Monday, March 10, 2008

Rhetoric: Hypocrisy and Flip-Flopping

Charges of hypocrisy abound in political debate, with politicians and pundits accusing one another of saying one thing but doing another, or making statements or promises that are inconsistent. However, some allegations of hypocrisy are false. And sometimes people draw unjustified conclusions from hypocritical behavior.

One way in which an allegation of hypocrisy can wind up being false is when the allegation is made against a group, rather than an individual.

For instance, people often accuse a political party of being hypocritical. But such a charge of hypocrisy will only be true if the party as a whole is engaged in the inconsistent behavior. It's not enough to point out that some members of the party do something that is at odds with what other members of that same party are doing. If it's not that the same people or the same entity engaging in inconsistent behavior, then the accusation of hypocrisy falls apart. So, when someone says that "they" are being hypocritical because "they" say one thing and then do another, it should be clearly spelled out who "they" is, and then demonstrated that all members of that group are engaged in inconsistent behavior. Otherwise, the accusation of hypocrisy is false.

Another way that an allegation of hypocrisy can be false is when it concerns a "means to an end" situation. That is, sometimes people engage in a behavior that they condemn because they believe that doing so will minimize that behavior. For instance, though I condemn injustice, I might advocate a small injustice in order to prevent a much larger one. This sort of "ends justifies the means" reasoning isn't always sound, but it isn't always unsound, either. As such, charges of hypocrisy in these situations are more difficult to support.

"Tu quoque" or "You, Too"

Sometimes allegations of hypocrisy are used to make ad hominem arguments. For instance, it is sometimes argued that, if a person is not practicing what they preach, then what they preach is false. But this is ad hominem reasoning. A murderer who condemns murder may be a hypocrite, but he's not incorrect in what he preaches. If a person is not practicing what they preach, then they may be being hypocritical, but nothing follows about whether or not what they preach is correct. If Hitler accuses Stalin of ordering mass murder, he's right. The fact that Hitler is also guilty of mass murder changes nothing regarding Stalin's guilt. "You're doing it, too" -- or "tu quoque" in Latin -- is not a valid rebuttal.

Hypocrisy and Character

Allegations of hypocrisy are relevant when it comes to evaluating a person's character. Seeing whether a person's statements are consistent, and whether their words match their deeds is a perfectly legitimate way of evaluating their honesty, as well as their convictions and their commitment to certain causes. When these issues are being considered, it is entirely legitimate to consider whether that person has behaved hypocritically. (Though, probably no one is completely free of hypocrisy, given how difficult it is to ensure that there are no contradictions among all our beliefs and actions. But perfection need not be the enemy of improvement.)

It should be noted, though, that there is a good sort of hypocrisy, one for which a person can justifiably be praised: when a person stops doing what is wrong and starts doing what is right, when they choose to break faith with their mistakes and be inconsistent with them in favor of doing good. This kind of hypocrisy is laudable. In fact, this is the kind of hypocrisy we should all be striving for. Hypocrisy is so often brought up in a negative context, we should remember that it can actually be a good thing.


We have an obligation to be consistent in our statements, and to practice what we preach. However, allegations of hypocrisy should be approached carefully, to make sure they are not false, and that they are not being used in invalid arguments.

OBAMA IS A SPECIAL KIND OF STUPID Enough is enough, Mr. President. There's no "due respect" due you after pulling this stunt. Exploiting a sick, evil, ideological-driven attack on Americans to further your twisted anti-Second Amendment mission is disgusting. Today you're demanding an "explanation" from law abiding gun owners, but not demanding the same from followers of Islam, the religion behind this terror? If the demented Orlando terrorist doesn't represent all Islamic followers, then why do you insinuate he represents all gun owners? And why, after any shooting, do you always want to take away firearms from the innocent people who didn't do it? Forget your asinine gun control, do your job and engage in Islamic terrorist control. Yes, it's a special kind of stupid to demand we explain ourselves.
-- Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), June 17, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: First, Palin is resorting to "stupid" name-calling. Second, she is accusing Obama of exploiting the shooting in Orlando, but according to what standard? Granted, Palin disagrees that gun control is a solution to mass shootings, but why is it "exploiting" to suggest gun control after a mass shooting? If, after the shooting, someone says, "this is an argument for gun rights, because if more people in the club had had guns, they could have stopped the shooter", would that count as exploiting, too? Third, where has Obama proposed taking guns away from everyone? This sounds like a distortion. Lastly, Palin is accusing Obama of hypocrisy, for making generalizations about gun owners while saying it's wrong to do the same about Muslims.

