Monday, March 10, 2008

Name-Calling and Caricature: "Stupid"

People in moral and political debates routinely accuse people who disagree with them of being stupid, ignorant or mentally deficient. Along with demonizing, it is one of the most common ways of deriding an opponent, and is frequently a component of name-calling.

For instance, you've no doubt heard accusations that some person is stupid, brain-dead, delusional, living in a fantasy world, out of touch with reality or a moron. Or that they actively don't care about logic, reason, or truth.

These accusations are -- taken literally -- almost always false. There are, of course, people who are actually brain dead or mentally challenged, but these people are almost never the target of such accusations. Instead, the accusations are usually aimed at people without any mental defects by someone who is essentially arguing: "My position on issue X is obviously correct, and yet you disagree with me. The only possible explanation for your disagreement is that you are mentally deficient."

In other words, sometimes people become so frustrated at the fact that someone is disagreeing with them that they accuse the person of being a moron.

Such accusations are false and abusive, and they typically stem from a failure to appreciate that moral and political issues are not simple, and that different moral considerations can pull us in different directions.

Unfortunately, many people allow themselves to believe that anyone who disagrees with them couldn't possibly be motivated by any moral considerations. So, when someone does disagree with them, they conclude that that person must be malicious and/or stupid.

"If she can't absolutely destroy Trump as a legitimate candidate, she is just going to lose. There is nothing she can do on the positive side to win, because the country is going to say, "enough". You know, enough lying about your emails, enough accepting thousands of more Syrian refugees, enough having a failed foreign policy, enough telling us that we're too stupid to run our own lives."
-- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), June 26, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: Gingrich is accusing Clinton of believing Americans – some, all, or most? – are stupid. What is his evidence for this?

MAHER: I thought it was so typical of the paralysis in our government that Louie Gohmert got up there at one point and he was screaming, "radical Islam, radical Islam!" to the people who were trying to pass a bill to stop radical Islam. Because the bill that they were talking about was "No Fly, No Buy". People on the "No Fly" list don't get to buy a gun.

BEGALA: You shouldn't make fun of the mentally challenged. Louie is a dope. He's an idiot. No, he's a first-class idiot. He's from my state of Texas. And he's just a fool and an idiot.
-- Pundit Paul Begala, June 24, 2016, during a discussion with Bill Maher of HBO. Begala was referring to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Comment: This is "stupid" name-calling.

"The UK just voted to leave the European Union – so-called “Brexit”. … This is the end of the world as we know it, OK? Please take this seriously. What happened? What happened was, you have this complete right-wing, crazy, racist, xenophobic horror show breaks out in the UK. They don’t want no immigrants – sound familiar? They don’t want multi-culturalism – does that sound familiar? The don’t want to have nothing to do with nobody, period, except for people who look just like them – basically, white folks – in Britain. They say they can’t even deal with white folks in Europe, they just want to be on their own. So everybody goes, “No way, who cares? These people are crazy. If you vote for Brexit, if you vote to leave the European Union, you’re going to destroy the economy. You’re gonna be doing crazy stuff. You’re gonna crash your stock market.” Does any of this sound familiar? You’ve got a movement of crazy people that are going for power, making lunatic arguments, and then you have good, thoughtful, liberal people saying, “Oh, that wouldn’t be prudent. That wouldn’t work out. The policies seem irrational.” … Crazy, hard-right lunatics just led the UK off a cliff into the vast abyss of stupidity and foolishness and soon-to-be economic chaos. Does this sound familiar? The same people in the United States will give you the same argument and tell you it is impossible that Trump can win. … The pollsters don't get it. The pollsters call reasonable people and ask them reasonable questions and get reasonable answers and put you to sleep. And they tell you that Trump can't win. And they told the people in Britain that these Brexit people couldn't win. … And the people in the UK who pushed this insane idea are the worst people ever born in the UK. These are not good people. These are not smart people. These are not kind people. These are racist, hateful people. Some of them are neo-Nazis. And people said they would never be able to get any traction. Well, look at the news. They got a ton of traction. If you don't want this nonsense to happen in the United States, quit tell – slap your friends upside the head who are watching NPR, eating their tofu, and telling you how wonderful it is that Trump is horrible. It is not wonderful that he is horrible. It is horrible that he is horrible. … This hate-wave that just tore Europe apart? Coming soon to a voting booth near you. And we need to have every single person we know doing every possible thing to stop it. Thank you."
-- Pundit and CNN correspondent Van Jones, June 23, 2016, referring to the Brexit vote and how it relates to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Jones is demonizing Trump and Brexit supporters – in part, accusing them of anti-immigrant bigotry – as well as calling them stupid. Are there no non-bigoted, sensible reasons to support Trump or Brexit? Also, Jones says people should "do anything to win", though I imagine he's being emphatic, not literal (though, much of the rest of what he said seems to be meant literally).

"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.

"I know Donald hates it when anyone points out how hollow his sales pitch really is. And I guess my speech yesterday must have gotten under his skin because right away he lashed out on Twitter with outlandish lies and conspiracy theories and he did the same in his speech today. Now think about it. He's going after me personally because he has no answers on the substance. In fact, he doubled down on being the king of debt, so all he can do is try to distract us. That's even why he's attacking my faith. Sigh. And, of course, attacking a philanthropic foundation that saves and improves lives around the world. It's no surprise that he doesn't understand these things. The Clinton Foundation helps poor people around the world get access to life-saving AIDS medicine. Donald Trump uses poor people around the world to produce his line of suits and ties. "
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 22, 2016, referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: The fact that Clinton may have "struck a nerve" (i.e., got under his skin) in what she said about Trump in no way proves that he has "no answers on substance"; that's a point she has to prove by other means. It may be unfair when Trump says, for instance, that "there's nothing out there" when it comes to Clinton's religious affiliation, but that doesn't prove his policy positions are baseless. Do we get to conclude the same thing about Clinton whenever she says something false or otherwise out-of-bounds? That she has no sound arguments to defend her policies? Second, Clinton is using "distractions" rhetoric. Last, Clinton is deriding Trump, suggesting that he doesn't understand philanthropy, or that he is somehow exploiting or abusing foreign workers.

