Sunday, April 24, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: April 24, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past two weeks:
First Lady Michelle Obama gave a rare and impassioned defense of her husband's legacy Saturday, saying he's risen above personal attacks and taken the high road even as opponents have questioned his patriotism, his honesty, his citizenship and his faith.

"As I’ve walked this journey with Barack, I’ve gotten a pretty good look at what it means to rise above the fray, what it means to set your eyes on the horizon, to devote your life to making things better for those who will come after you," she told the graduating class of Jackson State University, a historically black college in Mississippi.

"I have seen how, no matter what kind of ugliness is going on at any particular moment, Barack always stays the course," she said.



"Yet, too often, instead of acknowledging or celebrating this change, we have a tendency to focus on conflict and controversy. We pay endless attention to folks who are blocking action, blocking judges, blocking immigration, blocking a raise in the minimum wage — just blocking," she said. "We are consumed with the anger and vitriol that are bubbling up, with folks shouting at each other, using hateful and divisive language."

The president has often been at the receiving end of that language, she said. "Charges that he doesn’t love our country. The time he was called a liar in front of a Joint Session of Congress. The nonstop questions about his birth certificate and his belief in God," she said.

Mrs. Obama's defense of her husband was in the context of a commencement address in which she told the 800 graduates that they, too, will face discrimination — in voting rights, criminal justice, education and housing — and have to make a choice of how to deal with it.

"Are you going to get angry or lash out?" she asked. "Or are you going to take a deep breath, straighten your shoulders, lift up your head, and do what Barack Obama has always done — as he says, 'When they go low, I go high.'

"That’s the choice Barack and I have made. That’s what has kept us sane over the years. We simply do not allow space in our hearts, minds, or souls for darkness," she said.
-- First Lady Michelle Obama, April 23, 2016, referring to her husband, President Barack Obama, as related in a story by Gregory Korte of USA TODAY.

Comment: This is the "only my opponent" caricature, making it sound as if President Obama has only been a victim of vitriol, and not a perpetrator of it.

***
If Bernie Sanders were elected president, his supporters would “shoot every third person on Wall Street,” former President Bill Clinton joked on Friday.

Stumping for his wife Hillary Clinton at an event in Fort Washington, New York, Clinton jabbed Sanders and students who support the Vermont senator's attacks on corrupt financial systems.

"One of the few things I really haven't enjoyed about this primary: I think it's fine that all these young students have been so enthusiastic for her opponent and [he] sounds so good: 'Just shoot every third person on Wall Street and everything will be fine,'" he said.



In an interview with NBC News following the event, Clinton insisted his comment was "a total joke.”
-- Former President Bill Clinton, April 15, 2016, as related in a story by Hanna Trudo of Politico.

Comment: Clinton is using violent rhetoric, though he insists he is using it comically.

***
SANDERS: Let's talk about super PACs and 501(c)(4)s, money which is completely undisclosed. Where does the money come from? Do we really feel confident about a candidate saying that she's going to bring change in America when she is so dependent on big money interests? I don't think so.



CLINTON: Make no mistake about it, this is not just an attack on me, it's an attack on President Obama. President Obama – you know, let me tell you why. You may not like the answer, but I'll tell you why. President Obama had a super PAC when he ran. President Obama took tens of millions of dollars from contributors. And President Obama was not at all influenced when he made the decision to pass and sign Dodd-Frank, the toughest regulations on Wall Street in many a year.
-- Democratic presidential contenders Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), April 14, 2016, during a Democratic primary debate.

Comment: Sanders is accusing Clinton of being beholden to special interests. Clinton is saying that it is hypocritical to criticize her without also criticizing President Barack Obama, who also took campaign money from super PACs.

***
"Now Secretary Clinton has said Medicare for all will never happen. … Medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma and the private insurance industry instead of us".
-- Activist Paul Song, April 13, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Comment: In addition to using "sexual deviant" name-calling, Song is using "special interests" rhetoric.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: April 10, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past two weeks:
"I think she would be the best president, and I think it's obvious by a country mile, and that's all that matters to me. Yes, I think there are some different standards. Some of them are subconscious."
-- Former President Bill Clinton, husband to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, posted April 8, 2016, asked by MSNBC reporter Alex Seitz-Wald whether he thought a male candidate would face the same question about being qualified for office as Hillary Clinton had.

