Friday, August 31, 2012

Civility Watchdog: Rep. Paul Ryan's Acceptance Speech to GOP Convention

On August 29, 2012, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) gave a speech accepting the vice presidential nomination at the GOP National Convention. Below are some of the highlights concerning civil, productive debate:
"I'm the newcomer to the campaign, so let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power. They've run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they've got left. With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money— and he's pretty experienced at that. You see, some people can't be dragged down by the usual cheap tactics, because their ability, character, and plain decency are so obvious— and ladies and gentlemen, that is Mitt Romney."
Comment: Democrats are desperate to keep power? This is similar to the way that Howard Dean demonized Republicans on February 26, 2008. Ryan is also making the "fear-mongering" accusation as well as the "divisive" accusation. I think there's an implicit "only my opponent does it" caricature here, as well.

"What did the taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus? More debt. That money wasn't just spent and wasted -- it was borrowed, spent, and wasted."
Comment: This is the "failed policies" assertion.

"Republicans stepped up with good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems. How did the president respond? By doing nothing -- nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue."
Comment: Ryan uses "demagogue" rhetoric here.

"Whatever your political party, let's come together for the sake of our country. Join Mitt Romney and me. Let's give this effort everything we have. Let's see this through all the way. Let's get this done."
Comment: This is an appeal to "unify the country".

Rhetoric: "Demagogue"

Politicians often complain that their opponents are "demagogues" or are "demagoguing" an issue. It's clear that this is a criticism, but what does it actually mean?

A demagogue refers to a person who incites the people to some cause or belief. As a negative description, a demagogue manipulates people, or pushes the to some sinister cause.

So, calling someone a demagogue is frequently an accusation akin to "negative politics" or "fear-mongering" or maybe caricaturing someone as having evil intentions.

Whatever the case, anyone who uses the term needs to explain exactly what they mean by it, and then prove that what they're saying is true. If they can't be clear what their accusation is, or they can't demonstrate that the accusation is true, then they're not saying anything we need to pay attention to.

Clinton will have to campaign with unwavering poise against the most dangerous and unpredictable variety of opponent—a demagogue who is willing to trespass every boundary of decency to win power.
-- Pundit David Remnick, retrieved June 12, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "demagogue" and "they'll say anything" rhetoric.

During an exclusive Republican gathering here [Park City, UT] on Friday, billionaire mega-donor Meg Whitman challenged Paul Ryan over his endorsement of Donald Trump – and, in doing so, compared the presumptive GOP presidential nominee to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Whitman and Ryan are present for Experts and Enthusiasts, an annual summit convened here by Mitt Romney that brings together his top donors and major political figures. Part of the day’s program included a discussion session between Ryan and former broadcast journalist Campbell Brown.

At one point, according to two sources, during a question and answer session, Whitman, the billionaire chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard, challenged Ryan over his decision to support Trump. In framing the question, according to the sources, she compared Trump to past historical demagogues including Hitler and Mussolini.
-- Former gubernatorial candidate (R-CA) Meg Whitman, June 10, 2016, as related by Alex Isenstadt of Politico.

Comment: This is both "demagogue" and "comparing" rhetoric, though without direct quotes and context, it's hard to evaluate whether the rhetoric is appropriate.

"There are a lot of Republicans, including myself, who find him morally repulsive. And he’s just not — there are some things more important things than winning an election. And supporting a guy who tears at the social fabric, who insults the office of the presidency by being completely unprepared for it, who plays on bigotry and fear, who is the sort of demagogue our founders feared would upset the American experiment in self-government, well, that kind of guy, you just can’t support, even if it means a defeat."
-- Pundit David Brooks, March 18, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Brooks is accusing Trump of being a bigot and a demagogue who uses scare tactics (he is also perhaps using the language of disgust: "morally repulsive").

"Barack Obama's a world class demagogue. That language there is designed to divide us."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), March 13, 2016, responding to remarks made the previous day by President Barack Obama.

Comment: Cruz is accusing Obama of being divisive and being a demagogue.

Trump's rise is the return of the demagogue
-- Pundit Jill Abramson, February 29, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

Trump has stoked xenophobic fears and used his crass showmanship to mark out this territory. His tactics of strong demagoguery make it completely understandable to lament his success.
-- Pundit Salena Zito, January 31, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Zito is accusing Trump of bigotry, and of being a demagogue.

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

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

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

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

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.

"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.

The terrorists and demagogues want us to be scared. We mustn’t give in
-- The headline of an opinion piece by George Soros, December 28, 2015.

Comment: This is "demagogue" and "fear-mongering" rhetoric.

"I think that the more than the American people understand what Trump stands for, which among other things is his assertion that wages in America are too high. He wants to, quote/unquote, "make America great." And here's a guy who's a billionaire who thinks that wages in America are too high. He thinks that we should not raise the minimum wage. He wants to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to his millionaire and billionaire friends. But I think creating and playing off the anxiety and the fears that the American people have, the fears about terrorism, the fears about our economy, and becoming a demagogue about that, and then trying to get us to hate Mexicans, or to hate Muslims, I think that is a strategy that is not what America is supposed to be about. What I believe, in contrast to Mr. Trump, is that we bring our people together to focus on the real issues, which is the disappearing middle class, massive income and wealth inequality. A corrupt campaign finance system. The fact that we're not effectively addressing the international crisis of climate change. The fact that our kids can't afford to go to college. And moms and dads can't afford child care. Those are the issues that we have to focus on. And we have to look at the greed. The greed of corporate America. The greed of Wall Street, which has had such a terrible impact on our economy and on millions of people. So, I'm trying to bring people together to take on the wealthy and powerful who have done so much to hurt the middle class. Trump is trying to play on fears and divide us up."
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), from an interview on CNN, aired December 24, 2015. His remarks concerned Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Sanders is accusing Trump of exploiting fear, of being a demagogue, of inciting bigotry, and dividing the country.

Now look at Trump's behavior over the past few days. He has displayed a level of irresponsibility that borders on recklessness. This is a time when the essence of leadership is clarity and restraint -- when even politicians should put aside their usual braggadocio and self-aggrandizement for the good of the country. Trump has done the opposite. He appears to be inflaming the situation deliberately, to advance his presidential campaign. It's rare that we see this level of demagoguery in U.S. politics, but it's frightening. His divisive comments play so directly into the polarizing strategies of our terrorist adversaries -- who want to foment Western-Muslim hatred -- that a case can be made that he has put the country at greater risk.
-- Pundit David Ignatius, November 25, 2015, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

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

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).

For Mr. Obama, it’s never about honest differences over policies. His political opponents have to be portrayed as morally callous, cruel and motivated by the basest considerations while Obama presents himself as the avatar of the common good. Mr. Obama is, in fact, a cynical demagogue.
-- Peter Wehner, October 2, 2015.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric. While it's true that Obama sometimes demonizes his opponents, Wehner is himself demonizing Obama by saying that Obama never allows honest differences over policies.