"As an independent, we gotta use equal standards on both sides. And, for example, the protests last night that degenerated into violence, that is a bad move for the Democratic party and Trump opponents. Because if they degenerate into violence – imagine what would have happened if the folks on the right had protested so violently and danced on police cars. There would be a totally different tone of conversation today."
-- Pundit John Avlon, May 25, 2016, referring to protests against Republican presidential contender Donald Trump that turned violent.

Comment: Avlon is saying that – had supporters of Trump resorted to the same behavior of as the opponents of Trump did – the criticism would have been much worse. In other words, he is saying the criticism has been hypocritical (though it's not clear if he's using this as an ad hominem argument to dismiss the criticism).

SANDERS: Let's talk about super PACs and 501(c)(4)s, money which is completely undisclosed. Where does the money come from? Do we really feel confident about a candidate saying that she's going to bring change in America when she is so dependent on big money interests? I don't think so.

CLINTON: Make no mistake about it, this is not just an attack on me, it's an attack on President Obama. President Obama – you know, let me tell you why. You may not like the answer, but I'll tell you why. President Obama had a super PAC when he ran. President Obama took tens of millions of dollars from contributors. And President Obama was not at all influenced when he made the decision to pass and sign Dodd-Frank, the toughest regulations on Wall Street in many a year.
-- Democratic presidential contenders Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), April 14, 2016, during a Democratic primary debate.

Comment: Sanders is accusing Clinton of being beholden to special interests. Clinton is saying that it is hypocritical to criticize her without also criticizing President Barack Obama, who also took campaign money from super PACs.

"I think she would be the best president, and I think it's obvious by a country mile, and that's all that matters to me. Yes, I think there are some different standards. Some of them are subconscious."
-- Former President Bill Clinton, husband to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, posted April 8, 2016, asked by MSNBC reporter Alex Seitz-Wald whether he thought a male candidate would face the same question about being qualified for office as Hillary Clinton had.

Comment: Bill Clinton is accusing people of being hypocritical on the basis of his wife's gender, apparently, which amounts to bigotry.

"The Biden rule reminds us that the decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle and not a person. About a principle and not a person. It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not — not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election, which is the type of thing then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Biden was concerned about".
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, March 16, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, which McConnell argued was at odds with remarks that Vice President Joe Biden made (opposing election-year nomination hearings) when Biden was in the Senate in 1992.

Comment: First, McConnell is accusing the Obama administration of hypocrisy – Biden opposing an election year Supreme Court nomination when a Republican was president, but now supporting it when a Democrat is president. Second, McConnell is accusing Obama of "politicizing".

"He is a liar, he is a hypocrite, and he hates America."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, February 15, 2016, referring to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Comment: In addition to calling him a liar and a hypocrite, Levin is demonizing Schumer as hating his country.

LIMBAUGH: Let's go to the audio sound bites. I think maybe I can give you an idea of what I'm talking about. This is a montage of a bunch of analysts from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, on Rubio somehow squandering whatever gravitas that he had going into the debate Saturday night.

GABE GUTIERREZ: Will Marco Rubio be painted now, forever, as a robotic candidate?

MARK HALPERIN: A robotic quality.

ANA MARIE COX: He's already been portrayed by a lot of us as a fairly robotic candidate.

ANA NAVARRO: It was like when a robot gets water poured in it.

PETER ALEXANDER: Rubio is simply too programmed, too robotic.

RICHARD GRENELL: He was shown to be too robotic.

CARL CAMERON: That he’s robotic.

DANIEL HALPER: This narrative that he’s robotic.

STEPHEN HAYES: Robotic and repetitive.

BEN WHITE: He looked robotic.

AB STODDARD: Robotic talking points.

JOHN BERMAN: He is some kind of over-rehearsed robot.

LIMBAUGH: Now, I don't have anything other than anecdotal. I have seen a little videotape of voters talking about Rubio, and I have gone to comments sections of websites, and I haven't seen one voter talk about how Rubio was robotic. They've had other criticisms, and they've had other praise, but I haven't seen this Rubio was robotic. The media consensus -- and by the way, that's a cross section of every network that we have, at least one person on every network, "Rubio was robotic."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 8, 2016, playing audio clips of media personalities commenting on Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who had been criticized by Republican presidential contender Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) for using scripted remarks while describing President Barack Obama.

