blocking President Barack Obama's executive orders on illegal immigration.

Comment: Earnest is saying that opposing Obama's positions on immigration is somehow un-American, which amounts to demonizing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not growing a company when you absorb two other companies. And then she laid off over 40,000 people. And she says she's a great CEO. Every time I see her on TV, I want to reach through and strangle her.

[Audience, including Clinton, laughs.]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that doesn't sound very nice.

CLINTON: I wouldn't mess with you. [laughs]
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, November 10, 2015, in response to remarks from attendee at a political event.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric. Though it may be intended – and received – as comedic, shouldn't it still be denounced? What if someone jokingly said they'd like to strangle Clinton, would it be acceptable to simply laugh in response?

"We love our country, they don't."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, November 9, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio show. Levin was referring to the "liberal media".

Comment: Levin is demonizing people as unpatriotic.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: November 8, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"Make no mistake about it, the right wing in this country is continuing its war on women".
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), November 7, 2015.

Comment: This is "war" rhetoric.

"What you all did with the President Obama doesn't even come close -- doesn't even come close to what you guys are trying to do in my case. And you're just going to keep going back, trying to find, he said this 12 years ago. You know, it is just garbage."
-- Republican presidential contender Ben Carson, November 6, 2015, referring to the media investigating his claims about being offered, in 1969, a scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Comment: Carson is accusing the media as a whole – rather than specific people in the media, as he doesn't mention any – of being hypocritical in investigating his accounts of his past compared to the lack of attention (as Carson sees it) to President Barack Obama's claims about his own past. Even if Carson is correct about the hypocrisy, that doesn't mean the media's attention to Carson's past is wrong (that would be ad hominem reasoning).

"Anybody that hits me, we’re gonna hit them 10 times harder".
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, November 3, 2015.

Comment: This is "get tough and hit back" rhetoric.

KOCH: I would love to have the government stop this corporate welfare. That's what I want. I want the government to let companies – require that companies only profit by helping make other people's lives better.

HAYES: That's Charles Koch expressing his commitment to ending corporate welfare. Do you buy that, Senator?

SANDERS: And "making life for people better" – no doubt. Look, you know, in 1980, Chris, and we don't talk about this enough, David Koch ran for Vice President of the United States on the Libertarian Party ticket. What his agenda was, it was not to cut Social Security or Medicare, but to end Social Security, end Medicare, end Medicaid, end the EPA, end the concept of the Environmental Protection Agency, basically he wanted to eliminate virtually every program developed since FDR designed to help working people and the middle class. That is their agenda. And to tell you the truth, you know 30 years have come and gone, I don't think that agenda has changed at all. What these guys are doing is spending unbelievable sums of money, some $900 million on this campaign cycle, to support right-wing candidates who are going to war, big time, against working families in the middle class. No, I do not think the Koch brothers want to make life better for ordinary people.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), November 3, 2015, with Chris Hayes of MSNBC, responding to a video clip of activist Charles Koch.

Comment: Sanders is demonizing Koch, saying that Koch doesn't want people's lives to improve. Just because Koch doesn't believe these programs do a good job of helping people doesn't mean he is opposed to making life better for others. Sanders is also using "war" rhetoric.

Calls U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota Andy Luger "loogie", and says he is "disgusting".
-- Pundit Mark Levin, November 3, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio program.

Comment: Levin is using the language of disgust to deride Luger.

"This man hates the military and he hates his country."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, November 3, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio program. His remarks referred to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Levin is demonizing Obama by accusing him of being unpatriotic.

"Did you ever notice that a global warming catastrophe is never predicted for next year or next month? Have you noticed that ever since Hurricane Katrina, they've been hoping for more of them, so that they can use that to prove it, and there haven't been any more? We haven't had a major hurricane strike the country in 10 years, and yet they claim that Katrina was evidence galore of global warming? I go through all of these things that you've heard for years, just the common-sensical ways of rejecting this premise."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, November 3, 2015.