Comment: Bill Clinton is accusing people of being hypocritical on the basis of his wife's gender, apparently, which amounts to bigotry.

***
"I just wanted to make it clear to the Clinton people … if we're hit, we can hit back."
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), April 8, 2016.

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

***
"Right now, when we’re hearing so much disturbing and hateful rhetoric, it is so important to remember that our diversity has been -– and will always be -– our greatest source of strength and pride here in the United States."
-- First Lady Michelle Obama, April 6, 2016.

Comment: Obama doesn't mention who is uttering this inappropriate rhetoric. Why not? Is she criticizing both Democrats and Republicans, or does she believe it's only Republicans who resort to invective?

***
When asked point-blank by "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough whether Sanders was ready for the Oval Office, Clinton raised the senator's recent interview with the New York Daily News.

"Well, I think the interview raised a lot of serious questions," Clinton said. "I think of it this way: The core of his campaign has been 'break up the banks,' and it it didn't seem in reading his answers that he understood exactly how that would work under Dodd-Frank."

Asked again whether Sanders is qualified, Clinton dodged. "Well, I think he hadn't done his homework, and he'd been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn't really studied or understood, and that raises a lot of questions," she said.

Asked a third time, Clinton said she would "leave it to voters to decide who of us can do the job the country needs."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, April 6, 2016, as related in a story that day by Hanna Trudo and Nick Gass of Politico. The discussion concerned Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Clinton is evading the question about whether Sanders is qualified to be president. One of the evasions she is using is the "not my decision, it's up to the voters" evasion. Should no one ever take a position on whether someone is qualified to be president? Should they just say, well, that's up to the voters? That's not the position President Barack Obama has taken on Clinton.

***
CHARLIE SYKES: When you start asking your guy these questions about policy, there's no "there" there. I know you want to talk about policy. Donald Trump hasn't spent thirty seconds thinking about abortion before he was asked by Chris Matthews.

ANN COULTER: No, I think that's crazy. I thought the full exchange was fabulous. It was a stupid hypothetical question that has absolutely no bearing on what a president does. It is like asking a president: If you were a tree, what tree would you be?
-- Pundit Ann Coulter, posted April 5, 2016, during interview with talk radio host Charlie Sykes. The two were referring to a question faced by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, in which he was asked whether women who had abortions should be punished if abortion were ever made illegal.

Comment: First, "crazy" is "stupid" rhetoric. Second, Coulter is objecting to the hypothetical question that Trump was asked, though there's nothing out of bounds about the question, even if it is unlikely that abortion will be made illegal.

***
"As you may know by now, when you attack him, he will punch back 10 times harder."
-- Melania Trump, wife of Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, posted April 4, 2016.

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

***
DICKERSON: There's been a lot of commentary this week that this has been the worst week in your campaign. A lot of people want to stop you. Are they succeeding?

TRUMP: I don't know that it's been the worst week in my campaign. I think I have had many bad weeks, and I have had many good weeks. I don't see this as worst week in my campaign. But, certainly, I've had some weeks, and you've been reporting on them, where "that was the end," and then the next week you see poll numbers where they went up and everybody's shocked. So, yeah, people want to stop me because I'm leading by a lot. The new polls that came out had me leading by just about more than ever. NBC had a very good national poll that just came out. I guess I'm leading very big in New York and Pennsylvania.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about abortion. What would you do to further restrict women's access to abortions as president?

TRUMP: Well, look, look, I just -- I mean, I know where you're going, and I just want to say -- a question was asked to me, and it was asked in a very hypothetical -- and it was said, "Illegal, illegal." I've been told by some people that was a older line answer, and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago, very-- on a very conservative basis. But --

DICKERSON: Your original answer, you mean.

TRUMP: My original --

DICKERSON: Punishing the woman.

TRUMP: But I was asked as a hypothetical, hypothetically, hypothetically. The laws are set now on abortion, and that's the way they're going to remain until they're changed.

DICKERSON: Because you had said you wanted -- you told Bloomberg in January that you believed abortion should be banned at some point in pregnancy. Where would you --

TRUMP: Well l first of all, I would have liked to have seen, you know, this be a states' rights, I would have preferred states' rights. I think it would have been better if it were up to the states. But right now, the laws are set, and that's the way the laws are.