A few weeks ago, I predicted in a column that the Iran deal would become the foreign policy equivalent of Obamacare–Republicans would keep hammering it, even if they had no way to defeat it. This would be cynical and solipsistic; but I have absolutely no doubt that this is what the majority of Republicans will do. Next week, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and other Troglyditic all-stars will hold an anti-deal rally in Washington. Other circuses are sure to come. … Instead of standing with the demagogue Netanyahu–and the show-boating Republicans–AIPAC should consider standing with the Israeli intelligence and military establishment, some of whom favor the deal and some of whom don’t but all of whom agree that now that it’s a done deal, there is a need for coordinated strategy.
-- Pundit Joe Klein, September 3, 2015. His remarks concerned the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Iranian nuclear deal.

Comment: There's all sorts of rhetoric going on here: "cynical"; "subhuman" (in the form of "Troglyditic"); and "demagogue".

Trump is America’s answer to Hugo Chávez. … Republicans like to think of America as an exceptional nation. And it is, not least in its distaste for demagogues. Donald Trump’s candidacy puts the strength of that distaste to the test.
-- Pundit Bret Stephens, August 31, 2015, in an article entitled, "The Donald and the Demagogues".

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

Trump made his initial mark in this campaign with demagoguery about illegal immigration. But with the exception of Jeb Bush, the other GOP contenders have basically the same position: Seal off the border with Mexico, if necessary by erecting a physical barrier.
-- Pundit Eugene Robinson, August 11, 2015.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

Demagogues like Donald Trump exhaust the patience of the political press corps because reporters fundamentally misunderstand the candidates' appeal. Reporters like to think that logic and reason hold sway, so they believe a demagogue can be easily disarmed by exposing his crimes against logic, his pandering to the uninformed and his manipulative emotionalism. They’re entirely wrong—as the last month of The Donald’s unlikely rise to the top of the Republican presidential heap has demonstrated day after day.
-- Pundit Jack Shafer, August 10, 2015.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

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

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

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.

“We have to reject this demagogue. If we don’t we will lose and we will deserve to lose.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), July 12, 2015. He was referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: This is “demagogue” rhetoric.

Ohio Governor John Kasich lambasted Clinton after a campaign stop in Concord, New Hampshire. “For her to say that there are Republicans who are deliberately trying to keep people from voting is just pure demagoguery,” he told reporters

Kasich added that he doesn't “know who put her up to this,'' but said the election should be focused on “who's going to improve America, not who's going to divide America better than somebody else.”
-- Governor John Kasich, June 5, 2015, as reported in a story on Bloomberg by Emily Greenhouse and Mark Niquette.

Comment: Kasich is using "demagogue" and "unify the country" rhetoric.

"And if you hear people during the course of the future campaigns, over the next several months and into next year, if all they’re doing is demagoging -- if all they’re saying is, “we have to do something about these illegal immigrants,” but then when you ask them, okay, what is it that you want to do, then they don’t have a good answer, or they pretend that we’re going to somehow deport 11 million people, even though everybody knows that the economies of Miami, New York, Chicago, the entire Central Valley in California would collapse -- so they’re not being serious about it -- if you hear people not being serious and not being honest about these issues, then you got to call them on it."
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric, albeit hypothetical or speculative. Plus, it's a false choice to suggest that you must either deport all 11 million illegal immigrants or legalize them: you could instead do neither.


Examples from 2014.


Examples from 2012.

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Civility Watchdog: Gov. Chris Christie's Keynote Address to GOP Convention

On August 28, 2012, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) gave the keynote address at the GOP National Convention. Below are some of the highlights concerning civil, productive debate:
"But our leaders today have decided it's more important to be popular, be popular, to say and do what's easy and say yes rather than to say no when no is what is required. … It's been easy for our leaders to say, not us, not now, in taking on the really tough issues. And unfortunately, we have stood silently by and let them get away with it."
Comment: Who is Christie referring to? Democratic leaders? If so, which ones? Is he referring to any Republican leaders? This is "unnamed antagonist" rhetoric.

"But tonight, I say enough. Tonight -- tonight, I say together let's make a much different choice. Tonight, we are speaking up for ourselves and stepping up. Tonight, we are going to be beginning to do what is right and what is necessary to make America great again. We are demanding that our leaders stop tearing each other down and work together to take action on the big things facing America."
Comment: Christie is calling for a higher standard of debate, here, which is fine in and of itself, but politicians have an unfortunate record of calling for civility and then not living up to it themselves. (They tend to only expect their opponents to be civil.) Along these lines, who is it that's "tearing each other down"? This is more "unnamed antagonist" rhetoric, which suggests that Christie might be indulging in the distortion that it's only or mostly his opponents -- and not his own side -- that resorts to unfair, uncivil debate practices.

"You see, we're not afraid. We are not afraid. We're taking our country back".
Comment: Take the country back from whom? "Take back our country" rhetoric is pretty standard fare in politics, but it suggests that the country needs to be taken back from people who aren't patriotic or aren't American.

"Now I know this simple truth, and I am not afraid to say it. Our ideas are right for America, and their ideas have failed America."
Comment:  This is "failed policies" rhetoric.

"Let me be clear with the American people tonight. Here's what we believe as Republicans and what they believe as Democrats. … They believe that the American people don't want to hear the truth about the extent of our fiscal difficulties. They believe the American people need to be coddled by big government. They believe the American people are content to live the lie with them."
Comment: This is a derisive caricature. Democrats and Republicans have legitimate differences of opinion regarding how bad the fiscal problems of the federal government are and regarding the best way to solve them. This isn't an argument between people who don't care about truth and people who do, to say that it is just name-calling of the sort that describes your opponents as intentionally doing what's wrong.

"They believe seniors will always put themselves ahead of their grandchildren, and here's what they do. They prey on their vulnerabilities and scare them with misinformation for the single cynical purpose of winning the next election. Here's their plan: whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power when we fall."
Comment: This is more name-calling and derisive caricature. It's also an accusation of fear-mongering.

"They believe the educational establishment will always put themselves ahead of children, that self-interests will always trump common sense. They believe in pitting unions against teachers; educators against parents, lobbyists against children. They believe in teachers' unions. We believe in teachers."
Comment: Again, more name-calling and derisive caricature. Christie wouldn't like it if Democrats caricatured him and Republicans as people who don't care about the poor, the elderly, or about investing in our children (as they will likely do in next week's Democratic Party National Convention), he shouldn't engage in the same misbehavior.

"We win when we make it about what needs to be done. We lose when we play along with their game of scaring and dividing."
Comment: To say that it's the Democrats who engage in "scaring and dividing" and not Republicans is the "only my opponent does it" caricature. There's ample evidence that this is a game that both sides play. It's also another fear-mongering accusation, along with an accusation of "dividing".

