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.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: April 19, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"There’s supposed to – there used to be a line of civility in American politics. And it’s particularly problematic on the left. They never argue with you about your ideas. Their almost instant reaction is to attack you personally and call you a name. And I’m not saying people on the right don’t do it, too, because it happens. But it’s so much more common on the left. I mean, if you read or hear most of the criticisms of me, it’s always personal."
-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), April 16, 2015. Rubio was responding to remarks by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who on April 15, 2015, said he thought the Republican presidential contenders were "losers".

Comment: This is the "only my opponent" caricature. Reid's remarks were unacceptable, but what evidence does Rubio have that the left engages in more incivility than the right? For that matter, what evidence is there that politics are less civil now than they used to be?

***
JOHN HARWOOD: Are you entirely comfortable with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee?

HARRY REID: Absolutely, I love the way she answers almost everything.

JOHN HARWOOD: Will there be a Democratic race, should there be one?

HARRY REID: Primaries, I don't think they help, especially when you are as motivated as Hillary... I love Joe Biden, I could never say a bad word about him, he is a wonderful leader.

JOHN HARWOOD: Would you advise him not to challenge her?

HARRY REID: No. He's been around a long time without my advice.

JOHN HARWOOD: How do you see the Republican fight? Who is the Republican nominee likely to be.

HARRY REID: I don't really care, I think they're all losers.
-- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), April 15, 2015, during an interview with John Harwood of CNBC.

Comment: First, it seems like Reid evades the question of whether he'd advise Vice President Joe Biden not to run against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Second, it would be one thing if Reid said he didn't believe the GOP candidates could win, but to call them "losers" is needlessly derisive.

***
"And I want to make this point, even though it’s a little off topic, but it oftentimes is the backdrop against which these debates take place -- if you listen to some of my political critics, they always want to paint me or the Democratic Party as this “tax and spend” and irresponsible. Let me say this -- since I came into office, the federal deficit has come down by two-thirds. It hasn’t gone up. It’s come down by two-thirds. So when Bill Clinton was President -- budget got balanced and we had low deficits. Then somebody else came in and -- deficits started going up. And then I came in and I inherited this huge recession that drove up the deficits. And then we started whittling them down -- even as we were expanding the earned income tax credit, even as we were expanding Pell grants -- because part of what we did was we said, well, let’s make sure the tax code is fair. Let’s make sure that we're eliminating programs that don't work to help middle-class families."
-- President Barack Obama, April 15, 2015.

Comment: This is false causation reasoning (post hoc ergo propter hoc). It's not the case that deficits (or economic conditions more generally) are the result of who is president at the time. A lot of other factors are involved. At the very least, Congress plays a role in determining the budget, and therefore how much money the government borrows (i.e., the deficit). Republicans had a majority in Congress much of the time when Bill Clinton was president, and Democrats had a majority in Congress when the "huge recession" struck (Obama himself, as a senator, was part of Congress). Should we therefore chalk the balanced budget up to a GOP Congress, and the recession to a Democratic one? No, that would be to reason just as flimsily as Obama does in the quote above. Obama also advocates for fairness, here.

***
"This is going to be the equivalent of a dog whistle comment, they will say. This is going to be the equivalent of Rubio speaking in code to his racist, sexist, anti-welfare buddies. "I am humbled by the realization that America does not owe me anything." The word choices there stand out to me, anyway. He could just as easily have said, "America doesn't owe me anything. America doesn't owe any of us anything." But he didn't say that. He said he was humbled "by the realization that America doesn't owe me anything." That's a bit different than just making the blanket statement. I'll explain as the program unfolds. … For you Rubio fans, I'm just giving you a little heads up here that they're gonna zero in on all of it. I don't mean to say they're gonna leave him unscathed, but this line, "I am humbled by the realization that America doesn't owe me anything," that's gonna be used as an attack. That's gonna be viewed as code language, dog whistle to certain types of mean-spirited extremist Republicans who don't care about anybody else. It's gonna be said to be targeted at the rich and so forth. And particularly the part about, "I am humbled by the realization.""
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, April 14, 2015. Limbaugh was referring to remarks made by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in his announcement on April 13, 2015, that he is seeking the 2016 GOP nomination for president.

Comment: Limbaugh is predicting that Democrats will accuse Rubio of using coded language.

