Monday, March 10, 2008

Name-Calling, Straw Men, Caricature, and Distortion

Name-calling is perhaps the most frequent misbehavior in political debate. But it's important to understand what name-calling is and why it's bad.

When Is Name-Calling OK?

Obviously, there's nothing wrong with calling someone by their proper name, such as "Frank" or "Sarah". And there's nothing wrong with calling someone a name that is accurate, even if it's derisive. For example, calling Adolf Hitler a Nazi is OK, because he truthfully was a Nazi.

Also, name-calling can be OK if it's done for comedic effect. A lot of humor depends on this. If you falsely call someone a derisive name, but it's done for laughs and no one is going away believing that what you said was really true -- they just see it as a humorous exaggeration -- then it's probably also OK.

When Is Name-Calling Wrong?

Where name-calling goes wrong is when you describe someone or something falsely, particularly if that description isn't just false but is also derisive, with the aim of having others believe that this falsehood is true. That's when name-calling -- also known as "caricature", "distortion", "demonizing", "derisive misrepresentation", etc. -- is wrong. For instance, calling someone a Nazi when they're not -- but hoping that people will believe that they really are -- is unjustified name-calling.

Slurs and Profanity

Sometimes name-calling amounts to using slurs, swear words or profanity to refer to someone. Frequently what's said is false, and certainly it's derisive. In such cases, what's going on is verbal abuse of sorts. It's disrespectful and unproductive.

Distortions, Misrepresentations, and Straw Men

Sometimes name-calling involves a specific misrepresentation of who someone is or what they stand for.

The appeal of this is understandable: it's easier to argue against a fake opponent -- a "straw man" -- than a real one, so you falsely describe your opponent or their policies as being worse than they really are. So people often distort, misrepresent, or caricature what their opponents believe.

For instance, politicians often describe their opponents as communists or social Darwinists, but this is typically just a caricature -- there aren't many people really advocating communism or social Darwinism in American politics, are there?

"Stupid", "Evil", "Disgusting", and "Liars"

People often resort to name-calling when "explaining" why it is their opponents disagree with them.

One thing they typically say is that their opponents don't care about doing what's right or good, that they're selfish (or just "evil").

Another common form of name-calling is to say that your opponents are just too dumb to know what the right thing to do is (i.e., they're "stupid").

One more is to say that your opponents are objects of disgust. (There's also "sexual deviant" name-calling, which is something of a class of its own, and "subhuman" name-calling.)

And yet another is the claim that your opponents just don't even care about the truth at all.

But political and moral issues are frequently complicated. They involve conflicting moral priorities and difficulties in making predictions about how the world works. And our disagreements are usually about some legitimate point regarding moral values or the empirical world, rather than our opponents being stupid evil liars.

When we resort to such name-calling, we're not contributing anything to anyone's understanding of the issue at hand, or offering any points in favor of or against a certain position.

Name-Calling VS Ad Hominem Reasoning

Sometimes name-calling combines with faulty reasoning. If I call you a bunch of names and then go on to say (or imply) that, because you are such a you-know-what, that your position is therefore false, then I'm engaging not just in name-calling, but also ad hominem reasoning (which is a form of flawed reasoning).


Again, in politics, people frequently falsely describe their opponents or their opponents policies in unflattering ways. Not only is that wrong in and of itself, but it also has bad consequences. It creates resentment and a desire among the victims of name-calling to retaliate in kind -- to "hit back" by hurling insults and name-calling in the other direction. The result is that people engage in debate with the aim of settling the score and getting revenge for being called names, rather than with the aim of discovering the truth and setting moral priorities.

The issue of name-calling, demonizing, caricature, derisive distortion, etc., comes down to this: It's OK to disagree with people and political positions, and to criticize those people and positions. But it's not OK to misrepresent them.

"Now we have to overcome some big challenges, I will admit that. First, too many of our representatives in Washington are in the grips of a failed economic theory called trickle down economics. Now, I do not doubt their sincerity. But it has been proven wrong again and again. But there still are people in Congress who insist on cutting taxes for the wealthy instead of investing in our future. They careen from one self- inflicted crisis to another. Shutting down the government, threatening to default on our national debt, refusing to make the common-sense investments that used to have broad bipartisan support, like rebuilding our roads and our bridges, our tunnels, our highways, our airports. Or investing in better education from zero through high school and college. … And if the evidence were there to support this ideology, I would have to acknowledge that. But we have seen the results. Twice now in the past 30 years, a Republican president has caused an economic mess and a Democratic president has had to come in and clean it up."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 22, 2016.

Comment: There are lots of things going on here. Where has it been proven that so-called "trickle-down economics" is a failed policy? Where has this policy been tested rigorously – that is, against an otherwise-identical control group? Such experiments are difficult to craft, and almost never occur on a large scale. It may be true that there have been cases where trickle-down economics has been implemented and bad economic news has followed, but it's propter hoc reasoning to jump to the conclusion that the former caused the latter. Correlation isn't necessarily causation. (Perhaps the bad economic news would have been even worse without the trickle-down policies, it's impossible to know unless you set up a control group for comparison.) Also, who has proposed not investing in our future? Perhaps people have proposed tax cuts for the wealthy along with spending less on investment than Clinton supports, but is there anyone who has said we shouldn't spend any money on education or infrastructure? This sounds like a straw man she's setting up to knock over. Finally, Clinton also resorts to "common sense" rhetoric, as well as "bipartisan" rhetoric (if the Republicans aren't supporting common-sense investments, then how can they have bipartisan support?).

"For more than two decades now, our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken. And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be. … Nearly 70 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a smart, common-sense bill that would have doubled the border patrol, and offered undocumented immigrants a pathway to earn citizenship if they paid a fine, paid their taxes, and played by the rules. Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to allow a simple yes or no vote on that bill. So I was left with little choice but to take steps within my existing authority to make our immigration system smarter, fairer, and more just. … But today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them. … So where do we go from here? Most Americans -- including business leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement, Democrats and Republicans and independents -- still agree that the single best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass common-sense, bipartisan immigration reform. … This is an election year. And during election years, politicians tend to use the immigration issue to scare people with words like “amnesty” in hopes that it will whip up votes. Keep in mind that millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking effort to become citizens. And we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. But here’s the thing. Millions of people who have come forward and worked to get right with the law under this policy, they’ve been living here for years, too -- in some cases, even decades. So leaving the broken system the way it is, that’s not a solution. In fact, that's the real amnesty. Pretending we can deport 11 million people, or build a wall without spending tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money is abetting what is really just factually incorrect. It's not going to work. It's not good for this country. It's a fantasy that offers nothing to help the middle class, and demeans our tradition of being both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. In the end, it is my firm belief that immigration is not something to fear. We don’t have to wall ourselves off from those who may not look like us right now, or pray like we do, or have a different last name. Because being an American is about something more than that. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal that all of us are created equal, all of us have a chance to make of our lives what we will. And every study shows that whether it was the Irish or the Poles, or the Germans, or the Italians, or the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Mexicans, or the Kenyans -- whoever showed up, over time, by a second generation, third generation, those kids are Americans. They do look like us -- because we don't look one way. We don't all have the same last names, but we all share a creed and we all share a commitment to the values that founded this nation. That's who we are. And that is what I believe most Americans recognize. … And now we've got a choice about who we’re going to be as a country, what we want to teach our kids, and how we want to be represented in Congress and in the White House. … We get these spasms of politics around immigration and fear-mongering, and then our traditions and our history and our better impulses kick in. That's how we all ended up here. Because I guarantee you, at some point, every one of us has somebody in our background who people didn’t want coming here, and yet here we are."
-- President Barack Obama, June 23, 2016, referring to the Supreme Court decision that day on Obama's executive actions on immigration enforcement.

Comment: Much of this is demonizing and distortion, as Obama's speech doesn't recognize that different people have different reasons for opposing his actions on immigration, and propose different paths for dealing with the current state of immigration policy. First, Obama's remarks leave the impression that, if we don't support his executive actions on immigration enforcement, we therefore are opposed to immigration in itself – likely for reasons of bigotry (i.e., wanting to keep out people who "look different") – which is demonizing. Some people oppose Obama's actions on procedural grounds (i.e., that they're not consistent with the presidential powers laid out in the Constitution); some object to the actions because they believe it is unfair to reduce the penalties on immigrants who broke the law, even to the point of giving them an advantage over immigrants who are obeying immigration law; some object to that the reduced immigration enforcement encourages further illegal immigration, and so on. It's false and derisive to treat opponents to his executive actions as being motivated by "fear-mongering" against immigrants. Second, those who oppose Obama's proposed immigration reforms (legislative or executive) don't necessarily support leaving the system as is, or deporting the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, or building a wall to keep out those who "don't look like us". That's just a distortion. Finally, Obama's opponents on immigration policy aren't somehow standing in opposition to "rationality" and "common sense" – is he saying they're stupid? – and they aren't necessarily out of step with America's traditions; that's just more demonizing.

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.

-- Stephen Colbert, June 14, 2016, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in a segment titled, "This Diagram Explains Trump's Response To Orlando", referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Colbert's remarks – to what degree they're supposed to be taken comically, it isn't always clear – involve several things. First, he knocks over a straw man when he says Trump believes that all Muslims know what all other Muslims are up to. Trump's point was that some Muslims know about terrorist plotting but don't report it (as, for instance, may be the case with the wife of Orlando shooter Omar Mir Seddique Mateen). Second, Colbert demonizes Trump as a Nazi. Finally, he resorts to vulgarity, calling Trump an "asshole".

"[T]here's a news story out there today, and I first told you about this way back September of 2015, so not quite a year. Nine months, eight months ago. Here we go. … [The Iranian nuclear deal would end] the sanctions, which was going to make available to the Iranians $150 billion in frozen assets. And everybody said, "Why are we helping? Our ally is Israel. Why are we helping the Iranians nuke up?" Remember? This was last fall. So back to my program on September the 9th of 2015. "You know why the Corker Bill exists as it does, why there's never any serious effort to stop Obama in making the Iran deal? Do you have any idea? It was money. … [According to a story in Bloomberg], the Iranian national airline's a joke, the mullahs have ordered a number of replacement aircraft made by Boeing. Boeing wants the deal but in order to for the deal to happen, $150 billion in frozen Iranian assets has to be unfrozen. Now Boeing, Republican contributor, "the bottom line was that Republican politicians, elected officials basically had to please a very well-to-do donor or series of donors that were going to be able to engage in new --" In other words, the Republicans went along with this to satisfy Big Donor, is the bottom line."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, June 15, 2016, referring to a story the prior day about Iran buying jets from Boeing.

Comment: First, Limbaugh is accusing people of basing their position on the Iranian nuclear deal on money rather than foreign policy and national interests. Who, in particular, is he talking about – he doesn't name any particular member of Congress – and what is his evidence that they did this for Boeing? Without names and evidence, Limbaugh is demonizing Republicans. Second, the idea that the Iranian nuclear deal involved "helping" Iran get nuclear weapons is a straw man: Iran had to give up 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium, and give up building a nuclear reactor that would have provided weapons-grade plutonium. People can disagree about what will best stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon in the long-term, but in the short-term they have lost 97% of their fissile material.

It happens like clock work: as soon as there’s a mere whisper of a terrorist attack or a mass shooting, the usual suspects kick in to high gear. Their destination is always the same: a faraway land where a so-called assault weapons ban magically eliminates not only guns but also prevents guns from walking of their own volition, without need of human agency, into crowded places and killing people.
-- Pundit Sean Davis, June 14, 2016, in an article titled, "The Assault Weapons Ban Is A Stupid Idea Pushed By Stupid People".

Comment: This is name-calling of the "stupid" variety. Perhaps some advocates of assault weapons bans are mistaken about what counts as an automatic weapon (as opposed to a semi-automatic one), but that doesn't mean they believe guns kill by themselves (that's a straw man), and it doesn't justify name-calling.

"For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle – have made in the fight against ISIL, is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam”. That’s the key, they tell us. We can’t beat ISIL unless we call them “radical Islamists”. What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is, “none of the above”. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction. Since before I was President, I’ve been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As President I have repeatedly called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions. There’s not been a moment in my seven-and-a-half years as President where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam”. Not once has an advisor of mine said, “Man, if we really used that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around.” Not once. … So there’s no magic to the phrase “radical Islam”. It’s a political talking point. It’s not a strategy. And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness, and everything to do with actually defeating extremism. Groups like ISIL and Al-Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them, by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda, that’s how they recruit? And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists work for them. Up until this point this argument about labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric. Sadly, we’ve all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups. And that kind of yapping has not prevented folks across government from doing their jobs, from sacrifice and working really hard to protect the American people. But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mindset and this kind of thinking can be. We’re starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we’re fighting, where this can lead us. We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America. You hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Where does this stop? … Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. … We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history."
-- President Barack Obama, June 14, 2016, referring to (among other people) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: There is a lot going on here, including "distractions", "talking points", "appealing to fear" and "Americans want" rhetoric. But the bigger issue is distortion. It's not clear who has ever said that using the term "radical Islam" is a necessary or a sufficient condition for defeating ISIS (i.e., that we can't defeat ISIS without using that term, or that using the term is all we need – a "silver bullet" – to defeat ISIS). Maybe some people have taken one or both of these positions – though, has it been their "main" contribution to the issue? – but they certainly haven't been adopted by Republicans in general. Obama needs to name who has advocated these positions, and when and where did so; otherwise it seems like he's knocking over a straw man (a position no one holds). More, if there is no "magic" in using the term "radical Islam", then why avoid it? Obama says that we shouldn't brand all Muslims as terrorists or radicals – and he's correct – but it's not at all clear that using the term does that. Lots of people refer to "Islamic terrorism" while at the same time acknowledging that not all terrorism is done by Muslims and that the vast majority of Muslims aren't terrorists. As I've argued before, you can call someone a "white supremacist" without saying all whites are supremacists, just like you can say Josef Stalin was an "violent socialist" without saying all socialists are violent. Why doesn't the same apply to "radical Islam"? If we support all of Obama's policies and actions on terrorism, but also use the term "Islamic terrorism", are we suddenly validating terrorists and helping them recruit members? Does the term have that much "magic"?