"You see, Mr. President, real leaders don't follow polls; real leaders change polls."
Comment: This is another derisive caricature, accusing President Barack Obama of simply adopting positions according to polls.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rhetoric: "Pragmatism" VS "Ideology and Ideologues"

Politicians routinely criticize one another for being "ideologues" or "ideological". We shouldn't have an ideology, they say. Instead, we should be pragmatic. Just drop the ideologies, adopt what works, and then we'll all get along better and solve problems instead of just arguing about them all the time.

But this is mistaken. It's wrong to think that people can just be pragmatists and then everything will work out. Pragmatists -- people who are only interested in practical solutions, in doing what works -- can't fix anything unless they have an idea about what works. And that's what an ideology is: An idea about what works. A pragmatist has to have an ideology in order to solve a problem. Otherwise, they're just going to sit around dumbfounded. Pragmatism without ideology is empty.

And many of our disagreements in politics come down to disagreements in what works and what doesn't work. We have different beliefs about whether tax cuts, minimum wage increases, etc., have beneficial effects. We believe that certain things work, and that other people are wrong to think that they don't work. And these disagreements are very difficult to resolve, because the empirical world is complex. We're very quick -- too quick -- to insist that our opponents support "failed polices" -- i.e., that their ideology is false, that their beliefs about what works are wrong.

It's pointless to dismiss someone's beliefs as "ideology". Everyone has an ideology. The burden is to prove that your ideology is correct, to demonstrate that what you believe works really does work. And that's not easy to do.

What is easy is to just say, "Well, they're ideologues, I'm a pragmatist." Easy, but not informative about what works.

"So often in the past there's been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist. And especially in the Americas, that's been a big debate, right? Oh, you know, you're a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you're some crazy communist that's going to take away everybody's property. And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don't have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory -- you should just decide what works."
-- President Barack Obama, March 23, 2016.

Comment: It is a platitude to say that people should do what works, that they should be pragmatists rather than ideologues. A believe about what "works" is none other than an ideology. Communists believe that centralized government control of the economy works; capitalists believe that free markets work. Given how complicated human behavior is, and how difficult it is to study, perhaps it's true that communist ideology is not 100% right or 100% wrong in its belief about what works, and perhaps the same is true of capitalism. But that doesn't mean abandoning ideology. Anyone who claims to be a pragmatist has to take a stand on what works; the moment they do, they have an ideology (i.e., an idea about how things should be done).

"On the Democratic side, we agree on a number of things. But I don't think we can answer that question by re-fighting battles from 20 years ago," Clinton said in a nod to the fact she backed the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal that Sanders has cited to attack the former first lady.

Clinton added, "Anyone running for president owes it to you to come up with real ideas, not an ideology, not an old set of talking points, but a credible strategy designed for the world we live in now. And that is exactly what I am here today to do."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, March 4, 2016, as related in a story by Dan Merica of CNN.

Comment: This is "rehashing old debates", "talking points", and "ideologue" rhetoric. If people disagree with the North American Free Trade Agreement, why can't they criticize Clinton for supporting it? Why should such criticism be dismissed as talking points or ideology?

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"?

One supporter, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), described the legislation as “the most significant surveillance reform in decades.”

“We’ve done it by setting aside ideology, setting aside fear-mongering,” said Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We’ll protect the security of the United States, but we’ll also protect the privacy of Americans.”
-- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), June 2, 2015, from a story that day by Mike DeBonis in The Washington Post. Leahy's remarks concerned the USA Freedom Act.

Comment: Leahy is using "ideologues" and "fear-mongering" rhetoric.

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.

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

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

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

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

The argument Stewart and Stephanopoulos were throwing out–we’re dramatically under-investing in America’s cities–is liberal claptrap. … We’re spending an enormous amount of money on a system that isn’t producing, and it’s liberal interest groups (e.g., education unions) and the Democratic Party that are ferocious opponents of the kind of reforms that would improve American education. … For all their self-proclaimed compassion, liberals and liberalism are, in important respects, doing significant damage to the young people in America, and most especially to the most vulnerable in our midst. Messrs. Stewart and Stephanopoulos don’t seem to realize this, but they should. Because human lives should take priority over political ideology.
-- Pundit Peter Wehner, April 29, 2015. His comments concerned an interview of ABC News' George Stephanopoulos by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.

Comment: Wehner is accusing Stewart and Stephanopoulos of being ideologues, and demonizing them by saying the care more about ideology than people. It's a platitude to say that human lives count more than ideology.

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

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

"In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan."
-- President Barack Obama, January 20, 2015, during the 2015 State of the Union address.

Comment: This remark is along the lines of "ideological" or "common sense" or "bipartisan" rhetoric. Partisanship is a result of disagreements about what ideas are practical or not. Does anyone support ideas that they think are impractical?

"Well, our view is and our position is what it has always been. The American people cannot and the president will not on their behalf pay a ransom, an ideological ransom so -- just so that Congress will do its job and pay the bills that Congress has racked up. That’s just irresponsible. It would be, again, to inflict serious damage on the economy and the middle class at a time when the economy is poised to grow further and to create even more jobs. So, you know, we're not going to pay a ransom. When it comes to insuring that the United States doesn't default for the first time in its history. We saw this movie before, and a lot of republicans, including senior republican leaders on Capitol Hill, said aft the shutdown and after that disastrous ideological effort that they would not go down that road again. So we certainly hope that that's the case."
-- White House briefing with Press Secretary Jay Carney, posted January 27, 2014.

Comment: This is "ideologues" and "hostage-taking" rhetoric.


Examples from 2013.


Examples from 2012.

"We're going to call ourselves the radical center, the people who care about results, not rhetoric".
-- Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), December 13, 2010, at the launch of the No Labels Party.

Comment: Don't ideologues care about results?

"And the notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs -- why would I resist that? I wouldn't. I mean, that's my point, is that -- I am not an ideologue. I'm not. It doesn't make sense if somebody could tell me, "You could do this cheaper and get increased results," that I wouldn't say, "Great.""
-- President Barack Obama, January 29, 2010, at the GOP House Issues Conference on health care reform.

Comment: But, then, isn't the same respect due to Obama's opponents? Wouldn't they also adopt something if it were cheaper and would get better results? Of course they would. The point is that Obama and Democrats disagree with Republicans about what policies will be cheaper and get better results.

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rhetoric: "The Broader Truth"

Politicians often give us stories, anecdotes, or statistics to back up their positions. Sometimes, those stories, anecdotes, or statistics wind up being false.

The right thing to do, under these circumstances, is to admit that what you said was false, and then offer up factual, true data or anecdotes to support your position. But, frequently, politicians just gloss over the falsity, and insist that what they said, while false, nonetheless illustrates a "broader truth" which cannot be denied.