"You know what? It’s rare that you see someone get stupider before your eyes, but he’s really working at it".
-- Mark Cuban, June 21, 2016, referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric.

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.

"The notion that the answer to this tragedy would be to make sure that more people in a nightclub are similarly armed to the killer defies common sense."
-- President Barack Obama, June 16, 2016, referring to the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Comment: Perhaps having other people similarly armed isn't the right solution – that point is certainly arguable – but how does it defy common-sense? If it does go against common-sense, are the people who support this position stupid?

"He cannot bring himself to confront truth and reality as he lives in the Obama fantasy-land."
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, June 15, 2016, during the 1st hour of his radio show, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Hannity said this in the midst of criticizing Obama's policies on the Middle East and terrorism. If we find that Hannity has taken positions that are difficult to defend, can we accuse him – using a form of "stupid" name-calling – of being unable to confront facts, and of living in a "Hannity fantasy-land"?

CARR: I heard you this morning on "Fox and Friends" and I think I sort of have an idea what you were getting at, but you're getting ripped by the usual suspects in the mainstream media, your great friends at the Washington Post and elsewhere, they're pulling this quote out – and then you were asked about it on the "Today Show" again. You said this of Obama, quote: "He doesn't get it or he gets it better than anyone understands. It's one or the other and either one is unacceptable." Dot, dot, dot, "There's something going on." What did you mean by that?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I'm going to let people figure that out for themselves now, because, to be honest with you, there certainly doesn't seem to be a lot of anger or passion you know when we want to demand retribution for what happened over the weekend. There is certainly not a lot of passion, there is certainly not a lot of anger. So, we'll let people figure it out. But, it's a very sad situation when we had the kind of tragedy that we had, and we have a President who gave a press conference and he talked about gun control when this was a licensed person who could've had a gun anyway. And basically, he wants to take the guns away from people so that only the bad guys – I mean, one of the many problems with the gun control is that the bad guys will have the guns, the good guys won't. They'll turn [them] in because they're law-abiding, right? So they turn in their guns if you had gun control, but the bad guys aren't turning in any of the guns, that I can tell you.
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 13, 2016, being interviewed by Howie Carr of The Howie Carr Show. Trump was referring to President Barack Obama's remarks regarding the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Comment: This is an evasion, along the lines of the "voters get to decide" variety. Trump is clearly saying that Obama is doing something wrong, either as a matter of unacceptable ignorance or sinister intent. For him to refuse to clarify his allegation is amounts to there being no credible allegation. The fact that there may be problems with Obama's position on gun control in no way proves that Obama is "up to something". Consider: by not clarifying his allegation, would it be fair for us to non-specifically suggest that Trump is u"p to something", and that people should "figure out for themselves" what that means?

We need common-sense gun laws, common-sense gender equality and religious pluralism and common-sense privacy laws.
-- Pundit Thomas Friedman, June 15, 2016.

Comment: This is "common-sense" rhetoric. What counts as common sense on all these issues? And, if someone disagrees with the "common-sense" position, does that mean they're stupid?

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.

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.

COSTELLO: Why does Mr. Trump keep doubling down on Judge Curiel? What's the purpose?

PALADINO: Well, answer the question for me as to why the press keeps doubling down on this Judge Curiel thing. The press has created this issue.

COSTELLO: Erick Erickson, who's a conservative blogger, he's an anti-Trump conservative, he does not like the media, either. He wrote this, this morning, of Donald Trump and his continued attacks on Judge Curiel, quote: "So the Party of Lincoln will entertain a racist as its leader in the name of winning? What good does it profit a party to win the White House and lose its soul? Because the odds are the party will not win the White House and will forfeit future victories as it sees Hispanic voters, black voters, and a solid number of evangelicals flee the party of racists." What would you say to Erick Erickson?

PALADINO: Erick Erickson just likes to use the term, "racist". He's not a racist. By far he's not a racist. This is incredible that you want to pull this word out and use it, because it always pushes back on the white guy. It’s not fair. And it's not a fair description of Donald Trump. Donald Trump might have some anxiety about this particular judge because he lives in the same real world that I do, where this type of thing does go on, where the ethnicity means something, in a court case or someplace else.
-- Carl Paladino, honorary co-chair for the campaign of Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, June 6, 2016, during an interview with Carol Costello of CNN. His remarks concerned 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: First of all, Paladino is using "media incitement" rhetoric. There are legitimate questions about what Trump has said, and the media are asking those questions. Second, while Paladino is right that the term "racist" has been used unfairly in the past, that doesn't mean it's being used unfairly against Trump. When Paladino says he and Trump live in the "real world", he's implying that others don't, which is a form of "stupid" name-calling. Lastly, while it's true there are cases where people (likely even judges) act on racial prejudice, there are also cases where they don't. The burden of proof is on Trump (and Paladino) to show that Curiel is doing so; they can't just speculate that he might. Otherwise, the case couldn't be given to a white judge either, because a white judge might favor Trump based on ethnicity.

