Monday, May 25, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: May 24, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"My problem is, why is it only us? Why is it only we be concerned about tone. The meanest, most extreme people in American politics are members of the Democrat Party and the American left. Tone? These are the people rooting for people to die on Twitter! These are the people rooting for people to get cancer on Twitter. These are the people who are intolerant, mean-spirited. They're the bullies, and they don't care one bit about their tone, and they don't get punished for it. Yet we come along and we're the ones that have to make sure that we're not seen as mean-spirited and bullyish and only one way of looking at anything. (sigh) This whole notion of "tone," I totally understand the art of the persuasion here and I understand where tone can come into it. But the problem I have is that all of these rules that end up shackling people, all these rules that end up causing people to be not who they are on our side, are never applied to people on the left. Look what these people say about -- take your pick. What they say about anything. George W. Bush. Sarah Palin. Take your pick of any Republican anywhere, and what they say about them, and they're never punished for it. Nobody ever goes to them and says, "Your tone needs to be moderated a little bit here, Mr. Hoyer. Your tone needs to moderated a little, Ms. Pelosi." Dingy Harry? For crying out! Tone?"
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, May 21, 2015, remarking on comments made earlier that day by Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) on a need to improve the tone of political debate.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing Democrats and liberals with the "only my opponent" caricature. What evidence does he have – rigorous evidence that doesn't involve selective cherry-picking – that Democrats and liberals are more uncivil than Republicans and conservatives? He is asserting that there is hypocrisy in the application of standards of civil debate, that Democrats and liberals impose them on Republicans and conservatives but not on themselves. This might not amount to saying that civility is bogus, but he does seem to say it's not worth policing.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday stressed the importance of tone when Republicans talk about issues like abortion and gay marriage, saying that folks in his state know where his “heart is” as a pro-life governor in a blue state.

“I think it’s how you present yourself — I feel very strongly about the things I feel strongly about, but I don’t have to denigrate somebody else in the process,” Mr. Christie, known for his straight-talking demeanor, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “And I think part of our problem has been tone over time. And I think if the Republican candidate for president’s tone is better and more inclusive, then you can get to a lot of the other issues that the media doesn’t want you to get to.”

Mr. Christie, who is laying the groundwork for a potential 2016 White House run, said tone matters on divisive issues like gay marriage and abortion.

“If you talk about these issues in a way that you are absolutely critical of a person who has a different view than you and dismissive of them, well then they’re going to be dismissive of you as a candidate,” he said. “If you are talking to a person who’s pro-choice on abortion and you’re pro-life, and you say to them, Listen, I’m pro-life and that means I’m going to heaven and you’re pro-choice and you’re going to hell,’ well, you know, if that’s you’re tone, they don’t care what you have to say about pro-growth policies.”

“They don’t care what you have to say about any of that stuff — they care that you seem intolerant to them,” he added. “That’s tone — that’s not position. I’m-pro life, and I’ve had that position as a two-term governor of New Jersey — the first person who’s ever been elected as a pro-life person to a statewide office in New Jersey. My state is a predominantly pro-choice state, but the folks in my state know that I believe it’s a difficult issue and they know where my heart is. But they don’t think that I dismiss them — that’s the difference.”
-- From an article in The Washington Times, May 21, 2015, by David Sherfinski.

Comment: Christie is calling for setting a higher standard of political debate.

"The last election, 2012, about 12 million Latinos went to the polls. In 2016, about 16 million Latinos will go to the polls. And there's a new rule in American politics, and it's beautiful: That no one can make it to the White House without the Hispanic vote. And this is new. It wasn't true in the past. … In a very close election, and the next election is going to be very close again, Latinos will decide, 16 million votes will decide who is going to be the next president of the United States."
-- Pundit Jorge Ramos, posted May 20, 2015.

Comment: Is this racism or identity politics, or merely a statement about electoral facts?