This could be viewed as an evasion of sorts. However it's classified, it's unacceptable behavior. If the broader picture -- or "the underlying point" -- is true, then why can't you illustrate it with a true story or statistic? If there's a whole forest out there, why can't you point to an actual tree?

If the bigger picture is so abundantly true, then you should be able to come up with an accurate statistic illustrating that fact. If you can't, then maybe you're wrong about the broader point.

Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown. … The unarmed 18-year-old also became a potent symbol of the lack of trust between African Americans and law enforcement. … But the other DOJ report, the one on the actual shooting of Michael Brown, shows him to be an inappropriate symbol. … The DOJ report notes on page 44 that Johnson “made multiple statements to the media immediately following the incident that spawned the popular narrative that Wilson shot Brown execution-style as he held up his hands in surrender.” In one of those interviews, Johnson told MSNBC that Brown was shot in the back by Wilson. It was then that Johnson said Brown stopped, turned around with his hands up and said, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” And, like that, “hands up, don’t shoot” became the mantra of a movement. But it was wrong, built on a lie. Yet this does not diminish the importance of the real issues unearthed in Ferguson by Brown’s death. Nor does it discredit what has become the larger “Black Lives Matter.” In fact, the false Ferguson narrative stuck because of concern over a distressing pattern of other police killings of unarmed African American men and boys around the time of Brown’s death. Eric Garner was killed on a Staten Island street on July 17. John Crawford III was killed in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio, on Aug. 5, four days before Brown. Levar Jones survived being shot by a South Carolina state trooper on Sept. 4. Tamir Rice, 12 years old, was killed in a Cleveland park on Nov. 23, the day before the Ferguson grand jury opted not to indict Wilson. Sadly, the list has grown longer.
-- Pundit Jonathan Capehart, March 16, 2015. Capehart was referring to the August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Dorian Johnson was friends with Brown, and witnessed his shooting. A federal report on the Ferguson, MO, police department claimed it was guilty of racial discrimination, and another federal report concluded Wilson had committed no wrongdoing in shooting Brown.

Comment: This is an example of "the broader truth" rhetoric. Capehart is saying that, even though Brown's shooting is not an instance of police racism, the "broader truth" is that there is a problem of racial violence by police. Capehart goes on to list several such cases, though he doesn't (perhaps for the sake of brevity?) offer proof that these cases – unlike the shooting of Brown – are shootings by police motivated by race.

"The evidence of racial bias comes not only from statistics, but also from remarks made by police, city and court officials. A thorough examination of the records – including a large volume of work emails – shows a number of public servants expressing racist comments or gender discrimination; demonstrating grotesque views and images of African Americans in which they were seen as the “other,” called “transient” by public officials, and characterized as lacking personal responsibility. I want to emphasize that all of these examples, statistics and conclusions are drawn directly from the exhaustive Findings Report that the Department of Justice has released. Clearly, these findings – and others included in the report – demonstrate that, although some community perceptions of Michael Brown’s tragic death may not have been accurate, the widespread conditions that these perceptions were based upon, and the climate that gave rise to them, were all too real."
-- Attorney General Eric Holder, March 4, 2015, in a report on the police department of Ferguson, MO.

Comment: This is "the broader truth" rhetoric. Is it understandable that protesters concluded the shooting of Brown was an act of racism? If there were so many verifiable cases of racism committed by the Ferguson, MO, police department, then shouldn't protesters have gotten upset about those examples, and not the unverified accusations of racism in the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson? It wouldn't be acceptable to argue the other way, would it? That is, could Wilson have argued that, even if he was wrong in assessing the behavior of Brown in particular, the broader truth is that there is a climate of crime and hostility to police, therefore making Wilson's reaction to Brown understandable?

"Here's the Republican Party's message to women in 2012: No choice. No exceptions. After 48 straight hours of Republicans falling all over each other calling for Rep. Todd Akin to rescind his ridiculous, ignorant-of-basic-biological-functions comments about rape and abortion, their party just voted to embrace Akin's position by including a constitutional ban on all abortions -- even in cases of rape or incest -- in their 2012 platform. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are now, incredibly, saying they don't agree with the policies of the party whose nomination they're about to accept, but guess what? The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the platform was, and I quote, "written at the direction of Romney's campaign.""
-- Fundraising email sent by chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, August 21, 2012.

However, what the LA Times article from correspondent Paul West (August 20, 2012) said was, "Delegates for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney are voting down substantive changes to the platform language that was written at the direction of Romney’s campaign." This is a poorly written sentence. Taken on its own, it seems to say that Romney's delegates are rejecting changes to the platform, the platform having been written by the Romney campaign. Reading the entire article, though, it's clear that the platform for 2012 is largely being adopted unchanged from what was written previously for earlier election years (2008, 2004), and that Romney's delegates -- at the direction of Romney's campaign -- are rejecting any attempts to change that platform. Wasserman Schultz is thus wrong to say that Romney was "writing" the platform. And, at any rate, Romney doesn't accept the platform's position (presidential candidates frequently reject or diverge from the party platform). He has clearly said that -- while he opposes abortion -- he supports exceptions for rape and incest.

Wasserman Schultz was challenged regarding the truth of her claim:
CNN ANCHOR ANDERSON COOPER: My only point is -- and again it's my job on both sides of the aisle to point out things that are inaccurate -- is in a fundraising e-mail to misquote something to serve your argument just doesn't seem in the long term to serve your argument very well. But --
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I understand your point, but I think we -- I mean, the balance of the e-mail makes the case very clearly. And the main thrust of the information we're trying to convey is that Mitt Romney is disingenuous when it comes to his position on a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices, and he's extreme and has embraced an extreme position. And we want women to know that.
-- Wasserman Schultz, August 23, 2012, on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees.

Comment: The "balance" or the "main thrust" of Wasserman Schultz's email doesn't eliminate the fact that she misrepresented the LA Times article, that the Romney campaign isn't writing the GOP platform, and that Wasserman Schultz has misrepresented what Romney's position on abortion is. If Wasserman Schultz wants to argue that Romney's position on abortion is wrong, she should do so using facts, not misrepresentations.

"Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors, and so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does."
-- Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), April 8, 2011.

However, measured by number of services provided, abortions account for 3% of what Planned Parenthood does.

Kyl responded to challenges to the truth of his claim later that day:
"His remark was not intended to be a factual statement but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions in taxpayer dollars, does subsidize abortions."
-- Statement released by Kyl's office, later on April 8, 2011.

Comment: There are disagreements regarding how to measure what percentage of what Planned Parenthood does are abortions. But the point here is that Kyl accepts that his initial statement wasn't factual, and then tries to cover up for it by saying that it wasn't intended to be factual, but was made to illustrate some other factual claim. And that makes him guilty of trying to avoid, obscure, or justify the falsity of his initial claim with "the broader truth" rhetoric. (Note the propensity to have a spokesperson release the retraction.)

