Monday, March 10, 2008

Rhetoric: Exaggeration and Apocalypse

Have you ever heard a politician or pundit say something like this?
"Our nation faces a significant problem. Both I and my opponent have each offered a plan to deal with this problem. My plan will fix this problem, and so will their plan. However, my plan works a bit better overall, so on this issue, at least, you would do better to pick me. Rest assured though, in either case, the problem will be solved adequately."
Doesn't sound familiar, does it? But why not? Isn't it sometimes the case that two different parties both have adequate solutions to some problem or issue? Aren't we sometimes facing a problem that will have less than apocalyptic consequences?

Unfortunately, people in politics seldom describe things that way. Intentionally or not, with or without sinister motivations, they routinely describe us as facing a choice between heaven and hell, between utopia and disaster. And then they go on to say that only one candidate can solve the problem, while the other one will lead us to ruin. Perhaps I'm being a bit emphatic myself, here, but still, how many times have you ever heard a politician say that the situation wasn't a dire emergency, or that both he and his opponent could lead us to safety?

Instead, we're told how, if we choose the opponent, the economy will fall apart, the nation will crumble, people will die, etc. It's commonplace for politicians to make all sorts of dire predictions about the calamity and apocalypse that awaits us if we vote for the other party, predictions that hardly ever come true.

And this is all done to excite people, to worry them, to make them think that the situation is desperate so that they will act in a certain way (in particular, to vote for or support some particular cause or candidate). And that's fine, so long as the situation really is desperate, so long as it really is the case that we're facing a calamity, and that there really is only one candidate who can save us. But how often is this true? It seems like politicians describe every issue, every piece of legislation, every election as being do-or-die, and yet hardly any of these predicted apocalypses has come to pass. And no one ever takes responsibility for these exaggerations, either. No one admits that their prediction of disaster was false, let alone apologizes for it.

So, the next time you're presented with a do-or-die scenario by a politician, don't just give in to emotions of desperation and fear. Ask yourself if the scenario is accurate, if there's only one person who can fix it, or if this is just the same old story.

So when people ask me why I am running, I quickly answer: I am running to give back to this country which has been so good to me. When I see the crumbling roads and bridges, or the dilapidated airports, or the factories moving overseas to Mexico, or to other countries, I know these problems can all be fixed, but not by Hillary Clinton – only by me. The fact is, we can come back bigger and better and stronger than ever before --Jobs, jobs, jobs! Everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what our country could be. But we can’t solve any of these problems by relying on the politicians who created them.
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 22, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: First of all, what is Trump's evidence that Clinton created the problems that America faces, and that only Trump and no one else can solve them? Isn't that an exaggeration? Second, since when can't problems be fixed by the people who created them? Haven't you ever broken something and then fixed it?

"We have been dealing, in the last seven years, with an unprecedented level of obstructionism against President Obama. Literally, it turns out, on the day that Obama was inaugurated, Republicans came together and said, what are we going to do? And what they concluded is we're going to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct, make it as difficult as he could to do anything. Now, we have had to fight through that and I've been at the president's side time and time again, getting a stimulus bill through when we were in the midst of a horrendous recession, The Affordable Care Act, etc. etc. etc. But what you are seeing today in this Supreme Court situation is nothing more than the continuous and unprecedented obstructionism that President Obama has gone through. And this -- and this is on top of this birther issue, which we heard from Donald Trump and others, a racist effort to try to de-legitimize the president of the United States."
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), February 23, 2016.

Comment: Sanders is accusing Republicans of obstruction. He says that the the "birther" movement that claimed Obama wasn't born in the U.S.A. – and perhaps the obstruction from Republicans more generally? – is based on bigotry. His remarks involve a variety of generalizations and exaggerations: how many Republicans "came together" and declared they would obstruct everything Obama wanted to do? How many Republicans supported the "birther" movement? And, in opposing any piece of Obama's agenda, how many Republicans did it as a matter of racism against Obama as opposed to a legitimate difference of opinion? Is Sanders part of an effort to "delegitimize" all opposition to Obama, or would that also be an exaggeration?

"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?

Washington Post depicts Ted Cruz’s children as monkeys. And won’t apologize for it.
-- Pundit Moe Lane, December 23rd, 2015, referring to a Washington Post cartoon created by Ann Telnaes and published the previous day. The cartoon accused Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) of using his two daughters (aged 5 and 7) as "political props" by putting them in his campaign commercials. It did so with a drawing of Cruz as an organ grinder, and the children as monkeys held on leashes.