"So she says the solution is to ban guns. They tried that in France, which has among the toughest gun laws anywhere in the world, and 130 people were brutally murdered by Islamic terrorists in cold blood. Her plan is to disarm law-abiding Americans, abolishing the Second Amendment and leaving only the bad guys and terrorists with guns. No good. Not going to happen, folks. Not going to happen. Not going to happen. She wants to take away Americans' guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come in to the country, we don't have guns, let them come in. Let them have all the fun they want."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 13, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: This is a distortion. While Clinton has called for restrictions on guns that Trump doesn't support, Clinton has not called for banning all guns. More, Trump is demonizing Clinton by claiming she intentionally wants to render Americans defenseless while at the same time introducing violent people into the country.

When it comes to Hillary Clinton's pronouncement earlier Monday that "radical Islamism" and "radical jihadism" are "the same thing" in discussing the Orlando, Florida, terrorist attack, the White House is sticking with its current terminology.

"Listen, I think the president has been quite clear why we choose the language we use to define our enemy. And we have defined the enemy, our adversary in this war as a terrorist organization that perverts Islam," press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. "And the president's been blunt about that and the president has been blunt about why exactly we use the terminology that we do. And it is to make crystal clear we're not going to give those extremist organizations the legitimacy of claiming legitimate Islam."

President Barack Obama is "not going to give into them," Earnest said, because those groups and people "want that legitimacy."

"They want to further this narrative that they represent Islam in a war against the West. That narrative is false. It is empty. It is a myth. In fact, most of the victims of these terrorist organizations are in fact innocent Muslim men, women and children," Earnest continued, adding, "Many of the -- many of our most important partners in our counter-ISIL effort are our partners in the Muslim world."

That should suggest that the "extremist organizations do not represent the Muslim faith," Earnest said.
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, June 13, 2016, as related in a story by Nick Gass of Politico. Earnest was referring to the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Comment: Earnest is making the argument that Obama won't call the shooting "Islamic" because it would be saying that such violence is a legitimate part of Islam, which a derisive distortion of Islam and a false justification of the shooter's actions. But is that really what such language commits us to? If I call Adolf Hitler a "German supremacist" or a "white supremacist", does that mean I'm saying his rhetoric and violence is a legitimate part of what it is to be German or white? Or, if I say that Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong were socialists – or "radical socialists" – am I therefore saying their violent, oppressive behavior is an essential part of socialism, and that all socialists are committed to the same? The same question goes to phrases like "right-wing violence", "left-wing violence", 'environmental terrorism", "Christian militants", etc. Do they all amount to a false portrayal that demonizes these wider movements as being represented by extremists? Do these phrases all give unearned legitimacy for the people doing the violence?

"Everything’s political correct. I mean, you watch what you say, you say something a little bit off, you end up with headlines. It’s like a bunch of babies. Like a bunch of dumb babies. And, believe me, folks: the world is laughing at us."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 11, 2016.

Comment: Trump is dismissing the idea of political correctness, which is perhaps the same as dismissing civility. And he is resorting to name-calling, belittling people who advocate being politically correct. Does this mean that we don't have to be politically correct in criticizing Trump himself? What sorts of things does that allow us to say about him? If Trump is called names, and he complains about it, does that mean he's being a "baby"?

Pocahontas is at it again! Goofy Elizabeth Warren, one of the least productive U.S. Senators, has a nasty mouth. Hope she is V.P. choice.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, June 10, 2016, referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Comment: This is name-calling, perhaps of the "stupid" variety.

It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent. The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard. I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.

Over the past few weeks, I have watched as the media has reported one inaccuracy after another concerning the ongoing litigation involving Trump University. There are several important facts the public should know and that the media has failed to report.

Due to what I believe are unfair and mistaken rulings in this case and the Judge’s reported associations with certain professional organizations, questions were raised regarding the Obama appointed Judge’s impartiality. It is a fair question. I hope it is not the case.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, June 7, 2016. The statement was a response to criticism of Trump's demand that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel recuse himself from a civil case concerning Trump University, given that Curiel was of Mexican heritage, was a member of a Latino lawyers' association, and that Trump had pledged to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border to stop illegal immigration from Mexico.

Comment: Trump is saying that his position on Curiel has been distorted, but has it? The interview in question described Trump's position as:
In an interview, Mr. Trump said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over the litigation given that he was “of Mexican heritage” and a member of a Latino lawyers’ association. Mr. Trump said the background of the judge, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants, was relevant because of his campaign stance against illegal immigration and his pledge to seal the southern U.S. border. “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said.
If this is an accurate description of Trump's remarks in the interview, then Trump is saying that Curiel's ethnicity and his membership in a Latino professional association is sufficient to justify belief that Curiel would be biased against Trump, which seems like an unfounded accusation of bigotry against Curiel (and a bigoted assumption itself: that Latinos will make judicial against their political opponents). Would it be justified to demand that a white judge recuse themselves from the civil case against Trump, because the judge would be biased in favor of Trump? If the above quote is not an accurate description of Trump's remarks during the interview, then Trump is being misrepresented, but by the Wall Street Journal, not by the wider media or any critics who based their criticism on the Wall Street Journal's article.

"Why is the economy slowing? The usual suspects wasted no time blaming President Obama. But you need to remember that these same people have been warning of imminent disaster ever since Mr. Obama was elected, and have been wrong every step of the way. They predicted soaring interest rates and soaring inflation; neither happened. They declared that the Affordable Care Act would be a huge job-killer; the years after the act went into full effect were marked by the best private-sector job creation since the 1990s."
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, June 6, 2016.

Comment: This is ad hominem reasoning. Yes, many of Obama’s critics have made false predictions about Obama’s policies. But that doesn’t mean that they’re wrong now. After all, Obama and his supporters have made false predictions and been wrong from time to time, as well; the fact that they were wrong in the past doesn’t guarantee that they’re wrong now. Also, is it really true that Obama’s critics have been wrong “every step of the way”? Not once have they ever made an accurate criticism of Obama? That sounds like a distortion.

"But unfortunately, graduates, despite the lessons of our history and the truth of your experience here at City College, some folks out there today seem to have a very different perspective. They seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped. They tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree. They act as if name-calling is an acceptable substitute for thoughtful debate, as if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than the optimism and openness that have always been the engine of our progress."
-- First Lady Michelle Obama, June 3, 2016, speaking at City College of New York Commencement.

Comment: Obama is accusing some people – she does not name who – of being opposed to diversity, of inciting fear and suspicion, and resorting to name-calling. It’s impossible to know if these accusations are true until she identifies who they are about (Republicans are the likely target). This seems like the “only my opponent” caricature, as Obama’s fellow Democrats often behave in many of the same ways.

TAPPER: Historically speaking throughout your decades in public life you and your husband have had occasionally contentious relationships with journalists, though, it certainly never went as far publicly as it did today with Donald Trump calling journalists sleazy and dishonest and unfair. So what went through your mind watching his press conference today?

CLINTON: Well, I have to say, Jake, I had my team check. I have done nearly 300 interviews just in 2016 and I believe that it's important to continue to, you know, speak to the press as I'm doing right now. And to understand that his attacking everybody, fellow Republicans, Democrats, the press, you just name it. He attacks everybody, is a recipe for gridlock in Washington. And that's what we've got to break and get away with. You know, he seems to believe, or at least is demonstrating that insulting and attacks is his mode of operations. And you know, I just don't think that's going to cut it. If you want to actually produce results for the American people and not only lead it home, but lead the world.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, May 31, 2016, during an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN.

Comment: This is the “only my opponent” caricature. Granted, Trump has often resorted to name-calling, but so have Clinton and many other Democrats.

TRUMP: I'm not looking for credit. But what I don't want is when I raise millions of dollars, to have people say – like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC. He's a sleaze in my book.

LLAMAS: Why am I sleaze?

TRUMP: You're a sleaze, because you know the facts, and you know the facts well.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, May 31, 2016, referring to Tom Llamas of ABC News. Trump accused Llamas of misreporting the amount of money Trump raised for veterans.

Comment: “Sleaze” is an example of “disgusting” rhetoric. If misreporting facts about Trump is grounds for Trump to use this kind of language against them, does the same standard apply to Trump himself? If Trump makes a false statement about somebody, are we justified in referring to Trump as “sleaze”?

1) Profited off of 9/11
2) Rooted for the housing crash
3) Ran a fraudulent university
4) Sued for tax dodging
5) Is a dick
-- Political consultant Jon Favreau, May 20, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Favreau's fifth point is name-calling, perhaps of the "disgusting" variety, but certainly vulgar.

Jon Stewart may no longer be hosting his show known for biting takedowns of political figures, but that didn’t stop him Monday from going on an epic rant against Donald Trump. The former “Daily Show” host told David Axelrod at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics that he isn’t even sure the presumptive Republican nominee is eligible for the presidency.

“I’m not a constitutional scholar, so I can’t necessarily say, but are you eligible to run if you are a man-baby, or a baby-man?” Stewart said during a taping of Axelrod’s podcast “The Axe Files.” “He has the physical countenance of a man and a baby’s temperament and hands.”
-- Comedian and activist Jon Stewart, as related in a May 9, 2016, story by Brianna Gurciullo of Politico.

Comment: Stewart is resorting to name-calling against Trump, and it's not clear how much of his rhetoric is intended to be taken as comedy.

Donald Trump is a pathological liar, Ted Cruz said Tuesday in a forceful and passionate rebuke of the Republican presidential front-runner. Phoning into Fox News on Tuesday, the real-estate mogul parroted a National Enquirer report alleging that Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, was with John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, suggesting that the elder Cruz was somehow involved in JFK’s murder.

“This morning, Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father. Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK,” Cruz told reporters during a news conference in Evansville, Indiana. “Now, let’s be clear, this is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky.”

“And while I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard,” Cruz continued sarcastically.

Cruz defended his father, recalling the story of how came to America with just $100, and slammed the National Enquirer as “tabloid trash” that published an “idiotic story.” Cruz said the tabloid, which recently published a story alleging that the Texas senator has had multiple extramarital affairs, has become Trump’s hit piece to smear his targets.

“I’m gonna tell you what I really think of Donald Trump: This man is a pathological liar,” Cruz said. “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth, and in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.”

Trump floated the conspiracy between the Cuban immigrant and Oswald in retaliation for Rafael Cruz using his pulpit to encourage evangelicals to support Cruz. “I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?” Trump said on Fox News. “It’s horrible.”
-- Republican presidential contenders Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Donald Trump, as related in a May 3, 2016, story by Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico.

Comment: First, Trump is suggesting Rafael Cruz may have conspired with Oswald to kill JFK largely based on a picture in which Oswald appears with someone resembling Cruz. Even if the person is, in fact, Cruz, this is flimsy evidence at best; many other people appeared in the picture, are they therefore ALL conspirators? Trump's accusation against Cruz is derisive, and the burden of proof is on Trump to prove that it's true. Second, even if it were true that Rafael Cruz had played a role in assassinating JFK, what bearing would that have on his son, Ted Cruz? Is Trump accusing the younger Cruz of guilt by association? Last, Ted Cruz is accusing Trump of not caring about the truth. Granted, Trump is saying (or at least, has said) things that are false; is that enough to reach the conclusion that he's a pathological liar who doesn't care about facts? If we discover that Cruz has said things that are false, can we conclude the same about him?

CRUZ: It's not easy to tick me off. I don't get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: So will you support him for the nominee?

CRUZ: I'm going to beat him for the nomination.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: That's not answering the question, Senator.

CRUZ: I am answering the question. Donald Trump will not be the nominee.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), March 24, 2016., referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump. Trump had blamed Cruz for an anti-Trump political ad displaying a nude photo of Trump's wife, Melania, after which Trump threatened to "spill the beans" about Cruz's wife, Heidi, and retweeted a photo comparing Melania Trump and Heidi Cruz.

Comment: Cruz and Trump are resorting to name-calling. Plus, Cruz is evading the question, refusing to answer whether he will support Trump, should Trump become the GOP nominee.

Speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Austin, Texas, on Friday evening, President Barack Obama lit into Donald Trump, by turns mocking him for "selling steaks" and ripping his rhetoric— while urging the GOP to take responsibility for creating him.

"We’ve got a debate inside the other party that is fantasy and schoolyard taunts and selling stuff like it’s the Home Shopping Network," Obama said in a clear reference to Trump's Tuesday-night press conference, where he wheeled out products like Trump Steaks and Trump Water to prove his business bona fides.

Then the president launched into a lengthy series of taunts of his own, blistering the Republican establishment for being "shocked that somebody is fanning anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-Muslim sentiment."