Comment: Ironically (i.e., hypocritically?), these media personalities are robotically repeating the "talking point" that Rubio robotically repeats talking points.

"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?

"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?

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.

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.

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.

It’s estimated that around 50,000 hypocrites will be participating in the Paris climate conference this week. What do you call it when elites fly their private jets to an international climate change conference to forge a deal with despots that caps American prosperity without our consent? You call it progressivism. It’s estimated that around 50,000 carbon-spewing humans will be participating in the Paris climate conference this week. But while President Obama was taking his working dinner at the three-Michelin-star L’Ambroisie, public protests were banned in the aftermath of the Islamic terror attacks. Liberté, not so much. No one inside the confab seemed too disturbed.
-- Pundit David Harsanyi, December 1, 2015, referring to the climate change talks in Paris.

Comment: Harsanyi is accusing attendees of the climate change talks of hypocrisy, given that they are emitting carbon dioxide in order to attend talks on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This is wrong, because it's not necessarily hypocritical to produce a small amount of something bad in the name of avoiding a larger amount of it down the road: in medicine, we often undergo painful treatments in order to avoid greater pain in the long run. The climate change conference attendees could, in principle, make the same argument. However, they would need to prove that they will actually be doing more to reduce carbon emissions in the long run by having the conference, and they would need to show that the conference couldn't happen effectively without this level of carbon emissions (for instance, couldn't the conference be held online?).

"What you all did with the President Obama doesn't even come close -- doesn't even come close to what you guys are trying to do in my case. And you're just going to keep going back, trying to find, he said this 12 years ago. You know, it is just garbage."
-- Republican presidential contender Ben Carson, November 6, 2015, referring to the media investigating his claims about being offered, in 1969, a scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Comment: Carson is accusing the media as a whole – rather than specific people in the media, as he doesn't mention any – of being hypocritical in investigating his accounts of his past compared to the lack of attention (as Carson sees it) to President Barack Obama's claims about his own past. Even if Carson is correct about the hypocrisy, that doesn't mean the media's attention to Carson's past is wrong (that would be ad hominem reasoning).

Iranian FM Spokeswoman Afkham said the Saudi FM is not qualified to comment on Iran’s regional role when his country has taken a military approach toward current crises in region.

“The Saudi foreign minister [Adel al-Jubeir] whose country has adopted a military, security and extremist approach toward the current regional crises, and has been targeting the neighbor Muslim country of Yemen with relentless bombardment is not qualified to speak of Iran’s regional role,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham on Monday.
-- Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Afkham, October 19, 2015, as related in a story by AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA).

Comment: This is ad hominem reasoning. Just because Saudi Arabia is engaging in misbehavior doesn't mean it's wrong when it accuses Iran of misbehavior. Saudi Arabia's criticism may be hypocritical, but that doesn't prove it's false.

CLINTON: I'm not going to sit here and tell people that I make up my mind – that's the Republicans. They make up their mind, they're never bothered by evidence.

TODD: Bernie Sanders has been on the – sort of, where you are on these issues, Bernie Sanders was there, when it came to marriage, 20 years ago. Do you think one of the reasons he's doing well right now is some progressives think, well, you know what, he was there when it wasn't popular?

CLINTON: Well, he can speak for himself, and I certainly respect his views. I can just tell you that I am not someone who stakes out a position and holds it regardless of the evidence, or regardless of the way that I perceive what's happening in the world around me. And, as I was saying, that's where the Republicans are. You know, they're still believing in trickle down economics, even though it was a disaster not once, but twice for our country.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), September 27, 2015, during an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News. Clinton was questioned on her change of position on certain issues, in comparison to the positions of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Clinton is defending herself for flip-flopping on various issues. She doesn't answer the question of whether or not Sanders' constancy is causing his rise in the polls. Clinton also accuses Republicans of not caring about truth, and of "failed policies".

EARNEST: Dr. Carson in many of the polls ranks second or third, so at least in the last few months he's been quite successful in elevating his status in the Republican Party. And we've seen a willingness on the part of many of those candidates to countenance offensive views, all in pursuit of political support. And in the case of the Republican primary, in pursuit of votes. And I think what's particularly disappointing to many observers, including me, is that we haven't seen a significant outcry from all of the other candidates in the Republican race.