Jen Psaki, the witless Pippi Longstocking of the American diplomatic project, admitted under questioning from James Rosen of Fox News that the State Department had lied — flat-out — about the fact that secret talks had been under way between the United States and Iran over the Islamic terror state’s nuclear-weapons program.
-- Kevin D. Williamson, June 3, 2016.

Comment: Williamson can criticize Psaki without using the term “witless”, which is essentially “stupid” name-calling.

CHARLIE SYKES: When you start asking your guy these questions about policy, there's no "there" there. I know you want to talk about policy. Donald Trump hasn't spent thirty seconds thinking about abortion before he was asked by Chris Matthews.

ANN COULTER: No, I think that's crazy. I thought the full exchange was fabulous. It was a stupid hypothetical question that has absolutely no bearing on what a president does. It is like asking a president: If you were a tree, what tree would you be?
-- Pundit Ann Coulter, posted April 5, 2016, during interview with talk radio host Charlie Sykes. The two were referring to a question faced by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, in which he was asked whether women who had abortions should be punished if abortion were ever made illegal.

Comment: First, "crazy" is "stupid" rhetoric. Second, Coulter is objecting to the hypothetical question that Trump was asked, though there's nothing out of bounds about the question, even if it is unlikely that abortion will be made illegal.

"America’s workforce is growing at the fastest pace since the year 2000. It is showing the kind of strength and durability that makes America’s economy right now the envy of the world despite the enormous headwinds that it’s receiving because of weaknesses in other parts of the world. In other words, the numbers, the facts don’t lie. And I think it’s useful, given that there seems to be an alternative reality out there from some of the political folks that America is down in the dumps. It’s not. America is pretty darn great right now, and making strides right now. … And I don’t expect that these facts and this evidence will convince some of the politicians out there to change their doomsday rhetoric, talking about how terrible America is. … The fact of the matter is, is that the plans that we have put in place to grow the economy have worked. They would work even faster if we did not have the kind of obstruction that we’ve seen in this town to prevent additional policies that would make a difference. … That’s what we should be debating. That’s the debate that is worthy of the American people. Not fantasy. Not name-calling. Not trying to talk down the American economy, but looking at the facts, understanding that we’ve made extraordinary progress in job growth; how can we continue to advance that, how can we make sure that people are successful in climbing the ladder of wage and income growth over the coming years; how do we make sure that we make this economy grow even faster. … The notion that we would reverse the very policies that helped dig us out of a recession, reinstitute those that got us into a hole -- plans that are being currently proposed by Republicans in Congress and by some of the candidates for President -- that’s not the conversation we should be having."
-- President Barack Obama, March 4, 2016.

Comment: There are several things going on here. First, Obama is accusing opponents (in particular, Republicans) of being "out of touch with reality", or perhaps of not caring about facts. Second, it sounds like he's also accusing Republicans of rooting for failure on the economy. Third, he is accusing them of obstruction. Fourth, he is calling for a higher standard of debate. Finally, he is making claims about what caused the Financial Crisis – he says it was Republican policies – and the reversal of that crisis – he says it was his own economic policies. But his support for these claims seems to be flimsy post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning.

The father of Sabermetrics is clearly not a fan of Donald Trump, and he is using his own statistical analysis to explain why the Republican front-runner will not be the 45th president of the United States.

In a post published this week to his website titled "Trump, as in Rump," author Bill James, who is known as one of the pioneers of the analysis of baseball and in-game statistics, broke down his reasoning in a variety of ways.

"I don’t think that Trump can win, frankly, because I don’t think there are enough morons to elect him. A certain percentage of the American public is just morons; that’s the way it is," James wrote in one section. "When you divide the public in two then divide the voters in one of those halves among five candidates or more, a candidate can win by dominating the moron vote because it only takes about one-seventh of the total population to take the 'lead' under those circumstances."

But in a general election situation, James posited, "when you’re talking about needing 51 percent of the whole population, rather than needing 30 percent of half of the population, you run out of morons. I hope we will."

"I hope Trump will lose, because I hope he runs out of morons to vote for him. Again, I stress that I am not trying to tell you what you should think about Donald Trump. I am merely telling you what I think about him," he said. (In his Tuesday night victory speech, Trump noted his support among Americans without college degrees, remarking, "I love the poorly educated.")
-- From a February 24, 2016, story by Nick Gass of Politico.

Comment: "Morons" is a form of "stupid" name-calling.

"He has a very, very highly developed lizard brain. … He has a feral intelligence. He reminds me of the Emperor Caligula who got his greatest pleasure from destroying his opponents and humiliating them, and he is brilliant at that. But he doesn't know anything about policy".
-- Pundit Joe Klein, February 18, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Klein is demonizing and dehumanizing Trump. Also, does Trump literally know nothing about policy?

“We ran a hard campaign against each other. He said things that hurt my feelings, I said things that hurt his feelings. It was tough! But he won and I lost. And I said, ‘I want to do everything I can to get you elected,’ and I did. I did everything I could think of to do.”

One woman, perhaps a decade younger than Hillary, with a thick Midwestern accent, stood up to speak her piece: “I want to say that when I listen to you, I feel that the political discourse is taken back to sanity.” Knowing laughter rippled through the crowd. “I really feel like with the Republicans . . . that there’s almost a collusion to all say things that aren’t . . . sane. So I want to really say thank you to you because you’re pleasant, you’re joyous, you’re happy. And your running for president is, I think, fundamentally an act of generosity.”
-- From a February 17, 2016, story in Vogue Magazine by Jonathan Van Meter covering Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her campaign in 2016, and referring back to her contest with Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) in 2008, who won the Democratic presidential nomination.

