Wednesday, March 7, 2012

President Obama Chides GOP -- But Not Democratic -- "War" Rhetoric

In his March 6, 2012, press conference, President Barack Obama denounced the GOP presidential candidates for their talk about going to war with Iran over its nuclear program:
Obama: "Now, what’s said on the campaign trail -- those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not Commander-in-Chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it. And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem."

Later, in the same press conference, Obama was asked about whether others were being responsible in their use of war rhetoric:

Jessica Yellin: "Top Democrats have said that Republicans on a similar issue are engaged in a war on women. Some top Republicans say it’s more like Democrats are engaged in a war for the women’s vote. As you talk about loose talk of war in another arena and women are -- this could raise concerns among women, do you agree with the chair of your Democratic National Committee that there is a war on women?" 
Obama: "Here is what I think. Women are going to make up their own mind in this election about who is advancing the issues that they care most deeply about. And one of the things I’ve learned being married to Michelle is I don’t need to tell her what it is that she thinks is important. And there are millions of strong women around the country who are going to make their own determination about a whole range of issues. It’s not going to be narrowly focused just on contraception. It’s not going to be driven by one statement by one radio announcer. It is going to be driven by their view of what’s most likely to make sure they can help support their families, make their mortgage payments; who's got a plan to ensure that middle-class families are secure over the long term; what’s most likely to result in their kids being able to get the education they need to compete. And I believe that Democrats have a better story to tell to women about how we’re going to solidify the middle class and grow this economy, make sure everybody has a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, and we got a fair set of rules of the road that everybody has to follow. So I’m not somebody who believes that women are going to be single-issue voters. They never have been. But I do think that we’ve got a strong story to tell when it comes to women." 
Yellin: "Would you prefer this language be changed?" 
Obama: "Jessica, as you know, if I start being in the business of arbitrating -- " 
Yellin: "You talk about civility." 
Obama: "And what I do is I practice it."
I've already discussed how Obama is a poor example when it comes to practicing civility. The above quote from his press conference is further evidence of that, because he ducks Yellin's question completely. Maybe he's right about what issues are going to dominate the upcoming election, but that tells us nothing about whether the "war on women" rhetoric is appropriate.

Even if we assume -- for the sake of argument -- that the policies of Republicans when it comes to contraception, abortion, women's health, etc., are completely wrong, those policies simply don't constitute a war on women. Tanks and artillery aren't being deployed against women, right? As such, the "war on women" rhetoric is overblown and inflammatory.

That's the question Yellin asked Obama, and it's precisely the question Obama avoided answering.

I'm sure Obama believes it's unfair for his opponents to claim he's waging war on business or the private sector, or is waging class warfare. And he's right, it is. But it's also unfair to describe Republicans as waging war on women. Obama had the opportunity to say so, but he passed on it. 
Which, again, is why he's not a very good example to follow when it comes to civil debate.

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