***
President Obama criticized Senator McCain for putting less store in Secretary of State John Kerry’s interpretation of the tentative nuclear agreement with Iran than in the interpretation offered by Ayatollah Khamenei. Fair enough. The senator’s comment was derisive and I’m sure he expected the administration to object. That said, McCain’s remarks were hardly an example of partisanship that “crossed all boundaries,” as Obama labeled them, especially when the president would make a much more offensive comparison moments later. … The president offered the most indefensible calumny in this debate in the very same statement in which he denounced Senator McCain. He likened domestic critics of the agreement to hardliners in Iran. Those Iranian hardliners oppress an entire nation. They persecute women, gays, dissidents, and religious minorities. They murder children in the streets of Tehran. They provided weapons that were used to kill American soldiers in Iraq. They are terrorists, who killed innocent Jews in Argentina, and tried to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington. They killed hundreds of Marines in Lebanon. They help Bashar al-Assad murder hundreds of thousands of Syrians. They control Hezbollah and Hamas. They are the implacable enemies of the U.S. and our allies and of every political ideal Americans have shed blood to defend. Obama compared those murderous tyrants to Americans who worry the deal won’t prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He compared them to freely elected American officials, some of whom, like John Kerry and John McCain, served our country in war, and don’t want to make it easier for Iran to commit more crimes against humanity and to dominate a greater expanse of the Middle East. That is a real example of partisanship that “crossed all boundaries.” And if Obama ever decides to be the kind of president he promised to be—a president who abhors tactics that aggravate the nation’s political divisions—he will apologize for it.
-- Pundit Mark Salter, April 13, 2015. Salter was criticizing remarks made by President Barack Obama on April 11, 2015, though it's not clear (to me, at least) what portion of Obama's remarks Salter is referring to.

Comment: Salter is accusing Obama of "comparing" critics of the proposed deal on Iran's nuclear program with the ruling Iranian regime.

***
So Hillary Clinton is officially running, to nobody’s surprise. And you know what’s coming: endless attempts to psychoanalyze the candidate, endless attempts to read significance into what she says or doesn’t say about President Obama, endless thumb-sucking about her “positioning” on this or that issue. Please pay no attention. Personality-based political analysis is always a dubious venture — in my experience, pundits are terrible judges of character. … In any case, there has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, April 13, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is addressing the issue of whether character counts in politics. Krugman is insisting that the parties' stance on issues matters far more than personality. But, since we generally don't get to vote for parties or policies – on the federal level, we vote for people to fill an office (e.g., President, Senator, etc.) – don't we have to trust that the candidate will carry out the policies of their party? Isn't that a legitimate worry, given how politicians sometimes flip-flop on issues or fail to live up to campaign pledges? Don't voters and constituents routinely complain that politicians aren't doing enough to "fight for their party's values"?

***
"I think he does see America from the Iranian perspective. I think he hates America."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, April 13, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio program. Levin was discussing a comment made earlier that day by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, who said that President Barack Obama is able to see America from the Iranian perspective.

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing Obama of hating his country.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: April 12, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"If you're over the target, you draw flak."
-- Sen. Rand Paul, April 10, 2015, on the 3rd hour of the Glenn Beck radio program. He was referring to criticism he had received for his political positions.

Comment: This is "struck a nerve" rhetoric.

***
"This is a man on a mission, not on a mission for America but against America".
-- Pundit Mark Levin, April 9, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio program. His remarks referred to President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is demonizing, saying that Obama is acting against his own country.

***
HUGH HEWITT: Is he naïve, Mr. Vice President? Or does he have a far-reaching vision that only he entertains of a realigned Middle East that somehow it all works out in the end?

DICK CHENEY: I don’t know, Hugh. I vacillate between the various theories I’ve heard, but you know, if you had somebody as president who wanted to take America down, who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world and reduce our capacity to influence events, turn our back on our allies and encourage our adversaries, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama’s doing. I think his actions are constituted in my mind those of the worst president we’ve ever had.
-- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, posted April 8, 2015.

Comment: This is demonizing (Obama's polices are the policies of someone who wants to intentionally dismantle the country) and exaggeration (Obama is as bad as James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce).

***
"On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that's a topic for another day. Where there is injustice -- I was about to veer off. I'm pulling it back. Where there is injustice we defend the oppressed. Where there is disagreement, we treat each other with compassion and respect. Where there are differences, we find strength in our common humanity, knowing that we are all children of God."
-- President Barack Obama, April 7, 2015.