"How can you be shocked?" he asked. "This is the guy, remember, who was sure that I was born in Kenya. Who just wouldn’t let it go. And all this same Republican establishment, they weren’t saying nothing. As long as it was directed at me, they were fine with it. They thought it was a hoot. Wanted to get his endorsement. And then now, suddenly, we’re shocked that there’s gambling going on in this establishment."

"What is happening in this primary is just a distillation of what’s been happening inside their party for more than a decade," Obama said, accusing Republicans of denying "evidence of science" and viewing Democrats as "destroying the country, or treasonous."

"That’s what they’ve been saying," he went on. "So they can’t be surprised when somebody suddenly looks and says, you know what, I can do that even better. I can make stuff up better than that. I can be more outrageous than that. I can insult people even better than that. I can be even more uncivil."

Even when Obama allowed that "there are thoughtful conservatives, good people in the Republican Party," he quickly offered up some more red meat to the crowd: "Some of them have been writing that, well, the reason our party is going crazy is because of Obama, which is a pretty novel idea. The notion is, Obama drove us crazy."

"Now, the truth is, what they really mean is their reaction to me was crazy and now it has gotten out of hand," he said, challenging Republicans alarmed by Trump's ascent to look inward. "Because my question to the folks who are suddenly so spun up is, where have you been the past five, six, seven years?"
-- President Barack Obama, as related in a March 11, 2016, story by the staff at Politico.

Comment: This is the "only my opponent" caricature. While Obama is correct to point out that Republicans have resorted to (and failed to stand against) name-calling, the same is true of Obama and Democrats (for instance, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa's remarks about the Tea Party).

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Some of your critics have pointed to the incredibly polarized political climate under your administration as contributing to the rise of someone as provocative as Donald Trump. Do you feel responsibility for that, or even some of the protectionist rhetoric from some Democratic candidates? Do you have a timeline for when you might make a presidential endorsement? And to follow on my colleague’s question here, do you feel political heat is constraining your pool of viable Supreme Court nominees? Thank you.

OBAMA: It’s a three-fer. I think it’s important for me to nominate a Supreme Court nominee quickly because I think it’s important for the Supreme Court to have its full complement of justices. … With respect to your first question, I’ve actually heard this argument a number of times. I have been blamed by Republicans for a lot of things, but being blamed for their primaries and who they’re selecting for their party is novel. Look, I’ve said -- I said it at the State of the Union that one of my regrets is the degree to which polarization and the nasty tone of our politics has accelerated rather than waned over the course of the last seven and a half years. And I do all kinds of soul-searching in terms of are there things I can do better to make sure that we’re unifying the country. But I also have to say, Margaret, that, objectively, it’s fair to say that the Republican political elites and many of the information outlets -- social media, news outlets, talk radio, television stations -- have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years a notion that everything I do is to be opposed; that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal; that maximalist, absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous; that there is a “them” out there and an “us,” and “them” are the folks who are causing whatever problems you’re experiencing. And the tone of that politics -- which I certainly have not contributed to -- I don’t think that I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example. I don’t remember saying, hey, why don’t you ask me about that. Or why don’t you question whether I’m American, or whether I’m loyal, or whether I have America’s best interests at heart -- those aren’t things that were prompted by any actions of mine. … And what’s interesting -- I’ll just say one last thing about this -- there are thoughtful conservatives who are troubled by this, who are troubled by the direction of their party. I think it is very important for them to reflect on what it is about the politics they’ve engaged in that allows the circus we’ve been seeing to transpire, and to do some introspection.
-- President Barack Obama, March 10, 2016, during a press conference, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: First, this is the "only my opponent" caricature. Obama has routinely resorted to derisive name-calling against his opponents. In particular, he has often questioned the patriotism of Republicans, accusing them of putting party ahead of country. Second, this is "unify the country" rhetoric.

"You all have friends thinking about voting for Donald Trump. Friends do not let friends vote for con artists. All right, so you want to have a little fun? All right, what is Donald Trump do when things go wrong? He takes to Twitter. I have him right here. Let's read some. You'll have fun. All right, number one, here's the first one, "Lightweight Marco Rubio was working hard last night." This is true. "The problem is, he is a chocker. And once a chocker, always a choker." I guess that's what he meant to say. He spelled choker, C-H-O-C-K-E-R, chocker. He called me Mr. Meltdown. Let me tell you something, during one of the breaks, two of the breaks, he went backstage, he was having a meltdown. First, he had this little makeup thing applying, like, makeup around his mustache, because he had one of those sweat mustaches. He wanted a full-length mirror. Maybe to make sure his pants weren't wet. I don't know. Then I see him pacing back and forth, and then he is huddled in the corner talking to somebody, waving his arm up and down and the person trying to calm him down. Any way, but I'm a chocker. All right, next tweet. "Leight weight chocker, Marco Rubio, looks like a little boy on stage, not presidential material." He meant to say lightweight, but he spelled it L-E-I-G-H T, so he got it wrong. "Looks like a little boy on stage." It's not that I look like a little boy, it's not that I would be the youngest president but he would be the oldest president ever elected. So you start to worry. All right, last one, "Wow, every poll said I won the debate last night." Now, this is him about himself, OK. "Great honer." I think he meant to say "honor." I don't know how he got that wrong, because the "E" and "O" are nowhere near each other oh there on the keyboard. That's what I'm thinking. So how do this guy three tweets misspell words so badly? I only reach two conclusions. Number one, that's how they spell those words at the Wharton School of Business where he went. Or number two, just like Trump Tower, he must have hired a foreign worker to do his own tweets. All right, so guys, we have a con artist as the front-runner in the Republican Party. A guy, a guy who has made a career out of telling people lies so they come in and buy his product or whatever he does. You ever heard of Trump vodka. You have? Well, it isn't around any more. Or a Trump mattress, or Trump air, or Trump ice or Trump water. Those are all businesses that are gone, because they were disasters. Trump hot air, yeah."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), February 26, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Rubio is mocking Trump for his gaffes, as well for Trump's mocking of Rubio. It's not clear how much (if any) of this is meant comically.

"Patrick Leahy looks like E.T. all grown up, about 10 times more unattractive."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, February 24, 2016, in the 3rd hour of his radio show, referring to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and the alien in the film "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial".

Comment: This is name-calling, I'm guessing of the "disgusting" variety.

TRUMP: You heard the other night at the debate, they asked Ted Cruz – serious question – "Well, what do you think of waterboarding? Is it OK?" And, honestly, I thought he'd say "absolutely" and he didn't. He said, "Well,", you know, he's concerned about the answer. Because some people – [pointing into audience] She just said a terrible thing. You know what she said? Shout it out because I don't want to say.

AUDIENCE MEMBER [unidentified]: He's a pussy!

TRUMP: OK. You're not allowed to say – and I never expect to hear that from you again – she said – I never expect to hear that from you again. She said he's a pussy. That's terrible.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, February 8, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Trump's offense at the audience member's remarks were clearly feigned.

Comment: This is name-calling, essentially saying that Cruz's positions are based on cowardice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wacko @glennbeck is a sad answer to the @SarahPalinUSA endorsement that Cruz so desperately wanted. Glenn is a failing, crying, lost soul!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLINTON: Well, you’d have to ask –

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

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

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

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

MATTHEWS: How is that different than a socialist?

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

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

"She was favored to win and she got schlonged, she lost."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, December 21, 2015, referring to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her failure to win the Democratic nomination in 2008.

Comment: I'm not sure what kind of name-calling this would amount to, though it's clear Trump's language ("schlong" is Yiddish for "penis") has a vulgar sexual connotation.

"She's always been – whether it was Whitewater or the email scandal, she always lies. And now to be saying that we're just right in the perfect spot with respect to ISIS, I don't think that's a lie, I really don't think she knows what she's doing."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, December 21, 2015, referring to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: Trump is accusing Clinton of distortion – more, that she always lies, which could also involve the "they'll say anything" caricature – but he then immediately contradicts himself and says that Clinton is not lying in her assessment of ISIS. Rather, he says, she's made a false assessment of the Islamic State based on being "out of touch with reality".

STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Donald Trump call you out. He said you lied. He doubled down on that embrace from Vladimir Putin.

SANDERS: I tell you, it really is rather extraordinary. I think -- and I say this straightforwardly -- I think you have a pathological liar there.


SANDERS: Pathological, I really do. I mean, I think much of what he says are lies or gross distortion of reality. Here's the fact. I mean, he's been saying over and over again that he saw on television, as I understand it, thousands of people in New Jersey celebrating 9/11 right the destruction of the Twin Towers. Either that's true or it's not true. And what I understand, there have been a lot of research, they archive what goes on television. You're a TV guy, right? Everything was saying that was going to be archived. Either it is true, it is not true. Nobody has seen a tape of thousands of people celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers in New Jersey. It doesn't exist. And he keeps claiming it. That's called pathological lying. Yes, he just (INAUDIBLE) a few moments ago accused me of lying when I said last night is that he has suggested that Mexicans who were coming to this country are criminals and rapists. That is exactly what he said. What somebody like a Donald Trump is doing is playing on the fears and anxieties of the American people. And people are afraid.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), December 20, 2015, appearing on ABC News' "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos. Sanders was responding to remarks made earlier on the show by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Sanders is accusing Trump of distortion – perhaps to the point of not caring about truth – as well as exploiting fear.

SANDERS: And somebody like with Trump comes along and says I know the answers. The answer is that all of the Mexicans, they're criminals and rapists. We hate all the Muslims, because all of the Muslims are terrorists.

CLINTON: He is becoming ISIS' best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.

[End video clips]

KARL: As you heard, an explosive allegation from Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, saying that ISIS is showing videos of Trump to recruit potential new jihadists. We asked the Clinton camp where they got that from. They have not offered, George, any direct evidence that had happened. Donald Trump, for his part, overnight, Tweeted simply, "Hillary Clinton lied."

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Jon Karl, thanks very much. Let's talk to Mr. Trump right now. We saw that Tweet, Mr. Trump. Are you going to stand by it?

TRUMP: Well, of course I'm standing by it. It was vetted. They went to "The Washington Post." Fox News went out in great detail and looked for it and there's no such video. And they may make one up, knowing the Clintons and knowing Hillary, but there's no -- there's nobody -- she just made it up. I mean she made it up. It was a sound bite. Just like Bernie Sanders lied.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, December 20, 2015, appearing on ABC News' "This Week" with Jon Karl and George Stephanopoulos. Trump was responding to video clips of statements made by Democratic presidential contenders former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during the previous week's Democratic presidential debate.

Comment: Trump is accusing Clinton and Sanders of distortion (in the case of Clinton, she has not been able to show that video of Trump is being used to recruit jihadists).

SCARBOROUGH: Shouldn't you be more assertive when Donald Trump comes out and says he wants to keep all Muslims out of the country?

CRUZ: Look, I've said I disagree with that proposal. But is amazing how eager the media is – I mean, the number one question I get day in, day out is, “Please attack Donald Trump, please attack Donald Trump.” And, you know, I’ll point out, my approach to Trump has been the same as my approach to every other Republican candidate, which is that I’m not interested in personal insults and mudslinging. … Because I don’t think the American people really want to hear a bunch of politicians bickering like kids. They want to hear real and positive solutions to the problems we’ve got … Listen, I get that the media wants us to play theater critics and critique every other proposal. What I’m focusing on are my own policy proposals.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), December 10, 2015, during interview with Joe Scarborough of MSNBC. His remarks were in reference to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump's proposal to temporarily halt Muslims from entering the U.S.

Comment: Cruz says he disagrees with Trump, yet he mischaracterizes the questions posed by the media. It is legitimate to ask a candidate to defend their own policies as being superior to those of other candidates. That kind of comparison and contrast doesn't amount to "personal insults", "mudslinging", "attacking", "bickering", or asking candidates to be "theater critics". Cruz is wrongly trying to dismiss these questions (which are appropriate questions) as "negative politics".

Given Trump's knack for stealing the spotlight, it's easy to think he's alone in his Islamophobic views. That would be a mistake. The other GOP presidential hopefuls may not share Trump's penchant for rabble-rousing, but they're complicit in creating a deeply troubling atmosphere. And I'm not talking about the typical stand-on-the-sidelines sort of complicity. No, these Republican candidates are actively -- and dangerously -- bringing us back to scarier times with their fear-based proposals and angry rhetoric: … Ben Carson compared some Syrian refugees to dogs -- with "mad dogs" among them. Comparing people to animals is textbook propaganda, and it often leads to some pretty nasty places (think: "vermin," "blight," "eradicate"). Just imagine Carson's words blown up on a 20-foot poster. Marco Rubio equated Muslims to "Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party, but weren't violent themselves." Shameful. It was only last century that our elected leaders lumped Japanese Americans alongside our overseas enemies. The end result was internment camps, a concept that Trump refused to dismiss.
-- Pundit Donna Brazile, December 9, 2015, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump's proposal to temporarily halt Muslims from entering the U.S., as well as to remarks by Republican presidential contenders Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Comment: First, Brazile is accusing Trump of bigotry, and the Republican candidates more generally of fear-mongering. She also distorts what Carson and Rubio said: Carson did not "compare" Syrian refugees to dogs in the sense of dehumanizing them and saying they were no better than dogs. Rather, Carson said the fact that some terrorists might pose as refugees in order to enter and attack the U.S. shouldn't cause us to despise all refugees, in the same way that one dog with rabies shouldn't cause us to fear all dogs in general. More, Rubio did not "equate" Muslims with Nazis: rather, he said that there is a difference between violent and non-violent members of the Islamic faith, just as there is a difference between violent and non-violent members of any other religion or movement. 