DICKERSON: But do you have a feeling how they should change? There are a lot of laws you want to change, you've talked about them from libel to torture, anything you'd want to change on abortion?

TRUMP: At this moment, the laws are set and I think he we have to leave it that way.

DICKERSON: Do you think it's murder, abortion?

TRUMP: I have my opinions on it, but I would rather not comment on it.

DICKERSON: You said you were very pro-life, pro-life views that abortion is murder.

TRUMP: Yeah, but I do have my opinions on it, but I'd rather -- I just don't think it's an appropriate forum.

DICKERSON: But you don't disagree that proposition, that it's murder?

TRUMP: What proposition?

DICKERSON: That abortion is murder.

TRUMP: No, I don't disagree with it.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, April 3, 2016, during interview with John Dickerson of CBS News. The two were discussing a question faced by Trump, in which he was asked whether women who had abortions should be punished if abortion were ever made illegal.

Comment: Trump is evading questions on the basis of their being hypothetical or that the interview is "not an appropriate forum" (how is a political news program not an appropriate forum to discuss political positions?). Plus, by saying that the laws on abortion are "set", Trump seems to be saying that debating abortion is rehashing old issues.

***
"We still have our house in Chicago … But there's also these big stacks of newspapers from right before the election. And every time I go back, I have occasion to look back and read what I said at the time. And Lord knows I've made mistakes in this job, and there are areas where I've fallen short, but something I'm really proud of is the fact that, if you go back and see what I said in 2007 and you see what I did, they match up."
-- President Barack Obama, March 28, 2016.

Comment: This is demonstrably false, as there are any number of things Obama pledged he would do as president that he has not done (for instance, he said he would not require people to purchase health insurance, and pledged to recognize the Armenian genocide).

***
"I think the electorate would be better served if we spent less time focused on the he said/she said back-and-forth of our politics. Because while fairness is the hallmark of good journalism, false equivalency all too often these days can be a fatal flaw. If I say that the world is round and someone else says it's flat, that's worth reporting, but you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round."
-- President Barack Obama, March 28, 2016.

Comment: Put in these terms, it is a platitude to say that two sides of a dispute shouldn't necessarily be covered equally: anyone who says the Earth is flat is simple wrong. However, political disputes (which are frequently moral disputes) are seldom that easily resolved by scientific evidence. Is Obama making a "comparing" or "only my opponent" mistake in complaining about "false equivalence"?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 27, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
CRUZ: It's not easy to tick me off. I don't get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: So will you support him for the nominee?

CRUZ: I'm going to beat him for the nomination.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: That's not answering the question, Senator.

CRUZ: I am answering the question. Donald Trump will not be the nominee.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), March 24, 2016., referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump. Trump had blamed Cruz for an anti-Trump political ad displaying a nude photo of Trump's wife, Melania, after which Trump threatened to "spill the beans" about Cruz's wife, Heidi, and retweeted a photo comparing Melania Trump and Heidi Cruz.

Comment: Cruz and Trump are resorting to name-calling. Plus, Cruz is evading the question, refusing to answer whether he will support Trump, should Trump become the GOP nominee.

***
"So often in the past there's been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist. And especially in the Americas, that's been a big debate, right? Oh, you know, you're a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you're some crazy communist that's going to take away everybody's property. And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don't have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory -- you should just decide what works."
-- President Barack Obama, March 23, 2016.

Comment: It is a platitude to say that people should do what works, that they should be pragmatists rather than ideologues. A believe about what "works" is none other than an ideology. Communists believe that centralized government control of the economy works; capitalists believe that free markets work. Given how complicated human behavior is, and how difficult it is to study, perhaps it's true that communist ideology is not 100% right or 100% wrong in its belief about what works, and perhaps the same is true of capitalism. But that doesn't mean abandoning ideology. Anyone who claims to be a pragmatist has to take a stand on what works; the moment they do, they have an ideology (i.e., an idea about how things should be done).