Comment: Obama doesn't say who or which Christians are guilty of making "less than loving" remarks. I think we can safely assume that he is referring to Republicans and conservatives who have resorted to demonizing and other incivilities. However, Obama doesn't cite himself as being guilty of the same misbehavior (and he is certainly guilty of it), so he is resorting to the "only my opponent" caricature.

***
"I believe Pope Francis got it right in his Easter Vigil homily when he said, “We cannot live Easter without entering into mystery. To enter into mystery means the ability to wonder, to contemplate, the ability to listen to the silence and hear the tiny whisper amid the great silence by which God speaks to us.” I think that's who we are as Christians, and quite frankly, I think that's who we are as Americans. We're constantly renewed as a people and as individuals by our ability to enter into the mystery. We live our faith when we instill in our children the ability to wonder, to contemplate, and to listen to that tiny whisper amid the great silence. We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country. We live Easter -- and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better. We can always do better."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, April 7, 2015.

Comment: Leaving aside the matter of whether this really illustrates who Christians are, does it tell us who is a real American (and, therefore, who isn't)?

***
BRET BAIER, SPECIAL REPORT: The president talked about what he said was anti-Israel comments that he's hurt by.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It has been personally difficult for me to hear sort of expressions that somehow we don't have -- this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest.

BAIER: One more soundbite. Late this afternoon, the president was on NPR. He was asked by Israel's push to say in this deal to get Iran to say that Israel can exist.

OBAMA: The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won't sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms.And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.

BAIER: Seems different. I mean, he is hurt by the anti-Israel comments, but then says that that's not part of any possible deal.

STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, if he doesn't want people to say that he has been anti-Israel he should perhaps have less anti-Israel policies. That would solve the problem. The bigger challenge for the president he actually outlined the differences correctly. He doesn't think it's necessary to have a change in the behavior of the regime. Benjamin Netanyahu very clearly does. But as to the point of whether this benefits or whether this potentially threatens Israel, Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah chief, just said in an interview with Syrian state TV, "Iran will become richer and wealthier and will become more influential." We're seeing it now.
-- Pundit Steve Hayes, posted April 6, 2015.

Comment: It's fair to argue about which policies are best for Israel, but it's demonizing to say that Obama's policies are anti-Israel. Isn't this roughly the same retort given to Republicans and conservatives who complain about being accused of racism: "Well, if you don't want people to say that you're racist, then have less racist policies"?

***
[I]n the November 2014 exit polls, only 22 percent of Americans said they thought life would be better for future generations, and in Gallup’s latest “Economic Confidence Index” poll, 50 percent of Americans say the economy is getting worse. Not to mention, only 29.3 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction, while 61.3 percent of Americans believe we are on the wrong track. … That bleak outlook is consistent with an essay Gallup chief executive Jim Clifton wrote at the beginning of this year, where he noted that, “Until 2008, start-ups outpaced business failures by about 100,000 a year. But in the past six years, that number has suddenly turned upside down.” Despite quoting this stunning fact, Edsall doesn’t make the connection between this negative economic data and a certain election in November 2008. Oddly, Edsall’s piece doesn’t even mention President Obama, except to identify a quote from the former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Obama’s negative impact on the economy should be a lesson for the next president. I don’t think there has been a president in my lifetime who has been more hostile to business than Obama. … Anyway, all is lost for the remaining 21 months under Obama, and no doubt more businesses are doomed as a result of this administration’s anti-business bias.
-- Pundit Ed Rogers, April 6, 2015.

Comment: First, this to simply blame Obama for the bad economic confidence numbers seems like post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. The financial crisis also happened during the latter half of 2008, couldn't that be a cause for the lack of confidence? Second, Rogers is demonizing Obama by saying he is anti-business. Even if it's true that Obama doesn't have the best policies for business (or better policies than his opponents), does that mean he actively opposes business?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: April 5, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Protesters waving Australian flags and carrying signs such as "Yes Australia. No Sharia" rallied around the country on Saturday in events organisers said were against Islamic extremism. The "Reclaim Australia" events drew hundreds of supporters but also triggered counter-rallies from other groups who criticised them as racist and called for greater tolerance.
-- AFP news report, April 4, 2015, "Hundreds protest Islamic law in Australia".