"It's not just Donald Trump that has said that Muslims are unacceptable for admission to this country … Marco Rubio after the Paris attacks said not only that we should be considering internment, he actually suggested that maybe we should close down cafes and diners where Muslims gather, and in fact, compared them to the Nazi party."
-- Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, December 9, 2015, referring to remarks by Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Comment: Wasserman-Schultz is distorting Rubio's comments in a way that makes him appear bigoted. Rubio did not "compare" Muslims to Nazis in the sense of saying they were the same: rather, he said avoiding saying we're at war with "radical Islam" because we don't want to offend non-radical Muslims would be, "like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party but weren’t violent themselves". Also, Rubio said any place where people are being inspired to violence should be shut down, he did not specify that it should only apply to Muslims.

"Okay, you still think that I'm wrong about this? Well, then, get this. Criticism of Islam equals Islamophobia, and the attorney general of the United States, Loretta Lynch, has just warned that people will be prosecuted for criticism of Islam -- i.e., telling the truth that Islamic terrorism exists. You can be prosecuted if you tell the truth about Islam. Don't doubt me, folks. … And then we hear the attorney general the United States and the president of the United States say, "Make any criticism of Muslims, and we are coming after you. We are gonna prosecute you. We are gonna deny you your First Amendment rights because we are not tolerating that. That's not who we are." This would... I don't know. What's the difference in this and the government criticizing anybody that went after John Gotti as anti-Italian, and saying, "We're not gonna put up with it"? It's absurd, folks. It's literally absurd."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, December 4, 2015, remarking on President Barack Obama and his administration's refusal to use the term "Islamic terrorism".

Comment: Limbaugh is misrepresenting Lynch. Lynch never said she would prosecute people for linking Islam to terrorism; rather, she said she would do so for "violent talk".

A former U.S. congressman urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch to arrest him after she warned on Thursday that her office would take a more aggressive approach to those spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“I think Islam has a real freaking problem, alright?” Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh said in a video posted to his Facebook page. “There is a cancer in Islam, and if they’re not going to learn to assimilate, I don’t want them in this country.”

“You got a problem, Loretta Lynch, with me saying that? Then throw me in jail,” Walsh, a conservative talk show host, argued. “I think Islam is evil. I think Islam has a huge problem. I think most Muslims around the world are not compatible with American values. I don’t want them here.”
-- Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), December 4, 2015, as related in a story by Kaitlyn Schallhorn of The Blaze. Lynch, on December 3, 2015, had threatened to take action against anti-Muslim rhetoric that "edges towards violence".

Comment: Walsh is misrepresenting Lynch. Lynch never said she would prosecute people for anti-Muslim remarks; rather, she said she would do so for remarks that incited violence (which Walsh did not do in his remarks).

Has Donald Trump gone too far this time?

The Republican presidential hopeful is under fire for mocking a New York Times reporter with an 'outrageous' impression of the journalist's physical handicap during a campaign speech on Wednesday.

Not only has the New York Times come to the defense of their reporter, Serge Kovaleski, but the journalist's colleagues and the public at large have taken to social media to register their disgust with the brash candidate.

In a campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Trump laid into the journalist, doing an impression that saw him flail his arms while putting on a strange voice.

Before the distasteful imitation, Trump said the story was 'written by a nice reporter'.

But he continued: 'Now the poor guy, you gotta see this guy: "Uh, I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember." He’s going, "I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said."'

Kovaleski, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, was born with arthrogryposis.

The condition can cause sufferers' joints to get stuck in one position and can also see people born with weaker or missing muscles.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, November 25, 2015, as related in a story by Ollie Gillman and Ashley Collman of the Daily Mail.

Comment: Trump was clearly mocking Kovaleski for being disabled. It's not clear exactly what type of name-calling this would be – "stupid" or "subhuman"? Something else? – but it's certainly derisive and unacceptable. Trump's later claim that he was not mocking Kovaleski's disability is simply dishonest.

COL. TOM MOE, US AIR FORCE, VIETNAM POW: I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts that I paraphrase from the words of German pastor Martin Niemöller. You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government because you're not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says he's going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants because you're not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump says it's OK to rough up black protesters because you're not one. And you might not care if Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists because you're not one. But think about this: if he keeps going, and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you, and you better hope that there's someone left to help you.

TEXT: Paid for by Kasich for America.
-- "Trump's Dangerous Rhetoric", a political ad released November 24, 2015, by Republican presidential contender Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), criticizing fellow Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: The paraphrasing of the famous words of Martin Niemöller – opposed the Nazis – was taken by some as "comparing" Trump to Adolf Hitler. The ad contains some distortions. First, Trump never said Muslims should have to register with the government (though he did – unacceptably – fail to reject the idea). Second, Trump never said he would round up all Hispanic immigrants; rather, he said he would deport all illegal immigrants (which means legal Hispanic immigrants would not be "rounded up", while many non-Hispanic immigrants who are here illegally would be "rounded up"). The implication that Trump is anti-Hispanic on this basis is therefore unfair. Third, while Trump did express approval at a protester being "roughed up" (which is unacceptable), he didn't justify this on the basis that the protester was black; the implication of bigotry is again unfair. Finally, Trump did not suppress journalists by – as the ad depicts – removing Jorge Ramos of Univision from a press conference. Ramos was disrupting the press event, not waiting to be called on before he spoke (as the other journalists were doing), and he was ultimately allowed back into the conference to question Trump. This hardly amounts to some sort of effort to stifle freedom of the press.

TEXT: Republicans keep saying the same thing.

RUBIO: We are at war with radical Islam.

JEB BUSH: Radical Islamic terrorism.

TEXT: Equating Islam, all Muslims, with terrorists…

TRUMP: We do have a problem radical Muslims.

CARSON: Radical Islamic jihadists.

CRUZ: Radical Islamic terrorism.

TEXT: It’s oversimplification. And it’s wrong. But don’t take our word for it.

GEORGE BUSH: We do not fight against Islam, we fight against evil.

GEORGE BUSH: The war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims, nor is it a war against Arabs. It’s a war against evil people who conduct crimes against innocent people.

GEORGE BUSH: That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.

TEXT: Inciting fear isn’t presidential.
-- Democratic Party political ad, retrieved November 24, 2015. The ad quotes Republican presidential contenders former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Donald Trump, as well as former President George W. Bush.

Comment: The ad is accusing Republicans of fear-mongering. It is also falsely accusing Republicans (perhaps via code words?) of equating Islam and Muslims with terrorism and terrorists, thereby demonizing them as bigots. Being opposed to radical Islam doesn't mean being opposed to all Muslims, any more than being opposed to corrupt police officers means being opposed to all police officers. Citing George Bush – a Republican – seems like a faulty appeal to authority, perhaps an argument ad hostes. (Plus, the ad cites George Bush selectively: he denounced Islamic radicalism.) 

"I don't think he's got a strategy that deals with ISIS. I think Obama's strategy – best I've been able to learn, and I've looked really hard at this – it seems to me that Obama is linked to Iran and Syria in this. The sectarian violence throughout the Middle East is his excuse for not doing anything about it. Iran capitalizes on all of this chaos and crisis. And Chris, look, I don't like saying any of this, but it's obvious Obama is very sensitive to Iran's needs and is trying to satisfy them. We have lifted the sanctions. They've got $150 billion they didn't have. They are on the way to get a nuclear weapon, all because of Barack Hussein O, and I think his dealing with ISIS is inept, and incompetent, and nonexistent."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, November 22, 2015, on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, speaking about President Barack Obama.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing Obama – portraying him as seeking to help Iran – by misrepresenting the Iranian nuclear deal. The Iranian nuclear deal lifts many sanctions on Iran and allows them to access its financial assets (estimated between $55 billion - $150 billion in value) that were seized, but it also imposes costs: Iran has to surrender 97% of their stockpile of enriched uranium, as well as two-thirds of their uranium-enriching centrifuges. Plus, Iran must provide international inspectors with access to their known nuclear supply chain. Whether the deal as a whole a good idea is fair to debate, but it's false to portray it as nothing but a boon to Iran.

At the moment, Republican rhetoric is spiraling out of control. Donald Trump, for example, is open to a “database system” to track Muslims. “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases,” he said. And in an interview with Yahoo News, Trump said that “we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” with regards to surveillance of Muslims. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, likewise, wants a religious test for refugees: We’ll accept the Christians and reject the Muslims. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t as extreme — although he’s open to monitoring any place that spreads “radicalism” — but he believes the Western world is in a fight against “radical Islam,” and is bewildered by those who don’t follow his labeling. “I don’t understand it,” said Rubio when asked about Hillary Clinton’s pointed refusal to use the term in the last Democratic presidential debate. “That would be like saying we weren’t at war with the Nazis, because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi Party but weren’t violent themselves,” he said, comparing Islam — a vast religion with 1.6 billion adherents — to Nazism.
-- Pundit Jamelle Bouie, November 20, 2015, criticizing Republican presidential contenders Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Donald Trump for their remarks on Syrian refugees.

Comment: Bouie is accusing Cruz and Trump of being "extreme". He is also accusing Rubio of comparing Islam to Nazism, but this is a distortion: Rubio is saying radical Islam stands to Muslims as Nazism stands to Germans. As such, he is comparing Nazism to radical Islam, not to Muslims in general.

"But we are not well-served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don't make good decisions if it's based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks. I think the refugee debate is an example of us not being well-served by some of the commentary that’s been taking place by officials back home and in the media. … And so if there are concrete, actual suggestions to enhance this extraordinary screening process that’s already in place, we’re welcome -- we’re open to hearing actual ideas. But that’s not really what’s been going on in this debate. When candidates say, we wouldn't admit three-year-old orphans -- that’s political posturing. When individuals say that we should have a religious test and that only Christians -- proven Christians -- should be admitted -- that’s offensive and contrary to American values. I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate. ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there is a war between Islam and the West. And when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility, suggesting that Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop. And I would add, by the way, these are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL, or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there. But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion. First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me. … They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns. And it’s irresponsible. And it’s contrary to who we are. And it needs to stop, because the world is watching. I was proud, when the attacks in Boston took place, and we did not resort to fear and to panic. Boston Strong. People went to the ballgame that same week, and sang the National Anthem, and went back to the stores and went back to the streets. That’s how you defeat ISIL. Not by trying to divide the country, or suggest somehow that our tradition of compassion should stop now."
-- President Barack Obama, November 17, 2015. He was remarking on objections (frequently from Republicans) to allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, based in part on concerns that some might be terrorist infiltrators from the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq.

Comment: Perhaps Republicans are wrong to object to taking in Syrian refugees, but that doesn't mean their objections amount to politicizing and fear-mongering, as Obama says. They certainly aren't afraid of widows and three-year-old children; that's a straw man Obama has concocted to make Republicans seem ridiculous.

"Our system only works when we realize that government is not some alien thing. Government is not some conspiracy or plot. It’s not something to oppress you. Government’s us in a democracy. Government is us. The most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen. It’s you."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: Obama is knocking over a straw man. Most of his political opponents want small government, not no government whatsoever.

"Overall, though, we’re making enormous progress, and it does make you wonder, why is it that Republican politicians are so down on America. Have you noticed that? I mean, they are gloomy. They’re like Grumpy Cat. Everything is terrible according to them. We’re doomed. I mean, I know it’s political season, but you listen to them and they’ve constructed this entire separate reality. It’s like the Twilight Zone. And according to their story, their narrative, everything was terrific back in 2008 when unemployment was skyrocketing and uninsured rates were rising and folks were losing their homes and their jobs, we were engaged in two wars, bin Laden was still at large. If you were listening to them, those were like the good old days. The golden years. And then I came in and the Democrats came in, but according to them that’s when everything all went to heck. Which is strange. I mean, it’s a hard argument to make. There was an article, I think, in The New York Times today, or maybe it was yesterday, where they pointed out that it’s very hard for them to make the arguments they make about tax cuts for the wealthy and doing the same stuff that they’ve been promoting, and trying to eliminate regulations on the big banks and all that, when the empirical evidence shows that when Democrats control the White House and we’ve got a Democratic Congress the economy does better and when they’re in charge, it does worse. Just look at the facts. Don’t take my word for it, go back, take a look at – all right, here’s Bill Clinton’s presidency, and then there’s Bush presidency and then there’s my presidency and, take a look. And you’ve gotta feel bad for the fact-checkers, for the Republicans, because they’ve gotta spend hours trying to keep up with some of the crazy stuff that their candidates are claiming. And the reason they have to make up stuff is because they don’t have a record to run on. They’re offering the same policies that caused so many problems in the first place. They ran on them in 2008, they ran on them in 2012, they’re running on them now. … And it's a shame when politicians spend all their time trying to make people feel bad, or more typically, trying to make them feel scared. Talking down the country all the time because it serves your politics. … We [Democrats] have got an optimistic vision about where this country can go if the politics of obstruction and fear-mongering are set aside and we start working together as a country."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: First, Obama seems to be accusing Republicans of rooting for failure, obstruction, divisiveness and fear-mongering, and saying they are doing so for "political" motives. This is unfair. Obama, when he ran for office in 2004 and 2008, was frequently critical of the country's state of affairs; does this mean he was "down on America"? Second, Obama is distorting Republicans' position: what Republican has ever said that everything was terrific back in 2008? Third, Obama is making a "correlation is causation" argument when it comes to the economy and Democrats, which is additionally flawed because Democrats and Republicans aren't monolithic when it comes to policies (some Republicans have raised taxes, like Ronald Reagan, and some Democrats have lowered them, like JFK), and because Republicans were in control of Congress during the boom years of Clinton's presidency, Democrats were in control of Congress when the Great Recession happened, and Congress is in control of Republicans now that we're making "enormous progress". Of course, sometimes good or bad things happen when a party is in power that were set in motion earlier by a different party, or that are out of anyone's political control altogether.