***
"She always finds a way to make something good happen, to make people feel empowered, to buy people into the process, to make democracy work the way the Framers intended for it to work. Now, if you don’t believe that we can all grow together again, if you don’t believe that we’re ever going to grow again, if you believe it’s more important to relitigate the past, there may be many reasons that you don’t want to support her. But if you believe we can all rise together, if you believe we’ve finally come to the point where we can put the awful legacy of the last eight years behind us and the seven years before that when we were practicing trickle-down economics and no regulation in Washington, which is what caused the crash, then you should vote for her."
-- Former President Bill Clinton, March 21, 2016, referring to his wife, Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton later clarified that the "awful legacy of the last eight years" her husband referred to was the hostility of Republicans to President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is "rehashing the past" rhetoric. Why is it wrong for people to criticize Hillary Clinton's past? Why is it OK for Bill Clinton to criticize – "relitigate"? – the past of the GOP? Plus, President Clinton's remarks about the "awful legacy of the last eight years" were ambiguous in their reference; many thought he was saying that Obama's presidency had been awful.

***
Of course, Republicans have known for a long time that Hillary Clinton is an unusually strong candidate, and this terrifies them. So they have seized on talking points like Benghazi (for which she bears little or no responsibility) and her email scandal.
-- Pundit Jay Parini, March 21, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: First, this is "talking points" rhetoric. There's nothing inherently wrong with people using talking points (assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is what Republicans are doing). What matters is whether the talking points are true and relevant. Second, Parini is saying the Republicans have political motives for criticizing Clinton on Benghazi and her email server. Even that's true, it tells us nothing about whether or not those criticisms are true and relevant. To dismiss the criticisms because of political motives is flawed; it's ad hominem reasoning. Should we dismiss Clinton's defense against criticism because she has political motives to defend herself? No, because that would likewise be ad hominem.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 20, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"There are a lot of Republicans, including myself, who find him morally repulsive. And he’s just not — there are some things more important things than winning an election. And supporting a guy who tears at the social fabric, who insults the office of the presidency by being completely unprepared for it, who plays on bigotry and fear, who is the sort of demagogue our founders feared would upset the American experiment in self-government, well, that kind of guy, you just can’t support, even if it means a defeat."
-- Pundit David Brooks, March 18, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Brooks is accusing Trump of being a bigot and a demagogue who uses scare tactics (he is also perhaps using the language of disgust: "morally repulsive").

***
O'DONNELL: Do you believe that Senator [sic] Clinton should release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs?

WARREN: Look, I think that our candidates are out doing what they should do in a primary. They are debating the issues.

O'DONNELL: You're not answering my question, Senator.

WARREN: They answer for themselves. What I'm doing is I'm telling you what I think should be going on right now in this election.

O'DONNELL: It's just a yes-or-no question. It's a yes-or-no question. Should she release the transcripts or not?

WARREN: What I told you is I think the primaries are doing what they should be doing and the candidates are being tested.
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, March 17, 2016, being questioned by Norah O'Donnell of CBS News regarding speeches made by Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: This is an evasion. So, Warren would NEVER offer an opinion about what someone else should or shouldn’t do, because that person answers for themselves?

***
"The Biden rule reminds us that the decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle and not a person. About a principle and not a person. It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not — not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election, which is the type of thing then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Biden was concerned about".
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, March 16, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, which McConnell argued was at odds with remarks that Vice President Joe Biden made (opposing election-year nomination hearings) when Biden was in the Senate in 1992.

Comment: First, McConnell is accusing the Obama administration of hypocrisy – Biden opposing an election year Supreme Court nomination when a Republican was president, but now supporting it when a Democrat is president. Second, McConnell is accusing Obama of "politicizing".

***
"At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they’re disposable -- this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves. Because our Supreme Court really is unique. It’s supposed to be above politics. It has to be. And it should stay that way. To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn’t even deserve a hearing, let alone an up or down vote, to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court, when two-thirds of Americans believe otherwise -- that would be unprecedented."
-- President Barack Obama, March 16, 2016, remarking on his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.

Comment: Obama is accusing his opponents of "politicizing".

***
If the Republican National Committee is worried about the possibility of a contentious contested convention, one of its top officials showed no signs of concern Wednesday, even after the party's front-runner warned of possible riots in Cleveland if he is denied the party's nomination.

“Well first of all, I assume he’s speaking figuratively," Sean Spicer, the RNC's chief strategist and spokesman, told CNN. "I think if we go into a convention, whoever gets 1,237 delegates becomes the nominee. It’s plain and simple.”
-- From a March 16, 2016, story by Nick Gass of Politico, regarding statements by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Spicer is arguing that Trump's violent rhetoric – "riots" – is to be taken figuratively rather than literally.