"In their world, truth doesn't matter."
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, May 20, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio show, remarking on President Barack Obama, liberals, and Democrats.

Comment: Hannity is demonizing his opponents, saying they don't care about truth.

[Rep.] Alan Grayson [(D-FL)] is Elizabeth Warren without a filter — but he intends with her help to become Florida’s great Democratic hope. Since Grayson first burst onto the national media scene as a first-term congressman from Central Florida with a savage wit, he has generated near non-stop headlines and Internet hits, calling all manner of political opponents “whores,” “vampires” and “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.” Even some Democrats who agree with almost all of his policy positions want to keep their distance. … After he shot into the national media arena in 2009, Grayson was unbowed, asking me, “Is it a necessary element of this job that I take shit from people? No one gets a free pass if they attack me. I don’t think it’s beneficial to turn the other cheek. There is no reason a Democrat has to be a weakling.” … His strident criticism of the financial system led to an early — and highly embarrassing — gaffe in February 2010, what soon would become just an indicator of what was to come. In a radio interview, Grayson attacked Linda Robertson, a senior adviser to Fed Chairman Paul Bernanke, calling her a “K street whore” and accusing her of “trying to teach me about economics.” He later apologized. Yet once catapulted into the national spotlight for his outrageousness, he never looked back. In fact, he doubled-down, comparing former Vice President Dick Cheney to a vampire bat (“I have trouble listening to what he says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he’s talking”), calling the Republican Party a “lie factory” and dubbing Rush Limbaugh a “a has-been hypocrite loser” who was “more lucid when he was a drug addict.”
-- From an article in Politico, May 20, 2015, by Mark I. Pinsky.

Comment: What Pinsky calls a "savage wit" and "gaffe" on the part of Grayson is better described as demonizing. Also, Grayson reportedly uses "get tough" rhetoric, according to Pinsky.

But my appreciation of [Bill and Hillary] Clintons' strengths doesn't blind me to their weaknesses, including entitlement, mild paranoia, and an ends-justify-the-means mentality. Nor does my criticism mean that I hate them.
-- Pundit Ron Fournier, May 20, 2015.

Comment: Everybody believes that the ends justifies the means in some circumstances, why is it wrong for the Bill and Hillary Clinton to do so?

"Barack Obama has a very high tolerance for the brutalization and enslavement of other people."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, May 19, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. Levin's remarks were aimed at President Barack Obama's refusal to send ground troops into Iraq to fight the Islamic State (aka "ISIS"), which has been committing atrocities throughout the region.

Comment: Does this have to be the reason Obama doesn't send troops to fight ISIS? There are people suffering in North Korea, in Ukraine, and in many other parts of the world: is a lack of compassion the only reason we don't send troops to these places, or is that just demonizing?

U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez has apologized for an ethnically touchy gaffe that was caught on cell phone video.

The Democrat, who is running to replace California's retiring Sen. Barabara Boxer, would otherwise seem like a paragon of diversity. But when she let out a stereotypical Native American "war cry" over the weekend, it marred that image and sent her running.

Literally -- away from a reporter trying to chase her down for comment on the gaffe that many found racially offensive. But late Sunday, she spoke about the slip-up.

Native Americans know she's watching out for them, she said at a Democratic Party convention in Anaheim, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. "And they know what many of you don't know — that like so many Mexican Americans, I am proudly Native American on my mother's side," Sanchez said.

Sanchez was ad-libbing at a California Democratic party convention in Anaheim, when she made a stereotypical Native American "war cry."

Raising her hand to her lips, she let out about two seconds of it.

"I'm going to his office, thinkin' that I'm gonna go meet with woo-woo-woo-woo, right? 'Cause he said 'Indian American,'" she said, using the gesture to try to discern between Indian Americans -- with ancestry from India's subcontinent -- and Native Americans.
-- From a CNN article, May 17, 2015, about remarks made by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), on May 16, 2015.