Comment: Limbaugh seems to be accusing people who believe in global warming – though he doesn’t name anyone in particular – of rooting for failure. He's also claiming that it's common sense to disbelieve global warming.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: November 1, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Fresh on the heels of the House’s vote Tuesday to revive the Export-Import Bank, Hillary Clinton urged the Senate to follow suit, calling the decision a “no-brainer."

“It became a political football. Whether for ideological or political reasons, there are people in Washington against it, and that makes absolutely no sense,” she said Wednesday at a “Politics & Eggs” lunch at Saint Anselm College, criticizing opponents of the bank — like her primary rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand the arguments,” she said, pointing out how the bank helps New Hampshire businesses. “The Export-Import Bank’s sole purpose is to support United States business abroad."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 28, 2015, as related in a Politico story by Gabriel DeBenedetti.

Comment: Clinton is saying that it is common-sense to support the Export-Import Bank, and deriding opponents of it as stupid.

AGUILAR: If there’s somebody who is a hard worker when he goes to Washington, it’s Paul Ryan. Not only works with the Republicans but Democrats. You know very well that I work on the immigration issue, trying to get Republicans to support immigration reform. Paul Ryan is somebody who has supported immigration reform, has worked with somebody like Luis Gutierrez. Luis Gutierrez is very respectful, speaks highly of Paul Ryan. This is somebody who’s trying to govern.

HARRIS-PERRY: Alfonso, I feel you, but I just want to pause on one thing because I don’t disagree with you that I actually think Mr. Ryan is a great choice for this role, but I want us to be super careful when we use the language “hard worker,” because I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall, because it is a reminder about what hard work looks like. So, I feel you that he’s a hard worker. I do, but in the context of relative privilege, and I just want to point out that when you talk about work-life balance and being a hard worker, the moms who don’t have health care who are working —

AGUILAR: I understand that.

HARRIS-PERRY: But, we don’t call them hard workers. We call them failures. We call them people who are sucking off the system.

AGUILAR: No, no, no, no.

HARRIS-PERRY: No, no. Really, ya’ll do. That is really what you guys do as a party.

AGUILAR: That is very unfair. I think we cannot generalize about the Republican Party.

HARRIS-PERRY: That’s true. Not all Republicans. That is certainly true.
-- Pundits Melissa Harris-Perry and Alfonso Aguilar, October 26, 2015, discussing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his prospects to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Comment: First, Harris-Perry is accusing Republicans of deriding people for leeching off the system (I assume when talking about welfare and related programs). Harris-Perry says she's not generalizing about all Republicans, but she still says that Republicans "as a party" engage in this sort of demonizing – which they don't – and as such Harris-Perry herself is demonizing Republicans. Second, Harris-Perry is pointing out an ambiguity in what counts as being a hard worker: however hard you work, there's probably someone else who works harder, and maybe even a whole segment of the population – past, present, even future – that works much harder than you. So, who are you supposed to compare yourself to in order to determine whether you're a hard worker? To slaves from the 1850s? Or to the other people working in your industry today? It's arguable, but it's unfair for Harris-Perry to suggest there is some sort of bigotry (or even code words?) at work in Aguilar's use of the term to describe Ryan. Who does Harris-Perry believe is a hard worker? Anyone in the U.S.A.? Herself?

""The rise of new media outlets in the Internet age has allowed regular Americans to get access to information that the mainstream press," conceals. You know, it's just as important what isn't reported as what is. It is my contention that busting up the Democrat Party monopoly and the mainstream media -- I do believe it's led to divisiveness, but it's not because of us. The divisiveness and the reason there is so much partisanship and mean-spirited, extreme rancor is all on the Democrats, if you ask me, and the media. They're the ones who have the monopoly. They're the ones that had their way. They're the ones that were in charge of everything the people of this country learned, and they were in charge of everything that was hidden from the American people."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, October 26, 2015, reading from an October 20, 2015, Breitbart story on former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Limbaugh is citing divisiveness and partisanship, explaining that they are bad because they amount to "mean-spirited, extreme rancor". He is resorting to the "only my opponent" caricature by saying that only Democrats – and not Republicans – are responsible for that rancor.