Comment: Is Clinton indulging in the "they'll say anything" caricature with respect to herself? Also, the woman speaking to Clinton is deriding Republicans as not being sane.

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

Comment: This is "divorced from reality" rhetoric.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"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".

"Meanwhile, from, Nancy Pelosi -- ready for this? -- Nancy Pelosi says Congress has no right to moments of silence for victims of gun violence unless lawmakers intend to take action to prevent it. This is insane. I mean, the woman's brain, there's a flesh eating disease that has entered her skull, a bunch of amoebas running around in there just slowly eating away at her gray matter."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, December 4, 2015, responding to remarks December 3, 2015, by House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Comment: Limbaugh is using "stupid" rhetoric.

If you want to witness an adamantine mind at work, you could do a whole lot worse that observe the 44th president of the United States. Barack Obama is the most rigidly ideological president of my lifetime, a man who has a nearly blind adherence to a particular ideology (progressivism). It’s a disturbing, if at times a psychologically fascinating, thing to witness. We’re seeing it play out in multiple ways, but let me offer just one illustration — his approach to jihadism. It has been clear from the start of his presidency that Mr. Obama has decided that Islam is wholly separate from Islamic terrorism, which explains his refusal to use the words (or variations of the words) radical or militant Islam. It also explains why his administration has used absurd euphemisms like “man-caused disaster” and “workplace violence” to describe Islam-inspired attacks. Why the 2009 Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was an “isolated extremist.” Why the shooting at a Kosher supermarket in Paris earlier this year was “random.” (The gunman had declared his allegiance to ISIS.) And why the president, in an effort to protect Islam, invokes the Crusades at a National Prayer Breakfast, despite the fact that the Crusades happened roughly a thousand years ago. On and on it goes. … Here’s the problem: There is an independent reality apart from what Mr. Obama thinks. He can ignore the truth, but he cannot wish it out of existence. And by ignoring the reality of things, he makes everything worse.
-- Pundit Peter Wehner, December 4, 2015.

Comment: First, Wehner is accusing Obama of being an ideologue. Second, it's one thing to denounce somebody for persisting in a false belief despite evidence to the contrary; it's another to say accuse such a person of being detached from reality. Aren't there lots of people in politics (and not on one side) who stick with questionable beliefs? Are they all "wishing away independent reality"?

"If you can’t come to the conclusion at this point that this is an act of terror, you should find something else to do for a living than being in law enforcement. I mean, you’re a moron."
-- Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), December 3, 2015, referring to investigations into the San Bernardino shootings on December 2, 2015.

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric.

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.

"So I have a belt. Somebody hits me with the belt, it's going in because the belt moves this way! It moves this way! It moves that way! He hit the belt buckle! Anybody have a knife; they want to try it on me? Believe me, it ain't gonna work. You're gonna be successful. But he took the knife, he went like this. And he plunged it into the belt! And amazingly the belt stayed totally flat and the knife broke. How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?"
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, November 12, 2015, referring to Republican presidential contender Ben Carson's claim that, as a teenager, he stabbed a friend whose belt buckle deflected the blow.

Comment: Trump is saying that those who believe Carson's story are stupid (which is unfair; couldn't a large belt buckle stop a small knife?).

Fresh on the heels of the House’s vote Tuesday to revive the Export-Import Bank, Hillary Clinton urged the Senate to follow suit, calling the decision a “no-brainer."

“It became a political football. Whether for ideological or political reasons, there are people in Washington against it, and that makes absolutely no sense,” she said Wednesday at a “Politics & Eggs” lunch at Saint Anselm College, criticizing opponents of the bank — like her primary rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand the arguments,” she said, pointing out how the bank helps New Hampshire businesses. “The Export-Import Bank’s sole purpose is to support United States business abroad."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 28, 2015, as related in a Politico story by Gabriel DeBenedetti.

Comment: Clinton is saying that it is common-sense to support the Export-Import Bank, and deriding opponents of it as stupid.

"You’ve heard from some of our outstanding candidates. I’m going to be supporting whoever the nominee is and I’m confident … We’ve got some great candidates. But when you watch the debate between the Democrats, it was logical, and civil, and people didn’t agree with everything but they weren’t just saying crazy stuff. And they weren’t dividing the country into us and them and tapping into people’s worst impulses. It made me proud, because it said that we’ve got a party that’s inclusive and that wants everybody to join and get involved and showed that we can disagree without being disagreeable."
-- President Barack Obama, October 23, 2015.

Comment: Obama is indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature, saying that Democrats are logical and civil while Republicans say "crazy stuff" (an example of "out of touch" or "don't care about facts" rhetoric) and divide Americans (an example of "unify the country" rhetoric) and appeal to people's worst impulses (which is demonizing Republicans).

Actor James Woods, who frequently gets political on his Twitter account, called out Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday for a tweet about China.

Sanders tweeted, "China -- not exactly seen as a model when it comes to human rights -- provides 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. The US provides zero."

Woods responded within a few hours: "China has notoriously killed female infants for population control, you utter moron. #ChinaGendercide"
-- Actor and activist James Woods, October 19, 2015, as related in a CNN story by Daniella Diaz.

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric; Woods can criticize Sanders' position without resorting to name-calling.

ROGER: Ronald Reagan successfully brainwashed about 45% of the nation's people with the help of Rush Limbaugh. And if you use keywords like “socialist” and “demagogue”, they right away think communist and they will not vote for you. And if you want to fix this problem, you can’t just do what you’re doing and shout out words like “demagogue”, they love demagogues. They don’t understand what the word even means. Go to a Republican bar and sit there and talk to them, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. You first have to fix the brainwash problem, and you first have to slowly fix the brainwash problem by bringing back the equal time laws that Ronald Reagan got rid of.