Comment: Were Sanchez's remarks a "gaffe" or a racist slur?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: May 17, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"What we’ve long understood, though, is that some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them. That’s true of rural communities with chronic poverty. That’s true of some manufacturing communities that suffered after the plants they depended on closed their doors. It’s true of some suburbs and inner cities, where jobs can be hard to find and harder to get to. That sense of unfairness and powerlessness has helped to fuel the kind of unrest that we’ve seen in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, and New York. It has many causes -- from a basic lack of opportunity to groups feeling unfairly targeted by police – which means there’s no single solution. But there are many that could make a different and could help. And we have to do everything in our power to make this country’s promise real for everyone willing to work for it."
-- President Barack Obama, May 16, 2015, during the weekly presidential address.

Comment: Obama is explaining unrest, but not justifying it.

"Now on to [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV], who has his own deflated balls problem, that's quite obvious."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, May 15, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show.

Comment: This is derisive name-calling (perhaps intended comedically), referencing "Deflategate".

"[Democrats] have a single answer to everything. Raise your taxes, spend the money and the other thing that's really quite remarkable about this, only six years ago, not 100 years ago that the Democrats passed the largest infrastructure spending bill in the history of the galaxy. Even the Klingons never spent $380 billion on infrastructure to rebuild America. Remember the roads, the ports? The airports, the bridges. Where did that money go? But they're always at the trough again for more money for infrastructure. It shows a brain dead liberalism with no other answer to every other question."
-- Pundit Charles Krauthammer, posted May 15, 2015.

Comment: "Braindead" is name-calling of the "stupid" variety.

On his increasingly popular radio show, Mark “The Great One” Levin lashed out at liberals yesterday for trying to politicize the Amtrak disaster. He played several audio files of Democratic politicians and pretend-journalists who didn’t even wait until the victims’ bodies were cold before they started playing their usual political games, and rightfully responded with great outrage:
Almost since last night, but since early this morning — while emergency personnel are at the crash scene trying to find bodies, trying to save people, trying to get them to the hospital — early this morning, within hours of the accident, the media, the Democrats, the liberals … in front of the microphones … all of a sudden it’s a spending issue. It’s a spending issue!
-- From a May 14, 2015, PJ Media story by Michael van der Galien, entitled "Mark Levin Lashes Out at Libs Politicizing Amtrak Disaster While Bodies Aren’t Even Cold Yet", with the subtitle "Liberals exploit victims to make the case for more government spending". The article concerns the the 2015 Philadelphia derailment.

Comment: This is "politicizing" rhetoric. There's nothing wrong with discussing how to make train travel safer after a train accident (though that doesn't mean that the solutions being offered are good ones, or that they would have stopped the 2015 Philadelphia derailment).

"Lysenkoism, by the way, if you look it up... Let me spell it for you 'cause I know a number of you want to research these things on your own. L-Y-S-E-N-K-O. Lysenko. Lysenkoism is also synonymous with scientific fraud? How could it not be? It traces back to communism. It traces back to a mass murderer, Josef Stalin. So if you want to look it up on your own, you will see that."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, May 13, 2015, remarking on the theories of Soviet biologist and agronomist Trofim Lysenko.

Comment: It's ad hominem reasoning to dismiss the ideas of someone simply because they were a communist. That's not to say Lysenko's ideas are sound; many of them are not, but that's determined by scientific inquiry, not guilt by association.

Pope Francis’ closest adviser castigated conservative climate change skeptics in the United States Tuesday, blaming capitalism for their views. Speaking with journalists, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized certain “movements” in the United States that have preemptively come out in opposition to Francis’s planned encyclical on climate change. “The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits,” Rodríguez said, according to the Boston Globe's Crux blog.
-- From an article in The Hill, May 12, 2015, by Timothy Cama.

