Thursday, June 23, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 23, 2016, Rush Limbaugh

"The effort to combine the general population of this country with the current burgeoning numbers of illegal immigrants is outrageous, simply outrageous. For Obama to try to tell people that you and I are no different than the current crop of illegals. Well, the difference is, back then people obeyed the law for the most part. I mean, people always break the law, but for the most part the rule of law triumphed and illegal immigrants were found and deported. The case was not made for them to stay. But that's not even the worst of it. The idea that all of us here are no different. We were all illegal at one point and we were all unwanted at one point. Somebody in our family, if not us, was undesirable, and yet here we are. And this moral equivalence that this president makes is part and parcel of his effort to tear down the greatness and the uniqueness of this country. Make no mistake."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, June 23, 2016, referring to remarks made earlier that day by President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is demonizing. It's fine to disagree with Obama's proposals on immigration, but to suggest that it's part of some plan to ruin the country is unacceptable.

Civility Watchdog: June 22, 2016, Hillary Clinton

"I know Donald hates it when anyone points out how hollow his sales pitch really is. And I guess my speech yesterday must have gotten under his skin because right away he lashed out on Twitter with outlandish lies and conspiracy theories and he did the same in his speech today. Now think about it. He's going after me personally because he has no answers on the substance. In fact, he doubled down on being the king of debt, so all he can do is try to distract us. That's even why he's attacking my faith. Sigh. And, of course, attacking a philanthropic foundation that saves and improves lives around the world. It's no surprise that he doesn't understand these things. The Clinton Foundation helps poor people around the world get access to life-saving AIDS medicine. Donald Trump uses poor people around the world to produce his line of suits and ties. "
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 22, 2016, referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: The fact that Clinton may have "struck a nerve" (i.e., got under his skin) in what she said about Trump in no way proves that he has "no answers on substance"; that's a point she has to prove by other means. It may be unfair when Trump says, for instance, that "there's nothing out there" when it comes to Clinton's religious affiliation, but that doesn't prove his policy positions are baseless. Do we get to conclude the same thing about Clinton whenever she says something false or otherwise out-of-bounds? That she has no sound arguments to defend her policies? Second, Clinton is using "distractions" rhetoric. Last, Clinton is deriding Trump, suggesting that he doesn't understand philanthropy, or that he is somehow exploiting or abusing foreign workers.

Civility Watchdog: June 22, 2016, Hillary Clinton

"Now we have to overcome some big challenges, I will admit that. First, too many of our representatives in Washington are in the grips of a failed economic theory called trickle down economics. Now, I do not doubt their sincerity. But it has been proven wrong again and again. But there still are people in Congress who insist on cutting taxes for the wealthy instead of investing in our future. They careen from one self- inflicted crisis to another. Shutting down the government, threatening to default on our national debt, refusing to make the common-sense investments that used to have broad bipartisan support, like rebuilding our roads and our bridges, our tunnels, our highways, our airports. Or investing in better education from zero through high school and college. … And if the evidence were there to support this ideology, I would have to acknowledge that. But we have seen the results. Twice now in the past 30 years, a Republican president has caused an economic mess and a Democratic president has had to come in and clean it up."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 22, 2016.

Comment: There are lots of things going on here. Where has it been proven that so-called "trickle-down economics" is a failed policy? Where has this policy been tested rigorously – that is, against an otherwise-identical control group? Such experiments are difficult to craft, and almost never occur on a large scale. It may be true that there have been cases where trickle-down economics has been implemented and bad economic news has followed, but it's propter hoc reasoning to jump to the conclusion that the former caused the latter. Correlation isn't necessarily causation. (Perhaps the bad economic news would have been even worse without the trickle-down policies, it's impossible to know unless you set up a control group for comparison.) Also, who has proposed not investing in our future? Perhaps people have proposed tax cuts for the wealthy along with spending less on investment than Clinton supports, but is there anyone who has said we shouldn't spend any money on education or infrastructure? This sounds like a straw man she's setting up to knock over. Finally, Clinton also resorts to "common sense" rhetoric, as well as "bipartisan" rhetoric (if the Republicans aren't supporting common-sense investments, then how can they have bipartisan support?).