Comment: There are legitimate questions about whether children of politicians should be the target of political debate, or whether children should be involved in political campaigns; I leave those issues aside for now. Lane (and others, like Cruz himself) have accused Telnaes of denigrating Cruz's children, but I don't think that's correct. I think this is a case of mistaken "comparing" language. Telnaes wasn't saying that Cruz's children were literally monkeys – that would be a case of "subhuman" name-calling – rather, she said they were being used to garner attention for his political campaign, analogous (I imagine, "comically" exaggerated, as cartoonists' satire goes) to the way organ grinders would use monkeys to collect money.

"If you look at over the last few days you’re seeing a lot of stories that Obamacare is collapsing of its own weight. And in 2017, unfortunately, you know, if it’s gonna go, let it go now, so that he has to straighten it out, but he’s not going to straighten it out correctly. Because nothing he does is correct. No, nothing he does, if you think about it."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, December 2, 2015, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is an exaggeration; absolutely nothing Obama has done has been correct?

FINEMAN: The House needs a dictatorial leader, or nothing will ever happen. And the Tea Party people understandably don’t like that if the person in charge is a moderate that doesn’t agree with them politically. So, Paul Ryan has enough conservative chops that he can sort of try to unify the whole party. But, he’s going to be spending all his time trying to deal with these Tea Party people. What he’s probably going to have to do, if in fact he gets in, is stage some kind of fight with them and defeat them, or take away their power, or go after them. I don’t know if he’s got the guts to do that. I don’t know if he’s got the numbers to do it.

KORNHEISER: Are they like ISIS trying to establish a Caliphate here?

FINEMAN: Yes! Yes! That’s a very good analogy! Without the violence obviously, but they are, yes, they are a rejectionist front. They don't want to legislate. They think legislation is capitulation.
-- Sportscaster Tony Kornheiser and pundit Howard Fineman, October 23, 2015, discussing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his prospects to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Comment: Fineman is demonizing the Tea Party members of Congress by comparing them to ISIS (or even the House Speaker to a dictator). The Tea Party members aren't trying to set up anything like what ISIS wants – with or without violence – and they don't reject all legislating, they just don't like certain legislation that others are supporting. They aren't obstructionists who simply want to stop everything. When a president vetoes legislation, does that make them a "rejectionist"? Much of what Fineman is saying sounds exaggerated.

Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple. … But this new Republican faction regards the messy business of politics as soiled and impure. Compromise is corruption. Inconvenient facts are ignored. Countrymen with different views are regarded as aliens. Political identity became a sort of ethnic identity, and any compromise was regarded as a blood betrayal.
-- Pundit David Brooks, October 13, 2015.

Comment: This is the "only my opponent" caricature, saying that it is only Republicans and conservatives (or, in this case, certain Republicans and conservatives that Brooks is not allied with) have resorted to exaggerations and demonizing. Where is the evidence that Democrats, liberals, and progressives have not done the same? Also, Brooks is accusing Republicans of ignoring facts.

"So Obama's come out, and he added to this. He said that Hillary's illegal server was not a national security problem, which is rich coming from Obama, because Obama is America's number one national security problem, if you ask me. No, I'm not exaggerating, and I'm not going for laughs here. I really mean it. I think Barack Obama's our number one national security problem or risk, whether by accident, by design."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, October 13, 2015.

Comment: Saying that President Barack Obama is the highest national security threat to the United States – and that Obama might be taking that role intentionally – is both exaggerating and demonizing.

Ben Carson is hoping to awaken black voters to his campaign with a message of economic empowerment, saying the black community has been done a disservice by heeding political power overtures from Democrats.

Speaking to a small group of black leaders and activists last week, the retired neurosurgeon, who is surging in polling in the Republican presidential race, said he believes black Americans bring more power through the size of their bank account than by putting their “fist in the air.”

Mr. Carson said he generally shies away from focusing on race: “I say that’s because I’m a neurosurgeon, because everyone’s brain looks the same and it works the same way.”

But he said black voters should step beyond their allegiance to the Democratic Party.

“The Democrat Party, of course, is the party of the KKK. Of Jim Crow laws. And perhaps just as bad right now, of servitude. ‘Now you do this, and we’ll take care of you, pat you on the head, take care of all your needs.’ Which keeps people believing that’s what they actually need,” Mr. Carson told the small group.
-- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, as related by a September 29, 2015, Washington Times story by Stephen Dinan.