RUSH: See, this is how they do it. Did you notice the first thing he said in this answer? He puts up here, "A willingness on the part of many of those candidates to countenance offensive views." You know, I can't tell you how this ticks me off. This presumption that nothing the left ever says is offensive. Nothing they ever say is controversial. That's just normal, it's free flowing, it's everything's kind and decent and tolerant and all that. And these are some of the most intolerant bigots among us, people on the left. … So, anyway, that's how the White House is dealing with it. "We just don't like these offensive views, particularly disappointing to many observers, including me, that we haven't seen a significant outcry from all the other candidates." This is how they do it. A Republican stands up, says something not politically correct, it then becomes incumbent on every other Republican to denounce the guilty party. This is the one-way street, this false premise, these narratives here that the left creates that I'm telling Republicans ought have nothing to do with, just nuke and just ignore these narratives out of the box.
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, September 21, 2015, responding to remarks made earlier that day by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

Comment: Limbaugh is complaining that there is a double standard in how Democrats enforce civil debate, and seems to be arguing that there's no point advocating civility. Limbaugh leaves out that – like Democrats – Republicans are also self-servingly inconsistent in enforcing civil debate.

Geraldo Rivera made unabashedly racist remarks about Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson — while accusing Republicans of racism.

The gist of it: they’re only saying they’ll vote for Carson because he’s black.

On Fox News’ “The Five” on Thursday, Rivera commented on a Monmouth County College poll showing Carson would defeat Donald Trump in a head-to-head match-up. The show’s resident liberal said he was reminded of the 1993 New York City mayoral election, in which African-American incumbent Mayor David Dinkins polled high and looked like he was going to win, only to be defeated by Rudy Giuliani.

“I think a lot of Republicans polled by Monmouth are giving the politically correct answer,” Rivera said. “I think it’s all about being the black neurosurgeon, brilliant guy.”

When co-host Greg Gutfeld asked whether people voted for Obama because he was black, Rivera again gave a racist response, saying, “Obama was the least black guy you could possibly find.”

If Carson were failing in the polls it would be because Republicans are racist, but if he’s winning it’s because Republicans are racist.

Got that?
-- Pundit Carmine Sabia of BizPac Review, September 4, 2015, regarding remarks made by pundit Geraldo Rivera on September 3, 2015.

Comment: Sabia is accusing Rivera of racism. He is also saying that some people (he doesn't name who) are going to hypocritically accuse Republicans of racism whether Republicans support Carson or not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

This year is the 10th anniversary of a book called "The Republican War on Science." I could just as easily write a book called "The Democratic War on Science." The conflict conservatives have with science is mostly caused by religion. Some religious conservatives reject evolution, and some oppose stem cell research. But neither belief has a big impact on our day-to-day lives. … By contrast, the left's bad ideas about science do more harm. Many on the left -- including a few of my fellow libertarians -- are paranoid about genetically modified organisms. … The left's anti-science fears also prevent us from building new nuclear reactors, especially after Fukushima and Chernobyl.
-- Pundit John Stossel, June 17, 2015.

Comment: This is "anti-science" rhetoric, and "war" rhetoric. Stossel seems to be arguing that, if this sort of rhetoric is fair to use against conservatives, then it's hypocritical not to use it on liberals and progressives, too. I'm not sure if he's advocating the rhetoric as a means of retaliating in kind.

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.

CHRIS WALLACE: Pope Francis will release an encyclical on the environment... You suggested the holy father should stay out of the debate on climate change...

RICK SANTORUM: The Church has gotten it wrong a few times on science. And we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we do -- what we're really good at, which is -- which is theology and morality.

CHRIS WALLACE: Two points, if he's not a scientist, and, in fact, he has a degree in chemistry, neither are you. That's one point. The second point is, somewhere between 80% and 90% of scientists who have studied this say that humans, men -- human activity, contributes to climate change. so, I guess the question would be, if he shouldn't talk about it, should you?
-- Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), June 7, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News.

Comment: Wallace is accusing Santorum of hypocrisy for disqualifying Pope Francis from scientific commentary, but not himself, though he doesn't use it as a basis for an ad hominem argument. Both Wallace and Santorum make an appeal to authority – "scientist should determine what's true in science" – which is flawed reasoning. Whatever the topic, scientists and non-scientists have to abide by the same standards of providing good reasoning behind their beliefs. Scientists shouldn't immediately be believed simply because they are scientists, and the ideas of non-scientists shouldn't immediately be dismissed simply because they are not scientists.