"Whenever I hear people saying that our problems would be solved without government, I always want to tell them you need to go to some other countries where there really is no government, where the roads are never repaired, where nobody has facilitated electricity going everywhere even where it’s not economical … or kids don’t have access to basic primary education. That’s the logical conclusion if, in fact, you think that government is the enemy. And that, too, is a running strain in our democracy. That’s sort of in our DNA. We’re suspicious of government as a tool of oppression. And that skepticism is healthy, but it can also be paralyzing when we’re trying to do big things together."
-- President Barack Obama, from interview in The New York Review of Books, retrieved October 13, 2015. The interview was conducted September 14, 2015.

Comment: Obama is knocking over a straw man; those who support small government or less government interference rarely support anarchism (i.e., no government at all).

"In the spirit of problem-solving, I'm wondering if you're at all concerned that some of your divisive language you use on the campaign trail undermines your ability to solve problems," a questioner said, to raucous applause.

"I went to Ivy League schools, I know what's divisive, I know what's not divisive," Trump replied. "I don't want to be politically correct all the way down the line. ... I see politicians, they're afraid to say anything because it's not politically correct."

"I am going to have to be who I am," Trump said. "At the same time, I'm running against a lot of people, many are going to be dropping out, I think very soon, if they're smart, they're going to be dropping out. Too many people! Too many people. When it becomes a different kind of situation, you'll see, I'm going to be much less divisive. But always remember this: I never start anything ... I simply counterpunch. They start. They get very nasty."

He continued, "I don't think anybody in this room wants to have somebody who's not going to fight back. We have people now who don't fight back, the country has been hurt tremendously."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, October 12, 2015, at the No Labels conference, as related in a Politico story by Katie Glueck.

Comment: The questioner and Trump are discussing "divisive" language without specifying exactly what counts as divisive. Also, Trump is using "get tough and hit back" language. Finally, if "divisive" language means name-calling, then it's false for Trump to say that he's never instigated it: that's the "only my opponent" caricature. Besides, even if it were true that Trump wasn't the instigator, responding to name-calling with name-calling is still unacceptable. Civility doesn't require being quiet in the face of unfair rhetoric; there are ways of responding that don't indulge in more of the same.

"I believe that any one of our candidates will stand in stark contrast when it comes to the priorities of the American people and how they're going to make the decisions on who they vote for for president to any of the Republican candidates. The Republicans have been trying to out right wing one another. Look, between the 15 Republican candidates that are left, all of whom are trying to out-trump Donald Trump by saying, yes, let's kick women -- let's kick immigrants out of this country. Let's take away health care from women."
-- Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), October 11, 2015.

Comment: Wasserman Schultz is demonizing Republicans, distorting their positions: Republicans aren't xenophobes who want to deport all immigrants; rather, Republicans (but not even all of them) want all illegal immigrants deported. Also, Republicans don't want women to be refused health care; rather, Republicans (again, not even all of them) don't want government money being used to support one health care provider – Planned Parenthood – so long as it also provides abortion services.

Marco Rubio wants no part of Donald Trump’s “freak show,” the Florida senator said in an NPR interview aired Monday.

“I’m not interested in the back and forth — to be a member or a part of his freak show,” the Republican presidential candidate remarked. “I would just say this: He is a very sensitive person; he doesn’t like to be criticized. He responds to criticism very poorly.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), September 28, 2015, as related in a Politico article by Nick Gass. Rubio was discussing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: It's one thing to say he doesn't want to get into a visceral back-and-forth with Trump, but the term "freak show" is derisive name-calling (perhaps an instance of "disgusting" or "subhuman" rhetoric?). Also, it seems like the rhetoric is going to incite exactly what Rubio says he wants to avoid.

"Even as our economy is growing and our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we see in our debates about America’s role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace. We see an argument made that the only strength that matters for the United States is bellicose words and shows of military force; that cooperation and diplomacy will not work. … Part of our job, together … must also involve a rejection by non-Muslims of the ignorance that equates Islam with terror."
-- President Barack Obama, September 28, 2015, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Comment: Obama doesn't name who (a Republican? Which one?) has expressed these ideas, but it seems like Obama is knocking over straw men.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Talking about the comments that came up last night, the statements by this questioner talking about President Obama being a Muslim, talking about Muslims being a problem in this country. You just said that question is offensive to the press, is it not also perhaps offensive to the millions of Muslims in America?

SANTORUM: Here's what I have to say about that. People are entitled to their opinions. We have a First Amendment for a reason. People can just stand up and say what they want. You don't have to agree with it, you don't have to like it. I have a lot of events where people get up and say things that I don't like. I have a lot people say things about me that I don't like. Read my Twitter feed. But I'm going to defend your right to say it. Whether I disagree with it or agree with it really isn't the point. The point is, do they have the right to say it, and do we have an obligation to correct it? And my answer is yes, they have a right to say it, and no, we don't have an obligation at a town hall meeting to correct everything that someone says that we disagree with. … I'm not playing this game that you guys want to play. The President can defend himself, he doesn't need Rick Santorum to defend him. He's got you doing that very, very well. So cut it out. … It’s not my job, it’s not Donald Trump’s job, it’s not anybody’s job to police a question. The questioner can say whatever he wants, it’s a free country.
-- Republican presidential candidate former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), September 18, 2015, responding to a question concerning remarks made at a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. At Trump's event, an attendee said Muslims were the problem with the country, and Trump did not challenge the remarks.

Comment: Santorum is knocking over a straw man: no one has suggested that the remarks made at the Trump event should be illegal. Freedom of speech – as enshrined in the First Amendment – allows people to make remarks like the attendee at Trump's event, but it also allows people to criticize those remarks. Santorum (like Trump) is free to do so, but declines. We are free to think less of Trump for not criticizing bigoted remarks (which they were), and to think less of Santorum for not criticizing Trump's silence. The point of debate is to arrive at the truth, so of course people should challenge falsehoods. Santorum is evading the question of whether the remarks in question were offensive to American Muslims, using "right to their opinion" and "not my job to police civility" rhetoric.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. We know our current president is one. He's not even an American.

TRUMP: [laughing] We need this question. This is the first question.

QUESTIONER: We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question. When can we get rid of them?

TRUMP: We are going to be looking at a lot of different things. A lot of people are saying bad things are happening out there. We are going to be looking at that and a lot of different things.
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, September 17, 2015, being questioned at a town hall event. The questioner was referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Obama is Christian, not Muslim, and he was born in the U.S., but Trump never corrected the questioner's distortion and demonizing (either about Islam being bad, or about Obama not being American). There is also an ambiguity in the dialogue: when the questioner asks about getting rid of them, does "them" refer to training camps or to Muslims? What is Trump agreeing to look into?

"And this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that’s out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are. … But when I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids, or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care -- I think that’s un-American. I do not believe that. I think it is wrong. And I think we should do better. Because that’s how America was made -- by us caring about all our kids."
-- President Barack Obama, September 14, 2015.

Comment: Obama is accusing someone of being both bigoted and un-American. But he doesn't name who has said that immigrant children or the children of illegal immigrants are less worthy of respect, so is it a straw man?

"I don't care what Sarah Palin says any more. Sarah Palin has become a clown. I'm embarrassed that I was once for Sarah Palin. Honestly, I'm embarrassed."
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, September 10, 2015. His remarks referred to former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK).

Comment: This is name-calling. Whatever disagreement or embarrassment Beck might have with Palin, he can express it without deriding her as a clown.

With his blue tie loosened and slung over his shoulder, Trump sits back to digest his meal and provide a running byplay to the news. Onscreen, they've cut away to a spot with Scott Walker, the creaky-robot governor of Wisconsin. Praised by the anchor for his "slow but steady" style, Walker is about to respond when Trump chimes in, "Yeah, he's slow, all right! That's what we got already: slowwww." His staffers at the conference table howl and hoot; their man, though, is just getting warm. When the anchor throws to Carly Fiorina for her reaction to Trump's momentum, Trump's expression sours in schoolboy disgust as the camera bores in on Fiorina. "Look at that face!" he cries. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!" The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. "I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
-- From a September 9, 2015, article on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Rolling Stone magazine. Trump was referring to rival Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

Comment: Trump is name-calling, deriding someone for how they look. His later defense that he was referring to Fiorina's "persona" is unconvincing.

Pundit Mark Steyn tells Glenn Beck that Iran will get $150 billion from “your listeners” as a result of the Iranian nuclear deal.
-- The Glenn Beck Show, September 4, 2015.

Comment: This is a straw man. Though $150 billion was the number often touted, the amount Iran would receive from the deal may be closer to $55 billion. But this money will not come from the U.S.; rather it's from Iranian financial assets that were seized by economic sanctions against Iran.

The Washington Post ran a story last week about some 200 retired generals and admirals who sent a letter to Congress “urging lawmakers to reject the Iran nuclear agreement, which they say threatens national security.” There are legitimate arguments for and against this deal, but there was one argument expressed in this story that was so dangerously wrongheaded about the real threats to America from the Middle East, it needs to be called out. That argument was from Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, the retired former vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, who said of the nuclear accord: “What I don’t like about this is, the number one leading radical Islamic group in the world is the Iranians. They are purveyors of radical Islam throughout the region and throughout the world. And we are going to enable them to get nuclear weapons.” Sorry, General, but the title greatest “purveyors of radical Islam” does not belong to the Iranians. Not even close. That belongs to our putative ally Saudi Arabia. … Saudi Arabia has been an American ally on many issues and there are moderates there who detest its religious authorities. But the fact remains that Saudi Arabia’s export of Wahhabi puritanical Islam has been one of the worst things to happen to Muslim and Arab pluralism — pluralism of religious thought, gender and education — in the last century. Iran’s nuclear ambition is a real threat; it needs to be corralled. But don’t buy into the nonsense that it’s the only source of instability in this region.
-- Pundit Thomas Friedman, September 2, 2015.

Comment: Friedman is knocking over a straw man: at the end of his argument, he criticizes McInerney et al for believing Iran is the ONLY source of instability in the region. But they never said it was the only source, they said it was the GREATEST source. (At any rate, whether Iran or Saudi Arabia is a greater, let alone the greatest, troublemaker in the region would be a difficult thing to measure.)

Though AIPAC can generally count on bipartisan support on any issue it cares about, it never had a prayer of beating an administration that was prepared to do and say anything to get its way. Once the president made clear that he considered the nuclear deal to be the centerpiece of his foreign policy legacy, the chances that even the pull of the pro-Israel community could persuade enough Democrats to sustain a veto override were slim and none. In order to achieve that victory, Obama had to sink to the level of gutter politics by smearing his critics as warmongers and slam AIPAC with the same sort of language that earned President George H.W. Bush opprobrium.
-- Pundit Jonathan S. Tobin, September 2, 2015. His remarks concerned the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Iranian nuclear deal.

Comment: Where did President Barack Obama say that opponents of the deal were warmongers? Is that a distortion of Obama's position? Also, Tobin is accusing of "negative politics" and being willing to "say anything" in order to win. Lastly, it's the "only my opponent" caricature to suggest that Obama, but not his opponents, resorted to unfair tactics on the debate about the Iranian nuclear deal.

Mr. Bush called the video “a complete mischaracterization of my thinking.”

“It’s almost as though Donald Trump is acting like a Washington politician — that’s what they do,” he said.
-- Republican presidential candidate former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), September 1, 2015, as related in a Washington Times article by David Sherfinski. Bush's remarks concerned a video on immigration policy put out by the campaign of presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Bush is accusing Trump of distorting his position on immigration. Bush is also engaging in a variant of the "only my opponent" caricature, making it sound like only "Washington" politicians resort to distortion.

Normally, when your main geopolitical rivals are shooting themselves in both feet, the military manual says step back and enjoy the show. But I take little comfort in watching China burning money and Russia burning food, because in today’s interdependent world we’re all affected. I also find no joy in it because we Americans, too, have started burning our most important source of competitive advantage — our pluralism. One of our two political parties has gone nuts and started following a pied piper of intolerance, named Donald Trump. … America’s greatest advantage is its pluralism: It can govern itself horizontally by its people of all colors and creeds forging social contracts to live together as equal citizens. But right now we’re messing around with that incredible asset. Yes, we must control our borders; it is the essence of sovereignty. It has been a failure of both our political parties that the Mexican-American border has been so porous. So I am for a high wall, but with a very big gate — one that legally lets in energetic low-skilled workers and the high-I.Q. risk-takers who have made our economy the envy of the world — and for legislation that provides a pathway for the millions of illegal immigrants already here to gain legal status and eventually citizenship. In June 2013, the Senate, including 14 Republicans, passed a bill that would do all that. But the extremists in the G.O.P. House refused to follow, so the bill stalled. And now we have Trump shamelessly exploiting this issue even more. He’s calling for an end to the 14th Amendment’s birthright principle, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born here, and also for a government program to round up all 11 million illegal immigrants and send them home — an utterly lunatic idea that Trump dismisses as a mere “management” problem. Like lemmings, many of the other G.O.P. presidential hopefuls just followed Trump over that cliff. This is not funny anymore. This is not entertaining. Donald Trump is not cute. His ugly nativism shamefully plays on people’s fears and ignorance. It ignores bipartisan solutions already on the table, undermines the civic ideals that make our melting pot work in ways no European or Asian country can match (try to become a Japanese) and tampers with the very secret of our sauce — pluralism, that out of many we make one. Every era spews up a Joe McCarthy type who tries to thrive by dividing and frightening us, and today his name is Donald Trump.
-- Pundit Thomas Friedman, August 26, 2016.

