Sunday, August 23, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 23, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley apologized “like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby” for his remark that “all lives matter,” Donald Trump said in an excerpt of a new interview aired Friday on Fox News.

In an interview with Jeanine Pirro for her program “Justice” set to air Saturday night, Trump said that the former Maryland governor did not need to say he was sorry.

“And then he apologized like a little baby, like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby. And that’s the problem with our country,” Trump said, according to a clip aired on “Fox and Friends.”

O’Malley, in fact was “politically incorrect” with his apology, Trump remarked.

“How can you apologize when you say black lives matter — which is true — white lives matter, which is true — all lives [matter] — which is true. And then they get angry because you said white and all…we don’t want you to mention that. What’s he need to apologize for?” Trump asked.
-- Presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 21, 2015, as related by a story in Politico by Nick Gass.

Comment: Trump can criticize O'Malley's behavior without resorting to the language of disgust.

***
HARWOOOD: So do people misunderstand you're actually not for ending birthright citizenship?

WALKER: I'm not taking a position on it one way or the other. I'm saying that until you secure the border and enforce the laws, any discussion about anything else is really looking past the very things we have to do.
-- Repubilcan presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), from an interview released August 21, 2015, with CNBC’s John Harwood.

Comment: This seems like an evasion. Why can't Walker take a position on whether birthright citizenship should be continued or stopped? Other candidates have taken a position on the issue, either saying, for instance, that ending birthright citizenship would end an incentive for illegal immigration and thus help secure the border, or saying that birthright citizenship should be kept in place regardless of other changes to our immigration policy. It's not clear why Walker can't do the same. Is he saying the issue is a distraction, or involves too many hypotheticals?

***
Hillary Clinton’s campaign, under fire over the ongoing emails controversy, is pointing a finger at House Republican Benghazi investigators, accusing the panel of having classified documents on an unsecured system just like Clinton did.

On a phone call Friday afternoon, campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said the House Select Committee on Benghazi had on an unsecured computer system at least one Clinton email that State did not consider classified — but which the intelligence community now considers classified.

“[Benghazi Chairman] Trey Gowdy treated emails, in this case, in the same way Hillary Clinton did, considering them unclassified and … storing them on unclassified computer systems,” Fallon said. “So in light of this I don’t really see what leg Congressman Gowdy has to stand on in his criticisms of Secretary Clinton on this point.”
-- From an August 21, 2015, story in Politico by Rachael Bade.

Comment: Clinton's campaign, through Fallon, is accusing Gowdy of hypocrisy. This is essentially a "Tu quoque" – or, "you too" – argument in this case. But it is ad hominem reasoning: just because Gowdy may be doing the same thing as Clinton with emails doesn't mean that what Clinton is doing is acceptable.

***
"Jerrold Nadler is a Marxist, he is a complete puke. Party before country."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, August 21, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. Levin was criticizing Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) for supporting the nuclear deal with Iran.

Comment: First, Levin is deriding Nadler as disgusting. Second, while Nadler is a liberal, what is the evidence that he is a Marxist? This sounds like an exaggeration to the point of demonizing. Lastly, in saying that Nadler puts party before country, Levin is demonizing Nadler by questioning his patriotism.

***
"So they do this poll. And in the poll, I score really high marks on almost anything. Other than they thought I wasn't a nice person. They said who's the nicest, and I was like pretty low on that part. And I'm a nice person. But who cares. A woman came up to me, she said "I'm not sure that you're nice enough to be president." And I said, "You know what, this is not going to be an election based on a nice person. It's going to be based on a competent person. We're tired of the nice people.""
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 21, 2015.

Comment: It's not clear precisely what Trump means by being "nice", but this could be either "get tough and hit back" rhetoric, or an assertion that civility is bogus.

***
For those reflexive Trump supporters who believe that he must understand economics because he’s made a lot of money, I ask if you would support George Soros’s economic policy proposals for the same reason.
-- Pundit Ross Kaminsky, August 18, 2015. Kaminsky was referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Soros is a billionaire whose views on economics are often opposed to Trump's.

Comment: Kaminsky is pointing out that the argument for Trump's expertise is a flawed appeal to authority. In a sense, this is also "comparing" rhetoric: the argument that supports Trump's expertise equally supports Soros' (often opposed) expertise.

***
While the recognition of these problems is welcome — even for those of us who do not follow Mr. Trump further down his anti-immigration path — the rest of Trump’s “plan” is a bitter stew served up by a man pandering to Angry White People with ideas both fanciful and harmful.
-- Pundit Ross Kaminsky, August 18, 2015. Kaminsky was referring to the immigration proposal of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Kaminsky is demonizing, saying Trump's policies are bigoted and are intended to appeal to people who are bigoted.

***
Pathetic turd FrankLuntz begged @realDonaldTrump for corporate polling work - trashes Trump only after Trump declines
-- Pundit Roger Stone, August 18, 2015. Stone's tweet referred to Republican pollster Frank Luntz.

Comment: "Turd" is Stone's way of saying Luntz is disgusting.

***
.@HillaryClinton Wrong. Being more-anti energy than Obama is extreme. We should embrace energy revolution to lower prices & create US jobs.
-- Republican presidential candidate former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), August 18, 2015. Bush's tweet was referring to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's opposition to drilling for oil in the Arctic, a policy that President Barack Obama had supported.