***
"Our next president has to be ready to face three big tasks: first, can you make positive differences in people's lives; second, can you keep us safe; third, can you bring our country together again?"
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, March 15, 2016.

Comment: First, Clinton's tasks sound largely like platitudes: when has it not been the job of the president to make life better and more safe? Second, Clinton is using "unify the country" rhetoric, but she doesn't spell out what that means or how she would accomplish it (nor does she say when we were "together" in the past such that we need to be brought back there "again").

***
"In my State of the Union address, I remarked that many of you have told me you’d like to see more cooperation and a more elevated debate in Washington, but everyone sometimes feels trapped by their politics. I understand that feeling. I served with many of you in Congress. And so I know that I’m not the only one in this room who may be more than a little dismayed about what’s happening on the campaign trail lately. We have heard vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities -- at Americans who don’t look like “us,” or pray like “us,” or vote like we do. We’ve seen misguided attempts to shut down that speech, however offensive it may be. We live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold. In response to those attempts, we’ve seen actual violence, and we’ve heard silence from too many of our leaders."
-- President Barack Obama, March 15, 2016.

Comment: Obama is calling for a higher standard of debate, and saying that many people have failed to denounce inappropriate rhetoric in politics. He is correct, but he fails to include himself as being one of the people at fault.

***
"But everything was fine until these people start disrupting things. And, by the way, they are not the lovable, little peaceful fuzzballs. These are not people showing up hoping to be heard and protest and get their point of view out. They're trying to shut these events down and they jostle people around. They shove. These are not nice people, if I can just be as simplistic about it as possible. They're mean little angry troglodytes, these leftist protesters, and they have only one purpose, and that's to shut down these events and disrupt them for whatever reason. They get their jollies or they don't want the event to go on. They want to make it look like there are many more people opposed to whoever it is conducting the rally than there are supporters."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, March 14, 2016, referring to a rally held by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump held two days earlier, which was disrupted by protesters.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing – "these are not nice people" – and dehumanizing – "troglodytes" – the Trump protesters.

***
"Barack Obama's a world class demagogue. That language there is designed to divide us."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), March 13, 2016, responding to remarks made the previous day by President Barack Obama.

Comment: Cruz is accusing Obama of being divisive and being a demagogue.

***
"But the truth of the matter is America is pretty darn great right now. … And what the folks who are running for office should be focused on is how we can make it even better. Not insults and schoolyard taunts, and manufacturing facts. Not divisiveness along the lines of race or faith. Certainly not violence against other Americans or excluding them. … And what’s been happening in our politics lately is not an accident. For years, we’ve been told we should be angry about America, and that the economy is a disaster, and that we’re weak and that compromise is weakness, and that you can ignore science and you can ignore facts, and say whatever you want about the President, and feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people, and people who aren’t like “us,” and say that the reason that America is in decline is because of “those” people. That didn’t just happen last week. That narrative has been promoted now for years. It didn’t just spring out of nowhere. And of course, none of it has been true. It just ignores reality -- the reality that America is the most powerful nation on Earth. The reality that our economy is not only stronger than it was eight years ago, that it’s, right now, the bright spot in the world. … We can have political debates without turning on one another. We can have political debates without thinking that the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. We can support candidates without treating their opponents as unpatriotic, or treasonous, or somehow deliberately trying to weaken America. That's not just one candidate who’s been saying that; some of the so-called more responsible candidates, including a gentleman from this state -- no, no, you read what he says, it's not -- it's no more rooted in reality than some of these other statements. We can point out bad policies without describing them as a “government takeover” or “an assault on freedom.” And by the way, when I say this, this is not about “political correctness.” It’s about not having to explain to our kids why our politics sounds like a schoolyard fight. We shouldn’t be afraid to take them to rallies, or let them watch debates. They watch the way we conduct ourselves. They learn from us. And we should be teaching them something about this democracy is a vibrant and precious thing. It's going to be theirs someday, and we should be teaching them how to disagree without being disagreeable, and how to engage, and how to analyze facts, and how to be honest and truthful, and admit if you make a mistake, and teach them that politics at its best is about a battle of ideas, and resolving our differences without encouraging or resorting to violence. … As Democrats, we believe in things like science. It has resulted in great improvements in our lives. Science -- that's why we have things like penicillin and airplanes."
-- President Barack Obama, March 12, 2016, commenting on the Republican presidential nomination contest.