Comment: "Gone nuts" is "stupid" rhetoric. Friedman also engages in "extremists" and "exploiting" rhetoric. Friedman demonizes Trump's immigration plan as being racist (i.e., "nativism"), which is a distortion, given that it doesn't end legal immigration. Friedman also engages in "fear-mongering", "bipartisan", and "divisive" rhetoric.

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

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

WALLACE: Question: Barack Obama, “anti-Semitic”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Civility in the face of terrorism is a vice."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, July 30, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. His remarks came in response to an article by Craig Shirley, entitled "In Defense of Incivility".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAVID IGNATIUS: You heard Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday say this was one of the darkest days in human history. What was your reaction to that? That was a pretty extreme statement. He obviously wants to undo the deal. Is he going to succeed?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: You're setting me up. I think it was in character. I think he's not a very serious person. He may entertain the Congress occasionally because some people in Congress like to be entertained. But he's not really a very serious person. He dramatizes, he exaggerates and I don't think Israel benefits from that.
-- Former United States National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, July 15, 2015.

Comment: Brzezinski is resorting to name-calling, belittling Netanyahu by saying that he's entertaining, but "not serious".

"Politicians, especially those elected as president, are very adept at creating straw men. Taking something that they feel rhetorically works to their advantage and using it. That’s exactly what the president did. My question did not suggest he was content with the captivity of those four Americans. My question was about the contentment, or the satisfaction, or the realization that it was necessary within the context of this deal to leave them unaccounted for. That was the essence of the question. Clearly it struck an serve. That was my intention. Because everyone who works for the president and the families of those four Americans have heard the president say he's not content, and they will work overtime to win their eventual release. That does not appear to me to be a sidelight issue in the whole context of the conversation about this Iran nuclear deal. Was it provocative? Yes. Was it intended to be as such? Absolutely."
-- Major Garrett of CBS News, July 15, 2015, remarking on President Barack Obama's objection to a question Garrett asked earlier that day. The question by Major Garrett of CBS News concerned Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Robert Levinson, and Jason Rezaian, all being held by Iran.

Comment: This is "struck a nerve" rhetoric. If Garrett was intending to be provocative, was he also demonizing Obama as not caring about the detained Americans? If not, how was he being provocative? Also, Garrett is accusing Obama of knocking down a straw man.

"The other problem with the argument that folks have been making about, oh, this is a windfall and suddenly Iran is flushed with cash, and they're going to take over the world. And I say that not tongue-in-cheek, because if you look at some of the statements by some of our critics, you would think that Iran is, in fact, going to take over the world as a consequence of this deal -- which I think would be news to the Iranians."
-- President Barack Obama, July 15, 2015, during a press conference in which he defended the deal reached on Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Obama leaves unnamed who is making this objection. Who has said that Iran will literally (Obama insists this is not tongue-in-cheek) take over the world as a result of this deal? If Obama can't name someone, then it looks like he knocking over a straw man.

"You don’t sound that bright to me. … You don’t sound very intelligent. … You don’t care about security in the Middle East, you don’t care about the security of Israel. … Why are you such an apologist for the number one state sponsor of terror? … Why do you support them so much?"
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, July 14, 2015, during the 3rd hour of his radio show. Hannity made the remarks while speaking to Dr. Jim Walsh – a Research Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who Hannity referred to as “Mr. M.I.T.” – about the deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Hannity is deriding Walsh, calling him stupid and demonizing him as someone who wants to support terrorism. Is it really the case that anyone who supports the nuclear deal is stupid and/or supports terrorism? Would it be fair to say those who oppose the deal (like Hannity) want war with Iran, or oppose surveillance of Iran's nuclear program (which the deal provides for)? Referring to Walsh as "Mr. M.I.T." is just more name-calling. It's a way of belittling Walsh with mock exaltation.

Addressing climate change, Brown said, requires reckoning with things that have made life comfortable for billions of people.

“Oil, gas, coal has created the wealth we enjoy,” he said. “What was the source of our wealth now becomes the challenge of our future.”

He criticized politicians, particularly Republicans in Congress, who refuse to take action.

“We have a lot of troglodytes south of the border,” he said.
-- Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), July 8, 2015, from a story by Chris Megerian of the LA Times. Brown spoke at a conference in Canada; “south of the border” thus refers to the United States.

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

The Republican Party can’t dump Trump because Trump is the Republican Party. … But Trump has merely held up a mirror to the GOP. The man, long experience has shown, believes in nothing other than himself. He has, conveniently, selected the precise basket of issues that Republicans want to hear about — or at least a significant proportion of Republican primary voters. He may be saying things more colorfully than others when he talks about Mexico sending rapists across the border, but his views show that, far from being an outlier, he is hitting all the erogenous zones of the GOP electorate. Anti-immigrant? Against Common Core education standards? For repealing Obamacare? Against same-sex marriage? Antiabortion? Anti-tax? Anti-China? Virulent in questioning President Obama’s legitimacy? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check.
-- Pundit Dana Milbank, July 8, 2015. His remarks concerned Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: This is distortion and demonizing. It’s far from clear that Trump holds all the positions Milbank says he does, and it’s certainly not true that all Republicans do.

CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: Let's bring up Donald Trump. You've defended him. Your former governor, Rick Perry, has criticized him. You've had an experience with plenty of Mexican immigrants in Texas. Are they -- are these immigrants that are coming into Texas what Donald Trump describes? Are they drug dealers, rapists, and such?

SEN. TED CRUZ: Listen, I am a passionate advocate for legal immigrants. I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba. And I'll tell you, from the day I started campaigning, I traveled the state of Texas, talking about how all of us, we are the children of those who risked everything for freedom, that that immigrant experience of all of us is what makes us Americans, because we value in our DNA liberty and opportunity above all else. Now, when it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump. He's bold, he's brash. And I get that it seems the favorite sport of the Washington media is to encourage some Republicans to attack other Republicans. I ain't gonna do it. I'm not interested in Republican on Republican violence.

TODD: Rhetoric matters.

CRUZ: You know --

TODD: Doesn't rhetoric matter?

CRUZ: I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration. The Washington cartel doesn't want to address that. The Washington cartel doesn't believe we need to secure the borders. The Washington cartel supports amnesty and I think amnesty's wrong. And I salute Donald Trump for focusing on it. He has a colorful way of speaking. It's not the way I speak. But I'm not gonna engage in the media's game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans. I'm just not gonna do it.
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), July 5, 2015, during an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press". Cruz was referring to remarks made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on June 16, 2015.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Cruz never addresses whether Trump's remarks were appropriate. Is Cruz never going to criticize remarks made by other Republicans, no matter what they are, because that would be "Republican on Republican violence"? (Note that Cruz also uses violent rhetoric, though as a (comically exaggerated?) metaphor.) Is he never going to oppose another GOP candidate on anything? What if someone doesn't like the idea of Americans being "encouraged to attack" one another: does that mean Republicans shouldn't criticize the remarks of Democrats, either, and vice versa? Of course not. Cruz isn't being asked to engage in name-calling, demonizing, or negative politics. He's being asked to take a stand on whether someone else's rhetoric is acceptable, and he's refused to. He's evaded the question by praising Trump for criticizing illegal immigration – which was never the issue; the issue was Trump's description of illegal Mexican immigrants as being mostly rapists and drug-runners – and by accusing the media of trying to draw him into some contrived conflict. But it's entirely appropriate to ask a politician to take a stand on the rhetoric of another politician. Note, the word "colorful" is essentially a way of designating Trump's rhetoric as being attention-getting, but not wrong (for the record, what Trump said was wrong).

"And so the question we’ve got to keep asking ourselves is, where do we go from here? Because we still have choices. Will we drift toward an economy where only a few of us do very well and everybody else is still scrabbling, struggling to get by? That’s not the right way to do it. Or will we keep working towards an economy where everybody who works hard has a chance to succeed? And over the next year and a half, you’re going to hear a lot of pitches from a lot of people -- they’re going to deny that any progress has been made. You’ll hear a lot of folks trying to sell you on their vision of where our country should go. They’re going to be making a whole bunch of stuff up. And when I say a lot of stuff, I mean a lot of stuff. We’ve got some healthy competition in the Democratic Party, but I’ve lost count of how many Republicans are running for this job."
-- President Barack Obama, July 2, 2015.

Comment: First, it's a platitude to say we should have an economy that works for everyone. Everybody wants that, but there's a disagreement about which policies will achieve that goal. Second, Obama accuses Republicans of "making stuff up" without noting that Democrats (including Obama himself) are guilty of the same behavior. That is, Obama is indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature.

"He is a clown in blackface sitting on the Supreme Court. He gets me that angry. He doesn't belong there. And for him to say slaves had dignity. I mean, doesn't he know slaves were chained? That they were whipped on the back? If he saw the movie, "12 Years as a Slave", you know, they were raped, and he says they had dignity as slaves? My parents lost everything that they worked for in the middle of their lives in their thirties. My father's business, our home, our freedom. And we're supposed to call that dignified? Marching out of our homes at gunpoint? This man does not belong on the Supreme Court. He is an embarrasment. He is a disgrace to America."
-- Actor and pundit George Takei, June 30, 2015. Takei was referring to a dissenting opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas released June 26, 2015, regarding the Obergefell v Hodges case legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Comment: First, Takei is distorting Thomas' opinion. Thomas' point was that the intrinsic dignity of people is not undermined by undignified treatment. That is, people don't lose their humanity when they are enslaved. Slavery mistreats them, but doesn't cause them to lose their inherent worth; rather, slavery is wrong because it is contradictory to peoples' inherent worth. So, he wasn't saying that slaves (or Japanese-Americans who were forced into internment camps) were being treated with dignity. Second, "blackface" is a racist term. Takei insists he used the word "to evoke a history of racism in the theatrical arts", but he must have known it wouldn't be taken that way. Third, calling Thomas a disgrace to America is akin to calling him un-American.

TED CRUZ: When it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific, I think he’s brash, I think he speaks the truth. And I think NBC is engaging in political correctness that is silly and that is wrong.

ELIZABETH HASSELBECK: Should he apologize for what he said?

TED CRUZ: I don’t think you should apologize for speaking out against the problem that is illegal immigration. I recognize that the PC world, the mainstream media, they don’t want to admit it. But the American people are fed up. Now, listen, we are also a nation of immigrants, and we should celebrate legal immigrants, but Donald Trump is exactly right to highlight the need –

BRIAN KILMEADE: Are they mostly drug dealers and rapists that are coming across the border?

TED CRUZ: Look, they’re not mostly that. But Donald Trump, he has a way of speaking that gets attention. And I credit him for focusing on an issue that needs to be focused on.
-- Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), June 30, 2015. Cruz was responding to remarks made by presidential candidate Donald Trump on June 16, 2015.

Comment: This is an evasion. Trumps remarks made it sounds as if the Mexican people crossing the border illegally into the U.S. are largely drug dealers or rapists, which there is no evidence for. Trump wasn't being criticized for talking about the problem of illegal immigration (which is perfectly acceptable for Trump to do), Trump was being criticized for this slur against Mexicans. In other words, Cruz is knocking down a straw man. The problem isn't that Trump talked in a way that "gets attention"; the problem was that he spoke in a way that was false, and that demonized Mexicans.

Now Islamic State, or ISIS, announces it has taken 86 more Christians hostage, their likely fate a grisly martyrdom. On the same day, June 8, at the G-7 summit, President Obama admitted that he lacks a “complete strategy” to defeat the Islamic extremists now bedeviling Iraq, much of the rest of the Middle East, and beyond. … We may begin to wonder: Is this irresolution or resolution? I do not like to ascribe darker motives but necessarily wonder what explains the commander in chief’s uncertain trumpet. … As it has with others on the front lines of the fight against ISIS and its like, America has been shortchanging de facto allies in the Middle East such as Iraq’s embattled Kurds, sending supplies the slow-or-no way through a balky Baghdad. The Egyptians have not received the F-16 jets for which they have already paid. The Apache helicopters they have received lack defense systems, and the U.S. tanks delivered to them lack spare parts. None of these people are pure enough for our president. … Can our administration not make a strategic choice between Egypt’s President Sisi and the Islamic State’s would-be caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? You do wonder.
-- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), June 17, 2015.

Comment: First, this is a distortion, as President Barack Obama never said there was no complete strategy to defeat ISIS. Rather, he said there was no complete strategy for training Iraqi troops. Second, it is one thing to say that Obama's strategy is inadequate, but it is demonizing to say it can only be explained by sinister motives. For instance, aid given to allies has sometimes later been used against America or its other allies, as was the case with Afghanistan's mujahideen fighting the Soviet Union, as well as Humvees given to the Iraqi Army that were effectively surrendered to ISIS.

