Sunday, February 7, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: February 7, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
MUIR: Mr. Trump, thank you. I want to bring this to Senator Cruz, then. Because Senator, you did said of Trump's behavior this week, that's not the temperament of a leader to keep this country safe. Why not?

CRUZ: Well, you know, David, the assessment the voters are making here in New Hampshire and across the country is they are evaluating each and every one of us. They are looking to our experience. They are looking to our knowledge. They are looking to our temperament and judgment. They are looking to our clarity of vision and our strength of resolve. The world is getting much more dangerous. We've had seven years with Barack Obama in the oval office, a commander-in-chief that is unwilling even to acknowledge the enemy we're facing. This is a president who, in the wake of Paris, in the wake of San Bernardino, will not even use the words radical Islamic terrorism, much less focus on defeating the enemy. I am convinced every individual standing on this stage, would make a much better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. And the primary voters are making the assessment for each of us, who is best prepared to keep this country safe, to rebuild the military, to rebuild our Navy, our Air Force, our Army, our Marines, and to ensure that we keep America safe.

MUIR: Senator Cruz, I did ask about Mr. Trump. You said he doesn't have the temperament to be commander-in-chief. Do you stand by those words?

CRUZ: I think that is an assessment the voters are going to make. And they are going to make it of each and everyone of us. They are going to assess who is level-headed, who has clear vision, who has judgment, who can confront our enemies, who can confront the threats we face in this country, and who can have the judgment when to engage and when not to engage -- both are incredibly important for a commander-in-chief, knowing how to go after our enemies. In the case of Iran, for example, who has the clarity of vision to understand that the Ayatollah Khamenei, when he chants, "Death to America," he means it. We need a president with the judgment and resolve to keep this country safe from radical Islamic terrorists.

MUIR: Senator Cruz, thank you. We're going to continue on this notion of readiness and experience. I'm going to come back.

TRUMP: Am I allowed to respond? I have to respond.

MUIR: If you would like to respond, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: First of all, I respect what Ted just said, but if you noticed, he didn't answer your question.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz, February 6, 2016, during the GOP presidential debate hosted by ABC News. David Muir was among the hosts, and Republican presidential contender Donald Trump one of the participants.

Comment: Trump is correct that Cruz evaded the question. In particular, he used the "voters must decide" evasion. As Muir noted, Cruz has previously expressed his opinion on whether Trump is suited to be president; why can't he repeat it, rather than saying it's "for the voters to decide"?

When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) last month mocked Donald Trump’s “New York values,” it wasn’t entirely clear what he was implying. This week we got a clue: For Cruz, “New York” is another way of saying “Jewish.” At an event in New Hampshire, Cruz, the Republican Iowa caucuses winner, was asked about campaign money he and his wife borrowed from Goldman Sachs. Cruz, asserting that Trump had “upward of $480 million of loans from giant Wall Street banks,” said: “For him to make this attack, to use a New York term, it’s the height of chutzpah.” Cruz, pausing for laughter after the phrase “New York term,” exaggerated the guttural “ch” to more laughter and applause. But “chutzpah,” of course, is not a “New York” term. It’s a Yiddish — a Jewish — one. And using “New York” as a euphemism for “Jewish” has long been an anti-Semitic dog whistle.
-- Pundit Dana Milbank, February 5, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Comment: Milbank is accusing Cruz of using code words, and bigoted ones, at that. Is the fact that Cruz criticizes "New York values" and then later uses the word "chutzpah" really a sound argument for claiming he's anti-Semitic? Yes, "chutzpah" is a "New York" word in the sense that it's Yiddish, and New York – having a large Jewish community – was the place for a lot of Yiddish words to enter the vocabulary of the U.S. But "bodega" and "deli" are similarly "New York" terms, stemming from Puerto Rican Spanish and German, respectively: does that mean "New York" is synonymous with "Puerto Rican" or "German"? It seems like Milbank is demonizing Cruz with a flimsy argument.

On Wednesday, Rep. Steve King summoned Ben Carson to a meeting at Carson's Washington hotel to express regret for his role in spreading the rumor just before the Iowa caucuses began that Carson was withdrawing from the presidential race.

"There was no malice on my part," King, a prominent surrogate for Iowa winner Ted Cruz, said in a phone interview. "We shook hands and we're done. We don’t have to discuss it again."

But that sentiment has become wishful thinking for the Cruz campaign.

Four days after winning the Iowa caucuses, Cruz's team is still struggling to answer questions about whether it relied on trickery to pad its lead by convincing Iowans that Carson — a rival for evangelical votes — was dropping out of the race. What the Cruz campaign initially called a knee-jerk response to ambiguous news reports has been revealed to be a more coordinated effort to steer Carson voters to the Cruz camp amid the chaotic caucus atmosphere.