Comment: Rodriguez is demonizing climate change skeptics as being greedy. Also, if his argument is that climate change skepticism is based on greed, then he's engaging in ad hominem reasoning,

Whom we seek advice from reveals a lot about ourselves, our judgment, our common sense. So it was a shock over the past week when presidential candidate in training Jeb Bush divulged that his closest adviser on Mideast and Israeli affairs is George W. Bush. … And today, many look at George W. Bush and see the man who launched a disastrous war in Iraq that killed thousands and squandered trillions. But not his brother Jeb. “If you want to know who I listen to for advice, it’s him,” Jeb said of George W. last Tuesday at a secret meeting for fat-cat investors in New York. Which leads me to wonder just how many times Jeb was dropped on his head as a child. … So to fully appreciate the importance of Jeb’s revelation that George W. will be his chief adviser when it comes to the Mideast, you’ve got to keep in mind that Jeb’s entire campaign is built around one selling point: Jeb is the smart one in the family.
-- Pundit Roger Simon, May 12, 2015.

Comment: This is name-calling, with Simon saying that somebody would have to be mentally deficient to take President George W. Bush's advice on Mideast affairs. Assuming the Iraq War was a mistake (which people will debate along with, say, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or even the War on Poverty), is it correct to conclude that all Mideast advice from George W. Bush is mistaken? Isn't that ad hominem reasoning, or at least a hasty generalization? Should we distrust advice on the Mideast from all those who supported the Iraq War, regardless of its content (or even if it's the same advice?)?

"I don't really understand how Hillary Clinton can be marching forward with a progressive reform agenda that tackles income inequality as a sort of central tenet, while Bill Clinton is having very splashy events around the world with big dollar donors who are standing onstage taking photos of him and bottles of Coke as basically product endorsement. I just think it dramatically complicates the optics of this, and that may be surface, but it's also going to dog her throughout the year and next year if it continues. Do you think he stays on in the same public role that he has right now with the Clinton Foundation?"
-- Pundit Alex Wagner, posted May 11, 2015.

Comment: Wagner is saying that, because of her wealth, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton doesn't know what it's like to be poor (i.e., on the losing side of income inequality). Is this a suggestion that Clinton therefore cannot represent the poor (which would be ad hominem reasoning)?

Sometimes I think that Rush Limbaugh is the dumbest man in America. This happens whenever I take him at face value and forget that he is basically an entertainer with contempt for his audience. He will tell them anything. Last week, as if to validate my opinion of him, he went after Michelle Obama for playing the “race card” at the dedication of a museum in New York City. He described her as angry and complaining.
-- Pundit Richard Cohen, May 11, 2015, in an article entitled, "Michelle Obama, criticized for the sin of being black". Cohen's article concerns remarks made by pundit Rush Limbaugh on May 7, 2015, regarding comments made by First Lady Michelle Obama on April 30, 2015.

Comment: This is name-calling, of the "stupid" variety. Cohen is also demonizing Limbaugh as having contempt for his audience, and saying Limbaugh criticized Obama for being black. Cohen also uses the "they'll say anything" caricature against him. (There is also "race card" rhetoric being used by Limbaugh.) Cohen can disagree with Limbaugh's remarks without resorting to name-calling.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: May 10, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Preparing for a debate over immigration, Republicans have sought to portray Clinton as opportunistic on the issue. "Obviously she's pretty good at pandering and flipping and flopping and doing and saying anything she needs to say," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said during an event with Hispanic Republicans in Denver.
-- From an Associated Press story, May 5, 2015, entitled, "Clinton: Nation needs to fix broken immigration system", by Ken Thomas. The story reported Priebus' remarks that day.

Comment: Priebus is accusing Clinton of hypocrisy, and indulging in the "they'll say anything" caricature.

"It's also essential that we strengthen families and communities, and that means we have to finally, once and for all fix our immigration system. … it is at heart a family issue at heart, and if we claim we are for families, we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system. The American people support comprehensive immigration reform, not just because it's the right thing to do, and it is, but because they know it strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and strengthens our country. That's why we can't wait any longer. We can't wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship. Now, this is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistakes, today not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one. When they talk about legal status, that is code for second-class status. … I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive actions that would put DREAMers, including those with us today, at risk of deportation."
-- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), May 5, 2015.