"More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care. It happens every day. One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer had more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America."
-- President Barack Obama, September 9, 2009, during remarks to a joint session of Congress on health care.

Obama is referring to Otto Raddatz and Robin Lynn Beaton. Raddatz, however, did receive the treatment he needed -- a stem cell transplant -- and he continued to live for another three years (he died January 6, 2009). Beaton, meanwhile, did lose her insurance coverage, but not because of undeclared acne. Rather, the Associated Press reports, "when enrolling in the plan, she had not reported a previous heart condition and did not list her weight accurately".

The Obama administration responded to challenges to the truth of his claim:
"The story President Obama referenced in his speech underscores what so many Americans have learned the hard way: Insurance companies look for ways to rescind their coverage when you need it most … A media account of Mr. Raddatz’s story that the president relied on in his speech confused some of the details, but the underlying point remains the same.  President Obama wants to end the practice that allows insurance companies to pull insurance for individuals like Mr. Raddatz when they need it most."
-- White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield, related by Politifact in September 17, 2009, article.

Comment: How does Obama's story about Raddatz "underscore" the claim that health insurance providers unfairly revoke coverage if Obama's story about Raddatz isn't true? Obama's telling of the story was not "confused", it was false. And because it was false, it provides no evidence of the "underlying point" that Obama was trying to impress on people. If there's an abundance of cases of health insurers leaving people in the lurch, then why can't Obama provide an example of that actually happening? (Note the propensity to have a spokesperson release the retraction.)

“For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”
-- Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), October 7, 2008, during the second presidential debate of the 2008 election.

Obama is referring to his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who died of cancer in 1995. However, Dunham did not have a dispute with her insurer, CIGNA, about health insurance. Rather, she had a dispute with them regarding disability coverage. Dunham told CIGNA she would be represented on the matter by “my son and attorney Barack Obama”, indicating that Obama should have been aware that health insurance coverage was not at issue.

 The Obama administration responded to challenges to the truth of his claim:
"A White House spokesman chose not to dispute [the claim that Dunham's health insurer acted appropriately], while arguing that Mr. Obama’s broader point remained salient. … "[T]he president’s mother incurred several hundred dollars in monthly uncovered medical expenses that she was relying on insurance to pay … She first could not get a response from the insurance company, then was refused coverage. This personal history of the president’s speaks powerfully to the impact of pre-existing condition limits on insurance protection from health care costs.""
-- White House spokesman Nicholas Papas, related by The New York Times in July 14, 2011, article.

Comment: Note that Papas says Dunham was "relying on insurance" without specifying whether the insurance in question was health insurance (which did pay Dunham's bills as expected) or disability (which Dunham was denied). Obama's October 7, 2008, remarks were clearly about health insurance, not disability insurance. Because Dunham's health insurance paid her bills as it was supposed to, Dunham's story doesn't "speak powerfully to the impact of pre-existing condition limits on insurance protection from health care costs". Only a story of a health insurer unfairly withholding coverage will illustrate the "broader point". (Note the propensity to have a spokesperson release the retraction.)

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

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rhetoric: Patriotism and "Real Americans"

Patriotism, love or support of one's country, frequently becomes a topic of conversation in political debates.

Unfortunately, it's often invoked to suggest that somebody's political opponents aren't patriots -- or, they aren't "real Americans", or it's said we need to "take back America" from them -- because they don't support the right policies. This is wrong, since there's all sorts of things we can love (people, for instance) without it being clear what's best for them.

You love your kids, but is it best for them to go to college or to marry whoever they're going out with now? You love your parents, but should they live on their own or in a nursing facility? You love your sick friend, but is it best for them to have the risky surgery? People are probably going to disagree on answers to these sorts of questions, but that doesn't have to amount to a disagreement between those who act out of love and those who don't.

Likewise, it's name-calling to accuse someone of not being patriotic simply because they have a different idea of what's best for the country (in particular, it's demonizing them).

"I see a big parallel. I think people really see a big parallel, a lot of people are talking about that. Not only in the United States but other countries. People want to take their country back. They want to have independence in a sense and you see it with Europe, all over Europe."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 24, 2016, referring to the Brexit vote.

Comment: This is "take back the country" rhetoric, which is routinely used in U.S. politics, and Trump is applying it to European politics, as well.

"The effort to combine the general population of this country with the current burgeoning numbers of illegal immigrants is outrageous, simply outrageous. For Obama to try to tell people that you and I are no different than the current crop of illegals. Well, the difference is, back then people obeyed the law for the most part. I mean, people always break the law, but for the most part the rule of law triumphed and illegal immigrants were found and deported. The case was not made for them to stay. But that's not even the worst of it. The idea that all of us here are no different. We were all illegal at one point and we were all unwanted at one point. Somebody in our family, if not us, was undesirable, and yet here we are. And this moral equivalence that this president makes is part and parcel of his effort to tear down the greatness and the uniqueness of this country. Make no mistake."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, June 23, 2016, referring to remarks made earlier that day by President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is demonizing. It's fine to disagree with Obama's proposals on immigration, but to suggest that it's part of some plan to ruin the country is unacceptable.

"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.

LIMBAUGH: Okay. Let's start on the phones. It's Cody in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Glad you called, sir. You're up first. Welcome to the program.

CALLER: Yes. Hello. Thank you.

LIMBAUGH: You bet.

CALLER: Basically, I just wanted to say, as a gay Millennial, I don't see why the gay community is backing Hillary and the Obama administration as much as they are after what happened, because it really does feel like they do not care about any Americans, period. And they'd rather defend the Islamic terrorists than defend their own people in their own country.
-- A caller to the Rush Limbaugh Show, June 20, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing Clinton and Obama of not caring about protecting Americans, which likely also questions their patriotism.

”But the Democrat Party is now an anti-Israel party. That’s not to say – by the way, just as elements of it are an anti-American party, totalitarian in their mindset. As I say, that’s not to say there aren’t some among them, obviously, who support Israel or support America. But the fact of the matter is, when you look at our college campuses, when you look at Obama’s policies, when you look at the Democrat Party – this pathetic Bernie Sanders, he is a Jew who despises Israel and is an American who despises America. And you typically find that sort of thing, a similar sort of thing, don’t you? Tends to be a parallel. But this administration, this grotesque – this President, Secretary of State, this administration is loaded with haters. And so is the Democrat Party."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, June 9, 2016, during the 1st hour of his radio show.

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing people of bigotry (e.g., anti-Semitism) and being unpatriotic. It's one thing to criticize people for supporting policies that don't believe are the best for Israel or America; it's another thing entirely to say that they hate those countries, and are actively trying to undermine them. Is it really the case that many or even most Democrats hold this view? That they want government to regulate every aspect of public and private life (i.e., that they're totalitarians)?