Cruz's surrogates and staff are exasperated by all the attention.

"As long as Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and, to a significantly lesser degree, Ben Carson can benefit from this, they will push it," King said. "It’s beyond the point where the facts matter. They’ll always continue to attack the credibility of Ted Cruz.” King added that he's not convinced that Carson actually did intend to drop out, suggesting that he might have reversed course after the Cruz issue erupted.
-- Rep. Steve King (R-IA), from a February 5, 2016, Politico story by Kyle Cheney.

Comment: King is accusing Cruz's critics of not caring about facts.

"Just got an e-mail here during the break. "Dear Rush: I'm missing something here in this outrage. I'm missing something in this outrage directed at Cruz. Trump, Palin, Carson all sound whiny to me. What in the world do they think they're doing? What business are they in, here?" Folks, maybe that describes some of you, the (crying) aspect of this. What it means, is Cruz is the front-runner. And this is apparently the only way they can go after him. I guess they don't think they can go after him on issues. I guess they don't see any other way to go at him. You know they're gonna go after the front-runner. I mean, it's part of the race. It's the name of the game here. Now, it does matter, I think, what you go after the front-runner on. You do run the risk of sounding -- I don't know -- whiny. I don't know what it is, but you gotta realize what business you're in here. But if there were a way to solidly attack Cruz on issues or substance, I think they would do that, too, and so far it's just about whatever his campaign did with Dr. Carson."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 3, 2016, commenting on criticism of Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cruz was being criticized for his campaign's behavior during the Iowa Caucus, in which they spread the false word that Republican presidential contender Ben Carson was dropping out of the GOP nomination process.

Comment: The seems like ad hominem reasoning. Limbaugh is dismissing the criticisms of Cruz on the grounds that his critics are losing to Cruz. Perhaps they are motivated by "sour grapes", but that doesn't mean their criticism is false.

GUTHRIE: Some of your Democratic allies, Democratic leaders have said point blank that Bernie Sanders – a democratic socialist, as he describes himself – cannot win a general election, that Republicans cannot wait to have an ad that has the hammer and the sickle. You have kind of tiptoed around it. But this is crunch time. If you believe it, why not come right out and say it: "Bernie Sanders, you may love him, Iowa voters, but he cannot win a general election"?

CLINTON: Well I know, Savannah, that is exactly what a lot of Democrats are saying, a lot of elected Democrats, people who want to take back the Senate in the 2016 election, want to add to the numbers of Democrats in the House, and maybe make some progress –

GUTHRIE: Are you saying it?

CLINTON: – in governors and state legislatures. But I think it's fair to say that he has to run his campaign, and present his views. We have differences, and I've been pointing out those differences. I think that it's important for me to tell voters what I want to achieve, and how I will go about doing that. Because I want them to hold me accountable. Then it's going to be up to caucus goers tonight, primary voters next in New Hampshire, to decide who they think offers the best path forward to keep the progress that we've made going.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, February 1, 2016, during an interview with Savannah Guthrie of NBC News. The question concerned Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: This is an evasion. Clinton never answers the question of whether Sanders is electable in the general election, instead claiming that other Democrats believe Sanders is un-electable, and apparently saying the "voters must decide" whether they think Sanders can win. Of course, one of the ways for voters to decide whether they think voters can win is to consider the opinion of other Democrats, such as Clinton. Ironically, Clinton declares she wants to be "held accountable" even as she isn't answering the question that's been put to her.

TAPPER: You said – quote – "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e- mails." Should voters take from those comments that you think nothing was done was wrong when it comes to how Secretary Clinton handled classified information? Or is that not a fair –

SANDERS: No. No, that is not, I think, a fair assessment. I think this is a very serious issue. I think there is a legal process right now taking place. And what I have said -- and -- you know, and I get criticized. You know, Bernie, why don't you attack Hillary Clinton? There is a legal process taking place. I do not want to politicize that issue. It is not my style.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), January 31, 2016, during an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN. The question concerned Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the investigation of her use of a private email server during her time as head of the State Department.

Comment: How would it be "politicizing" for Sanders to express an opinion on whether he thinks Clinton's use of a private email server was appropriate? How would it be incompatible with the ongoing investigation (which sounds like an evasion)?

COSMOPOLITAN: Donald Trump has called your dad an abuser of women, and your mom his enabler. What do you think of his attacks on your parents?