On immigration, Hillary Clinton is a work in progress – and has been since she entered politics more than a dozen years ago. Depending on which audience she is trying to please, she assumes one of two conflicting personas: Restrictionist Hillary or Reform Hillary. In 2003, Restrictionist Hillary told conservative radio host John Grambling that she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants” and that “we’ve got to do more at our borders.” … Then there is Reform Hillary, who has emerged recently now that Clinton is once again running for president and needs the support of Latino voters who favor a more honest and more common-sense approach to the problem. … Reform Hillary celebrated Cinco de Mayo by speaking at a mostly Latino high school in Las Vegas, where she called for illegal immigrants to be given “a path to full and equal citizenship.” She also accused Republicans who support legal status for the undocumented but not citizenship of pushing “second-class status.” But what was Clinton pushing? A poison pill. “Full and equal citizenship” will never get through Congress. So by setting the bar impossibly high, Reform Hillary all but ensures nothing will be done. This suits her fine because she doesn’t want to be known as a pro-amnesty Democrat any more than Obama did, and she’d rather have a wedge issue than a workable solution.
-- Pundit Ruben Navarrette, May 24, 2015.

Comment: First, Navarrette is accusing Clinton of flip-flopping. Second, he is engaging in "common sense" rhetoric. Third, he seems to be demonizing those who are "restrictionists" as not being in favor of honesty and common sense. Lastly, he resorts to "wedge issue" rhetoric.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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.

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.

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.

STEWART: Now, Congressional subversion vis-a-vis foreign policy, how new is that?

NBC NEWS: Defied White House objections to her visit, Pelosi met this week with Bashar al-Assad, an attempt to open a dialogue with a leader the president has sought to isolate.

STEWART: Oh, (bleep). Democrats did the same thing to President Bush. You know what this means. Juxtapositional Soundbite! Juxtaposition Soundbite Theater! Yeah, we do work hard to make this (bleep) Interesting. So… How did the Democrats feel about Pelosi’s interference in foreign policy in 2007?

HILLARY CLINTON: I applaud Speaker Pelosi. I have long advocated engagement with countries in the region including Iran and Syria.

FEINSTEIN: Time has come for members to begin to go to some of these countries and establish their own dialogue.

MATTHEWS: Why did “The Washington Post” trashing Nancy Pelosi for doing basically what Jim Bakker and Lee Hamilton said to do, engage the neighborhood over there in the Middle East?

STEWART: And how do they feel about the Republican letter now?

HILLARY CLINTON: Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the Commander-in-chief.

ANCHOR: Democratic senator Diane Feinstein called it “A highly inappropriate and unprecedented incursion.”

MATTHEWS: Is this where we stand in this country where the opposition Republicans will try anything to scuttle a noble president’s effort to avoid a war?

STEWART: Both look like exactly the same people!
-- Pundit Jon Stewart, March 11, 2015, showing clips of politicians and pundits, contrasting their position on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2007 during the Iraq Surge (when Syria was aiding – or at least abetting – the Sunni insurgency in Iraq), with a letter sent by 47 Republican senators in March 2015 to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Stewart is pointing out the hypocrisy of several of these individuals, noting that they've taking inconsistent positions, though Stewart doesn't attempt to draw any conclusions about which position they've taken is the correct one (which would risk ad hominem reasoning).