Comment: Carson is demonizing the Democratic Party using guilt by association. Yes, the Democratic Party used to support racist policies, but they don't anymore. More, it is an exaggeration to compare the plight of African-Americans today to their situation under Jim Crow laws and say the two are "perhaps just as bad"; they are nowhere near as bad as one another.

Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubts about the criminalization of Christianity in this country. We must defend #ReligiousLiberty!
-- Republican presidential candidate former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), September 3, 2015. His remarks concerned a county clerk in Kentucky, Davis, who was charged with contempt of court for refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple.

Comment: Is all of Christianity or are all Christians really being criminalized? This sounds like an exaggeration.

MoveOn wants to get New Yorkers moving against Sen. Chuck Schumer, their senior senator and the highest-ranking Democrat to oppose the controversial nuclear agreement.

According to details shared first with POLITICO, the liberal advocacy organization’s political action arm will next week launch a member-backed mobile billboard, dubbed the “SchumerMobile,” that will drive around New York City for five days in an attempt to publicly admonish Schumer and other Democrats who are pondering how they will vote next month on the resolution.

The mobile billboard features the words “MOST LIKELY TO START A WAR” with an arrow pointing to a red circle drawn around Schumer’s photo.
-- From an August 28, 2015, story in Politico by Nick Gass. The story concerns Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his opposition to a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Comment: Accusing Schumer of wanting (or being most likely) to start a war with Iran is exaggeration at best, if not demonizing.

"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.

"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?

"Now, we’ll still have problems with Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism; its funding of proxies like Hezbollah that threaten Israel and threaten the region; the destabilizing activities that they're engaging in, including in places like Yemen. And my hope is that building on this deal we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave. But we're not counting on it. So this deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior. It’s not contingent on Iran suddenly operating like a liberal democracy. It solves one particular problem, which is making sure they don't have a bomb. And the point I’ve repeatedly made -- and is, I believe, hard to dispute -- is that it will be a lot easier for us to check Iran’s nefarious activities, to push back against the other areas where they operate contrary to our interests or our allies’ interests, if they don't have a bomb. And so will they change their behavior? Will we seek to gain more cooperation from them in resolving issues like Syria, or what’s happening in Iraq, to stop encouraging Houthis in Yemen? We’ll continue to engage with them. Although, keep in mind that unlike the Cuba situation, we're not normalizing diplomatic relations here. So the contacts will continue to be limited. But will we try to encourage them to take a more constructive path? Of course. But we're not betting on it. … But the argument that I’ve been already hearing -- and this was foreshadowed even before the deal was announced -- that because this deal does not solve all those other problems, that that's an argument for rejecting this deal, defies logic. It makes no sense. And it loses sight of what was our original number-one priority, which is making sure that they don't have a bomb."
-- President Barack Obama, July 15, 2015, during a press conference in which he defended the deal reached on Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: This is at least an exaggeration, if not an accusation that the people making this objection are stupid. Obama is wrong. Logic says nothing in and of itself about whether the Iranian nuclear deal should encompass other issues. As such, it does not "defy logic" or "make no sense" to suggest that it should.

"Mr. Speaker, last night in the South Carolina legislature, we saw Democrats and Republicans join together to take down the Confederate battle flag, many with tears in their eyes as still grieving the nine lives lost lost in Charleston. And while the people of South Carolina move one step past this terrible tragedy, many House Republicans want to take our nation one hundred and fifty years back. We were scheduled to vote on the Interior appropriations bill today. The bill was pulled because members on the other side of the aisle objected to banning the display and sale of the Confederate flags at national park facilities. For years, I’ve heard all the arguments from those who defend the display of the Confederate battle flag. But it is moral cowardice to ignore this flag’s history of white supremacy and treason, to pretend it symbolizes anything other than a heritage of hate and human oppression. The Confederate battle flag does not belong atop our state capitols and it certainly should not be sold or displayed at our national parks. It belongs in a museum of shame, alongside the other relics of hate and division that tore our country apart."
-- Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), July 9, 2015.

Comment: This is exaggeration if not outright demonizing. Whatever the propriety of displaying Confederate flags at national park gift shops, it hardly amounts to reinstating slavery as existed 150 years ago.

"It's time to level with the American people. This President, and his apprentice-in-waiting Hillary Clinton, are leading America down the path to destruction. Economically, culturally, and internationally. But the most devastating thing they have tried to do is redefine the American Dream. Instead of the dream being to have opportunity and freedom to control your own destiny and make your own way, their dream is for the government to take care of you and make people dependent on the government. We want to guarantee equal opportunity, but they want to guarantee equal outcomes. The simple fact is they are trying to turn the American Dream into socialism. The folks in Washington may call that the American Dream, but out here in America, we call that the European Nightmare."
-- Gov. Bobby Jindal, June 24, 2015, remarking on President Barack Obama and Clinton, who is running for president.