CLINTON: I find what Donald Trump — and many of the Republicans, because it's not only Mr. Trump — say about Americans far more troubling than what he says about my parents.
-- Chelsea Clinton, from an interview with Cosmopolitan Magazine released January 31, 2016. The question concerned her parents: former President Bill Clinton, and Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: Does Clinton really answer the question? She says she finds Trump's rhetoric about Americans more troubling than the accusations about her father and mother, but that leaves open the matter of whether the accusations about her parents are true or troubling at all.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: January 31, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Trump has stoked xenophobic fears and used his crass showmanship to mark out this territory. His tactics of strong demagoguery make it completely understandable to lament his success.
-- Pundit Salena Zito, January 31, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Zito is accusing Trump of bigotry, and of being a demagogue.

"You look at Trump supporters, and they're dehumanizing people. Donald Trump is doing it. They're dehumanizing anybody who stands against them." They're fat, they're pigs, they're losers, they're cry babies", whatever they are. And he talks about women, as you know, it's even worse. When you dehumanize people, you head for massive, massive trouble. Where is the press speaking out about the dehumanization of people by Donald Trump? All we heard, all we heard about the Tea Party is, how "this rhetoric is going to lead to violence". I'm telling you, when you dehumanize people, you are one step away from the jungle."
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, January 29, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Beck is accusing Trump and his supporters of dehumanizing their opponents. He is also accusing some critics of the Tea Party movement for being hypocritical in suggesting that the rhetoric of the Tea Party was inciting violence (e.g., the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ)), but not denouncing Trump's rhetoric on the same grounds. Is it true that dehumanizing rhetoric puts us "one step away from the jungle", or is that an exaggeration?

Hillary Clinton campaign strategist Joel Benenson made an eyebrow-raising claim Friday on CNN, accusing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) of running the most negative Democratic primary campaign in history.

Sanders has aired ads attacking Wall Street and big banks without naming Clinton, who has received huge speaking fees from Goldman Sachs, but he has also made it clear he would not engage in personal mud-slinging during the campaign.

“I think he’s going negative,” Benenson said. “I think he’s probably running the most negative campaign of any Democratic presidential candidate.”

“You think so?” anchor Kate Bolduan asked.

“I think so, in a presidential primary season, yes,” Benenson said. “I think he’s been more personal in his attacks. I think he’s been increasing it on the stump recently, and I do, I can’t think of one. Even in a very hard-fought campaign in 2008, I don’t think we had the range of negativity on either side, and I was on Obama’s side then, that we’ve had now.”
-- Political strategist Joel Benenson, January 29, 2016, as related in a story by David Rutz of The Washington Free Beacon.

Comment: Benenson is accusing Sanders of "negative politics", without defining the term. He is also indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature.

"Yes, it's true that she voted for the Iraq War, but I gotta tell ya, how many years ago was that now?"
-- Karen Kinney, a spokesperson for the campaign of Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 29, 2016. Kinney was referring to Clinton's 2002 vote authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

Comment: Should we dismiss Clinton's vote because it was a long time ago? Should we also dismiss any of her praiseworthy accomplishments if they happened before 2002?

U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday escalated a fight with Fox News, using the word "bimbo" in a derogatory tweet about anchorwoman Megyn Kelly after pulling out of a debate only days before the first nominating contest of the 2016 campaign.

Trump on Tuesday withdrew from the televised encounter, scheduled for Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa, in irritation at host Fox News for allowing Kelly to moderate after her questioning angered him in a debate last year.

The real estate magnate, who is the Republican front-runner to win the nomination for the Nov. 8 presidential election, followed up with a thinly veiled insult on Wednesday.

"I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct," he wrote on Twitter. "Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!"
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, January 27, 2016, as related in a Reuters story by Megan Cassella, Susan Heavey and Dustin Volz. Trump was referring to Megyn Kelly of Fox News.

Comment: "Bimbo" is intended to be derisive in sexual terms. Despite the fact that Trump says he won't use the word because it wouldn't be politically correct, he's repeatedly declared that he's not bound by political correctness.

"However, the people have seen all the people come along for the last 15 years and say, 'I'm a Republican. We're going to have a humble foreign policy. We're going to cut back government spending.' And yet, they have run the tables on government spending and huge foreign entanglements that hasn't made our country very strong. So I think the people claiming that Trump is not a conservative, they haven't been very conservative. So everybody's credibility is shot and a couple of guys who have come around like Trump and Cruz and they turned everyone's consciousness upside down."
-- Pundit Laura Ingraham, January 26, 2016. Her remarks referred to the critics of Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Ingraham is saying that some of the critics of Trump are being hypocritical, accusing Trump of not being conservative while they themselves have also failed on that score. Is this an ad hominem argument?

"I think it's imperative you do your very best, every president, and certainly, I will, to avoid military action. It should be the last resort, not the first choice, to use diplomacy, even if it's slow, boring, hard to continue to persist and be patient to get results."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 25, 2016, during the Democratic Presidential Candidates Town Hall Meeting, hosted by Chris Cuomo of CNN.