At a breakfast with reporters in Washington Thursday, Sanders previewed what he said will be a major theme of his campaign.

“I will be talking about family values, but not the family values that my Republican colleagues talk about, which for them means that a woman cannot have the right to control her own body or that gay people should not have the right to get married or that women should not have access to contraception. That is what their concept of family values are about. That’s not my concept,” Sanders said at the breakfast, sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast in downtown D.C.
-- From a story by Meredith Shiner of Yahoo News, June 11, 2015, reporting remarks by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Sanders is demonizing Republicans on abortion by saying they don't want women to be able to control their own bodies. Would it be fair to say that Sanders' position on abortion is that unborn children should be killed? No, both accounts are caricatures. It's also a distortion to say that Republicans oppose women having access to contraception. Republicans don't want contraception outlawed, they (or many of them, at least) just don't want taxpayer dollars paying for it.

"I don't think the guy has a soul. I said it and I mean it."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, May 28, 2015, 2nd hour of his radio show, referring to President Barack Obama, and responding to White House spokesman Josh Earnest's remarks that day that, "The United States is not going to be responsible for securing the security situation inside of Iraq".

Comment: Levin is demonizing – or, perhaps, dehumanizing – Obama. Is it really the case that the only explanation for Obama's Iraq policy that he doesn't care about human suffering (i.e., that he has no soul)? Consider, as a conservative, Levin opposes a lot of welfare spending that aids the poor and many minorities; is the only explanation for Levin's position that he doesn't care about the suffering of the poor and minorities? Would that be any more unfair than his remarks about Obama?

HARWOOD: Have you seen some of the quotations from people on Wall Street, people in business? Some have even likened the progressive Democratic crusade to Hitler's Germany hunting down the Jews.

SANDERS: It's sick. And I think these people are so greedy, they're so out of touch with reality, that they can come up and say that. They think they own the world. What a disgusting remark. I'm sorry to have to tell them, they live in the United States, they benefit from the United States, we have kids who are hungry in this country. We have people who are working two, three, four jobs, who can't send their kids to college. You know what? Sorry, you're all going to have to pay your fair share of taxes. If my memory is correct, when radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the highest marginal tax rate was something like 90 percent.

HARWOOD: When you think about 90 percent, you don't think that's obviously too high?

SANDERS: No. That's not 90 percent of your income, you know? That's the marginal. I'm sure you have some really right-wing nut types, but I'm not sure that every very wealthy person feels that it's the worst thing in the world for them to pay more in taxes, to be honest with you.

HARWOOD: It came out in disclosure forms the other day that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, in the last 16 months, have made $30 million. What does that kind of money do to a politician's perspective on the struggles you were just talking about? Does it make it difficult for recipients of that kind of income to take on the system?

SANDERS: Well, theoretically, you could be a multibillionaire and, in fact, be very concerned about the issues of working people. Theoretically, that's true. I think sometimes what can happen is that—it's not just the Clintons—when you hustle money like that, you don't sit in restaurants like this. You sit in restaurants where you're spending—I don't know what they spend—hundreds of dollars for dinner and so forth. That's the world that you're accustomed to, and that's the world view that you adopt. You're not worrying about a kid three blocks away from here whose mom can't afford to feed him. So yes, I think that can isolate you—that type of wealth has the potential to isolate you from the reality of the world.
-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), posted May 26, 2015, during interview with CNBC's John Harwood.

Comment: First, there's no citation provided for Harwood's claim that today's progressive movement has been compared to the Nazis hunting down Jews, but such a comparison would require clarification at the very least, given that people on Wall Street aren't being sent to concentration camps. Second, Sanders engages in "out of touch" rhetoric. Third, Sanders believes it's unfair to call his tax policy "radical" given that it is no different from the tax policy in place under President Eisenhower. But he does think it's fair to disparage opponents of his tax policy "nut types". Lastly, Sanders engages in "you don't know what it's like" rhetoric.

"Now on to [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV], who has his own deflated balls problem, that's quite obvious."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, May 15, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show.

Comment: This is derisive name-calling (perhaps intended comedically), referencing "Deflategate".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Comment: Levin is name-calling, using a term of disgust to refer to someone he disagrees with. There has to be a way to care about and fight for the Constitution and conservative values – as Levin does – without referring to other people as vomit, doesn't there?

"[Regarding CNN anchor Erin Burnett] I'd say she got her job on her looks, but I'd also say that's not possible … [she has the] IQ of a dozen eggs … the women on Fox are a lot more attractive."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, March 17, 2015, during the 3rd hour of his radio program.

Comment: Levin was criticizing Burnett for her take on comments made recently by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but absolutely none of Levin's criticisms required or justified this kind of name-calling, in which he derided her appearance and called her stupid.

"We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America. … Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that Ferguson is an isolated incident; that racism is banished; that the work that drew men and women to Selma is now complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us."
-- President Barack Obama, March 7, 2015, during speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery.

Comment: Granted, both claims – that America is irredeemably racist, and that it is completely free of racism – are false, but what evidence is there that the latter one is more commonly believed or espoused than the former? Who has been saying that there is no longer any racism in the United States? Is that a straw man? Is the former claim also a straw man that no one really believes?

"Obama hasn't tamed the world's tyrants. Obama makes excuses for them! That's another big contrast in this speech out there today. Netanyahu was like fearless in speaking up for his own country and explaining why his own country was worth saving. He promised and had no equivocation about the value of his own country and no equivocation about how he would go to save it and defend it. Contrast that to Obama, who, when he tells us about our enemies, we have to understand them. He tells us we need to understand them, he tells us we need to understand and we need -- like Marie Harf (impression), "Well, no, you just have to understand, they're not really militant Islamists. They just don't have jobs, and they have bad economy and so we need a jobs program for ISIS!" So we get from our administration excuses made for our enemies. It's worse than that. Our administration tells us how or country is responsible for our enemies!"
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, March 3, 2015.

Comment: This is distortion and demonizing. President Barack Obama has not tried to excuse the enemies of the United States, and no one in his administration (including State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf) has ever said that ISIS could be defeated simply with a jobs program (an example of the "silver bullet" caricature).

"Comparing the events of today to the events of 1000 years ago, how does that make sense to any thinking human being?"
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, February 27, 2015, on his radio show. Beck is referring to remarks made by President Barack Obama in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5, 2015.

Comment: Obama didn't "compare" today's Islamic terrorists with the Christian Crusaders, at least not in the sense of equating the two. Rather, he said that if the former violence shows that Islam is fundamentally violent, then the latter violence proves the same about Christianity. So Beck's accusation is a distortion.

"And imagine if we had a commander-in-chief that understood that the way to defeat ISIS is not to find them a job."
-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), February 27, 2015.

Comment: This is a distortion – in particular, the "silver bullet" caricature – of the words of State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf. Harf never said jobs were all that was needed to defeat ISIS, in fact she clearly spelled out that military force (among other things) would be used as well.

"One of the things I’ve learned in this position is that as the only office in which you’re the President of all the people, not just some, you have to be thinking not just in terms of short-term politics, you have to be thinking about what’s good for the country over the long term. Now, over the long term, this is going to get solved, because at some point there’s going to be a President Rodriguez, or there’s going to be a President Chin, or there’s going to be a -- the country is a nation of immigrants, and ultimately, it will reflect who we are, and its politics will reflect who we are. And that’s not something to be afraid of. That’s something to welcome. Because that’s always been how we stay dynamic and stay cutting-edge, and have energy and we’re youthful. So what I would say to the next President is: Think ahead. Don’t say something short term because you think it’s politically convenient, and then box yourself in where you can’t do what’s right for the country. Think long term."
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration.

Comment: This sounds like Obama is deriding opponents of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) as being motivated by "short-term" politics rather than legitimate concerns, or thoughts about what's good over the long term. (What about the objection that CIR unfairly gives work permits to immigrants who broke the law ahead of those who are abiding by visas that prohibit their working?) This is a distortion, if not outright demonizing, particularly when Obama says that CIR – and not its opponents – reflects "who we are" as Americans. It sounds like Obama is saying CIR opponents are opposed to immigrants as a whole and aren't "real Americans". Plus, haven't we already had a president with a non-traditional name: "President Obama"?

MR. DIAZ-BALART: Mr. President, I can’t tell you the amount of questions that we’ve received, both on Telemundo and MSNBC, has really been extraordinary. And one I get a lot, over and over and over again, is a question, Mr. President, when you had absolute control of Congress, you really didn’t fight for immigration. And then when you had the situation where you lost majorities, then you take action. Is there political implications behind something that affects so many people so close to their hearts?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know if anybody remembers, José, that when I took office and I had a majority, we had the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The global economy was collapsing. The unemployment rate in the Latino community and the immigrant community had soared. People were losing homes and entire communities were being devastated. So it wasn’t as if I was just sitting back, not doing anything.

MR. DIAZ-BALART: No one says you were sitting back not doing anything --but you did do the ACA, for example.

THE PRESIDENT: We were moving very aggressively on a whole host of issues. And we moved as fast as we could and we wanted immigration done. We pushed for immigration to be done. But, ultimately, we could not get the votes to get it all done.… I appreciate Mr. Bush being concerned about immigration reform. I would suggest that what he do is talk to the Speaker of the House and the members of his party. Because the fact of the matter is that even after we passed bipartisan legislation in the Senate, I gave the Republicans a year and a half -- a year and a half -- to just call the bill. We had the votes. They wouldn’t do it. And then the notion that, well, if you just hadn’t taken these executive actions, if you hadn’t done DACA, maybe we would have voted for it -- well, that doesn’t make any sense. That’s an excuse.

MR. DIAZ-BALART: Yeah, but they’re saying --

THE PRESIDENT: That’s an excuse.
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration.

Comment: This is an evasion in the form of Obama distorting his own record as president. On May 28, 2008, Obama "guaranteed" that a comprehensive immigration reform bill would be introduced in his first year as president, and on several occasions in 2009 (after becoming president in January of that year, by which time he was well aware of the financial crisis) he reaffirmed that pledge. By the end of 2009, Obama had had ample opportunity to either push a bill or to adopt the position that the flurry of crises at hand prevented him from pushing a bill, yet he did neither. On top of that, the executive actions he has introduced in November 2014 could have been done at any point since January 2009, and without Congress. Why not, in December 2009, say, "Sorry, there's too much going on for me to keep my promise to push immigration reform through the Congress, so instead I'll enact changes by executive order"? So, he hasn't answered the question of why he didn't move on immigration – either in the form of a bill or executive action – years ago. And, if having other priorities is really an excuse for his inaction, then why can't it also be one for Republicans in Congress?

Anyone who has watched Obama’s genteel response to his Republican tormentors shouldn’t be surprised at his delicacy about Islam. He resists generalizations and looks for common ground, whether the context is terrorism or domestic politics. No matter what Republicans do—heckle his speeches, impugn his patriotism, shut down the government, threaten a credit default, stage countless votes to repeal his health care law—he refuses to categorically condemn them. … Republicans, determined to block his immigration agenda, were withholding money for the Department of Homeland Security. But Obama said these saboteurs didn’t represent the true GOP: “A large percentage of Republicans agree that we need comprehensive immigration reform.” Instead of using the fight for partisan advantage, Obama spread the blame to his own party. “Republicans and Democrats in Congress should not be playing politics” with the department’s funding, he warned. … That’s how Obama treats his domestic adversaries. He doesn’t take the bait. He doesn’t define the whole opposition party by its worst elements. He rejects polarization. He emphasizes shared values. He reminds his own partisans that they, too, are sinners. For Democrats, this can be exasperating. It’s especially exasperating when Republicans refuse to take responsibility for, or even disown, outbursts from their colleagues, such as Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” or Rudy Giuliani’s “I do not believe that the president loves America.” … Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana backs up Giuliani’s insinuation that Obama favors the enemy over his own country: “[Giuliani] is understandably frustrated with a president who, as I said before, is fully willing to lecture the people of this country about the Crusades but is unwilling to call Islamic extremism for what it is.” Please. If we’re going to start calling out religious and political groups for extremism, we could start at home with Republicans. Too many of them spew animus. Too many foment sectarianism. Too many sit by, or make excuses, as others appeal to tribalism. If Obama were to treat them the way they say he should treat Islam—holding the entire faith accountable for its ugliest followers—they’d squeal nonstop about slander and demagogy. They’re lucky that’s not his style.
-- Pundit William Saletan, February 24, 2015, in an article entitled, "Go Ahead and Say It, Mr. President: Republicans are your true enemy".

Comment: This is the "only my opponent" caricature. Contrary to Saletan's description, President Barack Obama has a long history of derisive generalizations that demonize his opponents (for instance, accusing Republicans of "Social Darwinism", saying that they put party ahead of country, and declaring President George W. Bush to be "unpatriotic" for ringing up $4 trillion in debt). And Obama has routinely failed to condemn fellow Democrats for demonizing Republicans (for instance, Teamsters' President Jimmy Hoffa's "son of a bitches" remarks about the Tea Party movement at a 2011 Labor Day rally at which Obama also spoke). Again contrary to Saletan's account, Obama has also singled out Republicans in Congress (as opposed to Democrats) for blame on any number of issues. In addition, Saletan is using "extremist" rhetoric (in response to Pence's use of it). Finally, Saletan is accusing Republicans of wanting to treat all Muslims as terrorists. Perhaps there are some Republicans who want this (Saletan should name them), but it's certainly not the case that all of them do. Rather, that's an unfair generalization and a straw man, if not outright demonizing.