Comment: This is demonizing, to accuse Obama and Clinton of wanting to make people dependent on government. It is also exaggeration: is life in Europe really a nightmare compared to the U.S.?

CHUCK TODD: Over the last decade, she’s shifted her position on same-sex marriage, on immigration, on NAFTA, on the Iraq War, on Cuba policy, on criminal justice reform. Just a few that she’s done recently. They’re all to the left — all to the progressive side of things. How should progressives believe these are changes in conviction and not simply changes in convenience because the Democratic electorate has changed.

JOHN PODESTA: Chuck, I don’t think there’s anybody who’s been more consistent in their entire career, from the day she left law school, went to work for the children’s defense fund. From her in Arkansas to First Lady of the United States. She’s fought for children, for families. She’s made her priorities clear, her values clear. You know, times change. A decade ago, I think a lot of people had a different view on marriage equality. Today, the country has shifted. She’s at the forefront of saying that that is a right that every American should have. She’s gone further and said we need to protect the LGBT community in the workplace. So I think circumstances change. This isn’t 1992. It’s not 2008. It’s 2015, and she’ll take positions that are consistent with a set of longtime values that have made her a progressive in the best sense of the word. Fighting for working families, fighting for children, fighting for women across this country and across the world.
-- John Podesta, chair of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, June 14, 2015, during an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press".

Comment: First, Todd is accusing Clinton of flip-flopping. Second, Podesta is surely exaggerating when he says nobody has been more consistent than Clinton in their political positions. Third, Podesta seems to then contradict himself, saying that there have been changes in "circumstances". Does he mean that Clinton hasn't changed positions even as times have changed? Is it really true that she has the same position now on, say, same-sex marriage that she had a decade or two ago? Or is he saying that the changing times have resulted in her changing her position? At any rate, Podesta doesn't answer Todd's question, so this all amounts to an evasion.

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

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

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).

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?

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.

"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?

"So you see, my friends, this deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. That's why this deal is so bad. It doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb."
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 3, 2015, during a speech to the United States Congress.

Comment: It's fair to disagree with President Barack Obama about what the best way is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But the metaphorical use of the word "paving" sounds as if Netanyahu is accusing Obama of actively helping Iran develop nuclear weapons (rather than merely failing to block Iran from doing so), which is either an exaggeration or outright demonizing.

"What undermines the global effort is for the President of the United States to be an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists … ISIS is the face of evil, and these latest atrocities, our heart breaks. And to see 21 Coptic Christians murdered, beheaded by radical Islamic terrorists, to see 45 people lit on fire, this is horrific and it is deliberate and it is targeted at Christians. It is targeted at Jews. It’s targeted at Muslims in the region who do not accede to the radical Islamist view."
-- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-RX), posted February 19, 2015.

Comment: Cruz disagrees with President Barack Obama because Obama refuses to identify the terrorists as Islamic. This is a fair point, as the terrorists identify themselves as Muslim, but Obama is nonetheless ordering military strikes against these very terrorists, so in what sense could he be called an "apologist" or defender of people he has ordered his military to kill? This is at least an exaggeration, if not outright demonizing.

"This man is a nihilist and a narcissist and an extremist. … What Obama is saying and doing is the lowest of the low now. He really is not a leader of a great people. He's not a leader of a great nation. He is stuck in his own ideology."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, February 5, 2015, responding to President Barack Obama's speech earlier that day at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Comment: First, Levin is indulging in "extremist" and "ideologue" rhetoric. More, however much Levin may disagree with Obama's speech — he warned against denigrating Islam on the basis of recent terror attacks by pointing out the history of violence in Christianity — is Obama really behaving on par with the "lowest of the low"? Obama's speech was as bad as Hitler and the Holocaust? Of course not, so Levin is exaggerating at best, if not just outright demonizing Obama.


Examples from 2012.

"America, there's not enough Jack Daniel's on planet Earth for me to drink to have him make sense".
-- Pundit Glenn Beck (on his Fox News show), February 17, 2011, responding to former President Jimmy Carter's claim that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is not a cause of concern.