Comment: This is a platitude: everyone believes military action should be the last resort (or at least not the first choice) when it comes to foreign policy. Clinton seems to be caricaturing her opponents (it's not clear if it's her Democratic or Republican opponents), suggesting that their first response to a foreign policy challenge will be to use military force.

"Now, when you focus just narrowly on economic inequality, I've also been in that fight. I was in that fight during my husband's administration. And let's remember what happened there. At the end of eight years, we not only had 23 million new jobs, what was most important is incomes grew for everybody, not just those at the top, more people were lifted out of poverty, incomes rose, in the middle and working people. And today in Knoxville, in my town hall, I called on a man. He said, we never had it so good except when your husband was president. Because we tackled income equality and produced results, not talk, action. And that's what I will do as president."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 25, 2016, during the Democratic Presidential Candidates Town Hall Meeting, hosted by Chris Cuomo of CNN. Her remarks referred to the administration of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Comment: This is false causation (aka, "cum hoc ergo propter hoc") reasoning. Just because the economy was good while Bill Clinton was president doesn't mean it was good because Bill Clinton was president. Correlation is not causation. Besides, presidents don't influence the economy on their own, they collaborate on economic policy with Congress, and, for much of Bill Clinton's presidency, he faced a Republican Congress that opposed much of what he wanted to do. (Moreover, some might question whether the economy was truly good while Bill Clinton was president.)

"I'm running for president of the United States. And the reason I'm running is this. Our country is facing big challenges. And we have deep divisions in our country. And we need a candidate who can actually pull us together, who can heal these divisions, who can get things done. That's what I've done all my life. I'm not a divider. If I were, I would not have been able to accomplish the things we accomplished in a very troubled city or in our state through a recession."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD), January 25, 2016, during the Democratic Presidential Candidates Town Hall Meeting, hosted by Chris Cuomo of CNN.

Comment: This is "unify the country" rhetoric.

"I like Hillary Clinton and I respect Hillary Clinton. And Hillary Clinton has devoted her life to public service and I have tried, as I hope you all know, not to run a negative campaign, not to be attacking every other day, to keep this discussion on a high level, where we debate the issues facing this country. And by the way, with a few exceptions, we're doing a lot better than the Republicans in that regard. But on the other hand, that's not a very high bar to reach … Look, Hillary Clinton is a very good person. Martin O'Malley is a very decent guy. So I'm not -- you know, this is not a -- personal stuff. It just seems to me that the crises that we face as a country today, and we didn't even get into climate change to a significant degree: inequality, poverty in America, an obscene and unfair campaign finance system. These problems are so serious that we have got to go beyond establishment politics and establishment economics."
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), January 25, 2016, during the Democratic Presidential Candidates Town Hall Meeting, hosted by Chris Cuomo of CNN. His remarks referred to Democratic presidential contenders former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD).

Comment: First, Sanders seems to be using "hate the policies, not the person" rhetoric with respect to Clinton and O'Malley. Second, Sanders denounces (and claims he hasn't resorted to) "negative politics", without clarifying exactly what counts as negative (other than saying it's "not personal"). Lastly, Sanders claims that Republicans are worse than Democrats when it comes to negative politics, which is the "only my opponent" caricature.

SANDERS: It is time, in my view, for us to have the courage to take on the insurance companies, take on the drug companies and provide health care to all people at an affordable cost.

CUOMO: The criticism is to pay for this, what you're really asking for is one of the biggest tax hikes in history. And that is the criticism.

SANDERS: But, Chris, that is an unfair criticism for the following reason. If you are paying now $10,000 a year to a private health insurance company and I say to you, hypothetically, you're going to pay $5,000 more in taxes -- or actually less than that, but you're not going to pay any more private health insurance, are you going to be complaining about the fact that I've saved you $5,000 in your total bills? So it's demagogic to say oh, you're paying more in taxes. Let's also talk about we are going to liminate -- eliminate private health insurance premiums and payments not only for individuals, but for businesses, as well.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), January 25, 2016, during the Democratic Presidential Candidates Town Hall Meeting, hosted by Chris Cuomo of CNN.

Comment: It may be false or misleading to say that taxes would have to be raised to pay for Sanders' policies, but would it be "demagogic"? Are false or misleading statements only made by demagogues?

Noam Chomsky would “absolutely” choose Hillary Clinton over the Republican nominee if he lived in a swing state, but her primary challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, “doesn’t have much of a chance," the MIT professor and intellectual said in a recent interview.