"But the truth of the matter is America is pretty darn great right now. … And what the folks who are running for office should be focused on is how we can make it even better. Not insults and schoolyard taunts, and manufacturing facts. Not divisiveness along the lines of race or faith. Certainly not violence against other Americans or excluding them. … And what’s been happening in our politics lately is not an accident. For years, we’ve been told we should be angry about America, and that the economy is a disaster, and that we’re weak and that compromise is weakness, and that you can ignore science and you can ignore facts, and say whatever you want about the President, and feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people, and people who aren’t like “us,” and say that the reason that America is in decline is because of “those” people. That didn’t just happen last week. That narrative has been promoted now for years. It didn’t just spring out of nowhere. And of course, none of it has been true. It just ignores reality -- the reality that America is the most powerful nation on Earth. The reality that our economy is not only stronger than it was eight years ago, that it’s, right now, the bright spot in the world. … We can have political debates without turning on one another. We can have political debates without thinking that the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. We can support candidates without treating their opponents as unpatriotic, or treasonous, or somehow deliberately trying to weaken America. That's not just one candidate who’s been saying that; some of the so-called more responsible candidates, including a gentleman from this state -- no, no, you read what he says, it's not -- it's no more rooted in reality than some of these other statements. We can point out bad policies without describing them as a “government takeover” or “an assault on freedom.” And by the way, when I say this, this is not about “political correctness.” It’s about not having to explain to our kids why our politics sounds like a schoolyard fight. We shouldn’t be afraid to take them to rallies, or let them watch debates. They watch the way we conduct ourselves. They learn from us. And we should be teaching them something about this democracy is a vibrant and precious thing. It's going to be theirs someday, and we should be teaching them how to disagree without being disagreeable, and how to engage, and how to analyze facts, and how to be honest and truthful, and admit if you make a mistake, and teach them that politics at its best is about a battle of ideas, and resolving our differences without encouraging or resorting to violence. … As Democrats, we believe in things like science. It has resulted in great improvements in our lives. Science -- that's why we have things like penicillin and airplanes."
-- President Barack Obama, March 12, 2016, commenting on the Republican presidential nomination contest.

Comment: First, Obama is calling for setting a higher standard of debate, and accusing Republicans of being "divisive". Second, Obama is accusing Republicans of being bigots who ignore facts, science, and reality. Third, he is saying that Republicans – but not Democrats? – are guilty of questioning the patriotism of their opponents.

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

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

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

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

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

RUBIO: As far as that message, I hope they keep running it, and I'm going to keep saying it because it is true. Barack Obama – yes, has he hired incompetent people to implement laws and run agencies? Absolutely. But when it comes to what he's trying to do to America, it is part of a plan. I'm gonna keep saying that, because not only is it the truth, it is part of our campaign. He has said he wanted to change the country, he's doing it in a way that is robbing us of everything that makes us special. I'm gonna keep saying that, because not only is it the truth, it is at the core of our campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But even after Chris Christie called you out for what he called, "canned speeches", "25-second canned speeches", you repeat it again, he said there you go again, that was not a good moment for you was it?

RUBIO: It is what I believe and it is what I am going to continue to say because it happens to be one of the reasons why I am running. This is the greatest country in the history of mankind because of a certain set of principles. Barack Obama wants us to abandon those principles, and he has spent seven years putting in place policies that rip them from us: undermining the Constitution, undermining free enterprise, undermining our standard in the world, weakening America, apologizing for us on the global stage. The reason why I'm running is if we elect someone like that for the next four years, I think it may be too late for America to turn around.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), February 7, 2016, being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. The discussion concerned criticism from Republican presidential contender Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), who in a GOP debate the previous day had accused Rubio of using scripted remarks while describing President Barack Obama.

Comment: Rubio is rejecting the accusation that he is using talking points by insisting (correctly) that what matters is whether the points are true, not whether they are pre-written or off-the-cuff. However, Rubio's description of Obama as someone who is intentionally trying to destroy what is good about America amounts to demonizing, and perhaps also questioning Obama's patriotism.

"The future we want -- all of us want -- opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids -- all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics. A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country -- different regions, different attitudes, different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security. But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America."
-- President Barack Obama, January 12, 2016, during the State of the Union address.

Comment: Obama is calling for a higher standard of debate, and to not demonize political opponents as unpatriotic.

"We are going to take our country back. We've lost our country. We're going to take it back."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, January 2, 2016.

Comment: This is "take back the country" rhetoric.

Donald Trump, who has been the talk of American politics for months, made an appearance of sorts at the Rose Parade.

At least in the sky.

As the parade was ending, a small plane began to fill the sky with puffs of white smoke. At first it spelled "America is Great," but then it continued with a different message: "Trump is disgusting."
-- From a January 1, 2016, story by Richard Winton of The Los Angeles Times.

Comment: This is "disgusting" rhetoric which perhaps also suggests that Trump is un-American.

"Citizens, it's time to take our country back. Bombastic insults won't take it back. Political rhetoric that promises a lot and delivers little, won't take it back. All of our problems can be solved. All of our wounds can be healed by a tested leader who is willing to fight for the character of our nation. … Citizens, it is time to take our country back from the political class, from the media, from the liberal elite. It can be done, it must be done, join me and we will get it done."
-- Republican presidential contender Carly Fiorina, December 15, 2015.

Comment: This is "take back the country" rhetoric.

"America has been betrayed. We've been betrayed by the leadership that Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton have provided to this country over the last number of years. Think about just what's happened today. The second largest school district in America in Los Angeles closed based on a threat. Think about the effect that, that's going to have on those children when they go back to school tomorrow wondering filled with anxiety to whether they're really going to be safe. Think about the mothers who will take those children tomorrow morning to the bus stop wondering whether their children will arrive back on that bus safe and sound. Think about the fathers of Los Angeles, who tomorrow will head off to work and wonder about the safety of their wives and their children. What is Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton done to this country? That the most basic responsibility of an administration is to protect the safety and security of the American people. I will tell you this, I'm a former federal prosecutor, I've fought terrorists and won and when we get back in the White House we will fight terrorists and win again and America will be safe."
-- Republican presidential contender Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), December 15, 2015.

Comment: It's one thing to criticize Obama and Clinton for policy failures, but to say we've been betrayed amounts to questioning their patriotism.

"Barack Obama is not a bad president because he was a senator; Barack Obama is a bad president, because he is an unmitigated socialist, who won't stand up and defend the United States of America."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), December 3, 2015.

Comment: Cruz is demonizing Obama, accusing him of not being willing to defend innocent people, and questioning his patriotism.

COSTELLO: Well, he’s an outsider, and that plays into it, right? Because a lot of Republicans don’t like Sen. John McCain.