Comment: First, Obama is calling for setting a higher standard of debate, and accusing Republicans of being "divisive". Second, Obama is accusing Republicans of being bigots who ignore facts, science, and reality. Third, he is saying that Republicans – but not Democrats? – are guilty of questioning the patriotism of their opponents.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 13, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday blamed Donald Trump for turning “the most important election in a generation into a circus, a complete fiasco” and said increasingly intense political disputes threatened American democracy.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” the Florida Republican bemoaned Trump’s rhetoric but also insisted that both the left and the right were to blame for scenes of chaos and violence at Trump’s rallies, saying the “gates of civility have been blown apart.”

“This country deserves better, and people have to wake up here,” he said. “At some point, this is really going to do damage to America.”



Rubio also said he believed increasing polarization threatens to ruin American political discourse.

“If we reach a point in this country where we can’t have a debate about politics without it getting to levels of violence or anger, where people think just because you’re angry you can say and do almost anything you want, we’re going to lose our republic,” he said. “We’re going to have a big problem. Those images from Chicago the other night, it looks like something out of the Third World.”

Rubio also worried a Trump event could turn deadly.

"I'm very concerned," he said when asked by host Jake Tapper. "We don't know what's going to happen next here. I know that we have reached the point now where people in American politics have decided that if they don't agree with you, that they can get angry at you, that you're a bad and evil person."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), as related in a March 13, 2016, story by Kevin Robillard of Politico.

Comment: Rubio is calling for a higher standard of debate.

***
Speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Austin, Texas, on Friday evening, President Barack Obama lit into Donald Trump, by turns mocking him for "selling steaks" and ripping his rhetoric— while urging the GOP to take responsibility for creating him.



"We’ve got a debate inside the other party that is fantasy and schoolyard taunts and selling stuff like it’s the Home Shopping Network," Obama said in a clear reference to Trump's Tuesday-night press conference, where he wheeled out products like Trump Steaks and Trump Water to prove his business bona fides.

Then the president launched into a lengthy series of taunts of his own, blistering the Republican establishment for being "shocked that somebody is fanning anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-Muslim sentiment."

"How can you be shocked?" he asked. "This is the guy, remember, who was sure that I was born in Kenya. Who just wouldn’t let it go. And all this same Republican establishment, they weren’t saying nothing. As long as it was directed at me, they were fine with it. They thought it was a hoot. Wanted to get his endorsement. And then now, suddenly, we’re shocked that there’s gambling going on in this establishment."

"What is happening in this primary is just a distillation of what’s been happening inside their party for more than a decade," Obama said, accusing Republicans of denying "evidence of science" and viewing Democrats as "destroying the country, or treasonous."

"That’s what they’ve been saying," he went on. "So they can’t be surprised when somebody suddenly looks and says, you know what, I can do that even better. I can make stuff up better than that. I can be more outrageous than that. I can insult people even better than that. I can be even more uncivil."



Even when Obama allowed that "there are thoughtful conservatives, good people in the Republican Party," he quickly offered up some more red meat to the crowd: "Some of them have been writing that, well, the reason our party is going crazy is because of Obama, which is a pretty novel idea. The notion is, Obama drove us crazy."

"Now, the truth is, what they really mean is their reaction to me was crazy and now it has gotten out of hand," he said, challenging Republicans alarmed by Trump's ascent to look inward. "Because my question to the folks who are suddenly so spun up is, where have you been the past five, six, seven years?"
-- President Barack Obama, as related in a March 11, 2016, story by the staff at Politico.

Comment: This is the "only my opponent" caricature. While Obama is correct to point out that Republicans have resorted to (and failed to stand against) name-calling, the same is true of Obama and Democrats (for instance, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa's remarks about the Tea Party).

***
"They sow discord. The Democrat Party, liberalism, sows chaos. They thrive on it. They need chaos. They need people angry. That's why every day there's always a "crisis" of something going on, because what they do doesn't work. This is why they never campaign on what they really want to do. Everybody knows that what they really want to do won't work and doesn't work. So they lie."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, March 10, 2016.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing Democrats.