Chomsky, who lives in the blue state of Massachusetts, said he would vote for Clinton if he lived in a swing state such as Ohio.

“Oh absolutely…my vote would be against the Republican candidate,” Chomsky told Al Jazeera English’s Mehdi Hasan in a two-part interview — part of which will air Friday on “UpFront.”

Chomsky cited “enormous differences” between the two major political parties. “Every Republican candidate is either a climate change denier or a skeptic who says we can’t do it,” Chomsky said. “What they are saying is, ‘Let’s destroy the world.’ Is that worth voting against? Yeah.”
-- Pundit Noam Chomsky, as related in a January 25, 2016, story by Nolan McCaskill of Politico.

Comment: It's one thing to criticize people who are skeptical about whether global warming is real and whether we can do anything about it – which seems to be Chomsky's initial criticism – but it's another to accuse people of intentionally wanting to destroy the world – which would seem to mean believing that global warming is real. Chomsky's rhetoric is both demonizing and contradictory.

The Des Moines Register likely broke new ground when it endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination on Saturday. The Register may be the first major newspaper to endorse a major-party presidential candidate under investigation by the FBI at the time of the endorsement. The time stamp at the editorial's link is currently and inexplicably this morning, but pundits and bloggers have been commenting on it for two days, and Google News says the endorsement is from "2 days ago." This time disconnect seems fitting, as it reflects how disconnected from reality the Register's editorial board had to be on so many levels to make its endorsement.
-- Pundit Tom Blumer, January 25, 2016.

Comment: This is "divorced from reality" rhetoric.

But maybe logic has nothing to do it. Trump’s rivals have attacked the tycoon, calling him a jerk for making fun of a handicapped journalist, a bully and a racist for his plans to ban all Muslims. They have attacked his policy proposals for being unworkable. But none of this seems to matter. His polls numbers have gone up, not down. Maybe that’s because to Trump’s supporters, the facts don’t matter. They have their opinions and by God they are going to defend them. James Madison once said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” That proposition is being put to the test in this election cycle.
-- Pundit John Feehery, January 25, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Feehery is accusing Trump supporters of not caring about facts and logic.

My friends and colleagues have said in National Review’s recently published symposium almost everything that there is to be said on the matter of Donald Trump, the vicious demagogue who currently leads the Republican presidential pack in national polls. I myself have written a small book on the subject. Forgive me for turning to one other aspect of the question, which is that the candidacy of Donald Trump is something that could not happen in a nation that could read. This is the full flower of post-literate politics.
-- Pundit Kevin Williamson, January 24, 2016.

Comment: Williamson is using "demagogue" rhetoric, as well as "stupid" rhetoric in describing Trump supporters as not being literate.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: January 24, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Wacko @glennbeck is a sad answer to the @SarahPalinUSA endorsement that Cruz so desperately wanted. Glenn is a failing, crying, lost soul!

Word is that crying @GlennBeck left the GOP and doesn't have the right to vote in the Republican primary. Dumb as a rock.
-- Tweets from Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, January 21, 2016, and January 23, 2016, referring to pundit Glenn Beck.

Comment: Trump is resorting to name-calling of the "stupid" variety.

"So from the get-go, the Republican establishment as well, mystifying me from day one, started making fun of and ragging on the Tea Party, right along with the Democrats. The Democrats led the charge on it along with the media. A bunch of hayseeds, bunch of hicks, you know, the usual ad hominem attacks."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, January 21, 2016.

Comment: Calling people "hicks" and so forth is name-calling, not ad hominem reasoning. Limbaugh appears to be conflating the two.

"I don't think Sarah Palin signed up with Trump because he's conservative. I don't think Sarah Palin's doing what she's doing to advance conservatism here. I don't want to put words in her mouth, and this is probably gonna be misunderstood. But what has -- I don't know. In trying to explain -- and I'm not trying to justify anything. I'm just trying to explain to you people, and I touched on this yesterday, there are a lot of people that tried to do great damage to Sarah Palin, and some of them are Republicans, and some of them call themselves conservatives."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, January 21, 2016, discussing former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) and her endorsement of Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Limbaugh is drawing a distinction between explanation and justification.

"So, the Republicans can do what they do best: they distract, divide, and demonize. Leave no smear behind."
-- President Bill Clinton, January 19, 2016, during a campaign event for his wife, Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: Clinton is accusing Republicans of resorting to distractions, divisive rhetoric, and of demonizing. He is potentially leaving the impression that this something that Republicans (but not Democrats) normally do, which is the "only my opponent" caricature.