Comment: Clinton is using "Americans want", "code words", and "partisan" rhetoric. Is it really the case that you can't support families without also supporting Clinton's immigration reform proposal? It seems like demonizing to suggest that people who disagree with her proposal are not in favor of families.

Paul Krugman is very concerned about ideologues. “The most reckless and dangerous ideologues,” he wrote in the New York Times last week, “are often those who imagine themselves ideology-free.” You know, people like this guy. The Krug is especially annoyed that certain ideologically and intellectually bankrupt deviants (i.e., Republicans) refuse to admit that everything they ever said about Obamacare turned out to be wrong … No doubt Krugman is very concerned for the intellectual integrity of the Democratic politicians who fail to admit their predictions were wrong. Because, in Krugman’s view, “never being able to say that you were wrong is a serious character flaw,” and “moral cowardice should be outright disqualifying in anyone seeking high office.” Krugman, of course, has never been wrong—except when he has. Fellow liberal Jeffrey Sachs recently took him to task for repeatedly predicting that efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit in 2013 would inflict “severe economic damage” and prevent the economy from ever experiencing a full recovery. The budget deficit was reduced, and yet the economy did recover, as Krugman noted in his celebratory 2014 column, “The Obama Recovery,” in which Sachs chided him for “claiming vindication for ideas that recent trends seem to contradict.”
-- Pundit Andrew Stiles, May 5, 2015, in an article entitled, "Paul Krugman Is a Self-Righteous Moron". Krugman's remarks come from a May 1, 2015, article.

Comment: The headline is name-calling of the "stupid" variety. Stiles is also accusing Krugman of hypocrisy. Krugman is using "ideologue" rhetoric.

[Carly] Fiorina believes that her very existence proves that Republican policies cannot be called anti-woman. “If Hillary Clinton were to face a female nominee, there are a whole set of things that she won’t be able to talk about,” Ms. Fiorina said in mid-April. “She won’t be able to talk about being the first woman president. She won’t be able to talk about a war on women without being challenged. She won’t be able to play the gender card.” Sounds an awful lot like Ms. Fiorina, whose claim to fame is badly managing Hewlett-Packard, is playing the gender card.
-- Pundit Andrew Rosenthal, May 4, 2015, remarking on Carly Fiorina, a contender to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2016, and a statement Fiorina made on April 16, 2015.

Comment: This is identity politics rhetoric, saying that the "gender card" is being played by someone who is accusing someone else of playing the "gender card".

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: May 3, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why are you the best choice for President of the United States?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Because for the last 30 years, I've been standing up for the working families of this country and I think I'm the only candidate who is prepared to take on the billionaire class which now controls our economy and increasingly controls the political life of this country. We need a political revolution in this country involving millions of people who are prepared to stand up and say enough is enough. And I want to help lead that effort.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that mean Hillary Clinton is part of the billionaire class?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It means that Hillary Clinton has been part of the political establishment for many, many years. I have known Hilary for 25 years. I respect her and I like her. But I think what the American people are saying, George, is that at a time when 99% of all new income is going to the top 1%, and when the top one-tenth of 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, maybe it’s time for real political shake-up, in this country, and go beyond establishment politics.
-- Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), May 3, 2015, during an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

Comment: First, this is an evasion, as Sanders never answers the question of whether Clinton is part of the "billionaire class". Second, Sanders is engaging in "Americans want" rhetoric by claiming they want a "shake-up beyond establishment politics".