Comment: Just because Clinton opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic doesn't mean she is opposed to energy, that's a straw man. Even allowing for the brevity required on Twitter, "anti-energy" is demonizing. Bush is also using "extremist" rhetoric.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 16, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
WALLACE: Question: Barack Obama, “anti-Semitic”?

CARSON: Well, all you have to do, Chris, is – like I have – go to Israel, and talk to average people, you know, on all ends of that spectrum. And I couldn’t find a single person there who didn’t feel that this administration had turned their back on Israel. And I think, you know, the position of President of the United States should be one where you begin to draw people together behind a vision, not one where you castigate those who believe differently from you. I think it’s a possibility for great healing, if it used in a correct way.

WALLACE: But, you know, it’s one thing, one could argue, your policy difference from Israel, but you say in your article – and you’re talking about his domestic critics here in this country – that there is anti-Semitic themes there. What, specifically anti-Semitic in what the President is saying?

CARSON: I think anything is anti-Semitic that is against the survival of a state that is surrounded by enemies and by people who want to destroy them. And to sort of ignore that, and to act like, you know, everything is normal there, and that these people are paranoid, I think that’s anti-Semitic.
-- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, August 16, 2015, during an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Carson questioned about his August 13, 2015, accusation that President Barack Obama had issued a “diatribe … replete with coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes.”

Comment: First, Carson evades Wallace’s question about Carson’s accusation that Obama engaged in bigoted behavior. When Carson does answer, he makes it sound as if Obama is unconcerned with the survival of Israel, rather than having a legitimate disagreement about what steps (for instance, the nuclear deal with Iran) are best for securing Israel’s security. Second, where has Obama said that everything is normal in the Middle East or Israel, and that Israeli opponents of the Iran deal are needlessly paranoid? It seems like Carson is knocking over a straw man. Third, Carson accuses Obama of “dividing” the nation. Finally, Carson calls for us to set a higher standard of debate and not to castigate those with different beliefs, but it seems he is doing precisely that: he is demonizing Obama as being anti-Semitic on the basis of having a different view about the merits of the Iran nuclear deal.

***
"If you look at their policies, most of the other candidates are just Trump without the pizzaz or the hair. Yes, Mr. Trump says outrageous and hateful things about immigrants, but how many of the other candidates disagree with his platform? None of the leading candidates support a real path to citizenship. When they talk about legal status, that's code for second-class status. It's the same when it comes to women's health and women's rights: Mr. Trump's words are appalling, but so are the policies of other candidates."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 14, 2015.

Comment: Clinton is accusing Republicans of using "code words". It also seems like she is saying that, since the other Republican presidential candidates have the same immigration position as Trump, they are therefore guilty by association of Trump’s derisive remarks about Mexican illegal immigrants. In fact, many of the GOP candidates criticized Trump’s remarks.

***
During Iowa’s famous Wing Ding dinner here, the 2016 Democratic front-runner dismissed Republican concerns about the transparency of her email arrangement as secretary of state, and said she’s been exonerated by earlier investigations into the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

“Benghazi was a tragedy where four Americans died … but let’s be clear: Seven exhaustive investigations … have already debunked all of the conspiracy theories,” she said. “It’s not about email servers either. It’s about politics.”
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 14, 2015, as related by a Politico story by Rachael Bade.

Comment: Clinton is accusing Republicans of "playing politics" or "politicizing".

***
But just as shocking as the decision to actually agree to such a flawed deal are the lengths to which the administration is going today to tar and feather those who dare speak out against it. By playing politics with a critical national security issue, President Obama is cementing his well-earned legacy as the Divider in Chief. In a speech at American University defending the deal Obama stooped to new lows far beneath the dignity of the office of the presidency, savaging deal opponents as warmongers and saying that “those hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’” in Iran were “making common cause with the Republican caucus.” Shockingly, his diatribe also was replete with coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes involving implied disloyalty and nefarious influences related to money and power. One can only imagine the sting of his words on members of his own Democratic party, especially those Jewish Members of Congress who have publicly stated their opposition to this deal based on its merits or lack thereof. … It is clear that the president and his team are in full campaign mode, demonstrating a steely resolve to jam through this misguided Iran deal at all costs. They are smearing those who dare to raise questions and employing a take no prisoners approach complete with bigoted dog whistles and malicious whisper campaigns that cynically divide our country.
-- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, August 13, 2015.

Comment: Carson is accusing Obama of using “code words” to express bigotry. He is also accusing Obama of “playing politics” and “dividing the country”.

***
So how could we maneuver Akin into the GOP driver’s seat? Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad.
-- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), August 11, 2015. McCaskill is referring to her attempt to use political advertising to establish Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) as her Republican opponent in the 2012 Senate race.

Comment: McCaskill is saying that her ads used "code words".