FINEMAN: The House needs a dictatorial leader, or nothing will ever happen. And the Tea Party people understandably don’t like that if the person in charge is a moderate that doesn’t agree with them politically. So, Paul Ryan has enough conservative chops that he can sort of try to unify the whole party. But, he’s going to be spending all his time trying to deal with these Tea Party people. What he’s probably going to have to do, if in fact he gets in, is stage some kind of fight with them and defeat them, or take away their power, or go after them. I don’t know if he’s got the guts to do that. I don’t know if he’s got the numbers to do it.

KORNHEISER: Are they like ISIS trying to establish a Caliphate here?

FINEMAN: Yes! Yes! That’s a very good analogy! Without the violence obviously, but they are, yes, they are a rejectionist front. They don't want to legislate. They think legislation is capitulation.
-- Sportscaster Tony Kornheiser and pundit Howard Fineman, October 23, 2015, discussing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his prospects to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Comment: Fineman is demonizing the Tea Party members of Congress by comparing them to ISIS (or even the House Speaker to a dictator). The Tea Party members aren't trying to set up anything like what ISIS wants – with or without violence – and they don't reject all legislating, they just don't like certain legislation that others are supporting. They aren't obstructionists who simply want to stop everything. When a president vetoes legislation, does that make them a "rejectionist"? Much of what Fineman is saying sounds exaggerated.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: October 25, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Donald Trump believes he will "absolutely" be a force for bipartisanship, but in an interview this weekend neither Republicans nor Democrats escaped a barrage of attacks from the GOP presidential candidate.

Trump flung criticism at politicians spanning the spectrum from presidential primary opponents Jeb Bush and Ben Carson to the Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and the man he hopes to succeed, President Barack Obama, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper that aired Sunday on "State of the Union."

And he lamented the House Select Committee on Benghazi's questioning of Clinton, a hearing he called "very partisan" that "hurts both parties" and "hurts the country."

"The level of hatred between Republicans and Democrats was unbelievable. The level of -- I've never seen anything like it," Trump said. "I'm going to unify. This country is totally divided. Barack Obama has divided this country unbelievably. And it's all, it's all hatred, what can I tell you. I've never seen anything like it...I've gotten along with Democrats and I've gotten along with Republicans. And I said, that's a good thing."

Tapper asked Trump if his presidency would result in an era of bipartisanship.

"I absolutely think so," he said, adding, "I will be a great unifier for our country."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, October 25, 2015, during interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, as related in a CNN story by Jeremy Diamond.

Comment: This is "bipartisan" and "unify the country" rhetoric.

"Democrats, we are at our best, and America is at its best when we assume the best in others instead of the bad."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: Obama is calling for us to set a higher standard of debate, however – as seen in this very speech – Obama often assumes the worst about Republicans and conservatives.

"Our system only works when we realize that government is not some alien thing. Government is not some conspiracy or plot. It’s not something to oppress you. Government’s us in a democracy. Government is us. The most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen. It’s you."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: Obama is knocking over a straw man. Most of his political opponents want small government, not no government whatsoever.

"A lot of times it seems like our politics don’t reflect the common sense and decency that we see in our neighbors and our communities and our friends, and it gets frustrating. We’ve got a system that too often rewards division and polarization and short-term thinking, and rewards people for saying the most outrageous things, even though everybody knows they’re not true, but we think of it as entertainment somehow. And so attention-grabbing and controversy is rewarded rather than folks who are rolling up their sleeves and dealing with sometimes really complicated issues that don’t lend themselves to a sound bite. And so people get cynical. And sometimes people just throw up their hands and say “Washington doesn’t work, a plague on both your houses, everybody’s dysfunctional.” Your job is to not succumb to that."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: Obama is calling for us to set a higher standard of debate. He is lamenting divisive rhetoric that is not factual and how it yields cynicism. However, he doesn't acknowledge how he and his party have contributed to these problems.