***
QUESTIONER [unidentified]: And an endorsement, sir?

OBAMA: I think that the Democratic voters are doing just fine working this out. I think it’s useful that we’ve had a vigorous debate among two good people who care deeply about our country and who have fought hard on behalf of working people in this country for a long time. I think it’s been a good conversation. And my most important role will be to make sure that after primaries is done I’m bringing everybody together so that we focus on winning the general election.
-- President Barack Obama, March 10, 2016, during a press conference, referring to the Democratic Party presidential contest.

Comment: Obama avoids answering the question about who he would endorse, which is fine in principle, but he doesn't provide a good reason for why he won't endorse a candidate. He seems to evade the issue by saying that it's "up to the voters".

***
QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Some of your critics have pointed to the incredibly polarized political climate under your administration as contributing to the rise of someone as provocative as Donald Trump. Do you feel responsibility for that, or even some of the protectionist rhetoric from some Democratic candidates? Do you have a timeline for when you might make a presidential endorsement? And to follow on my colleague’s question here, do you feel political heat is constraining your pool of viable Supreme Court nominees? Thank you.

OBAMA: It’s a three-fer. I think it’s important for me to nominate a Supreme Court nominee quickly because I think it’s important for the Supreme Court to have its full complement of justices. … With respect to your first question, I’ve actually heard this argument a number of times. I have been blamed by Republicans for a lot of things, but being blamed for their primaries and who they’re selecting for their party is novel. Look, I’ve said -- I said it at the State of the Union that one of my regrets is the degree to which polarization and the nasty tone of our politics has accelerated rather than waned over the course of the last seven and a half years. And I do all kinds of soul-searching in terms of are there things I can do better to make sure that we’re unifying the country. But I also have to say, Margaret, that, objectively, it’s fair to say that the Republican political elites and many of the information outlets -- social media, news outlets, talk radio, television stations -- have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years a notion that everything I do is to be opposed; that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal; that maximalist, absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous; that there is a “them” out there and an “us,” and “them” are the folks who are causing whatever problems you’re experiencing. And the tone of that politics -- which I certainly have not contributed to -- I don’t think that I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example. I don’t remember saying, hey, why don’t you ask me about that. Or why don’t you question whether I’m American, or whether I’m loyal, or whether I have America’s best interests at heart -- those aren’t things that were prompted by any actions of mine. … And what’s interesting -- I’ll just say one last thing about this -- there are thoughtful conservatives who are troubled by this, who are troubled by the direction of their party. I think it is very important for them to reflect on what it is about the politics they’ve engaged in that allows the circus we’ve been seeing to transpire, and to do some introspection.
-- President Barack Obama, March 10, 2016, during a press conference, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: First, this is the "only my opponent" caricature. Obama has routinely resorted to derisive name-calling against his opponents. In particular, he has often questioned the patriotism of Republicans, accusing them of putting party ahead of country. Second, this is "unify the country" rhetoric.

***
While Republican presidential candidates were debating each other on Thursday night on CNN, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was blasting her GOP colleagues in the Senate as "extremists" over on MSNBC.



“So, look, what's the problem with the two guys they've got at the top right now with Donald Trump and with Ted Cruz? These are both people who basically deny the legitimacy of their opponents. They go on the attack. They demean millions of Americans,” Warren told MSNNC's Rachel Maddow. “That's what identifies them as extremists and why Republicans -- man, Republicans in the Senate are breaking apart over this.”

But Warren said the election wasn’t the only reason the Republican Party was extreme; she said the GOP had moved sharply right since Obama's election.

“They have given in to their extremists. In fact, they have nursed their extremists along, so that there have been fights and delays over, what, over the basic things that happen in government,” she said. “All I can say is that's what constituted extremism in the United States Senate. That's what has nursed what's going on now in the presidential primaries.”



"But I do know this: They are paying the price for their own extremism. It has now taken them by the throat. And so, when they stand up in the Senate and say, 'Oh, my gosh, what's going to happen to us? We now may have a presidential nominee who is so extreme that he will pull us over the edge electorally and cause us a disaster in November.' The answer is: Guys, this is what you did to yourselves. If you really want to stop it, stop it right now. Stand up and do your job."
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as related in a March 10, 2016, story from Politico by Eliza Collins.