"Let me just say this. It is fantastic to finally see some people realizing what's going on when the left, the media, keeps going to our candidates, "What do you think about what Rudy said about Obama?" In the first place, Scott Walker is showing everybody how to answer that question, how to answer all those questions. And another thing about this, we're also finally getting people turning it around on 'em. "Hey, why don't you go ask some Democrats what they think of Bill Clinton flying all over the world with a pedophile? Why don't you guys go ask the Democrats what it's like to have to stand up and defend Joe Biden every day." It's always a one-way street. Obama goes out and says some crazy things, apologizes for the country, or Rudy will come out and say, "I don't think he loves the country. Not the way we do." Then the press will go to other Republicans and ask them two things, to condemn Rudy and to validate Obama. … But it never works the other way. … And finally there's some people now pointing out the right way to do this. Don't answer the question and turn it back on 'em. For example, Scott Walker, this is just an example. He had his own answer to it. He was asked about Obama's Christianity. He said: I don't know. I don't know whether Obama's a Christian. Why are you asking me? Go ask him. It doesn't matter to me whether Obama's a Christian. … Somebody will ask a Republican, "Well, what do you think about Rudy, Rudy insulting Obama, Rudy saying that Obama doesn't love America?" The response is, "You know, I don't remember the last time you guys went around and started asking Hillary if she's very worried about her husband flying all over the world with a pedophile and showing up at the pedophile's homes in New York and Florida. When are you gonna ask Bill Clinton what it's like, when are you gonna ask people in the Democrat Party to defend Bill Clinton for doing this kind of stuff?" … A TV station in Florida, WPBF … They were interviewing Rubio about Giuliani's remarks, and Marco Rubio said, "I don't feel like I'm in a position to have to answer for every person in my party that makes a claim." … This is Rubio: "Democrats are not asked to answer every time Joe Biden says something embarrassing, so I don't know why I should answer every time a Republican does. I'll suffice it to say I believe the president loves America. I think his ideas are bad.""
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 23, 2015, discussing the responses by Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's remarks that President Barack Obama does not love the country.

Comment: Limbaugh and Rubio (and perhaps Walker) are saying that it is not their job to police civility. Inconsistent treatment on the part of the media when it comes to reporting and condemning unacceptable rhetoric (that is, hypocritically going easy on Democrats and liberals while piling on Republicans and conservatives, such that the latter get hit with guilt by association accusations but not the former) is no excuse not to repudiate name-calling and invective.

[Regarding the Islamic affiliation of many terrorists] President Obama continues to insist the opposite, pretending that what is true is false, and even suggesting those who are speaking the truth are actually endangering the lives of innocent people. … in its statement the White House avoided saying that the 21 Egyptian Christians who were beheaded by members of ISIS were Christian, even though that was the reason they were beheaded. At the same time the president suggested that the murder of three Muslim students at the University of North Carolina was because they were Muslim, when in fact that wasn’t by any means clear when the White House issued its statement. … And then there was the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, in which the president and his attorney general constantly spoke about the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson as if race was a factor in the shooting. That assertion is fiction. It was an invention, just as it was an invention to suggest, as the president did back in 2009, that the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley was racially motivated. … Which makes Mr. Obama a truly post-modern president, in which there is no objective truth but simply narrative. Mr. Obama doesn’t just distort the facts; he inverts them. He makes things up as he goes along. … The sheer audacity of Mr. Obama’s multipronged assault on truth is one of the more troubling aspects of his deeply troubling president.
-- Pundit Peter Wehner, February 22, 2015.

Comment: Wehner is arguing that false statements, distortions, and hypocritical double-standards on the part of President Barack Obama prove that Obama doesn't care at all about truth or facts. Does the same standard apply to everyone who says something false or is found guilty of double-standards?

The selective nature of taboos in American political and media culture has been exposed this week. Democrats are free to impugn their opponents’ decency and patriotism while Republicans never are allowed to do so.

Speaking at a “private” dinner for Scott Walker (note: only Democrats are permitted to have truly private events), Rudy Giuliani violated one of the taboos of American politics with these words:

"I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America."
There is a norm in American politics to presume that all issues and disagreements are between people who are patriotic and love America, except for Republicans and conservatives. In other words, only Democrats must be presumed to be patriotic and full of love of country. For example, Democrats are free to attack the Tea Party, which they have lumped together with terrorists. The Republican-controlled House was even called “terrorists” in White House offical communications. And when running for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama labeled President Bush “unpatriotic” for his deficit spending.

But Democrats must be presumed to be decent, patriotic, and motivated purely by love of country. And when they are not, they cry foul, as did Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who called Giuliani’s words “ugly.” For the record, Rep. Wasserman Schultz a few months ago agreed that the GOP is worse than Ebola and the Islamic State. But apparently that is not ugly in her mind. There was no widespread media controversy over her words, as compared to Giuliani’s.
-- Pundit Thomas Lifson, February 20, 2015.

Comment: Lifson is accusing the media of being hypocritical in its coverage of Giuliani's comments about President Barack Obama. Keep in mind it would be ad hominem reasoning to say that, because criticism of Walker's comments has been hypocritical, therefore the criticisms of Walker are unfounded.

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: Josh, given your sorrow for Rudy Giuliani do you think the president has any regrets about saying President Bush was unpatriotic for adding $4 trillion to the debt?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Ed, I don't know that sorrow is the word that I would use.