SVART: For the last 40 years the far, far right has really systematically built up institutions to control the discourse. … And they've really dismantled the public sphere. They've really deregulated. … And another thing that they've done is they've flooded the airwaves with their mantra, including how socialism is evil and the government in general is evil and inefficient. And they just repeat it over and over again, ignoring facts, and it really is true that it has an impact on how people engage with politics.
-- National Director of the Democratic Socialists of America Maria Svart, October 18, 2015, responding to Roger, a caller on C-SPAN Washington Journal.

Comment: Roger is using "stupid" (i.e., "brainwashed") and "demagogue" rhetoric to describe Republicans and conservatives. Svart is demonizing Republicans and conservatives; they generally want smaller government, but that doesn't mean they believe all government is evil. Svart is also accusing Republicans and conservatives of not caring about facts, and she is indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature (implying that Democrats, Socialists, liberals and progressives don't also repeat false assertions).

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday slammed Washington for refusing to share intelligence with Russia on Syria, accusing it of muddled thinking.

"I believe some of our partners simply have mush for brains," Putin said, expressing some of his strongest criticism yet of Washington's handling of the Syrian crisis.
-- Russian President Vladimir Putin, October 13, 2015, as related in an AFP story.

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric.

The craziest thing about the Republican presidential contest isn't that Donald Trump is in the lead. It's that Dr. Ben Carson -- who truly seems to have lost his mind -- is in second place and gaining fast. Trump may be a blowhard, but Carson has proved himself to be a crackpot of the first order.
-- Pundit Eugene Robinson, October 13, 2015, referring to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson.

Comment: This is "divorced from reality" rhetoric.

I would argue that all of the G.O.P. candidates are calling for policies that would be deeply destructive at home, abroad, or both. But even if you like the broad thrust of modern Republican policies, it should worry you that the men and woman on that stage are clearly living in a world of fantasies and fictions. And some seem willing to advance their ambitions with outright lies. Let’s start at the shallow end, with the fantasy economics of the establishment candidates. You’re probably tired of hearing this, but modern G.O.P. economic discourse is completely dominated by an economic doctrine — the sovereign importance of low taxes on the rich — that has failed completely and utterly in practice over the past generation. … If the discussion of economics was alarming, the discussion of foreign policy was practically demented. Almost all the candidates seem to believe that American military strength can shock-and-awe other countries into doing what we want without any need for negotiations, and that we shouldn’t even talk with foreign leaders we don’t like. … I began writing for The Times during the 2000 election campaign, and what I remember above all from that campaign is the way the conventions of “evenhanded” reporting allowed then-candidate George W. Bush to make clearly false assertions — about his tax cuts, about Social Security — without paying any price. As I wrote at the time, if Mr. Bush said the earth was flat, we’d see headlines along the lines of “Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.” Now we have presidential candidates who make Mr. Bush look like Abe Lincoln. But who will tell the people?
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, September 18, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is using "stupid" name-calling as well as the "they'll say anything" caricature. He's also accusing Republicans of failed policies. Finally, Krugman is using the "only my opponent" caricature, saying it is a false equivalence to say Republicans and Democrats are equally guilty of making false assertions.

Peel back the boasting and insults, the lies and exaggerations common to any presidential campaign. What remains is a collection of assertions so untrue, so bizarre, that they form a vision as surreal as the Ronald Reagan jet looming behind the candidates’ lecterns. It felt at times as if the speakers were no longer living in a fact-based world where actions have consequences, programs take money and money has to come from somewhere. Where basic laws — like physics and the Constitution — constrain wishes. Where Congress and the public, allies and enemies, markets and militaries don’t just do what you want them to, just because you say they will.
-- The New York Times Editorial Board, September 17, 2015, referring to the Republican presidential candidates, who had debated the day before.

Comment: This is name-calling of the “stupid” sort.

“Carbon pollution … it’s the big lie, you repeat it enough … carbon dioxide is not a pollutant … our president is a moron”.
-- Pundit Mark Levin, September 1, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. His remarks concerned President Barack Obama's comments on climate change.

Comment: Levin is accusing Obama of indulging in "big lie" behavior,  and calling him stupid. As I've discussed earlier, Levin's argument on whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant fails to take account of the notion that the dose makes the poison.

CHENEY: I think his world view just doesn't reflect reality.

HANNITY: That sounds – when you say that, think about what you just said. We have a president of the United States, that his world view does not reflect reality, and he has his finger on the nuclear buttons. That's a little scary when you combine them, no?
-- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, August 31, 2015, during an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News. Their remarks concerned President Barack Obama.

Comment: Cheney and Hannity are accusing Obama of being out of touch with reality.

"Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be President of the United States, yet espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century for America. We are going forward. We are not going back."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 27, 2015.

Comment: This is "extremist" and "out of touch" rhetoric. In addition, in comparing Republicans to terrorists or those who "don't want to live in the modern world", Clinton is demonizing Republicans.

"And here come these young kids at the New Republic thinking (summarized), "Oh, my God! Oh, my God! What if? What if Stalin, what if Mao -- oh, my God, what if Gorbachev -- had just had the computers and us that we have today! "Can you imagine with the data collection and the data mining and the algorithms what beautiful results we could create for people?" So it finally cemented something I know, and that is all of this liberalism, most of it -- all of this dreaming and fantasies -- is all rooted in emotion. There isn't a single element of intellectual application to it."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, August 27, 2015.