HAYES: Michael [Brendan Dougherty], writing about the Trump campaign, says, "What so frightens the conservative movement about Trump's success is he reveals just how thin the support for their ideas really is. His campaign is a rebuke to their institutions. It says the Republican Party doesn't need all these think tanks, all this supposed policy expertise. It says look at these people calling themselves libertarians and conservatives, the ones in tassel-loafers and bow ties. Have they made you more free? Have their endless policy papers and studies and books conserved anything for you? These people are worthless. They are defunct. You don't need them, and you're better off without them." What do you think of that, Rick?

WILSON: Well, look, first off, I think that`s absurd. I think that there is definitely still a very significant portion of the party that is a limited government conservatism based faction of the overall coalition. Now, the screamers and the crazy people on the alt-right as they call it, you know, who love Donald Trump, who have plenty of Hitler iconography in their Twitter icons –

HAYES: They sure do. I can back that up.

WILSON: Who think Donald Trump is the greatest thing, oh, it`s something. But the fact of the matter is, most of them are childless single men who masturbate to anime. They`re not real and political players. These are not people who matter in the overall course of humanity.
-- Republican strategist Rick Wilson, January 19, 2016, being interviewed by Chris Hayes of MSNBC. At issue was an article written by pundit Michael Brendan Dougherty, discussing Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Wilson is name-calling, deriding Trump supporters as being inconsequential and sexually deviant.

"You defended New Yorkers after Senator Cruz said that you embodied New York values. You were insulted. Governor Cuomo said he was insulted. Some New York pundits, including from FOX and FOX Business Channel, said they were insulted. There are some observers out there who think that when Ted Cruz talks about New York values, he's invoking something else. He's talking about, in their view, ethnics, Jews. What do you think he means?"
-- CNN's Jake Tapper, January 15, 2016, interviewing Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Tapper is suggesting Cruz may be using code words, and bigoted ones at that.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: January 17, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"The foreign policy section was completely disconnected from reality. He actually spoke of Syria as some kind of a success --that we were working to put together this country, where Obama, arguably, was incredibly responsible for the collapse of the country, 250,000 deaths, and the refugee crisis, acting against the advice of all his advisers, so he's talking about a world that really doesn't exist."
-- Charles Krauthammer, January 12, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama's remarks during the State of the Union address that day.

Comment: Krauthammer is accusing Obama of being divorced from reality.

"The future we want -- all of us want -- opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids -- all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics. A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country -- different regions, different attitudes, different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security. But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America."
-- President Barack Obama, January 12, 2016, during the State of the Union address.

Comment: Obama is calling for a higher standard of debate, and to not demonize political opponents as unpatriotic.

"Now we move on to CNN's Reliable Sources. This is their version of the media navel-gazing. This is the show where the media analyzes itself and supposedly calls out its problems or sings its own praises. Michael Harrison is the guest. He's the publisher and editor of Talkers magazine. Brian Stelter, the host, says, "Do you credit talk radio with Donald Trump's success in the past six, seven --" Now, that question, let me explain the question. People on the left -- and remember, I made a point of this last week. You have to understand the way these questions are asked and where they come from, and it's not just the Democrats. The Republicans are the same way. When it comes to you, people they think are considered to be average, ordinary Americans, you must understand one thing: They do not believe you are capable of independent thought. Whatever you think, if it goes against what they want to believe, if you happen to support things they don't think should be, if you believe things they don't think should be, then somebody's to blame for making them think that, for making you think that, and it's always been me. Talk radio has always been blamed for what you do and what you think. And Brian Stelter (obviously schooled in this art) thinks the same thing, that you are incapable making up your own mind about anything. You're incapable, otherwise you'd be a good liberal. You'd be a good liberal and willingly turn over your life to the government. You don't want to do that. You want to turn your life over to talk radio. Therefore, you are mentally disabled. You are incompetent; you're incapable."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, January 11, 2016.

Comment: Limbaugh is accusing certain people (Democrats, Republicans, and media) of caricaturing talk radio listeners as stupid.

I'm not like the Republicans, who pick a position and stick with it regardless of evidence and try to, you know, live in an evidence-free zone the best they can.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 11, 2016, during interview with the editorial board of The Des Moines Register.

Comment: Clinton is accusing Republicans of not caring about truth.

QUESTIONER: Is some of this trust issue, fairly or otherwise, can some of that be traced back to the fact that your position has evolved on several key issues, do you think?

CLINTON: Well I don't see why. I don't know anybody whose positions haven't evolved. Why would I be held responsible for evolving positions, which I think is a strength as you learn more. But if you mention specific positions then I'm more than happy to respond. If I'm the only person ever running for office in America who has – quote – evolved positions, I would be surprised.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 11, 2016, during interview with the editorial board of The Des Moines Register.