***
Trump made his initial mark in this campaign with demagoguery about illegal immigration. But with the exception of Jeb Bush, the other GOP contenders have basically the same position: Seal off the border with Mexico, if necessary by erecting a physical barrier.
-- Pundit Eugene Robinson, August 11, 2015.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

***
Imagine if Congress voted on whether or not to teach evolution and climate change in school. And imagine that 73% of Republicans voted against it. The backlash would be easy to predict: The national media, and science journalists in particular, would spend a week making somber declarations of impending educational and scientific collapse that would reverberate across the cosmos. As it so happens, Congress did just vote on something of tremendous scientific importance: Biotechnology. And, as it so happens, 73% of Democrats voted against the bill. Yet, the national media remained deafeningly and hypocritically silent. On July 23, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, H.R. 1599, that, among other things, would block states from requiring foods containing genetically modified ingredients to carry special labels. From a scientific viewpoint, this is the correct policy. Yet, the Democratic Party, which has branded itself the "pro-science" party over the last two decades, overwhelmingly opposed it. Why? Well, it's hard to say, though the fact that places like the GMO-hating Whole Foods tending to be located in counties that voted for Barack Obama might have something to do with it. In the final vote tally, 94% of House Republicans supported the bill, while a stunning 73% of Democrats voted against it. Even Democrats who represent districts with a large biotechnology constituency voted against the bill: Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Mike Honda (CA-17), and Anna Eshoo (CA-18) -- all from the Bay Area -- as well as Boston's Michael Capuano (MA-7) and Stephen Lynch (MA-8) and Seattle's Jim McDermott (WA-7). The vote pattern made it abundantly clear: On the needlessly hot-button issue of genetic modification, Democrats sided with fearmongers and organic foodies, while Republicans sided with the medical and scientific mainstream. And yes, just like vaccines, evolution, and anthropogenic climate change, GMOs are mainstream and non-controversial in the scientific community. Indeed, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (PDF) -- organizations that represent our nation's finest doctors and scientists -- reject GMO labels.
-- Pundit Alex B. Berezow, August 10, 2015.

Comment: This is "scare tactics" rhetoric. Berezow is also suggesting that opponents of GMO are anti-science, or at least that it is hypocritical not to use that epithet against GMO opponents when it is regularly used against opponents of evolution or climate change.

***
HOROWITZ: In your speech yesterday, you seem to compare Republicans who are against this deal to some of the hardliners in Iran, who are chanting “death to America” in the streets. But I think many people want to know, there’s also Democrats you know who are on the fence about this deal. And what would you say to them?

OBAMA: Well, I’m talking to them all the time. And first of all, remember what I said was, that, it’s the hardliners in Iran who are most opposed to this deal. And I said in that sense, they’re making common cause with those who were opposed to this deal here. I didn’t say that they were equivalent. And I think that what you see are people who are assuming confrontation is inevitable and are unwilling to seize the possibility that we could shape an agreement that doesn’t solve all conflicts, but that does solve a very serious problem without resort to war. And what I have said to Democrats who are still trying to figure things out is, just read what’s in the text. Listen to the arguments. See what counter arguments exist on the other side. There are going to be some Democrats who end up opposing this deal, partly because as I said yesterday in the speech, the affinity that we all feel towards the state of Israel is profound, it’s deep. And you know when Israel is opposed to something a lot of Democrats, as well as Republicans, pay attention. The difference though, is that most of the Democratic senators have taken the time to actually read the bill and listen to the arguments. A sizeable proportion of the Republicans were opposed before the ink was even dry on the deal before it was even posted, and that gives you sense of the degree to which this is driven by partisan politics or ideology as opposed to analysis.
-- President Barack Obama, from an interview with Mic's Jake Horowitz released on August 10, 2015.

Comment: Obama is trying to qualify his "comparing" rhetoric, saying he doesn't mean to imply that Republicans and Iranian hardliners are "equivalent". So, would it be fair to say Obama has made "common cause" with Ayatollah Khamenei (in supporting the Iranian nuclear deal, or at least the negotiations) and Saddam Hussein (in opposing the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq), so long as it's understood we don't mean Obama is "equivalent" to Khamenei and Hussein? Or would that still be demonizing?

***
Demagogues like Donald Trump exhaust the patience of the political press corps because reporters fundamentally misunderstand the candidates' appeal. Reporters like to think that logic and reason hold sway, so they believe a demagogue can be easily disarmed by exposing his crimes against logic, his pandering to the uninformed and his manipulative emotionalism. They’re entirely wrong—as the last month of The Donald’s unlikely rise to the top of the Republican presidential heap has demonstrated day after day.
-- Pundit Jack Shafer, August 10, 2015.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

***
Apparently, he thinks there’s nothing amiss in suggesting that the only thing standing between the present moment and the broad, sunlit uplands of a denuclearized Iran is the Jewish state and its warmongering Beltway lobbyists. That slur in particular was the loudest dog whistle heard in Washington since Pat Buchanan said in 1990 that the Gulf War —advocated by columnists like Abe Rosenthal and Charles Krauthammer—would be fought by “American kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Leroy Brown.” Then again, Mr. Buchanan wasn’t the president. It says something about the crassness of Mr. Obama’s approach that the New York Times noted that allies of the president fear he “has gone overboard in criticizing” opponents of the deal. But it also says something about the weakness of his deal.
-- Pundit Bret Stephens, August 10, 2015. Stephens' remarks refer to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Stephens is accusing Obama of using "code words". He is also arguing that, since even Obama's allies (who are Stephens' adversaries) are criticizing Obama's rhetoric, therefore the criticism is credible, which is flawed "even my opponents" reasoning.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 9, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Sunday that he will strongly defend himself from critics, regardless of gender.

Trump rejected claims that he treats females who disagree with him unfairly.

“When I’m attacked, I fight back,” Trump told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I was attacked very viciously by those women,” he said of female opponents his detractors say he has demeaned.

“What they said about me is far worse than what I said about them,” Trump added. “Am I allowed to defend myself? I want to get back to the country. We have such problems.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 9, 2015, during an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd, as related by an article in The Hill by Mark Hensch.