The 2016 campaign should be almost entirely about issues. The parties are far apart on everything from the environment to fiscal policy to health care, and history tells us that what politicians say during a campaign is a good guide to how they will govern. Nonetheless, many in the news media will try to make the campaign about personalities and character instead. And character isn’t totally irrelevant. The next president will surely encounter issues that aren’t currently on anyone’s agenda, so it matters how he or she is likely to react. But the character trait that will matter most isn’t one the press likes to focus on. In fact, it’s actively discouraged. … No, what you should really look for, in a world that keeps throwing nasty surprises at us, is intellectual integrity: the willingness to face facts even if they’re at odds with one’s preconceptions, the willingness to admit mistakes and change course. And that’s a virtue in very short supply. … Just to be clear, I’m not calling for an end to ideology in politics, because that’s impossible. Everyone has an ideology, a view about how the world does and should work. Indeed, the most reckless and dangerous ideologues are often those who imagine themselves ideology-free — for example, self-proclaimed centrists — and are, therefore, unaware of their own biases. What you should seek, in yourself and others, is not an absence of ideology but an open mind, willing to consider the possibility that parts of the ideology may be wrong. … So what’s the state of intellectual integrity at this point in the election cycle? Pretty bad, at least on the Republican side of the field. … as far as I can tell no important Republican figure has admitted that none of the terrible consequences that were supposed to follow health reform — mass cancellation of existing policies, soaring premiums, job destruction — has actually happened. The point is that we’re not just talking about being wrong on specific policy questions. We’re talking about never admitting error, and never revising one’s views. Never being able to say that you were wrong is a serious character flaw even if the consequences of that refusal to admit error fall only on a few people. But moral cowardice should be outright disqualifying in anyone seeking high office.
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, May 1, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is discussing the topic of character in politics. He makes a good point about ideology (i.e., everybody has one, you can't get rid of it), but he leaves the impression that only Republicans refuse to take responsibility for their failed predictions. That is, he's resorting to the "only my opponent" caricature and demonizing Republicans by suggesting that they don't care about truth. Krugman also exaggerates when he says Republicans "never" admit error. Perhaps this is a tu quoque argument on my part, but is it a lack of intellectual integrity for Krugman to only be alarmed at the absence of accountability of Republicans, and not Democrats as well? After all, President Barack Obama and other Democrats made predictions about the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") that didn't come true (e.g., premiums will drop by up to $2,500 dollars, if you like your plan or doctor, you can keep them, etc.), but they haven't owned up to their errors, have they?

‪Jeb Bush warned Thursday that President Obama and Democrats would rather keep immigration reform as a political wedge issue than solve the problem — and that Republicans will always lose the political argument on immigration if the dynamic persists. ‬

‪“By doing nothing, you have two things that happen, at least in the age of Obama,” the former Florida governor said during a National Review event in Washington, D.C. “You have a president who uses this ... as a wedge issue, and we always lose.‬

‪“Delaying this is what [Obama] wants,” Bush added. “He doesn’t want immigration reform.”‬
-- Article by Rebecca Berg, May 1, 2015, relating comments made by former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) on April 30, 2015.

Comment: Bush is accusing Obama of using wedge issues, which is "unify the country" rhetoric.

The argument Stewart and Stephanopoulos were throwing out–we’re dramatically under-investing in America’s cities–is liberal claptrap. … We’re spending an enormous amount of money on a system that isn’t producing, and it’s liberal interest groups (e.g., education unions) and the Democratic Party that are ferocious opponents of the kind of reforms that would improve American education. … For all their self-proclaimed compassion, liberals and liberalism are, in important respects, doing significant damage to the young people in America, and most especially to the most vulnerable in our midst. Messrs. Stewart and Stephanopoulos don’t seem to realize this, but they should. Because human lives should take priority over political ideology.
-- Pundit Peter Wehner, April 29, 2015. His comments concerned an interview of ABC News' George Stephanopoulos by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.

Comment: Wehner is accusing Stewart and Stephanopoulos of being ideologues, and demonizing them by saying the care more about ideology than people. It's a platitude to say that human lives count more than ideology.