"As Democrats, we’re proud that our plans to fix our broken immigration system are not rooted in anti-immigrant sentiment. They’re rooted in what we know to be our own immigrant stories."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: Obama is demonizing Republicans – and perhaps people who don't support comprehensive immigration reform more generally – as being xenophobes. How is it anti-immigrant to say that people who came to the country illegally should not get citizenship and permanent residence, but that people who came legally should?

"You’ve heard from some of our outstanding candidates. I’m going to be supporting whoever the nominee is and I’m confident … We’ve got some great candidates. But when you watch the debate between the Democrats, it was logical, and civil, and people didn’t agree with everything but they weren’t just saying crazy stuff. And they weren’t dividing the country into us and them and tapping into people’s worst impulses. It made me proud, because it said that we’ve got a party that’s inclusive and that wants everybody to join and get involved and showed that we can disagree without being disagreeable."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: Obama is indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature, saying that Democrats are logical and civil while Republicans say "crazy stuff" (an example of "out of touch" or "don't care about facts" rhetoric) and divide Americans (an example of "unify the country" rhetoric) and appeal to people's worst impulses (which is demonizing Republicans).

"Overall, though, we’re making enormous progress, and it does make you wonder, why is it that Republican politicians are so down on America. Have you noticed that? I mean, they are gloomy. They’re like Grumpy Cat. Everything is terrible according to them. We’re doomed. I mean, I know it’s political season, but you listen to them and they’ve constructed this entire separate reality. It’s like the Twilight Zone. And according to their story, their narrative, everything was terrific back in 2008 when unemployment was skyrocketing and uninsured rates were rising and folks were losing their homes and their jobs, we were engaged in two wars, bin Laden was still at large. If you were listening to them, those were like the good old days. The golden years. And then I came in and the Democrats came in, but according to them that’s when everything all went to heck. Which is strange. I mean, it’s a hard argument to make. There was an article, I think, in The New York Times today, or maybe it was yesterday, where they pointed out that it’s very hard for them to make the arguments they make about tax cuts for the wealthy and doing the same stuff that they’ve been promoting, and trying to eliminate regulations on the big banks and all that, when the empirical evidence shows that when Democrats control the White House and we’ve got a Democratic Congress the economy does better and when they’re in charge, it does worse. Just look at the facts. Don’t take my word for it, go back, take a look at – all right, here’s Bill Clinton’s presidency, and then there’s Bush presidency and then there’s my presidency and, take a look. And you’ve gotta feel bad for the fact-checkers, for the Republicans, because they’ve gotta spend hours trying to keep up with some of the crazy stuff that their candidates are claiming. And the reason they have to make up stuff is because they don’t have a record to run on. They’re offering the same policies that caused so many problems in the first place. They ran on them in 2008, they ran on them in 2012, they’re running on them now. … And it's a shame when politicians spend all their time trying to make people feel bad, or more typically, trying to make them feel scared. Talking down the country all the time because it serves your politics. … We [Democrats] have got an optimistic vision about where this country can go if the politics of obstruction and fear-mongering are set aside and we start working together as a country."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: First, Obama seems to be accusing Republicans of rooting for failure, obstruction, divisiveness and fear-mongering, and saying they are doing so for "political" motives. This is unfair. Obama, when he ran for office in 2004 and 2008, was frequently critical of the country's state of affairs; does this mean he was "down on America"? Second, Obama is distorting Republicans' position: what Republican has ever said that everything was terrific back in 2008? Third, Obama is making a "correlation is causation" argument when it comes to the economy and Democrats, which is additionally flawed because Democrats and Republicans aren't monolithic when it comes to policies (some Republicans have raised taxes, like Ronald Reagan, and some Democrats have lowered them, like JFK), and because Republicans were in control of Congress during the boom years of Clinton's presidency, Democrats were in control of Congress when the Great Recession happened, and Congress is in control of Republicans now that we're making "enormous progress". Of course, sometimes good or bad things happen when a party is in power that were set in motion earlier by a different party, or that are out of anyone's political control altogether.