AVLON: Unfortunately that is true, in terms of someone who has served his country honorably and was a POW.
-- Pundit John Avlon, November 24, 2015, with Carol Costello of CNN. Their remarks concerned the relationship between Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Republican political contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Comment: Why is it unfortunate that Republicans wouldn't like McCain? Just because he served in the military and was a prisoner of war doesn't mean anyone has to agree with McCain on anything politically. Are Avlon's remarks questioning the patriotism of McCain's opponents? As a result of serving in the military and being a POW, does McCain have some sort of political authority that we have to recognize?

"I recognize that Barack Obama does not wish to defend this country, he may have been tired of war, but our enemies are not tired of killing us and they are getting stronger."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), November 14, 2015.

Comment: Cruz is demonizing Obama, saying he lacks the patriotism to defend his country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Lot of talk about immigration as well. Donald Trump is speaking about history. He wants to bring back Operation Wetback from President Eisenhower and deportation force. What would that mean?

OBAMA: Well, I think the name of the operation tells you something about the dangers of looking backwards. And the notion that we're going to deport 11, 12 million people from this country, first of all I have no idea where Mr. Trump thinks the money's going to come from. It would cost us hundreds of billions of dollars to execute that. Imagine the images on the screen flashed around the world as we were dragging parents away from their children and putting them in what, detention centers and then systematically sending them out. Nobody thinks that that is realistic, but more importantly, that's not who we are as Americans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you think when you hear people cheer for that?

OBAMA: Well, what I think is that there's always been a strain of anti-immigrant sentiment in America, ironically from folks who themselves two generations back or even one generation back were immigrants themselves. And it's the job of leaders not to play into that sentiment. Now, those sentiments get stronger when people feel insecure. And given what happened in 2007, 2008, given the fact that despite the recovery, I think people still have some post-traumatic stress and are still concerned about prospects for jobs and economic security in the future it's easy to play on those fears. But that's not that's not what you want from your president. And to their credit Republican and as well as Democratic senators and or presidents in the past, including Ronald Reagan, including George H.W. Bush, including George W. Bush have understood that we are a nation of laws, but we're also a nation of immigrants and that proposing radical and necessarily cruel solutions to a problem that can be solved by some good, old-fashioned legislation of the sort that passed on a bipartisan basis in the Senate and I would've been able to sign two years ago if the House Republicans had allowed it to come to the floor 'cause there was a majority on that floor to vote for it we don't want I think, a president or any person in a position of leadership to play on those kinds of fears.
-- President Barack Obama, November 12, 2015, during interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: Obama is demonizing those in favor of deporting illegal immigrants, accusing them of being anti-immigrant (i.e., being bigots). But being opposed to illegal immigrants is not the same as being opposed to all immigrants. Obama is also accusing Republicans of fear-mongering, and not being "real Americans".

"We obviously continue to believe strongly in the legal power of the arguments that we’ve been making for nearly a year now about the importance of giving our law enforcement officials the discretion to implement our immigration laws in a way that focuses on those who pose a genuine threat to our national security or to our communities. And the impact of Republican opposition, both to these executive actions and to broader, comprehensive immigration reform legislation is to only perpetuate a system in which our law enforcement resources are diffused, and it results in more families being torn apart. And that is clearly not in the best interest of our national security. It’s not in the best interest of public safety. It’s also not consistent with the values of this country."
-- White House press briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, November 10, 2015, referring to a Court of Appeals ruling blocking President Barack Obama's executive orders on illegal immigration.

Comment: Earnest is saying that opposing Obama's positions on immigration is somehow un-American, which amounts to demonizing.

"We love our country, they don't."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, November 9, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio show. Levin was referring to the "liberal media".

Comment: Levin is demonizing people as unpatriotic.

"This man hates the military and he hates his country."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, November 3, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio program. His remarks referred to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Levin is demonizing Obama by accusing him of being unpatriotic.

"We're taking back America. … Obama has failed us."
-- Unidentified supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, October 10, 2015.

Comment: This is "real Americans" and "failed policies" rhetoric.

TODD: Should a president’s faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?

CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.

TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?

CARSON: No, I don't, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

TODD: And would you ever consider voting for a Muslim for Congress?

CARSON: Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are, just as it depends on what anybody else says, you know. And, you know, if there's somebody who's of any faith, but they say things, and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed, and bring peace and harmony, then I'm with them.
-- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, September 20, 2015, during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd.

Comment: It sounds like Carson is saying that Islam is un-American, though his position might be inconsistent: if Islam is incompatible with the Constitution, why should Muslims be kept out of the presidency, but not also Congress?

the obamagang is the enemy within intentionally destroying America

obama is a Christian [and] Im a gay vegetarian pirate
-- Singer Ted Nugent, September 19, 2015, on his Twitter account.

Comment: Nugent is demonizing, saying President Barack Obama (and his allies) want to destroy the country. Also, why is it not believable that Obama is a Christian? Should we not believe Nugent when he says he is a Christian?

"Over the past five and a half years, our businesses have created more than 13 million new jobs. The unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in over seven years. Manufacturing is growing. Housing is bouncing back. We’ve reduced our deficits by two-thirds. And 16 million more Americans now know the security of health insurance. This is your progress. It’s because of your hard work and sacrifice that America has come back from crisis faster than almost every other advanced nation on Earth. We remain the safest, strongest bet in the world. Of course, you might not know all that if you only listened to the bluster of political season, when it’s in the interest of some politicians to paint America as dark and depressing as possible. … There’s nothing patriotic about denying the progress you’ve worked so hard to make."
-- President Barack Obama, September 19, 2015.

Comment: In saying that it's "the interest of some politicians to paint America as dark and depressing as possible", Obama sounds like he's accusing his critics (Republicans) of rooting for failure. If Obama is trying to dismiss the criticism on the basis of the motive he says the critics have, then he's also engaging in ad hominem reasoning. Last, Obama suggests his critics are unpatriotic.

Heritage Action Presidential Forum: Take Back America
-- The slogan for a September 18, 2015, event held by the conservative group the Heritage Foundation.

Comment: Just like the liberal group Campaign for America's Future in 2007, Heritage is using "take back America" rhetoric.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Despite the best efforts of who knows how many people, the inexplicable has happened. On the day before the 14th anniversary of 9/11, the United States Senate sustained the Iranian Nuclear Deal, freeing Barack Hussein Obama to lift sanctions on the Iranian regime, which will for the most part immediately provide them with between $100 billion and $150 billion. … The whole thing is inexplicable. There is so much that doesn't make any sense anymore. So much in our politics that's happening every day doesn't make sense to people anymore. And no matter how artful you are at explaining it, it still doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense because it appears that we've lost patriots. It appears our government is not filled with patriots anymore. That's what's inexplicable. … Okay, so why would Obama want the Iranians to have a nuke? Well, you can answer the question in a number of ways, which I have. But it's not going to satisfy anybody. Because at the end of the day, they're still going to get nukes, and it doesn't make sense! It doesn't make any kind of common sense whatsoever if you come from a position where the United States has the moral authority to be the good guys. If you believe that, this doesn't make any sense."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, September 11, 2015.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing those who support the Iran deal as not being patriots. he's also saying that it's "common sense" to oppose the deal.