Liberals know they are full of it; they just think the rest of us are as foolish as the welfare-guzzling mouth-breathers who vote for them. It’s time for the lies to stop. Liberals, stop lying about the weather. There is no climate change crisis. Whatever changes our climate is undergoing are part and parcel of the natural processes that have been going on since the Earth was formed. … Liberals, stop lying about our war with radical Muslims. This bloodshed isn’t “random.” This isn’t about “violent extremism.” Mass enslavement, mutilation and murder isn’t “workplace violence,” and these semi-human freaks aren’t going to stop if someone hands them a mop, bucket and paycheck. We are at war – war – with radical Islam, and we need to end the lies, the equivocation and dissembling and speak the truth. Our enemies think they are Muslims, and they think the Koran commands their actions. This isn’t about theology – whether their version of Islam is a misunderstanding or misinterpretation is utterly irrelevant. They think they’re pious Muslims even if we, as well as most of the world’s Muslims, disagree. … Well, here’s a conservative who says it’s critical to understand the radical Muslims. We need to fully appreciate how they think, their goals, their ideas, their feelings. Understanding them will help us more effectively hunt down and kill them. … Liberals, stop lying about illegal aliens. They aren’t all hardworking and they aren’t all here because they love America and have dreams and stuff. Some are criminals. Some are bums. None were invited. Their problems are a result of their choices. We owe them nothing. Want out of the shadows? Go home. … Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton. Lena Dunham. Jon Gruber. That woman with the glasses who thinks we should carpet bomb ISIS with want ads. All liberals. All liars. Liberals, stop lying about everything.
-- Pundit Kurt Schlichter, February 23, 2015.

Comment: Schlichter references a lot of different "liberal" words and deeds, too many for me to cover all of what he's said, but here are a few points: first, "welfare-guzzling mouth-breathers" is simply name-calling. It's a slur. Second, is it really true that ALL liberals believe these things? Isn't that a hasty generalization (along the same lines as "all illegal aliens are hard-working"), one that means Schlichter himself is lying? Third, Schlichter gives no evidence for the claim that global warming is natural, and – even if it is – is it really unreasonable to the point of being a lie for someone to believe global warming is man-made? Fourth, notice that Schlichter points out that we need to understand (though not justify) terrorism, and that noting the Islamic affiliation of many terrorists is a key part of understanding them (which will in turn help us stop them). Finally, Schlichter is distorting the words of State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf ("That woman with the glasses who thinks we should carpet bomb ISIS with want ads."), using the "silver bullet" caricature. Harf never said jobs were all that was needed to defeat ISIS, in fact she clearly spelled out that military force (among other things) would be used as well.

Many were left flat-footed and with jaws dropped after the president’s remarks at the recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he let the Islamic terrorists know that he is keeping their actions in context. Obama felt compelled to equate today’s Islamic terrorist butchers to the Christian Crusaders of 900 years ago. It was just another example of how the president appears willing to try to understand — if not justify — the actions of those who hate America. When the president is slow to condemn our enemies, it raises doubts about what he really thinks of their case against America.
-- Pundit Ed Rogers, February 23, 2015. Rogers is referring to remarks made by President Barack Obama in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5, 2015.

Comment: First, Obama didn't equate (or, "compare") today's Islamic terrorists with the Christian Crusaders: rather, he said that if the former violence shows that Islam is fundamentally violent, then the latter violence proves the same about Christianity. So Rogers' accusation is a distortion. Second, trying to understand terrorist acts against America can simply be an effort to explain and predict terrorism, and need not be the same as justifying terrorism. Explaining is not the same as justifying., and Rogers is demonizing Obama to suggest otherwise. (Also, isn't pointing out the Islamic affiliation of many terrorists – as Rogers does – an effort to explain, understand, and/or predict terrorist acts, yet without justifying them?)

GLENN BECK: You're not going to win by bombing them, you're not going to win from the air.

PAT GRAY: No, we're going to win by giving them jobs.

STU BURGUIERE: And a three-day summit.

BECK: You cannot fight an enemy like World War Two, or an enemy like we have in ISIS, by saying, "We're gonna hug it out. We're gonna give you a job."
-- Pundits Glenn Beck, Pat Gray, and Stu Burguiere, the week of February 23-27, 2015, on the Glenn Beck Radio Program.

Comment: This is a distortion – in particular, the "silver bullet" caricature – of the words of State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf. Harf never said jobs were all that was needed to defeat ISIS, nor did President Barack Obama's administration say that the three-day summit on terrorism would be sufficient. Harf and Obama have clearly stated that military force (among other things) would be used as well. The idea that the Obama administration has suggested "hugging it out" is just another caricature.

[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?

RUSH: … It's getting dangerous out there. She said, "We're killing a lot of 'em, and we're gonna keep killing more of them, and so are the Egyptians, and so are the Jordanians. They're in this fight with us. We can't win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need -- in the medium to longer term -- to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups." … the left thinks that everybody should love them. They love themselves, and they think they can make everybody love them. They think with doctors, nurses, clean water, and good speeches, that they can turn the most vicious hatemonger into somebody that loves them. And that's what the seminar is about.

RUSH: … I mean, Marie Harf and Obama think getting ISIS people jobs is the best way to counter extremism. Maybe, in addition to doing that, you could bring in the Chamber of Commerce. Maybe bring in the Chamber of Commerce as a weapon of mass destruction against ISIS. I mean, the Chamber of Commerce, vast networking and fundraising ability to recruit all sorts of franchisable businesses. You could have the Chamber working with the State Department to teach ISIS how to set up Starbucks, McDonald's, Subway, Chick-fil-A, Uber, Domino's, AutoZone, even Walmart could be all funded, and look what we could do. We could establish American economic beachheads right in the middle of the ISIS encampments using Obama's White House jobs summit and the Chamber of Commerce to help get it done, all based on Marie Harf's contention that all we need to do to defeat ISIS is get them jobs.

RUSH: Let's go to the audio sound bites. This is Marie Harf, last night The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, who said, "Some of the best-known terrorists out there came from wealth and privilege, Marie. Osama Bin Laden, a lot of these, Ayman al-Zawahiri is a doctor from Egypt. These people have a lot of money, Marie. They have higher education. They have degrees. Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, 9/11, had all kinds of money, all kinds of college degrees, bin Laden himself. What do you say about that?"

HARF: We cannot kill every terrorist around the world, nor should we try. How do you get at the root causes of this? Look, it might be too nuanced an argument for some, like I've seen over the past 24 hours, some of the commentary out there, but it's really the smart way. The Democrats, Republicans, military commanders, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat this.

RUSH: So she doubles down on it and blames us for not having the smarts to understand her brilliance. You can't kill every terrorist around the world, nor should we try. So we should use no deterrents whatsoever. We should make no effort, doesn't matter, it's a losing effort, it's a losing cause, and we can't appreciate the nuance in this. But it's the smart foreign policy now that's identified as the Obama foreign policy. And it's a smart way Democrats, Republicans, military commanders, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat this by finding ISIS jobs, an unemployment program or a jobs program for ISIS.
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 17, 2015, and February 18, 2015. Limbaugh was referring the comments made by State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf in two separate interviews on February 16, 2015, and February 17, 2015.

Comment: Limbaugh is knocking over a straw man, distorting Harf's comments. In particular, he is using the "silver bullet" caricature. At no point did Harf say all that was needed to defeat ISIS and other terror groups is jobs. In fact, President Barack Obama's administration has frequently used military action, which Harf referred to with her remarks that "we're gonna keep killing more of them" -- remarks which Limbaugh himself directly quoted. Obama's anti-terror policy may include things other than military action, but it is simply false for Limbaugh to say Obama wants "no deterrents whatsoever". Maybe Obama's policies on terrorism aren't good enough, but it's not acceptable to misrepresent them, as Limbaugh and many other pundits have done. (Also, recall that President George W. Bush paid Sunni militants fighting alongside US troops against Al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007.) Harf's rebuttal is also flawed: people don't believe economic aid will be as effective as military action, a position that shouldn't be dismissed as an intolerance for "nuance".

At the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, President Obama made a reference to Christianity that infuriated some conservatives.

Speaking in general, Mr. Obama began by condemning zealots who hijack religion “for their own murderous ends.” He cited the recent massacre at a Pakistani school carried out by the Taliban, the assault on Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris perpetrated by radical Islamists, and the terrible murders carried out by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS or ISIS).

Then the president said this: “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."

This did not go down well with right-leaning pundits.

“ISIS chops off heads, incinerates hostages, kills gays, enslaves girls. Obama: Blame the Crusades,” tweeted Michelle Malkin, conservative talker and author.

Right-side radio host Rush Limbaugh made the Christianity reference the subject of one of his segments on Thursday’s show.

“Why would you attempt to downplay Islamist extremism?” Mr. Limbaugh said. “Why would you attempt to put in perspective the actions taken today by Al Qaeda and ISIS and Boko Haram and the Khorasan Group and all of the rest of them by claiming that just as many atrocities have taken place in the name of Christ?”

The president specifically noted that the violent acts of Islam are carried out by “twisted” individuals. But his reference to Christianity, the Crusades, and Jim Crow was less about individuals and more about the religion as a whole, writes Noah Rothman at the right-leaning Hot Air.

“The president, and many of his allies on the left, frequently trip over themselves to emphasize – correctly, as it happens – that ISIS’s acts of brutality are not archetypical Islamic behavior.... But to assert this and in the same breath suggest that Christianity was also a violent, expansionist religion a mere 800 years ago is a contradiction. Why make this comparison if ISIS is not representative of Islam?” Mr. Rothman writes.
-- From a Christian Science Monitor story, February 5, 2015, by Peter Grier titled "Why did Obama compare Crusades to Islamic State at prayer breakfast?" The story concerns President Barack Obama's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier that day.

Comment: This is an instance of "comparing" rhetoric. Obama does not compare Christianity and Islam in the sense of equating the two and saying one is just as good or bad as the other. Nor does he say that the Christian Crusades are just as bad as ISIS. Rather, Obama is arguing that, if acts of violence done in the name of Islam are sufficient to taint the faith itself – rather than be seen as a distortion of Islam – then the same argument applies to Christianity and every other religion that has a history of violence. Obama is arguing that neither Christianity nor Islam is inherently bad, that they only result in such violence when they are "twisted". At no point did Obama say the violence of the Crusades is responsible for the violence of ISIS, that is a distortion on Malkin's part. Rothman's assertion, like Malkin's is also a straw man: nothing in Obama's argument relies on ISIS being representative of all Islam, only that they be people who are distorting Islam. Yet another straw man is Limbaugh's allegation that Obama said "just as many atrocities" have taken place in the name of Christianity as Islam, which Obama never said. Obama himself, however, is guilty of knocking over a straw man, too: much of the current criticism against Islam isn't based on the notion that Islam is inherently worse than Christianity. Rather, it's based on the observation that, these days, Islam is much more likely than Christianity and other religions to be "twisted and distorted" to justify violence.

"My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military -- then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do."
-- President Barack Obama, January 20, 2015, during the 2015 State of the Union address.

Comment: This seems like a straw man. Who has said that our first response should be to send in our military, and on which foreign policy challenge did they say it?

"Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But 95 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders. We can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China. So let’s give them one more reason to get it done."
-- President Barack Obama, January 20, 2015, during the 2015 State of the Union address.

Comment: This sounds like a straw man. Who has said that they don't want overseas trade?

"And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise."
-- President Barack Obama, January 20, 2015, during the 2015 State of the Union address.

Comment: This is a straw man, as opponents of a minimum wage don't necessarily believe that $7.25 an hour (the current federal rate) is a living wage. Their objections often involve a belief that raising the minimum wage (say, to $10.10 an hour, as many propose) will lead to job losses or less hiring, or are based in broader objections to government price controls (which the minimum wage is a form of). Would Obama find it acceptable if someone said, "Mr. President, if you believe you can run a business that increases labor costs by about 40% without firing any employees, go try it. If not, don't vote for a minimum wage hike"? Or would he say that was an unfair caricature of his position?


Examples from 2014.


Examples from 2012.


Examples from 2011.

"All throughout history, you know, there's been the big lie. And we got the big lie going here again. And it goes lie this: "Republicans won't let us have health care reform. Waah. Republicans are the party of "no", waah. Why are Republicans stopping us from reforming health care? Waah." Well, I gotta tellya something: the Democrats have won the last two elections -- because we did such a bang-up job -- but the fact of the matter is, there's 257 of them, there's only 177 of us … we couldn't stop a one-car parade. This health care discussion is a fight between the left and the far left."
-- Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), October 27, 2009, from the floor of the House.

Comment: Along with "big lie" rhetoric, LaTourette is engaging in name-calling by effectively saying that Democrats are cry-babies.


Examples from 2008.


Examples from 2007.

Actor Danny DeVito refers to President George W. Bush as "numb nuts".
-- November 29, 2006, on the TV show "The View".

"Republicans don't represent ordinary Americans, and they don't have any understanding of what it is to have to go out and try to make ends meet."
-- Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, June 6, 2005.

Comment: The claim -- that Republican leaders aren't like "ordinary Americans" and don't care about working people and that Republicans lack the life experience and the empathy to understand the plight of poor people -- is both false and derisive.

"You think people can work all day and then pick up their kids at child care or wherever and get home and then have a -- still manage to sandwich in an eight-hour vote? Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that, because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."
-- Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, June 2, 2005.

"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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