Comment: "Reclaim Australia" is akin to "take back the country" rhetoric.

***
RUSH: This is Sissy in Wilmington, North Carolina. Great to have you on the program. Hi.

CALLER: Thank you, Rush. Hi. How are you today?

RUSH: Very good. Thank you.

CALLER: I just wanted to know if we have any hope for our country. I was reading the Limbaugh Letter, your article about surrounded by ignorance, and every single right we have is being eroded. These young people don't have a clue, and I've been listening to you since 1988, and you always give me confidence that things can get better. But now, can it? Should we just move to an island now or shoot ourselves now?
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, April 3, 2015.

Comment: This is exaggeration. Are things really that bad?

***
JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: In his remarks at the Ted Kennedy the other day, the president lamented that our politics today are not more purposeful and elevated. He also lamented that too often ideology gets in the way of basic respect. Those remarks struck me because this week we saw my CNN colleague Dana Bash do an interview with the Senate minority leader Harry Reid in which he asked him about his decision in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign to take to the Senate floor and accuse Mitt Romney of not paying his taxes, and when Dana Bash mentioned this to him, she mentioned how it seemed to some people McCarthyite. And of course no evidence has ever been produced that Mitt Romney failed to pay his taxes, and I wonder if President Obama, who has lamented this lack of civility in our politics, this disrespect in our politics, has any view of Harry Reid telling Dana Bash, "Well Romney didn't get elected did he?"

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Well I haven't had the opportunity to talk to the president about Sen. Reid's interview. Obviously, Sen. Reid is somebody who is going to decide for himself about what he says on the Senate floor. He obviously is a vocal supporter of the president, and they have had a partnership that will go down in history as very productive. But ultimately, it is up to Sen. Reid to decide, what he is going to say on the House floor. There are a number of things Sen. Reid, over his career that, he has said pretty proudly were independent of the view of anyone else.

JAMES ROSEN: But it is the president's choice and his spokesman's choice to call out conduct unbecoming of our highest elected officials, when it is in fact unbecoming. Are you going to take this opportunity now?

JOSH EARNEST: Not when it is three years old.
-- White House press briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest April 1, 2015. The quote in question comes from a March 31, 2015, interview of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) by CNN's Dana Bash.

Comment: First, this is the "not my decision" evasion. Yes, Reid is in charge of what Reid says, but that's true of most everybody, right? How does that prevent us from criticizing Reid's remarks (or anyone else's remarks, for that matter)? Second, there's no good reason that President Barack Obama can't police civility on remarks that are three years old. Obama recently criticized remarks made by Republicans about the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") back when it was passed in 2010, why can't he comment on remarks made in 2012?

***
The gay rights movement cannot abide a middle ground and a free exercise of religion for a simple reason — homosexuality is not normal in nature, in historic relationships, or in the sacred texts of almost all religions. The gay rights movement must therefore censor and subjugate dissent. Any who point out the lack of historic or religious acceptance or the lack of its ready existence in nature or, for that matter, the lack of scientific evidence showing homosexuality is a birth trait as opposed to a choice or external factors, must be shut up.
-- Pundit Erick Erickson, March 31, 2015. His remarks concerned the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA, also known as Indiana Senate Bill 101).

Comment: The claim that being gay is not normal suffers from ambiguity: does "normal" in this context mean typical? Or does it mean acceptable? Or does it mean something else? At any rate, it's questionable to reason from the presence or absence of homosexuality in nature and religious scripture to whether homosexuality should be legally or morally acceptable. More, how is it that the entire gay rights movement is opposed to the free exercise of religion related to the RFRA? Nobody supports both gay rights and religious freedom at the same time in this instance? That seems like an exaggeration or a distortion.

***
"See, at the center of this, folks, is religion and a hate for it, a fear of it. The left wants no part of organized religion. That's why global warming exists and all these other issues. They take the place of organized religion. They're doing their best to tear it down. That's what the assaults on the Catholic Church are about. These never ending, constant assaults on Christianity in general are about that, because Christianity is morality, they think. They view it as judgmentalism. They view it as definitive. "This is what's right; this is what's wrong." They don't want any part of that. They don't want to have to be conscious of right or wrong. They don't want to be reminded of right and wrong. They don't want it in their own consciousness, right and wrong, 'cause it's all shackles. Morality is shackles. The idea of right and wrong, shackles, limits on freedom and behavior and so forth. So there's been a concerted effort by interest groups on the left -- not just gay activities, but a whole bunch of different fringe groups on the left -- to attack religion and what it stands for and the people of it. So now here comes this Indiana law on the trail of Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A and a number of other examples, and it turns out now that private citizens are able to use a law enacted by Democrats to protected themselves from the militant leftist agenda."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, March 30, 2015.