"Teen pregnancy rates are down but we’ve got a lot of folks who are attacking the right of women just to have basic health care in this country, and to be able to make decisions about reproductive freedom without having some member of Congress or some governor or some other elected official try to intrude."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: Obama is referring to opponents of abortion, demonizing them by saying they don't want women to receive basic health care, rather than that they don't want unborn children to be killed.

"The fix was always in. Nothing was ever going to happen to Mrs. Clinton in these Benghazi hearings. What was always going to happen, the media was gonna hype it, and hype it they did. … We all know she lied to the families of those four that were killed. We all know that she lied publicly about what caused that attack. … And I, not relishing the role of being the cold shower or the bucket of cold water, attempted to warn you and anybody else that would listen that that was not what was going to happen. And it was not because the Republicans wouldn't try. … They did illustrate on a couple of occasions that Mrs. Clinton got caught in a massive lie. … But none of it matters because of the way the media immediately began reporting it yesterday, last night, and into today. … she was gonna be portrayed as having stood up to this political firing squad, the Republican Party. They showered her with everything they got and she triumphed. … And that's exactly what's happened. And, accordingly, a lot of people feeling deflated, a lot of people feeling unhappy, depressed, sad, whatever, because they really, really thought, given the facts, that somebody was going to be held accountable. But once again, when dealing with the Washington establishment, which is run in toto by the Democrat Party and the American media, we find that facts are irrelevant, facts are to be obliterated and maneuvered and bent, shaped, flaked, and formed."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, October 23, 2015, referring to Congressional hearings on Benghazi involving Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on October 22, 2015.

Comment: Limbaugh is accusing Democrats and the media of not caring about truth.

"We're not going to get the contradictions, we're not going to get the facts, we're not going to get the real story underlying it. We're living in an age where what you say and its relation with the facts is completely irrelevant as we see in the presidential campaign. And it's carrying over into the hearings."
-- Pundit Charles Krauthammer, October 22, 2015, referring to Congressional hearings on Benghazi involving Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier that day.

Comment: Krauthammer is saying that facts don't matter to people anymore.

"My grandfather came to this land in 1920 and he landed in Jaffa, and very shortly after he landed he went to the immigration office in Jaffa. And a few months later it was burned down by marauders. These attackers, Arab attackers, murdered several Jews, including our celebrated writer Brenner. And this attack and other attacks on the Jewish community in 1920, 1921, 1929, were instigated by a call of the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was later sought for war crimes in the Nuremberg trials because he had a central role in fomenting the final solution. He flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, "If you expel them, they'll all come here." "So what should I do with them?" he asked. He said, "Burn them." And he was sought in, during the Nuremberg trials for prosecution."
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, October 20, 2015, asserting that Amin al-Husseini played a role in initiating the Holocaust.

Comment: This is demonizing: Amin al-Husseini certainly hated Jews and met with Adolf Hitler in November 1941, and may even have approved of the Holocaust. But Nazi Germany had already begun massacring Jews earlier that year. More, Netanyahu seems to be trying to demonize Palestinians with guilt by association, as al-Husseini was Palestinian.

CALLER: If Trump is gonna be start with Bush number two being the -- being the part of the culprit, and when I read his language, when I read his words -- we all know words mean things -- he's partially putting blame on Bush 43 for the terrorist attacks.

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, he is. And he's --

CALLER: Well, okay, but why stop there? Let's go all the way back to Carter and Reagan. Because it was Ollie North that warned us in 1976 who the problem was. So it's not Bush 43 … I'm holding a double-edged sword 'cause I don't totally trust Trump. I don't agree with this tack for politics. I think it's, you know, more Trump kind of shooting off the hip again. I don't agree with it, because there's no purpose in rehashing old business, especially when it's completely not in proper context. I don't think Trump put this in proper context by going after Bush. He should have... Why didn't he go after Clinton? Our target is the left.
-- A caller to the Rush Limbaugh Show, Todd in San Diego, October 20, 2015, discussing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Earlier, Trump had said the country was not safe under President George W. Bush, given that the September 11, 2001, attacks happened while Bush was president.