Comment: This is "extremism" rhetoric.

***
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” lasted all of two questions — neither of which were answered during a less-than-four-minute segment before he was booted off the show.

Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski spent nearly as much time talking about the governor — with Brzezinski blasting him over his refusal to answer questions during the interview and questioning whether he should be leading a state — after his segment than they spent talking to him during it.



At the outset of the interview, Scott declined to endorse a Republican presidential candidate.

“Why wouldn’t you endorse the sitting senator from the state of Florida? That seems like a pretty easy endorsement, to me,” Scarborough asked. “I’m confused.”

“Marco’s done a very good job,” Scott said. “We got elected together back in 2010. He’s done a very good job as our senator. Donald Trump is a friend. I’ve met Ted Cruz. I know John Kasich.”

Scott insisted he will stay out and trust the voters, so Scarborough pivoted to Trump’s recent statement that Islam hates America. “Do you think Muslims in the state of Florida hate America?” he asked.

“Well, as you know, in Florida we’re the best melting pot in the world. We love everybody coming to our state,” Scott said, before turning to his opposition to accepting Syrian refugees who aren’t fully vetted.

“That could be a reasonable policy position if you want to debate that, and we can debate that issue. I’m just asking, generally, do you think that Muslims hate Americans, that Islam hates America as Donald Trump said last night,” Scarborough pressed.

“I can tell you what’s going on in Florida,” Scott began, before Scarborough interrupted and asked again for him to answer the question.

“Do you personally think that Islam is a religion that hates America?” Scarborough asked.

Scott’s response was that Florida has a lot of Muslims and Latin Americans who all get along. “We’re a great melting point. That’s what I can tell you about our state,” Scott said. “Donald Trump, he can talk about the things he wants to talk about. Marco Rubio can, Ted Cruz, John Kasich...”

Co-host Mika Brzezinski wasn’t satisfied. “That’s not answering any questions. Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick, I know you and Joe are friends and this is kind of awkward, but can you answer the question or should we scoot?” she asked.
-- Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), as related in a March 10, 2016, story by Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico.

Comment: Scott refuses to endorse a candidate, but without giving much of a reason apart from "trusting the voters", which is the "not my decision" evasion. He also avoids answering the question regarding Islam.

***
"I say let's come together folks. We're going to win. I say let's come together. Carl, the answer is not 100 percent but largely I would say yes. Some people you are just not going to get along with. It's okay. But largely I would like to do that and believe it or not, I am a unifier. I unify. You look at all of the things I built all over the world. I'm a unifier. I get along with people. I have great relations. I even start getting along with you, right? Campaign Carl. But, no, I get along with people. And I really say this, Carl, I think it's time to unify."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, March 8, 2016, responding to a question by Carl Cameron of FOX News' Campaign.

Comment: This is "unify" rhetoric.

***
The GOP said Tammy Duckworth doesn’t ‘stand up’ for vets. The problem? She lost her legs — in Iraq.
-- Headline from a March 8, 2016, story by Else Viebeck of The Washington Post, referring to comments made about Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who lost both legs while serving in the U.S. Army.

Comment: "Standing up" is an ambiguous term: it can mean literally getting up on your feet; or, metaphorically, it can mean advocating a cause. Obviously, the Republican Party was using metaphorical language when they said Duckworth was not "standing up". This would be akin to saying, of a blind person, that "they don't see what's wrong with their position". The choice of words may be unfortunate, but need not be intentionally derisive.

***
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto compared the language of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump to that of dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in an interview published Monday, and said it has hurt U.S.-Mexico relations.

Asked about Trump, Pena Nieto complained to the Excelsior newspaper about "these strident expressions that seek to propose very simple solutions" and said that sort of language has led to "very fateful scenes in the history of humanity."

"That's the way Mussolini arrived and the way Hitler arrived," Pena Nieto said.
-- Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, March 7, 2016, as told by an Associated Press story.

Comment: This is "comparing" rhetoric.

***
For decades, key Republican strategists have used a dog-whistle to play on racial fears. It should come as no surprise that someone like Mr Trump would one day swap it for a megaphone.
-- Pundit Edward Luce, March 6, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "code words" rhetoric.