Comment: By saying that their positions are based on emotion rather than reasoning, Limbaugh is resorting to "stupid" or "they don't care about facts" rhetoric.

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.

"I will tell you, he was totally out of line last night. I was asking and being asked a question from another reporter. I would have gotten to him quickly, and he stood up and started ranting and raving like a madman, and frankly, he was out of line".
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 26, 2015. Trump was referring to Univision's Jorge Ramos, who interrupted Trump's press conference on August 25, 2015.

Comment: "Madman" is "out of touch with reality" rhetoric.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Can we start with the comments last night, the “crazies” comments, and the opposition to it that’s already come out? Representative Black saying that it was incendiary rhetoric that causes problems in politics. Do you want to clarify those remarks?

SCHULTZ: I haven't seen Representative Black’s statement, so I don’t have a direct response. … the President came back from vacation and was remarking with Senator Reid at the challenges they face this fall. And he may have been a little flip in his language, but we have seen Republicans do wildly irresponsible things in the past, and that includes shutting down the government for ideological reasons. That’s a prospect that came to fruition a few years ago, and it’s something that Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are floating this time as well.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: But does he think that that rhetoric is helpful to the debate and helpful to getting things through, calling the opposition “crazies”?

SCHULTZ: Look, again, Isaac, the President may have been a little too flip, but at the end of the day, the President and Leader Reid were talking about the challenges they face this coming fall. I’ve listed a few instances of Republicans taking steps that we consider unwise.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Could you just clarify -- the crazies are who? The crazies are the people who are opposed to him on which things? And are they only Republicans?

SCHULTZ: Look, I think if you look at some of the things being proposed by Republicans in Washington -- for example, watering down Wall Street Reform, which is something that has built in the safeguards to our capital markets at a time where we’re seeing wild gyrations in global markets, we do find that irresponsible.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Does the President wish he hadn’t said that?


QUESTIONER [unidentified]: But he thinks there’s a logical, rational case for the infrastructure bill, for the budget bill, and you’ve said that those people who disagree with that case would count among the crazies. He’s made a logical, rational case, in his mind, for the Iran deal. Nobody who’s opposed to the Iran deal counts as the crazies? Can a Democrat be crazy, I guess is the question.

SCHULTZ: Present company excluded? The answer is, Isaac, he wasn’t talking about Iran when he made that remark.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: More on the crazies thing. So if you’re opposed to the Iran deal, you’re not crazy, in the President’s mind?

SCHULTZ: I honestly think you’re just conflating two different pieces.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: In his mind, aside from what he said last night and your explanation of it, are you crazy if you oppose the Iran deal?

SCHULTZ: Let me try it another way, Isaac. President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, said the following about the idea of opposing the Iran nuclear deal because you could get a better deal. This is a claim we hear frequently from both Democrats and Republicans who oppose this deal. He says this is somewhere between -- the idea that we can get a better deal is somewhere “between naïve and unrealistic.” So you can judge for yourself what language to use. But the President believes that, yes, this is the best way to cut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, and that those claiming they can get a better deal somehow are indeed, to paraphrase the former Treasury Secretary under President George W. Bush, somewhere “between naïve and unrealistic.”

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Are the Koch brothers the “crazies”?

SCHULTZ: I think the President mentioned them yesterday because they are part of the entrenched interests spending large sums of money trying to impede the progress that we’re making as a country.
-- Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz, August 25, 2015. Schultz was fielding questions regarding comments President Barack Obama had made August 24, 2015, in which he referred to some of his political opponents as "crazies".

Comment: First, Obama was resorting to name-calling of the "stupid" variety. Second, Schultz engages in a number of efforts to avoid answering the question of what justifies someone being amongst the "crazies". Schultz points out that many of Obama's opponents have behaved (in Obama's view) in ways that are reckless, irresponsible, naive, unrealistic, etc., but does that justify calling them "crazies"? Schultz says we should "judge for yourself what language to use", but note that while Schultz says Obama's rhetoric was "a little flip", he insists it was not something that Obama regretted or would retract. That is, Obama regards the rhetoric as appropriate. So, is it OK to use the same term to describe Obama if we think his policies are reckless, irresponsible, etc.?

"Crazy Uncle Joe".
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, August 24, 2015, referring to Vice President Joe Biden.

Comment: This is "out of touch with reality" rhetoric.

On the day of the first Republican presidential debate, Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday she's often left in a "state of disbelief" from what she hears from some of her 2016 rivals.

Speaking in Los Angeles, where she met with home-care aides who often struggle with lower wages and difficult working conditions, Clinton expressed dismay with those who would oppose improvements for those workers, including better training and bigger paychecks.

"When people in the political world … oppose these programs, I would like them to just walk in your shoes for a week," she told a group of workers seated around her, who provide in-home care for the elderly, sick and disabled.

"We've got people, well let's just say we've got people running for president, who I don't know what world they live in. I don't understand it. It's truly amazing to me," the front-runner for the Democratic nomination said.

"I'm constantly in a state of disbelief," she added. "They said what?"
-- Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, August 6, 2015, from an Associated Press story by Michael R. Blood.

Comment: Clinton is saying that some of the Republican presidential candidates are divorced from reality.

"I look at those people and I feel sad. That is really such a low common denominator. They're all Republicans, they're all not going to go vote for him but they all seem to see this wishful thinking. … They're really -- they really don't have a firm grasp on reality, on what it will take to solve the country's problems. … I don't think I'm better than them. No, I don't. But they're not thinking. They want to be entertained."
-- Pundit Joan Walsh, July 30, 2015. Walsh was referring to supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump, video of whom had just been shown on MSNBC's "Hardball".