Comment: Clinton is arguing that flip-flopping is not necessarily a bad thing.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton declined on Monday to say if she has been in communication with any of the women involved in the sex scandals during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Asked if she has had any interactions with them, or feels empathy for any of them, Clinton told The Des Moines Register: “No, I have nothing to say and I will leave it to voters to determine whether any of that is at all relevant to their decision.”
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 11, 2016, during interview with the editorial board of The Des Moines Register.

Comment: This is an evasion, of the "not my decision" kind. Why can't Clinton state whether she's had any contact with the women involved in her husband's sex scandal, and whether she has any empathy for them? And, of course voters will have to decide whether Bill Clinton's behavior is relevant to her candidacy, but that doesn't mean she can't express an opinion on the matter, does it?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: January 10, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Chris Christie on Wednesday conceded that he changed his mind on guns.

Fox News host Sean Hannity pressed the New Jersey governor on his gun stance, noting that he supported an assault weapons ban in 1995, called GOP opponents who wanted to repeal it “dangerous,” “crazy” and “radical,” and ran against opposition to concealed carry laws in 2009.

“Well listen, in 1995, Sean, I was 32 years old and I’ve changed my mind,” Christie said. “And the biggest reason that I changed my mind was my seven years as a federal prosecutor. What I learned in those seven years was that we were spending much too much time talking about gun laws against law-abiding citizens and not nearly enough time talking about enforcing the gun laws strongly against criminals.”
-- Republican presidential contender Gov. Chris Christie, January 6, 2016, as related in a story by Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico.

Comment: Christie is acknowledging that (and explaining why) he flip-flopped on gun policy.

Ted Cruz has a strong ground game in Iowa
-- Pundit Alexander Nazaryan, January 6, 2016, in a tweet including a photo of Nazis.

Comment: Nazaryan is demonizing Cruz, accusing him of being bigoted (or comparing him to bigots, perhaps comically) .

Few things are sadder or more treacherous than closing the door to immigrants who came after us, which is what some U.S. presidential candidates want to do. … Of course, most incomprehensible for many Hispanics is that the two Latino candidates, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have taken such a harsh stance against immigrants who are here simply because they’re doing the jobs that Americans won’t do. Both Rubio and Cruz have broken a decadeslong tradition in which Hispanic politicians, no matter their family origins or political affiliations, tended to defend the most vulnerable immigrants in this country. … Apparently that legacy no longer applies. “No one running for president knows more about immigration than me,” Rubio recently said during a speech in New Hampshire. Yet Rubio and Cruz are struggling to see who can demonstrate the harshest opposition to offering undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Simply put: Rubio and Cruz don’t want new immigrants to have the same opportunities that their own parents had. … There is no greater disloyalty than the children of immigrants forgetting their own roots. That’s a betrayal.
-- Pundit Jorge Ramos, January 5, 2016.

Comment: Ramos is demonizing Cruz and Rubio, suggesting they are anti-immigrant. They have not blocked off opportunities for all immigrants whatsoever; rather, they have refused to support certain reforms directed at immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

"We have listened to liberals all of our lives. We know exactly what they want to do. And those of us who've been paying attention know exactly how they go about it. We know how they go about getting everything they want. If they have to deflect, if they have to lie, if they have to distract, if they have to state that exactly what they want is not what, whatever. We know what they want. They want ultimate power and control. We know why. They have contempt for average, ordinary Americans and every other type person, don't think they're capable of leading their own lives responsibly and don't even want to give them the chance to. It's just an unquenchable thirst that they have for power and control over people. And getting guns out of the hands of people would represent the pinnacle of wresting control, wresting freedom and liberty away from people and gaining control over them. … Don't be fooled. He's not worried about the criminals getting guns; that's not his focus. His target is on the innocent. Everybody, every liberal Democrat, every gun control advocate wherever you find them, in order to succeed, they have to take guns away from the law-abiding. … Don't be fooled. He's not worried about the criminals getting guns; that's not his focus. His target is on the innocent. Everybody, every liberal Democrat, every gun control advocate wherever you find them, in order to succeed, they have to take guns away from the law-abiding."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, January 5, 2016, responding to President Barack Obama's gun policy speech that day.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing Obama and liberals, claiming they don't support gun control with the goal of protecting people, but that they instead seek to control people and take away their freedom. This is also the "they'll say anything" caricature, as well as "distraction" rhetoric.