Comment: It's fine for Beck to disagree with Carter. Maybe Carter is wrong. But to say that Carter is so wrong that only an amount of sour mash Tennessee whiskey greater than that found on our planet would be sufficient to get some intoxicated enough to think Carter is right, well, that's just hyperbole and caricature.

  • Stop the attack on worker rights [depicts Hitler next to Walker, who has been given a Hitler moustache]
  • Scott Walker = Adolf Hitler "Can you tell the difference" I can't. (If you can't you must be in a coma!) Don't let "this" history repeat itself!!!! 1933 Hitler abolishes unions! Look at history! [Alongside a swastika]
  • Midwest Mussolini
  • Hosni Walker WI dictator
  • Why do Republicans hate people
  • Rape is never a "good choice" (Raping public employers is not the way to balance the budget)
  • Walker the Mubarak of the Midwest
  • Wisconsin's WTF moment Walker Terrorizes Families!!
  • Don't retreat reload repeal Walker [depicts Walker in sniper crosshairs]
  • One dictator down [depicting Hosni Mubarak] One dictator to go [depicting Walker]
  • Egypt showed the way Down with the dictator
  • "...the history of Hitler. In 1933, he abolished unions and that is what our Governor is doing today."
-- Posters displayed by labor protestors at the Madison, WI, demonstrations on February 15, 2011, (many referring to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker). The final quote is not from a poster, it is a remark from Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor (D).

Comment: First, there's the demonizing of saying that Republicans hate people. In other words, "The difference between you and me politically is you hate people, I don't." Second, there's the violent rhetoric, in the form of suggesting Walker be shot, and in the form of exaggerating (well, lying, really) and saying that Walker is committing acts of violence (e.g., rape, terrorism) against people. Lastly, there's the claim that Walker is a dictator on par with Egypt's Hosni Mubarak or Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler. He's not, he hasn't done anything on par with Mubarak or Hitler. So this is more demonizing. As to the "Walker abolishes unions just like Hitler in 1933" claim, note the differences. (1) Hitler rose to power after unfree, unfair elections that were riddled with violence, both actual and threatened. Not true of Walker. (2) Hitler abolished unions, Walker isn't. He's just curtailing collective bargaining for public (but not private) unions. (3) Walker isn't even abolishing collective bargaining. He's limiting it for some public sector unions. There won't be collective bargaining for pensions and benefits, but it will still be allowed for salaries. So, to put Walker's labor policies on par with Hitler's is just hyperbole and demonizing. And, really, is everyone who opposes collective bargaining (for instance, FDR) on par with Hitler? This is the liberal, progressive version of the "Death panels!" exaggeration.

"What is wrong with [43rd President] George Bush? That would take a really long time. Let's talk about what is right with him, it is a much shorter answer. He is a very good physical specimen. He shows that a man his age can stay in physical condition."
-- Singer/songwriter/musician Neil Young, February 8, 2008.

Comment: To say that Bush's political views are so irredeemably bad that there is nothing good to say about him beyond praising his physical health is both name-calling and exaggeration. Perhaps Young is joking, but the news reports don't support that interpretation, and I haven't found any video or audio of the quote in order to see the tone in which this quote was delivered.

"I'm so proud of the job that the men and women in the military are doing there [in Iraq], and they don't want us to raise the white flag of surrender, like Senator Clinton does."
-- Senator John McCain (AZ), January 24, 2008, at the Florida Republican Debate.

Comment: McCain may disagree with Clinton's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq, but to describe her position as "raising the white flag of surrender" is exaggeration, if not outright caricature.

"We're going to win that war [against terrorists] whether there's a Republican president or a Democratic president or any other president."
-- Republican presidential candidate and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, April 24, 2007.

Comment: Giuliani is publicly stating here that his opponents would successfully and adequately fix a particular problem (and a big one, at that). His statement is a praiseworthy exception to the usual practice I described above, in which politicians claim that their opponents will send us on the road to ruin.

"We have a voice now, and we're not using it, and women have so much to lose. I mean, we could lose the right to our bodies ... If you think that rape should be legal, then don't vote. But if you think that you have a right to your body, and you have a right to say what happens to you and fight off that danger of losing that, then you should vote".
-- Actress Cameron Diaz, September 29, 2004.

Comment: Diaz was making the claim that, if President George W. Bush were to be re-elected, abortion would be made illegal and women would lose all rights over their own bodies. This is exaggeration at the very least, and perhaps also a caricature as well, as she might also have been claiming that those who oppose abortion believe women should lose all rights over their own bodies.

(The list above is not intended to be a comprehensive record of all relevant examples.)

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