HENRY: You said you feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani.

EARNEST: Yeah, I do. I do feel sorry for him.

HENRY: You feel sorry, but does the president have any regrets, regardless of what Giuliani said? As a candidate, Senator Obama said that President Bush was unpatriotic.

EARNEST: I think -- again, I haven't seen the actual comments. I don't know if you have it there in front of you.

HENRY: He said that the president, I'm paraphrasing this part, had added about $4 trillion to the debt and then he said, quote, "that's irresponsible, that's unpatriotic." I see a difference from Giuliani because he's talking about an issue. But nonetheless, questioning the patriotism of the president of the United States.

EARNEST: I think that what the president was doing was he was questioning the specific wisdom of that decision and questioning whether or not that was in the best interest of the country.

HENRY: He didn't say it was unwise, he said that's unpatriotic.

EARNEST: Right, but again, he was talking about that, he wasn't talking about a person. And, again, I think there's a lot that the president also had to say in the State of the Union and the level of our discourse. There is no doubt that we are going to have significant disagreement across the aisle. And that is ultimately what a democracy is all about, where we go in and debate issues. But the president as you'll recall said during the State of the Union said we should have a debate that's worthy of the United States Congress and worthy of the country. There are significant challenges facing this country and sort of resorting to a politics in which we question each others' basic decency is not consistent with the reason that a lot of people got into public service.
-- White House press briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest February 20, 2015. The quote in question comes from July 32008, when then-presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), said that President George W. Bush had been "unpatriotic" in adding $4 trillion to the national debt.

Comment: Giuliani is guilty of questioning the patriotism of President Barack Obama this week, and Obama is guilty of questioning the patriotism of Bush back in 2008. Henry and Earnest seem to think that, because Obama was talking about the patriotism of a policy -- the policy of borrowing money -- rather than the patriotism of a person -- President Bush -- that what Obama says is somehow OK. But it isn't. It's just as much of a derisive caricature to call the policy unpatriotic as to say that the person is. More, it's hypocritical, as well, given that President Obama has added just as much money to the national debt.

"There have been suggestions that we will not fund the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for patrolling our borders, as well as keeping our air travel safe, as well as patrolling our coasts -- there’s been talk about not funding that department because of the disagreement around immigration reform. There’s no logic to that position. Particularly for Republicans who claim that they are interested in strong border security, why would you cut off your nose to spite your face by defunding the very operations that are involved in making sure that we’ve got strong border security, particularly at a time when we’ve got real concerns about countering terrorism?"
-- President Barack Obama, February 4, 2015, responding to Republican proposals to defund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to pressure Obama to undo his recent executive order on immigration reform.

Comment: Obama is accusing the GOP of being hypocritical in defunding an agency that they support. But Republicans oppose some of the things DHS is doing under Obama's executive order on immigration reform. So they might see it as worth it to defund some of the good DHS does if it helps undo some of the bad they see DHS doing. Couldn't the GOP just as easily argue that there's no point funding an agency that's doing things they strongly disagree with? It might not be the calculation Obama would make, but it hardly amounts to a position that has "no logic". Obama has threatened to veto any budget that funds the government but defunds the Affordable Care Act (AKA, "Obamacare"); is that a position with "no logic" to it, that "cuts off his nose to spite his face" given that Obama values much of that government spending? This really comes down to the issue of compromise, with people having different views on whether a proposed compromise is a worthwhile bargain or not.


Examples from 2012.

"[Chairman of the Democratic National Committee] Howard Dean's hypocrisy is breathtaking, given that in 2003 he withdrew from the matching funds system in exactly the same way John McCain is doing today."
-- Brian Rogers, spokesman for the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain (R, AZ), February 24, 2008. Rogers was responding to Dean's call for McCain to be prevented from withdrawing from the system providing public funding for presidential campaigns. Dean made this call on the grounds that McCain had used the prospect of receiving public funds to obtain a loan for his presidential campaign.

Comment: Rogers seems to be making an ad hominem appeal to hypocrisy. That is, he's arguing that, since Dean did the same thing that McCain is doing, Dean can't say that McCain's actions are wrong. But this is ad hominem. Maybe Dean did engage in the same behavior, and maybe he is being hypocritical by criticizing McCain. But that doesn't mean that that behavior is acceptable. Dean's hypocrisy may be breathtaking, but it doesn't prove that McCain is doing nothing wrong.

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

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