"[Obama] mentioned that we all need to do soul searching. I think he needs to do some soul searching about failed liberal policies that have prolonged the misery in the American ghetto. You know, he said this is society has to step up and do more, and I reject that thing out of hand. This is lifestyle choices. These are flawed lifestyle choices people make like dropping out of school, like failing to stay employed, like having kids out of wedlock, like father absent homes. Those are behavior changes that have to go on in these central cities and these American ghettos if we're going to see a change."
-- Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, posted April 28, 2015.

Comment: This is "failed policies" rhetoric.

Imagine yourself as a regular commentator on public affairs … You weigh in on a major policy initiative that’s about to happen, making strong predictions of disaster. … But nothing you predicted actually comes to pass. What do you do? You might admit that you were wrong, and try to figure out why. But almost nobody does that; we live in an age of unacknowledged error. Alternatively, you might insist that sinister forces are covering up the grim reality. … Finally, there’s a third option: You can pretend that you didn’t make the predictions you did. … Several months into 2014 many leading Republicans — including John Boehner, the speaker of the House — were predicting that more people would lose coverage than gain it. And everyone on the right was predicting that the law would cost far more than projected, adding hundreds of billions if not trillions to budget deficits. What actually happened? There was no rate shock … You see, in a polarized political environment, policy debates always involve more than just the specific issue on the table. They are also clashes of world views. … And there’s also a moral issue involved. Refusing to accept responsibility for past errors is a serious character flaw in one’s private life. It rises to the level of real wrongdoing when policies that affect millions of lives are at stake.
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, April 27, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is discussing character in politics, but also indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature by leaving the impression that only (or mostly) Republicans fail to correct their mistakes. He is demonizing Republicans in suggesting that they aren't concerned about being honest.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: April 26, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
A lifelong environmentalist, I opposed genetically modified foods in the past. Fifteen years ago, I even participated in vandalizing field trials in Britain. Then I changed my mind. After writing two books on the science of climate change, I decided I could no longer continue taking a pro-science position on global warming and an anti-science position on G.M.O.s. … The environmental movement’s war against genetic engineering has led to a deepening rift with the scientific community.
-- Pundit Mark Lynas, April 24, 2015.

Comment: This is caricaturing people who disagree with the safety of genetically modified foods (GMOs) by saying they are against science. Also, this is "war" rhetoric.

KARL: And the memorandum of understanding that governed Hillary Clinton’s financial dealings, the financial dealings of the foundation and her husband’s speaking fees -- first of all, can you make that memorandum public? Because I don't think we’ve ever seen it.

EARNEST: This is a memorandum of understanding that resides at the State Department, so you can ask them about their policy for disclosing it or not.

KARL: Okay, we’ve asked for that. I’m wondering if you can -- I mean, this is -- I mean, in the interest of transparency this was supposed to be all about transparency. Can we see that memorandum?

EARNEST: I think the goal of the memorandum was to ensure that even the appearance of a conflict of interest was avoided by ensuring that there was greater transparency and greater knowledge about the contributions that were being accepted by the Clinton Foundation for the charitable work that they do. That was the goal of the memorandum.

KARL: I mean, essentially, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that she would make public the donations to the Clinton Foundation and also speaking fees for President Clinton. Isn’t it clear now that Secretary Clinton did not abide by her own memorandum of understanding with the President?

EARNEST: I’m not sure that that's clear, but you should go ask Secretary Clinton’s team about that.

KARL: Well, I’m asking you, because we now read that Uranium One, a foreign company, donated over $2 million to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State. That would seem to be a pretty clear violation of a memorandum of understanding as it’s been explained to us by you.

EARNEST: Well, again, for the details of this transaction I’d refer to either the State Department or Secretary Clinton’s team. Obviously, that's not something that was reviewed at this level.

KARL: And we also know that, previously, that a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government went to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Again, isn’t this a clear violation of a memorandum of understanding that said that, first of all, there was going to be an end to foreign donations, and these donations would -- and donations to the foundation would be made public?