Comment: First, this is "get tough and hit back" rhetoric. Second, Trump is claiming to be a victim – but not a perpetrator – of invective, which is the "only my opponents" caricature. Finally, Trump is saying that the criticisms of him are a distraction from the issues America faces.

***
On the day of the first Republican presidential debate, Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday she's often left in a "state of disbelief" from what she hears from some of her 2016 rivals.

Speaking in Los Angeles, where she met with home-care aides who often struggle with lower wages and difficult working conditions, Clinton expressed dismay with those who would oppose improvements for those workers, including better training and bigger paychecks.

"When people in the political world … oppose these programs, I would like them to just walk in your shoes for a week," she told a group of workers seated around her, who provide in-home care for the elderly, sick and disabled.

"We've got people, well let's just say we've got people running for president, who I don't know what world they live in. I don't understand it. It's truly amazing to me," the front-runner for the Democratic nomination said.

"I'm constantly in a state of disbelief," she added. "They said what?"
-- Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, August 6, 2015, from an Associated Press story by Michael R. Blood.

Comment: Clinton is saying that some of the Republican presidential candidates are divorced from reality.

***
"We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches, and someone who cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring."
-- Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, August 6, 2015.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric of the "get tough and hit back" sort.

***
CALLER: Well, first of all, he can't be bought, but he is not afraid to punch the media back in the mouth, and that's what a lot of people like about Donald Trump. He'll punch 'em in the mouth.

LIMBAUGH: And what if he doesn't do it tonight? You know, we've heard the observation that he's in a different mold now, a different mode. In the past week he's more presidential; he hasn't been calling anybody names. What happens if an opportunity like you want pops up tonight? What if Donald Trump does not do something like that? Are you gonna be disappointed and think, "Oh, no. Oh, no. Trump's not who he is, either." You gonna get that far down with it?

CALLER: I'll be a little surprised if he doesn't do it, but how do you treat bullies, Rush? You punch 'em twice as hard as what they punch you, right? That's how you get the respect. Well, that's what Trump did to the media person out there. I don't know where he was, but he said, "No, no, no. You're done. You're done," and he didn't take any further questions from them. The media, I think, is a little afraid of Trump. They're afraid to challenge him now 'cause he knows they will embarrass them. He will punch them right in the mouth, and they know it. That's how you treat bullies. You punch 'em back five times as hard as what they come after you.

LIMBAUGH: I'll tell you what: I'm sure you have people standing up there cheering with this. I don't doubt it all.
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, August 6, 2015, speaking with a caller, Jay in Columbia, SC. Their remarks concerned Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and the GOP debate taking place later that day.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric of the "get tough and hit back" sort.

***
There is no longer a Republican center-right that would have no problem raising the gas tax for something as fundamental as infrastructure. Sure, there are center-right candidates — like Jeb Bush and John Kasich. But can they run, win and govern from the center-right when the base of their party and so many of its billionaire donors reflect the angry anti-science, anti-tax, anti-government, anti-minorities, anti-gay rights and anti-immigration views of the Tea Party and its media enforcer, Fox News?
-- Thomas Friedman, August 5, 2015.

Comment: Friedman is demonizing the base of the Republican Party, saying they're anti-science and bigoted.

***
"I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran. It is offensive. It is incendiary. We do take it seriously. But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts, or even provocations that can be addressed short of war. Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. (Applause.) In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus. (Laughter and applause.)"
-- President Barack Obama, August 5, 2015, speaking on the proposed deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: First, Obama is knocking over a straw man: who has ever said that all Iranians want "Death to America"? Rather, the concern is that Iran's rulers chant it, or at the very least allow and encourage others to do so. Second, Obama is demonizing Republican opponents of the Iran deal via guilt by association or "comparing" rhetoric, saying that since Republicans and Iranian hardliners both oppose the nuclear deal, they have made "common cause". (Obama made the same assertion in March of the same year.) But just because GOP senators – like hardliners in Iran – are opposed to the nuclear deal currently in the works doesn't mean they agree with hardliners in Iran on everything. It doesn't even mean the GOP senators oppose the nuclear deal for the same reasons at the hardliners in Iran. Consider the same argument being turned on Obama: he, like Iran, is in favor of fighting the Islamic State (aka, ISIS). Does that mean he agrees with Iran on all other things, and supports Iran's position on terrorism or it's killing of US troops in Iraq in 2007-2008? Of course it doesn't. Did Obama make common cause with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, given that both of them opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq? Did Obama make common cause with Cuban dictators Fidel and Raul Castro when he agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba? Lastly, the audience seems to endorse Obama's rhetoric with their applause, though their laughter might indicate some of them think it is meant comedically.

***
"Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics where every foreign policy decision is viewed through a partisan prism, evaluated by headline-grabbing sound bites. And so before the ink was even dry on this deal -- before Congress even read it -- a majority of Republicans declared their virulent opposition. Lobbyists and pundits were suddenly transformed into arm-chair nuclear scientists, disputing the assessments of experts like Secretary Moniz, challenging his findings, offering multiple -- and sometimes contradictory -- arguments about why Congress should reject this deal. But if you repeat these arguments long enough, they can get some traction. So let me address just a few of the arguments that have been made so far in opposition to this deal."
-- President Barack Obama, August 5, 2015, speaking on the proposed deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: First, Obama is making it sound as if only opponents of the nuclear deal – and not supporters of it – had made up their minds ahead of time and were viewing the issue through a "partisan prism". That is, Obama is engaging in the "only my opponent" caricature. Second, Obama is making a flawed appeal to authority, dismissing the criticisms of people who aren't nuclear scientists. Just because a person isn't a nuclear expert doesn't mean they have no valid criticisms on nuclear topics. (Some of the criticism of the deal doesn't even rely on nuclear issues, it has to do with diplomatic matters, such as whether Iranian leaders are trustworthy.) Third, Obama says critics are offering "contradictory" arguments, suggesting hypocrisy. But, there's nothing hypocritical about one person offering one criticism, and a different person offering a logically contradictory one. Since Obama doesn't name who the critics are, how do we know they're being hypocritical and self-contradictory? Last, Obama is suggesting something akin to the "big lie" theory is at work with his critics, where repetition of a bad idea will give it credibility.