Comment: Todd is using "rehashing old debates" rhetoric. What's wrong about discussing the past?

"My friends, we beat fear with hope. We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together," Trudeau, 43, told a crowd of cheering supporters in Montreal.

"This is what positive politics can do."
-- Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau, October 19, 2015, as related by a Reuters story by Randall Palmer and Rod Nickel.

Comment: Trudeau is accusing his political opponents of resorting to fear, cynicism, and negative politics, while crediting himself with unifying the country.

Iranian FM Spokeswoman Afkham said the Saudi FM is not qualified to comment on Iran’s regional role when his country has taken a military approach toward current crises in region.

“The Saudi foreign minister [Adel al-Jubeir] whose country has adopted a military, security and extremist approach toward the current regional crises, and has been targeting the neighbor Muslim country of Yemen with relentless bombardment is not qualified to speak of Iran’s regional role,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham on Monday.
-- Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Afkham, October 19, 2015, as related in a story by AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA).

Comment: This is ad hominem reasoning. Just because Saudi Arabia is engaging in misbehavior doesn't mean it's wrong when it accuses Iran of misbehavior. Saudi Arabia's criticism may be hypocritical, but that doesn't prove it's false.

Actor James Woods, who frequently gets political on his Twitter account, called out Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday for a tweet about China.

Sanders tweeted, "China -- not exactly seen as a model when it comes to human rights -- provides 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. The US provides zero."

Woods responded within a few hours: "China has notoriously killed female infants for population control, you utter moron. #ChinaGendercide"
-- Actor and activist James Woods, October 19, 2015, as related in a CNN story by Daniella Diaz.

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric; Woods can criticize Sanders' position without resorting to name-calling.

ROGER: Ronald Reagan successfully brainwashed about 45% of the nation's people with the help of Rush Limbaugh. And if you use keywords like “socialist” and “demagogue”, they right away think communist and they will not vote for you. And if you want to fix this problem, you can’t just do what you’re doing and shout out words like “demagogue”, they love demagogues. They don’t understand what the word even means. Go to a Republican bar and sit there and talk to them, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. You first have to fix the brainwash problem, and you first have to slowly fix the brainwash problem by bringing back the equal time laws that Ronald Reagan got rid of.

SVART: For the last 40 years the far, far right has really systematically built up institutions to control the discourse. … And they've really dismantled the public sphere. They've really deregulated. … And another thing that they've done is they've flooded the airwaves with their mantra, including how socialism is evil and the government in general is evil and inefficient. And they just repeat it over and over again, ignoring facts, and it really is true that it has an impact on how people engage with politics.
-- National Director of the Democratic Socialists of America Maria Svart, October 18, 2015, responding to Roger, a caller on C-SPAN Washington Journal.

Comment: Roger is using "stupid" (i.e., "brainwashed") and "demagogue" rhetoric to describe Republicans and conservatives. Svart is demonizing Republicans and conservatives; they generally want smaller government, but that doesn't mean they believe all government is evil. Svart is also accusing Republicans and conservatives of not caring about facts, and she is indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature (implying that Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives don't also repeat false assertions).

"We will not give up to the logic of brute force, policies of occupation and aggression practiced by the Israeli government and the herd of settlers who are engaged in terrorism against our people, our holy places, our homes, our trees and the execution of our children in cold blood as they did with the child Ahmed Manasra and other children from Jerusalem."
-- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, October 15, 2015, referring to a 13-year-old who had been involved in stabbing attacks in East Jerusalem on October 12, 2015.

Comment: This is demonizing, as Manasra was later shown to be alive and being treated in an Israeli hospital.