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric. Walsh can point out errors in what Trump supporters believe without using the term "low common denominator" or saying they "don't have a firm grasp on reality".

"This president's foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."
-- Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), July 26, 2015. Huckabee was referring to the deal on Iran's nuclear program endorsed by President Barack Obama.

Comment: Huckabee is invoking the Holocaust, predicting that the Iranian nuclear deal will be as deadly to Jews (in this case, the ones living in Israel) as the massacres by the Nazis. This is a prediction, so it's technically unclear whether it's true or false, but it seems likely to be an exaggeration. If it's so obvious that the deal is apocalyptically bad, then why – according to Huckabee – would Obama endorse it? Because Obama is evil or stupid? Or is this instead a violent metaphor on Huckabee's part, a "comparing" of the Iranian deal with the Holocaust?

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.

What Mr. Trump is offering is not conservatism, it is Trump-ism – a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense.
-- Former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), July 16, 2015. Perry was referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "demagogue" and "stupid" rhetoric.

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

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

"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.

"This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me … Because what he did was he fired up the crazies."
-- Sen. John McCain, (R-AZ), July 13, 2015, from an interview with Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker posted July 16, 2015. McCain was referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "stupid" or "divorced from reality" rhetoric.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: When Donald Trump is on the debate stage in that first debate, in that second debate. How do you think the other candidates are going to deal with him? I mean -- do you get into a fist fight with him? A verbal fist fight. Do you ignore him?

PAUL BEGALA: How do I think? I think weakly, I think they've dealt with him very weakly so far and that is the wrong way to do it. Especially with Republican primary voters, they admire strength. Again, Ronald Reagan, 'I paid for this microphone, Mr. Green.' He asserted strength. All voters, especially Republicans want strength. The problem they have is that they're wimping out to Trump. Why? Because he speaks for a lot of people. The Republican base, the technical term, they're crazy. And he speaks to the crazy base voters. They can't, they don't dare take on Trump. They are so cowed by him you can almost hear them moo.
-- Pundit Paul Begala, July 9, 2015, referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: "Crazy" is a form of "stupid" rhetoric.

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.

"And I want to emphasize -- I know some of them well. They’re good people. It’s just their ideas are bad. And I want to emphasize that. We’re one country, we’re all on one team, and so we’re all one American family. But we all go -- we're at Thanksgiving and Uncle Harry starts saying something and you say, “Uncle Harry, that makes no sense at all.” You still love him. He’s still a member of your family. Right? But you’ve got to correct him. You don’t want to put him in charge of stuff. That’s all I'm saying."
-- President Barack Obama, July 2, 2015.

Comment: This is "hate the policies, not the person" rhetoric. It's also "stupid" rhetoric.

"After seven years I heard the President of the United States say the other day that the world respects America more because of his leadership. This convinces me, it is the final confirmation that President Obama lives in his own world, not in our world. "
-- Presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), June 30, 2015, regarding remarks made by President Barack Obama on June 1, 2015.

Comment: This is "out of touch" rhetoric.

"I've said Barack Obama has a screw loose, so does his wife."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, June 16, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio program. His remarks referred to First Lady Michelle Obama.

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

If the talks fail, no sweat. We’ll just apply tougher sanctions until the Iranians come crawling back to the table. This is currently the position of close to 100 percent of Republicans in Congress. If only it were so simple. In the real world that these muddle-headed hardliners apparently don’t inhabit, the multi-lateral sanctions that Obama so painstakingly built during his first term are crumbling. Russia is already selling a sophisticated missile defense system to Teheran and European corporations are itching to trade again with Iran. Congress could impose the harshest sanctions imaginable and Iran would easily circumvent them.
-- Pundit Jonathan Alter, June 4, 2015.

Comment: Alter is saying Republican critics of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran are divorced from reality.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ: Are you kidding me? The Department of Justice gives themselves a five out of five on proactive disclosure. Do you really think anybody in the world believes the Dept. of Justice is at the top of their game, they've got an A+. Five for five?


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ: You live in la-la-land. You live in a fantasy land because it ain't working. I'm sure you're a very nice person, and I'm sure most of the people are very nice people. It ain't working. 550,000 times Americans put forward requests, and got a rejection saying it doesn't qualify. Do you think that is working? Do you think that is presumption of openness? Do you think that is proactive disclosure?
-- Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), June 3, 2015, during a meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Comment: Chaffetz is saying Pustay is divorced from reality.

Think about how the Democratic presidential race is lining up. According to the Washington Post, “Hillary Rodham Clinton is running as the most liberal Democratic presidential front-runner in decades, with positions on issues … that would, in past elections, have put her at her party’s precarious left edge.” Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is running to her left. And Bernie Sanders is running to his left. And yet despite this, Democrats and liberals continue to act as if it’s Republicans and conservatives who are extreme, radical, revolutionary, on the fringe. Progressives have created an alternate reality in which they are moderate, temperate, centrist, the very model of reasonableness. They are blind to their own zeal and dogmatism, their own immoderation and intolerance. The Democratic Party was once a great party. It may be a great party again. But for now, it is a radical party — and growing more radical by the day.
-- Pundit Peter Wehner, June 2, 2015.

Comment: Wehner is using "extremist" rhetoric, essentially saying that Democrats are ideologues who are divorced from reality.

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.