EARNEST: Again, I’d refer to you Secretary Clinton’s team about that.

KARL: Well, can you check in on this, as well? This is an understanding with the President, right? This was --

EARNEST: Yes, but you're asking about their compliance with this particular matter and whether it lived up to the standards that Secretary Clinton had set for herself. And so I’d refer you to Secretary Clinton’s team to render some judgment on that.
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, April 23, 2015, being questioned by ABC news reporter Jonathan Karl regarding the financial dealings of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was part of the administration of President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is an evasion, perhaps of the "not my decision" sort. The memorandum in question was an understanding reached between Clinton and the Obama administration, so the administration can reasonably be asked whether she lived up to what it outlined. And, even if the standards were simply something Clinton outlined for herself, she did it while she was a member of Obama's cabinet and it concerned her behavior in that position. So, again, what reason does the Obama administration have for not weighing in on whether those standards were fulfilled?

Clint Eastwood doesn't hold a grudge against Michael Moore, and denies he ever threatened to kill the filmmaker.

Eastwood told a CinemaCon audience Wednesday that Moore, an outspoken critic of Eastwood's film American Sniper, even helped the film's record-breaking box office success.

"Everyone keeps saying I threatened to kill Michael Moore. That's not true," said Eastwood, before adding with a laugh. "It isn't a bad idea."

The comment received rousing applause and laughter from the audience filled with theater owners at the national convention.
-- USA Today story, April 22, 2015 by Bryan Alexander.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric, though it's intended to be taken comedically.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has found herself on the defensive during her first presidential campaign visit to New Hampshire this year, pushing back against swirling questions about her family foundation.

Clinton is taking part in a discussion of jobs creation Tuesday with students and teachers at New Hampshire Technical Institute, a community college.

But she spent much of Monday dismissing accusations that foreign governments that made donations to the Clinton Foundation received preferential treatment from the State Department while she served in the Obama administration.

“We will be subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks,” she told reporters during a stop in the liberal bastion of Keene. “I’m ready for that. I know that that comes, unfortunately, with the territory.”

In her early campaign stops, Clinton has cast herself as above the political back-and-forth, vowing to change the harsh partisan tone in Washington. “I am tired of the mean-spiritedness in politics,” she told voters who gathered in a supporter’s living room in Claremont. “Enough with the attacks and the anger, let’s find answers together and figure out what we’re going to do.”
-- Associated Press story, April 21, 2015 – titled "Clinton: ‘I Am Tired Of The Mean-Spiritedness In Politics’" – concerning remarks made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on April 20, 2015.

Comment: This is "distractions" rhetoric. Also, Clinton is calling for a higher standard of political debate, but without admitting to any of her own acts of incivility, leaving the impression that it's others who are mostly responsible for uncivil discourse.

Sad to see the full, Olympics-quality flip-flop by a former boss today. I guess some people think they can do what Romney did in 08 + win.
-- Political consultant Liz Mair, April 20, 2015, in a Tweet. Her remarks concerned the past and current immigration policies of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).

Comment: Mair is accusing Walker of hypocrisy.

KELLY: Obviously, you're trying to paint her as out of touch … what is the evidence of that?

WALKER: Well, I think you could look at a whole pattern of things – even the way she reacted to the emails. I mean, I think the fact, instead of saying "hey, this was a mistake", it was almost like when she stood in front of the UN and talked about this, like she couldn't believe that she actually had to respond to that. When you look at saying you were dead broke when you came out of the White House, when she had a book deal pending and two houses out there. When she talked about not having driven for 18 years. I think those are all things that everyday people really wonder, what is this that they're talking about. This is not someone who's connected with everyday Americans.
-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), April 20, 2015, being interviewed by Fox News' Megyn Kelly.

Comment: This is "out of touch" and "real Americans" rhetoric.