Comment: This is demonizing, saying that people have adopted certain causes (such as global warming) because they don't want to have to abide by moral rules. It's also an ad hominem argument against those causes: just because someone might have a bad reason for opposing organized religion doesn't mean there are no good reasons for the adopting the same position.

***
OzarkOrc, of Rogers, Arkansas: As correctly noted in the column, this seems to be a "Feature" not a bug in the current Republican Party, a deliberate, total ignorance about truth and facts, They have their own "Flat Earth" version of our Economic, Social and Political system, and what is really scary is that many of their elected representatives seem to truly believe the lies sold by their Orwellian propaganda machine. A generation ago, both parties operated from a consensus set of facts, with a few nut cases on the Fringes. The Republicans have rummaged around in their Lunatic Bin and put them in charge

Spence, of Malvern, PA: For the GOP, "reality" does not matter. It's all about creating “perception”. Those that frame the debate and control the narrative - win. It's that simple. Facts can be spin out of existence and drowned out by loudest megaphone.
-- Commenters, March 30, 2015, on "Imaginary Health Care Horrors", a piece by pundit Paul Krugman.

Comment: The commenters are accusing Republicans of not caring about truth.

***
Before [the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare")] went into effect, opponents predicted disaster on all levels. What has happened instead is that the law is working pretty well. So how have the prophets of disaster responded? By pretending that the bad things they said would happen have, in fact, happened. … At a deeper level, however, what we’re looking at here is the impact of post-truth politics. We live in an era in which politicians and the supposed experts who serve them never feel obliged to acknowledge uncomfortable facts, in which no argument is ever dropped, no matter how overwhelming the evidence that it’s wrong.
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, March 30, 2015, in a piece titled, "Imaginary Health Care Horrors".

Comment: Krugman is claiming that the opponents of Obamacare don't care about truth. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act have also been loathe to admit that they made predictions that proved false, does that mean they also don't care about truth?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 29, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
In last week’s Israeli elections, Netanyahu did play the role of Nixon—except that he did not go to China. Nor did he go to Ramallah. He went racist. In 1968, Nixon spoke the coded language of states’ rights and law-and-order politics in order to heighten the fears of white voters in the South, who felt diminished and disempowered by the civil-rights movement and by the Democrat in the White House, Lyndon B. Johnson. Nixon’s swampy maneuvers helped defeat the Democrat Hubert Humphrey and secure the South as an electoral safe haven for more than forty years.
-- Pundit David Remnick, retrieved March 29, 2015.

Comment: Remnick is accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (and US President Richard Nixon) of using coded language to express bigotry.

***
It took Bibi Netanyahu nearly a week to apologize properly for his inflammatory comment on Israel’s election day warning that Arab voters were “heading to the polls in droves.” On Monday, speaking at his Jerusalem residence to a group of Israeli Arab community leaders, the newly reelected prime minister expressed his regret: “I know the things I said a few days ago wounded Israel’s Arab citizens. That was not in any way my intention, and I am sorry.” But even after four and a half years, there has been no apology from Barack Obama for his inflammatory remarks just before the 2010 election, when he exhorted Latinos to generate an “upsurge in voting” in order to “punish our enemies and . . . reward our friends.” Nor has the president ever expressed regret for his running mate’s racially-tinged warning to a largely black audience in 2012 that the GOP was “going to put y’all back in chains” if Mitt Romney won the White House. In fact, the Obama campaign insisted no apology would be forthcoming.
-- Pundit Jeff Jacoby, March 27, 2015.

Comment: Jacoby is accusing President Barack Obama of hypocrisy when it comes to expressions of racism and bigotry.