"What he’s proposing would not have prevented any past mass shooting. So why would it prevent the next one? So you’ve got a president indulging in an illusion. … And that’s why the issue of guns is such an insight into liberalism. Because what happens here is – what matters should be the results. … We’ve got this moral posturing, feel-good politics, it doesn’t matter to the left, what they propose will not stop gun violence, it just makes them feel good like they are doing something positive. They think it looks good, they think it sounds good, and the fact that no lives are going to be saved by what the President’s proposing doesn’t matter. That shows you how shallow modern liberalism is, and how it’s all about emotion rather than reason, and the appearance rather than reality. … But I’m watching him cry with tears streaming down his cheeks, now maybe it was genuine, to him – I can’t read the guy’s heart. … You’ve got an Alinskyite, master politician and a demagogue attempting to use emotion to counter reason."
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, January 5, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama's gun policy speech that day, during which Obama cried while referring the the Newtown school shooting.

Comment: Hannity is accusing Obama (and liberals more generally) of being divorced from reality, intentionally rejecting reason and facts. He is also using "demagogue" rhetoric.

MATTHEWS: I want to try to help you for this audience tonight, our audience, locate yourself politically in this country. Now, we have Trump out there and we have Bernie out here. Now, Bernie calls himself a socialist. Nobody uses [it as] a derogatory term anymore. He loves to have that label. He's never ran as a Democrat, he runs against Democrats up there in Vermont. You're a Democrat. I would say you're a pretty typical Democrat, in the traditional Democratic Party. And [Hubert] Humphry and the rest of them. Scoop [Jackson], not even Scoop, I’d say Mondale, you’re somewhere in there. What's the difference between a socialist and a Democrat? Is that a question you want to answer or you’d rather not, politically.

CLINTON: Well, you’d have to ask –

MATTHEWS: Well, see, I'm asking you. You're a Democrat, he's a socialist. Would you like somebody to call you a socialist? I wouldn’t like somebody calling me a socialist.

CLINTON: But I'm not one. I mean, I’m not one.

MATTHEWS: OK, what's the difference between a socialist and a Democrat? That’s the question.

CLINTON: I can tell you what I am. I am a Progressive Democrat.

MATTHEWS: How is that different than a socialist?

CLINTON: I'm a Progressive Democrat who likes to get things done and who believes that we are better off in this country when we're trying to solve problems together. Getting people to work together. There will always be strong feelings and I respect that, from, you know, the far right, the far left, libertarians, whoever it might be. We need to get people working together. We've got to get the economy fixed, we’ve got to get all of our problems, you know, really tackled and that's what I want to do.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 5, 2016, being interviewed by Chris Matthews of MSNBC, discussing Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Clinton never answers Matthews' question. How is a Progressive Democrat different from a socialist? Is the difference in goals, or do they have the same goals but different strategies to reach them? What is it about socialism that Clinton disagrees with such that she won't call herself a socialist? Clinton never clarifies that issue, which is the essence of Matthews' question. If someone heard her description of what it means to be a Progressive Democrat and said, "Oh, that's socialism!", how would she respond? How would she rebut that claim? Also, don't socialists also believe we should try to solve problems, and to do so together? Isn't Clinton caricaturing them?

So I can just imagine Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s inner voice giving him advice in his usual fact-free zone — the same voice that told him he “watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down” — though we now know there was no such scene. None.
-- Pundit Lanny Davis, January 5, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Davis is accusing Trump of not caring about facts.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: I'm interested in your response to Donald's comment that you and President Obama created ISIS.

CLINTON: I've adopted a New Year's resolution: I'm going to let him live in his alternative reality and I'm not going to respond.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 4, 2016, answering a question at a campaign event concerning remarks by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump. Trump said Clinton and President Barack Obama were responsible for the existence of The Islamic State.

Comment: Clinton is accusing Trump of being divorced from reality, while also evading the question (on the grounds that she's not going to dignify such a falsely presumptuous question with a response).

BASH: OK. Donald Trump says that Bill Clinton's sexual history is fair game. Do you agree?

SANDERS: I think that Donald Trump might want to concern himself with the fact that he's dead wrong when he says we should not raise the minimum wage, he's dead wrong when he says that wages in America are too high, he's dead wrong when he thinks we should give huge tax breaks to billionaires like himself, and he's dead wrong when he thinks that climate change is a hoax, when the entire -- virtually an entire scientific community thinks it's the great environmental crisis that we face.

BASH: Senator...

SANDERS: Maybe Trump should worry about those issues, rather than Bill Clinton's sex life.

BASH: Only Bernie Sanders can segue from Bill Clinton's sex life to climate change. That was impressive.

SANDERS: All right.

BASH: But what is the answer to the question? Is it fair game or not?

SANDERS: No. I think we have got more important things to worry about in this country than Bill Clinton's sex life.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), January 3, 2016, being interviewed by Dana Bash of CNN.

Comment: Sanders initially evades the question. His eventual answer doesn't really say whether Clinton's sexual history is a relevant topic of discussion, he only says that there are more important topics.