***
"Today, I want to speak to you about this deal, and the most consequential foreign policy debate that our country has had since the invasion of Iraq, as Congress decides whether to support this historic diplomatic breakthrough, or instead blocks it over the objection of the vast majority of the world. Between now and the congressional vote in September, you’re going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads, and the accompanying commentary, sounds familiar, it should -- for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal."
-- President Barack Obama, August 5, 2015, speaking on the proposed deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: What is the point of noting that some of the same people who argued for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq are opposing the nuclear deal with Iran? If the argument is, "they were wrong then, therefore they're wrong now", that would be ad hominem reasoning.

***
"It's a war on women's health, it's not about abortion. Planned Parenthood spends 97% of its dollars on non-abortion related services … They serve 2.7 million people in America every year, 500,000 of those happen to be Hispanic. It is a very important healthcare organization, and this attack started from the day Planned Parenthood was founded in 1916, when the founder of Planned Parenthood was arrested for trying to distribute birth control to poor women. So it's a constant battle here. I can't believe in this century we are still battling against women's health."
-- Sen. Barbara Boxer, August 4, 2015.

Comment: First, this is "war" rhetoric. Second, Boxer is demonizing opponents of Planned Parenthood, saying they don't care about abortion, they only want to prevent women from getting health services.

***
On Tuesday, Fox's Bill O'Reilly grilled the billionaire businessman on his claim that as president he will get Mexico to pay for a wall on the southern U.S. border to help prevent undocumented immigrants from crossing into the United States.

"Bill, they are making a fortune, Mexico is making a fortune off the United States, it's becoming the new China in terms of trade -- they're killing us at the border," Trump said after O'Reilly pressed him twice on the same question.

The third time O'Reilly asked, Trump said, "I'm gonna say, 'Mexico, this is not going to continue, you're going to pay for that wall,' and they will pay for the wall. And Bill, it's peanuts, what we're talking about."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 4, 2015, during an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, as related by an article in CNN by Rebekah Metzler.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Trump never answers how he is going to make Mexico pay for the proposed wall.

***
"Here we have Obama, this man is deadly serious about destroying America."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, August 3, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio program. His remarks referred to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Levin is demonizing Obama.

***
TAPPER: During your first term as governor, you were fond of saying that you can treat bullies in one of two ways -- quote -- "You can either sidle up to them or you can punch them in the face." You said, "I like to punch them in the face." At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?

CHRISTIE: Oh, the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election.

TAPPER: Why?

CHRISTIE: Because they're not for education for our children. They're for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I have got the scars to show it. But I'm never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes.
-- Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), August 2, 2015, being interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric. Christie is also demonizing teachers unions, saying that they don't care about educating children, only about their own selfish interests.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 2, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"Civility in the face of terrorism is a vice."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, July 30, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. His remarks came in response to an article by Craig Shirley, entitled "In Defense of Incivility".

Comment: Levin is dismissing civility, but in doing so he's merely knocking over a straw man. Who has ever said that civility is the same as pacifism, or that we should be civil to terrorists?

***
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The difference between us and the Republicans, is that we really are a big tent party.

MATTHEWS: What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Socialist? I used to think there’s a big difference. What do you think it is?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The difference between…

MATTHEWS: Like Democrat Hillary Clinton and Socialist Bernie Sanders? … Well what’s the big difference between the Democrat Party and Socialist. You’re the chairman of the Democratic Party. Tell me the difference between you and a Socialist.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The relevant debate we will be having over the course of this campaign is what’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican.
-- DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, July 30, 2015, during a discussion on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews about whether Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) – who describes himself as a socialist – would speak at the Democratic Party presidential convention.

Comment: This is an evasion. Of course the difference between Republicans and Democrats is relevant to the 2016 presidential election. But, given that Sanders – a socialist who is running for the Democratic nomination – is being welcomed as a speaker at the Democratic convention, it's also relevant to ask what relationship his political and economic philosophy has to that of the Democratic Party, such that Sanders (but not, say, conservatives) are welcome under the Democratic Party's "big tent". That's a question that Wasserman Schultz avoids answering.

***
"I look at those people and I feel sad. That is really such a low common denominator. They're all Republicans, they're all not going to go vote for him but they all seem to see this wishful thinking. … They're really -- they really don't have a firm grasp on reality, on what it will take to solve the country's problems. … I don't think I'm better than them. No, I don't. But they're not thinking. They want to be entertained."
-- Pundit Joan Walsh, July 30, 2015. Walsh was referring to supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump, video of whom had just been shown on MSNBC's "Hardball".

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric. Walsh can point out errors in what Trump supporters believe without using the term "low common denominator" or saying they "don't have a firm grasp on reality".