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"Barack Obama, as a result of this and the other things he’s doing, including arming up the IslamoNazis in Tehran, is the greatest threat the Jews face, not in this country but in Israel, since the 1930s... He is the greatest threat they face since the 1930s. And I say that because he is doing more now to degrade Israel’s military and defense posture, its intelligence information. He’s doing more now to arm Israel’s enemy than anybody. He is the greatest threat that that nation faces. And by the way, he’s a great threat to our nation too, as far as I’m concerned."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, March 26, 2015.

Comment: This couldn't possibly be an exaggeration, could it?

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During this era, they’ve gone from gentle nudging to stern warnings, to fearmongering, to conflating the predictive abilities of scientists with science itself, to launching ugly campaigns to shame and shut down anyone who deviates from liberal orthodoxy—which includes not only the existence of anthropogenic global warming, but an entire ideological framework that supposedly “addresses” the problem.
-- Pundit David Harsanyi, March 26, 2015.

Comment: Harsanyi is accusing global warming proponents of resorting to scare tactics.

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"Nothing says let's go kill some Muslims like country music."
-- Pundit Jamilah Lemieux, March 25, 2015, regarding Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) self-stated preference for country music after the 9/11 attacks.

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing Cruz of bigotry. But can it be dismissed as simply a joke?

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An extremely dishonest man, that's who. [and] vehemently anti-immigrant to boot. RT: @Azi @bonkapp: ¿Quién es Ted Cruz?
-- Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito, March 24, 2015, in a tweet regarding Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Comment: This is demonizing, saying that Cruz is anti-immigrant. Plus, what is her evidence that Cruz is "extremely dishonest"?

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"Marie Harf -- or "Barf" whatever you prefer …"
-- Pundit Mark Levin, March 24, 2015, referring to State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf.

Comment: Levin is name-calling, using a term of disgust to refer to someone he disagrees with.

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"The inevitability mantle that Hillary Clinton wears so heavily, as it did in 2008, ends up being a magnet for opposition … She’s Vladimir Putin compared to Jim Webb or Martin O’Malley. Her access is controlled. The message is controlled."
-- Former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian, posted March 24, 2015.

Comment: This is "comparing" rhetoric.

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There is an upside-down quality to this president’s world view. His administration is now on better terms with Iran—whose Houthi proxies, with the slogan “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, power to Islam,” just deposed Yemen’s legitimate president—than it is with Israel. He claims we are winning the war against Islamic State even as the group continues to extend its reach into Libya, Yemen and Nigeria. He treats Republicans in the Senate as an enemy when it comes to the Iranian nuclear negotiations, while treating the Russian foreign ministry as a diplomatic partner. He favors the moral legitimacy of the United Nations Security Council to that of the U.S. Congress. He is facilitating Bashar Assad’s war on his own people by targeting ISIS so the Syrian dictator can train his fire on our ostensible allies in the Free Syrian Army. He was prepared to embrace a Muslim Brother as president of Egypt but maintains an arm’s-length relationship with his popular pro-American successor. He has no problem keeping company with Al Sharpton and tagging an American police department as comprehensively racist but is nothing if not adamant that the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” must on no account ever be conjoined. The deeper that Russian forces advance into Ukraine, the more they violate cease-fires, the weaker the Kiev government becomes, the more insistent he is that his response to Russia is working. To adapt George Orwell’s motto for Oceania: Under Mr. Obama, friends are enemies, denial is wisdom, capitulation is victory.
-- Pundit Bret Stephens, March 23, 2015.

Comment: Granted, President Barack Obama has been hypocritical in some of his positions, but isn't that true of most politicians? Do the problems with Obama's positions really make him more "Orwellian" – that is, indifferent to truth – than most politicians? This seems like demonizing.

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Senate Republicans have kept [Loretta] Lynch — President Obama's nominee for attorney general — waiting for a confirmation vote longer than the combined time it took to confirm her seven predecessors. While doing so, they have retained in office Eric Holder, the attorney general whom congressional Republicans have branded an accessory to murder, a terrorist sympathizer and a supporter of voter fraud. … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he won't allow the full Senate to vote on Lynch's nomination until Democrats stop filibustering a child sex-trafficking bill that contains a restriction on abortions. But many of these Republicans, it seems, are motivated by their opposition to anything Obama wants — even when it appears they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.
-- Pundit DeWayne Wickham, March 23, 2015.

Comment: Wickham is accusing Republicans of obstruction, and is demonizing them by saying they simply want to oppose anything Obama wants. Couldn't it be that they simply want to force the passage of the sex-trafficking bill?