Civility Watchdog: June 23, 2016, Barack Obama

"For more than two decades now, our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken. And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be. … Nearly 70 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a smart, common-sense bill that would have doubled the border patrol, and offered undocumented immigrants a pathway to earn citizenship if they paid a fine, paid their taxes, and played by the rules. Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to allow a simple yes or no vote on that bill. So I was left with little choice but to take steps within my existing authority to make our immigration system smarter, fairer, and more just. … But today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them. … So where do we go from here? Most Americans -- including business leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement, Democrats and Republicans and independents -- still agree that the single best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass common-sense, bipartisan immigration reform. … This is an election year. And during election years, politicians tend to use the immigration issue to scare people with words like “amnesty” in hopes that it will whip up votes. Keep in mind that millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking effort to become citizens. And we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. But here’s the thing. Millions of people who have come forward and worked to get right with the law under this policy, they’ve been living here for years, too -- in some cases, even decades. So leaving the broken system the way it is, that’s not a solution. In fact, that's the real amnesty. Pretending we can deport 11 million people, or build a wall without spending tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money is abetting what is really just factually incorrect. It's not going to work. It's not good for this country. It's a fantasy that offers nothing to help the middle class, and demeans our tradition of being both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. In the end, it is my firm belief that immigration is not something to fear. We don’t have to wall ourselves off from those who may not look like us right now, or pray like we do, or have a different last name. Because being an American is about something more than that. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal that all of us are created equal, all of us have a chance to make of our lives what we will. And every study shows that whether it was the Irish or the Poles, or the Germans, or the Italians, or the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Mexicans, or the Kenyans -- whoever showed up, over time, by a second generation, third generation, those kids are Americans. They do look like us -- because we don't look one way. We don't all have the same last names, but we all share a creed and we all share a commitment to the values that founded this nation. That's who we are. And that is what I believe most Americans recognize. … And now we've got a choice about who we’re going to be as a country, what we want to teach our kids, and how we want to be represented in Congress and in the White House. … We get these spasms of politics around immigration and fear-mongering, and then our traditions and our history and our better impulses kick in. That's how we all ended up here. Because I guarantee you, at some point, every one of us has somebody in our background who people didn’t want coming here, and yet here we are."
-- President Barack Obama, June 23, 2016, referring to the Supreme Court decision that day on Obama's executive actions on immigration enforcement.

Comment: Much of this is demonizing and distortion, as Obama's speech doesn't recognize that different people have different reasons for opposing his actions on immigration, and propose different paths for dealing with the current state of immigration policy. First, Obama's remarks leave the impression that, if we don't support his executive actions on immigration enforcement, we therefore are opposed to immigration in itself – likely for reasons of bigotry (i.e., wanting to keep out people who "look different") – which is demonizing. Some people oppose Obama's actions on procedural grounds (i.e., that they're not consistent with the presidential powers laid out in the Constitution); some object to the actions because they believe it is unfair to reduce the penalties on immigrants who broke the law, even to the point of giving them an advantage over immigrants who are obeying immigration law; some object to that the reduced immigration enforcement encourages further illegal immigration, and so on. It's false and derisive to treat opponents to his executive actions as being motivated by "fear-mongering" against immigrants. Second, those who oppose Obama's proposed immigration reforms (legislative or executive) don't necessarily support leaving the system as is, or deporting the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, or building a wall to keep out those who "don't look like us". That's just a distortion. Finally, Obama's opponents on immigration policy aren't somehow standing in opposition to "rationality" and "common sense" – is he saying they're stupid? – and they aren't necessarily out of step with America's traditions; that's just more demonizing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 22, 2016, Ben Carson

CARSON: It’s something that I strongly advocate: open conversation, civil discussion, as opposed to the way we’ve gotten used to doing things, which is letting other people interpret to us, and then getting in our separate corners and demonizing each other. … Of course we’re all interested in seeing everybody be more civil. Again, I don’t want to make it just about Donald Trump. This is a problem that permeates our entire political system. And we should – and particularly you guys in the media should be encouraging people to be more civil rather than, you know, focusing on the fight and the carnage.



BARNICLE: Dr. Carson, demonization – you spoke about it a couple of times this morning – has been widely, widely consumed in our culture, it’s widely affected our politics, certainly for many, many years. So, unfortunately, today’s conversation and much of what the conversation is about here on a daily basis has to do with Donald Trump. You’ve endorsed him. So we can’t avoid talking about Donald Trump and his campaign, and the issues and the language about his campaign. So my question to you is, demonization – I think we all here at the table agree about the dangers of demonization – but isn’t “Lyin’ Ted”, “Crooked Hillary” – isn’t that a form of demonization, and what do you say to your candidate about the employment of such demonization in the language?

CARSON: Well, I would have to disagree with you that he’s the only one who’s doing it. It’s being done –

BARNICLE: I didn’t say he was the only one. I said he was the one that you endorsed.

CARSON: So, I think what we ought to all be encouraging everybody to do is to talk about the issues. That includes Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, whoever is in the mix, because that is what is going to help us get to the ultimate solution, which is: how do we solve our problems? And we’re trying to make it about personalities. It’s not about personalities. It’s about something so much bigger than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. This is about America. This is about the direction we are taking and what kind of nation are we going to be and what are we going to hand down to our children and our grandchildren.
-- Former Republican presidential contender Ben Carson, June 22, 2016, during interview with Mike Barnicle of MSNBC.

Comment: First, Carson is calling for us to set a higher standard of political debate. Second, however, he is evading the question when it comes to whether or not Trump's rhetoric counts as incivility. Granted, Trump isn't the only one who has resorted to demonizing, but that doesn't mean Carson can't state whether the rhetoric raised by Barnicle also counts as demonizing. Really, how are we supposed to encourage people to good behavior if we don't identify what counts as bad behavior?