***
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says if he was president, he would use the same language when referring to potential deals with Iran — and that the response from Jewish people to his controversial comments has been "overwhelmingly positive."

"We need to use strong words when people make strong threats against an entire group of people as the Iranians have made toward the Jews," the former Arkansas governor said Tuesday in an interview with Matt Lauer.

Huckabee said he has received nothing but positive feedback from the group of people he supposedly has offended.

"The response from Jewish people have been overwhelming positive," he said, adding that he has even heard from Holocaust survivors and their children. He noted that at an event he attended Monday night, "I was probably one of four gentiles in the entire event — it was a Jewish event. People were overwhelmingly supportive."

A day earlier, Huckabee refused to apologize for criticizing President Obama's nuclear weapons deal with Iran by comparing it to the Holocaust.

"He would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven," he said in a recent interview about the plan.
-- Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), July 28, 2015, from a Today News story by Eun Kyung Kim.

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

***
"Now, if you're asking me about the politics of Washington and the rhetoric that takes place there, that doesn’t always go great. The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are, I think, part of just a general pattern that we've seen that is -- would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad. We've had a sitting senator call John Kerry Pontius Pilate. We've had a sitting senator who also happens to be running for President suggest that I'm the leading state sponsor of terrorism. These are leaders in the Republican Party. And part of what historically has made America great is, particularly when it comes to foreign policy, there’s been a recognition that these issues are too serious, that issues of war and peace are of such grave concern and consequence that we don't play fast and loose that way. We have robust debates, we look at the facts, there are going to be disagreements. But we just don't fling out ad hominem attacks like that, because it doesn’t help inform the American people. I mean, this is a deal that has been endorsed by people like Brent Scowcroft and Sam Nunn -- right? -- historic Democratic and Republican leaders on arms control and on keeping America safe. And so when you get rhetoric like this, maybe it gets attention and maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it's not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now. And I don't think that's what anybody -- Democratic, Republican, or independent -- is looking for out of their political leaders. In fact, it's been interesting when you look at what’s happened with Mr. Trump, when he’s made some of the remarks that, for example, challenged the heroism of Mr. McCain, somebody who endured torture and conducted himself with exemplary patriotism, the Republican Party is shocked. And yet, that arises out of a culture where those kinds of outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace and get circulated nonstop through the Internet and talk radio and news outlets. And I recognize when outrageous statements like that are made about me, that a lot of the same people who were outraged when they were made about Mr. McCain were pretty quiet. The point is we're creating a culture that is not conducive to good policy or good politics. The American people deserve better. Certainly, presidential debates deserve better. In 18 months, I'm turning over the keys -- I want to make sure I'm turning over the keys to somebody who is serious about the serious problems the country faces and the world faces. And that requires on both sides, Democrat and Republican, a sense of seriousness and decorum and honesty. And I think that's what the voters expect, as well."
-- President Barack Obama, July 27, 2015. Obama was referring to remarks made about the Iranian nuclear deal by Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). They described it respectively, as marching Israelis "to the door of the oven", a "jihadist stimulus bill", and as negotiated by someone who "acted like Pontius Pilate" (referring to Secretary of State John Kerry).

Comment: In the face of remarks that are exaggerations and/or demonizing, Obama is calling for setting a higher standard of political debate. However, by failing to note how he and fellow Democrats contribute to name-calling and incivility, Obama is engaging in the "only my opponent" caricature. Obama also conflates ad hominem reasoning and name-calling. Plus, aren't domestic issues too important to play "fast and loose" with rhetoric?

***
Ted Cruz on Monday defended his statement that Mitch McConnell told a “flat-out lie” about reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, doubling down on his assertion that the Senate majority leader conspired with Democrats to undermine the most conservative wing of the party.

“I gave a highly unusual floor speech,” Cruz said on “The Howie Carr Show” on WRKO in Boston, referring to his diatribe last Friday condemning the way the Senate ultimately passed funding for the Export-Import Bank.



“The 11th commandment doesn’t mean that you never disagree with another Republican on policy, on substance, on record,” Cruz said. “Remember, Ronald Reagan primaried Gerald Ford in ’76. But he didn’t attack him and say he’s a no-good, unethical person.”

“He said, ‘We need to stand for principle.’ So what I said about McConnell wasn’t attacking him personally, it was simply talking about his record,” the senator added. “He said this, he made this commitment to me, and then he broke it. And it was laying out the facts and it was very calm and orderly just walking through, telling the truth. You know there’s an old quote often wrongly attributed to George Orwell but it’s a powerful quote, which is: ‘In a time of universal deception, telling the truth can be a revolutionary act.’”
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), July 27, 2015, according to stories by Adam B. Lerner of Politico and Oliver Darcy of The Blaze.

Comment: Cruz is using "hate the policies, not the person" rhetoric. Cruz said that McConnell lied: how is that not a remark about McConnell personally? It's criticizing McConnell for something McConnell did. Plus, a personal remark is not necessarily false or unfair; it's only when we misrepresent and deride someone else that we've resorted to "negative politics".

***
"No other presidential candidate was secretary of state when this process started, and I put together a very thorough, deliberative, evidence-based process to evaluate the environmental impact and other considerations of Keystone. As such, I know that there is a very careful evaluation continuing and that the final decision is pending to be made by Secretary [John] Kerry and President Obama. Very simply, the evaluation is determined whether this pipeline is in our nation’s interest, and I’m confident that the pipeline’s impact on global greenhouse gas emissions will be a major factor in that decision, as the President has said. So I will refrain from commenting, because I had a leading role in getting that process started, and I think that we have to let it run its course."
-- Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, July 27, 2015. She was responding to a question about the proposed Keystone oil pipeline, which is being considered for construction.