"[Democrats] have a single answer to everything. Raise your taxes, spend the money and the other thing that's really quite remarkable about this, only six years ago, not 100 years ago that the Democrats passed the largest infrastructure spending bill in the history of the galaxy. Even the Klingons never spent $380 billion on infrastructure to rebuild America. Remember the roads, the ports? The airports, the bridges. Where did that money go? But they're always at the trough again for more money for infrastructure. It shows a brain dead liberalism with no other answer to every other question."
-- Pundit Charles Krauthammer, posted May 15, 2015.

Comment: "Braindead" is name-calling of the "stupid" variety.

Sometimes I think that Rush Limbaugh is the dumbest man in America. This happens whenever I take him at face value and forget that he is basically an entertainer with contempt for his audience. He will tell them anything. Last week, as if to validate my opinion of him, he went after Michelle Obama for playing the “race card” at the dedication of a museum in New York City. He described her as angry and complaining.
-- Pundit Richard Cohen, May 11, 2015, in an article entitled, "Michelle Obama, criticized for the sin of being black". Cohen's article concerns remarks made by pundit Rush Limbaugh on May 7, 2015, regarding comments made by First Lady Michelle Obama on April 30, 2015.

Comment: This is name-calling, of the "stupid" variety. Cohen is also demonizing Limbaugh as having contempt for his audience, and saying Limbaugh criticized Obama for being black. Cohen also uses the "they'll say anything" caricature against him. (There is also "race card" rhetoric being used by Limbaugh.) Cohen can disagree with Limbaugh's remarks without resorting to name-calling.

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

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

KELLY: Obviously, you're trying to paint her as out of touch … what is the evidence of that?

WALKER: Well, I think you could look at a whole pattern of things – even the way she reacted to the emails. I mean, I think the fact, instead of saying "hey, this was a mistake", it was almost like when she stood in front of the UN and talked about this, like she couldn't believe that she actually had to respond to that. When you look at saying you were dead broke when you came out of the White House, when she had a book deal pending and two houses out there. When she talked about not having driven for 18 years. I think those are all things that everyday people really wonder, what is this that they're talking about. This is not someone who's connected with everyday Americans.
-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), April 20, 2015, being interviewed by Fox News' Megyn Kelly.

Comment: This is "out of touch" and "real Americans" rhetoric.

"[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.

Across the board, the modern American right seems to have abandoned the idea that there is an objective reality out there, even if it’s not what your prejudices say should be happening. What are you going to believe, right-wing doctrine or your own lying eyes? These days, the doctrine wins. … Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, conservatives predicted disaster: health costs would soar, the deficit would explode, more people would lose insurance than gain it. They were wrong on all counts. … Along with this denial of reality comes an absence of personal accountability. If anything, alleged experts seem to get points by showing that they’re willing to keep saying the same things no matter how embarrassingly wrong they’ve been in the past.
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, February 20, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is accusing Republicans of not caring about truth (or maybe being out of touch with reality). It's true that Republicans have made predictions about the policies of Obama and Democrats that haven't come true (though it may be too early to judge the predictions on health care reform), but Obama and Democrats have made false predictions, as well. (On health care reform, it was said that people would be able to keep their existing health insurance and that premiums could drop by as much as $2,500.) Like Republicans, Democrats have refused to own up to the falsity of their predictions on economic issues, military affairs, etc. Does this prove that Democrats also don't care about truth or are out of touch with reality?

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

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

The New York Daily News blasted Howard Stern and called him an “idiot” Tuesday after the radio host compared the Sony hacking assault, in which embarrassing emails and other papers were released, to the terrorist attack on 9/11 that left almost 3,000 people dead.

The front page newspaper headline declared the self-described “King of all Media” as the “Cringe of all Media” and on the inside pages it published a photo of Stern next to a picture of the World Trade Center towers on fire.

“Hey Howard… this is 9/11, idiot,” the copy blared.

Stern was discussing the cyber-attack Monday with guests Seth Rogen and James Franco who star in the aforementioned Sony comedy which some say may have been the impetus for the hacking. In the movie, Franco and Rogen book an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and are then tasked by the CIA with assassinating him.

“This attack is no different than a 9/11-type attack," Stern said. "They stole this material. It probably was North Korea. It’s outrageous. The president should have announced immediately we’re under attack."
-- The San Diego Union-Tribune story, posted December 16, 2014, by Debbi Baker.

Comment: Stern was "comparing" the Sony hack with 9/11 in the sense that he believes they should both be treated as acts of war, not that they were both as deadly. The New York Daily News is name-calling, saying that Stern is an "idiot".


Examples from 2012.


Examples from 2011.


Examples from 2008.

"Most of them are legally retarded."
-- A statement found on the Wikipedia (an online encyclopedia) entry for radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, describing Limbaugh's audience. Per a BBC report on August 15, 2007, the statement was apparently added through the use of a computer associated with the Democratic Party.

Comment: This is standard name-calling, saying that your opponents are mentally impaired.

"This guy is brain-dead".
-- Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), July 4, 2007. Biden was referring to President George W. Bush. [NYTimes blog, The Caucus: Biden Talks Tough (July 4, 2007).]

Comment: In this standard example of name-calling, Biden derides a political opponent as being mentally deficient.

Glenn Beck is "Satan’s mentally challenged younger brother".
-- Novelist and pundit Stephen King, February 1, 2007, referring to pundit Glenn Beck.

Comment: King is both demonizing Beck and calling him mentally deficient.

President George W. Bush is "a Beelzebub -- and a dumb one."
-- Actor and director Sean Penn, September 10, 2006 [Huffington Post: Sean Penn: Bush Is "A Beelzebub - And A Dumb One"... (September 12, 2006)].

Comment: This instance of name-calling involves both demonizing and calling someone mentally deficient.

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

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