Comment: This is an instance of the "not my decision" evasion (or perhaps the "under investigation" evasion). Yes, the federal government is in the midst of evaluating the costs and benefits of the Keystone pipeline, and Clinton played a role in inaugurating that evaluation. But she's not involved with it anymore, so she wouldn't be interfering with or undermining the evaluation to take a position on it now.  (As Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post points out, Clinton has taken a stance on the nuclear deal with Iran, despite the fact that the Senate has yet to vote on it.) Is she saying that she will simply endorse whatever decision is reached by the federal government investigation? If so, that, too, is a position she has decided to take, and she can be asked to defend.

***
Beyond the logistics of a comprehensive round-up are the political implications of such an effort. During a campaign stop in central Florida on Monday, Bush told a group of about 150 pastors and other religious leaders that America's immigration system is "broken" but that deporting 11 million people is not a solution.

"The idea of self-deportation, of rounding people up, is not an American value," Bush said. "Americans reject that idea."
-- Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), July 27, 2015, as reported by a July 30, 2015, Associated Press story by Jill Colvin and Alicia A. Caldwell.

Comment: First, Bush is suggesting that those who advocate self-deportation are somehow not American. Second, it's "Americans want" rhetoric for Bush to insist that Americans reject the idea of self-deportation.

***
"This president's foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."
-- Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), July 26, 2015. Huckabee was referring to the deal on Iran's nuclear program endorsed by President Barack Obama.

Comment: Huckabee is invoking the Holocaust, predicting that the Iranian nuclear deal will be as deadly to Jews (in this case, the ones living in Israel) as the massacres by the Nazis. This is a prediction, so it's technically unclear whether it's true or false, but it seems likely to be an exaggeration. If it's so obvious that the deal is apocalyptically bad, then why – according to Huckabee – would Obama endorse it? Because Obama is evil or stupid? Or is this instead a violent metaphor on Huckabee's part, a "comparing" of the Iranian deal with the Holocaust?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: July 26, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
UNIDENTIFIED QUESTIONER: What about this ad?

CHRIS CHRISTIE: By the way, that ad was from 1995. And I’ll ask you this, if you’ve not changed your mind once in 20 years, if you haven't changed your mind once in 20 years on any issue, then I'll tell you, you're not a thinking, breathing, living human being.
-- Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), July 25, 2015. Christie was being questioned about his commitment to gun rights, and the questioner referred to an ad from 1995 in which Christie supported a ban on assault rifles.

Comment: Christie is being accused of flip-flopping, and he is defending the fact that he has changed positions.

***
Bills are being rushed to the floor in the House and Senate in response to a woman’s senseless killing in San Francisco by an unauthorized immigrant with a long criminal record. That single crime has energized hard-line Republican lawmakers who have long peddled the false argument that all illegal immigrants are a criminal menace, and that the best way to erase their threat is by new layers of inflexible policing. … Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina mused about the need to find and swiftly rid the country of criminal “aliens”: “How are we going to identify that universe, however small it may be?” he said, adding, “What is our plan to identify that universe before they reoffend?” Representative Steve King of Iowa likened crimes by unauthorized immigrants to the 9/11 attacks, “a tragedy that causes my hard heart to cry.” Representative Lamar Smith of Texas said “someone in this administration probably should be arrested for negligent homicide.” Language like that is hard to distinguish from the rantings of Donald Trump, who brought his racist road show to Laredo, Tex., on Thursday. But there is room — even in immigration — for sane, sound policy. … That would be a serious solution, one that gives deserving immigrants a foothold in this country and makes it easier to uncover those who come here to do harm. It is called comprehensive reform, which Mr. Smith, Mr. Gowdy and others in their anti-immigrant caucus, now consumed with exploitive fury over the San Francisco tragedy, have fought at every turn.
-- New York Times editorial, July 24, 2015.

Comment: First, the editorial board is knocking over a straw man: many Republicans have said some illegal immigrants are involved in criminal behavior, but few if any have said all illegal immigrants are criminals (apart, of course, from breaking immigration law). The editorial board is demonizing the Republicans mentioned as being racists and bigoted xenophobes (despite the fact that their comments aren't on par with presidential candidate Donald Trump's), and is also accusing them of exploiting a tragedy.

***
MARCO RUBIO: I think it's important for the president of the United States to be someone that can conduct, and be engaged in a public debate on an issue without demonizing their opponents, that can hold a speech where you don't invite Paul Ryan, sit him in the front row of the speech and lambast him and attack him in front of everybody, knowing he can't respond. It's important for the office the presidency to be be someone that is capable of doing those things. I have said repeatedly, Barack Obama is a great husband and great father. But I do believe the way he has conducted his presidency has been divisive. I think he unnecessarily demonizes his opponents on policy issues, not just disagreement on policies. He wants to convince people that you are a bad person, that you don't care about the disabled or children or women, or someone who is being hurt. I think that's bad for the country. I truly believe that sort of activity, and is he not alone in it, but I do believe that sort of activity is not what we need from a president.

BRET BAIER: So you stand by that statement that the president has no class?

MARCO RUBIO: I think, on the major issues of our time, he has not conducted himself of the dignity of worthy of that was office. Demonization of political opponents and divisions in America which have made it harder for us to solve our problems, and have poisoned the political environment as a result.
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), July 23, 2015, being interviewed by Bret Baier of Fox News. The discussion concerned Rubio's July 22, 2015, remarks stating that President Barack Obama had "no class".

Comment: There are many things going on here. Rubio is calling for civility in political debate, and is accusing Obama of resorting to demonizing. Rubio is also using "hate the policies, not the person" rhetoric. It's not clear whether Rubio answers the question of whether Obama "has no class" or if he evades it. It's certainly true that Obama has resorted to demonization, but, first, is that appropriately summed up by saying Obama has "no class" whatsoever (or is that itself an act of demonizing)? Second, many Republicans have resorted to demonizing, too: will Rubio describe all of them the same way, or is he resorting to the "only my opponent" caricature?

***
This is the essence of Walker’s appeal — and why he is so dangerous. He is not as outrageous as Donald Trump and Sen.Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), but his technique of scapegoating unions for the nation’s ills is no less demagogic. Sixty-five years ago, another man from Wisconsin made himself a national reputation by frightening the country about the menace of communists, though the actual danger they represented was negligible. Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy, but his technique is similar: He suggests that the nation’s ills can be cured by fighting labor unions (foremost among the “big government special interests” hurting America), even though unions represent just 11 percent of the American workforce and have been at a low ebb.
-- Pundit Dana Milbank, July 23, 2015. Milbank's remarks concerned presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).

Comment: This is "demagogue" (and perhaps also "fear-mongering") rhetoric. Plus, it seems like Milbank is knocking over a straw man: Walker has certainly criticized labor unions, but has he really said that they are the source of all the nation's problems?

***
Liberals who still refuse to condemn Planned Parenthood — which is almost all of them, with rare exception — have announced, either explicitly or implicitly, that they categorically do not care about what is right, true, humane, or moral. They have laid all of these concerns as burnt offerings on the altar of Liberalism, and in the process become morally indistinguishable from Nazi sympathizers. Thus, all of the rest of their opinions are worthless, and no rational person ought to respect their point of view or take any of their perspectives about anything seriously. If you are too selfish, obtuse, indifferent, brainwashed, or cruel to unequivocally condemn the trafficking and murder of infants, then you forfeit all intellectual credibility.
-- Pundit Matt Walsh, July 22, 2015. His remarks concern a video of a Planned Parenthood official discussing what is done with fetal tissue after abortions.

Comment: Walsh is demonizing liberals, saying they don't care about what is good. He is also using ad hominem reasoning, arguing that, because they are wrong on abortion, they are therefore wrong on everything else.

***
“Think about this war on CO2. If we don’t have CO2 we’re Mars. … CO2 is not a pollutant.”
-- Pundit Mark Levin, July 22, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio program. Levin was referring to efforts by global warming advocates to lower CO2 levels.

Comment: First, this is "war" rhetoric. Second, Levin is knocking over a straw man. Global warming activists aren't proposing that we get rid of CO2  (carbon dioxide), which of course we need to live. Rather, they propose that we stop raising it to dangerous levels in the atmosphere (i.e., the dose makes the poison), which is different from eliminating it altogether. Levin is distorting their position.

***
A hidden-camera video released last week purported to show that Planned Parenthood illegally sells tissue from aborted fetuses. It shows nothing of the sort. But it is the latest in a series of unrelenting attacks on Planned Parenthood, which offers health care services to millions of people every year. The politicians howling to defund Planned Parenthood care nothing about the truth here, being perfectly willing to undermine women’s reproductive rights any way they can.
-- New York Times editorial, July 22, 2015. The editorial concerns a video of a Planned Parenthood official discussing what is done with fetal tissue after abortions.

Comment: The New York Times is demonizing the makers of the video, saying they don't want women to have reproductive rights, care nothing about truth, and will say anything to win. Would it be fair to say that The New York Times editorial board supports infanticide, or would they call that demonizing?

***
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), reflecting nervousness in his party over the issue, read from a prepared statement when he was asked about the controversy by reporters Tuesday afternoon.

“These politically motivated videos raise questions, but nothing I’ve seen indicates Planned Parenthood violated federal law,” Reid said. “These edited videos should not take away from the important work that Planned Parenthood does on behalf of women.”
-- Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), July 21, 2015, from a story by Rachael Bade and Jake Sherman of Politico. Reid's remarks concerned a video of a Planned Parenthood official discussing what is done with fetal tissue after abortions.

Comment: The fact that the videos are politically motivated doesn't mean they are false. To argue otherwise is ad hominem reasoning. If the videos were edited to distort their content, they would be false regardless of any political motivation.

***
California Gov. Jerry Brown slammed global warming deniers in a keynote speech on Tuesday at a Vatican conference of environmentally friendly mayors. Politicians running for office who do not accept climate change as real are “troglodytes,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Deniers of climate change are spending “billions on trying to keep from office people such as yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science,” the Democratic governor said, according to the AP.



It’s not the first time Brown has hurled the “troglodyte” insult at political opponents.

In March, for example, he ripped the positions of Republican governors and attorneys general challenging President Barack Obama’s immigration executive actions as “at best troglodyte, and at worst, un-Christian.”

Speaking at a climate change conference in Toronto earlier this month, Brown said that “[w]e have a lot of troglodytes south of the border.”
-- Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), July 21, 2015, from a story by Nick Gass of Politico.

Comment: “Troglodytes” is name-calling, of perhaps the “evil” or “stupid” variety.