"There was a time when there was a tradition of Scoop Jackson Democrats, of JFK Democrats, of Joe Lieberman Democrats, of Democrats who were willing to defend national security. Sadly, that is becoming rarer and rarer in today's Congress. So, to every Democratic Senator, they are facing a choice: do you value the safety and security of the United Sates of America? Do you value standing with our friend and ally, the nation of Israel? Do you value the lives of millions of Americans, or do you value more party loyalty to the Obama White House?"
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), September 9, 2015, during a rally in opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, which was supported by President Barack Obama.

Comment: Cruz is demonizing Democrats who support the Iranian nuclear deal, suggesting that they don't care about their country.

Congressional votes on the nuclear accord are still days away, but now is the time to focus on the damage that’s being done. Left unchecked, the effects could be lasting.

Witness evidence compiled by the New York Times:

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who opposes the deal, was lampooned on the Daily Kos Web site as a traitorous rodent.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), who also opposed the nuclear deal, said she has “been accused of being treacherous, treasonous, even disloyal to the United States.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who announced his support for the deal, was called, on his Facebook page, “a kapo: a Jew who collaborated with Nazis in the World War II death camps. One writer said Nadler had ‘blood on his hands.’ Another said he had ‘facilitated Obama’s holocaust,’ ” the Times’s Jonathan Weisman and Alexander Burns reported.

And it’s not just a matter of an apparent divide among American Jews or the gulf between major Jewish organizations opposing the Iran deal and the deal’s Jewish supporters. The collateral damage falls across religious and racial lines. As a deal supporter, I know.

In response to a recent column in which I cited senior House Democrat and Congressional Black Caucus member James E. Clyburn’s (S.C.) criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taking an end-run around the White House to flay the nuclear deal before a Republican-led Congress, I received this e-mail from a reader using the pseudonym “visitingthisplace”: “Black Jewish relations have always been a two way street. The Jews gave money to black causes, marched and died for civil rights, and in return, the black [sic] looted and burned the Jewish businesses to the ground. . . . In spite of your education and your opportunities, you are still just another anti-Semitic street nigger.”
-- Pundit Colbert King, September 4, 2015. His remarks concerned the Iranian nuclear deal.

Comment: "Traitorous", "treasonous", and "disloyal to the United States" is rhetoric that questions someone's patriotism. The rhetoric against Nadler is essentially accusing him of being a traitorous, anti-Semitic Jew. The email sent to King accuses him of being an anti-Semite, and is also racist.

"You know, the truth, the fundamental truth that is unarguable, that the United States of America has been a greater force for good than any other nation in the history of mankind and that we've been responsible for the liberation of more people, protecting freedom, protecting peace around the globe in a way that no other nation ever has and no other nation can. And so you've got a progressive agenda, a liberal agenda out there that basically says, "America is bad;" that America is at fault, that you've gotta limit America, that you've gotta diminish the nation. You've gotta weaken us." And it's an agenda that we have seen for a long time on college campuses. We have seen it for a long time now in our schools, sadly. And President Obama represents that agenda in the White House more directly than any president before him has.
-- Pundit Liz Cheney, August 31, 2015, on The Rush Limbaugh Show.

Comment: This is demonizing – perhaps also questioning Obama's patriotism – saying that he believes America is bad and doesn't care about keeping it strong militarily, and in fact seeks to weaken it.

"Jerrold Nadler is a Marxist, he is a complete puke. Party before country."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, August 21, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. Levin was criticizing Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) for supporting the nuclear deal with Iran.

Comment: First, Levin is deriding Nadler as disgusting. Second, while Nadler is a liberal, what is the evidence that he is a Marxist? This sounds like an exaggeration to the point of demonizing. Lastly, in saying that Nadler puts party before country, Levin is demonizing Nadler by questioning his patriotism.

Beyond the logistics of a comprehensive round-up are the political implications of such an effort. During a campaign stop in central Florida on Monday, Bush told a group of about 150 pastors and other religious leaders that America's immigration system is "broken" but that deporting 11 million people is not a solution.

"The idea of self-deportation, of rounding people up, is not an American value," Bush said. "Americans reject that idea."
-- Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), July 27, 2015, as reported by a July 30, 2015, Associated Press story by Jill Colvin and Alicia A. Caldwell.

Comment: First, Bush is suggesting that those who advocate self-deportation are somehow not American. Second, it's "Americans want" rhetoric for Bush to insist that Americans reject the idea of self-deportation.

“The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take the country back”.
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, July 11, 2015.

Comment: This is “take back the country” rhetoric.

“The Democrats nominate people who truly hate the country.”
-- Pundit Mark Levin, July 7, 2015, during the 3rd hour of his radio program. His remarks concerned former President Jimmy Carter (and presumably other Democratic presidents, as well).

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing Democrats (both candidates and those involved in nominating candidates) of being unpatriotic.

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

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

"With this case behind us, we’re going to keep working to make health care in America even better and more affordable, and to get more people covered. But it is time to stop refighting battles that have been settled again and again. It’s time to move on. Because as Americans, we don’t go backwards, we move forwards. We take care of each other. We root for one another’s success. We strive to do better, to be better, than the generation before us, and we try to build something better for the generation coming behind us. With this behind us, let’s come together and keep building something better right now."
-- President Barack Obama, June 27, 2015, during the weekly presidential address.

Comment: First, this is "rehashing old battles" rhetoric. Why should opponents of the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") stop fighting to reverse a law they disagree with? When Democrat-proposed health care reform (known as "Hillarycare") was blocked in 1994, Democrats didn't consider the battle settled. They kept pushing for reform, and it was passed in 2010. Why should Republicans consider the passage of that reform to "settle" the issue? Second, it sounds like Obama is saying that his opponents are rooting for failure, and that his opponents are somehow not real Americans.

COULTER: I'm a student of American history, so I'm appalled by -- though I would really like to like Nikki Haley since she is a Republican. On the other hand, she is an immigrant and does not understand America's history. The flag we're talking about --

KENNEDY: You think immigrants can't understand the history?

COULTER: Well, she doesn't. The Confederate flag we're talking about never flew over an official Confederate building. It was a battle flag. It is to honor Robert E. Lee. And anyone who knows the first thing about military history, knows that there is no greater army that ever took the field than the Confederate Army.
-- Pundit Ann Coulter, June 23, 2015, remarking on the decision by Gov. Nikky Haley (R-SC) to no longer fly a Confederate flag in the state capitol.

Comment: If Coulter is right that Haley doesn't understand the history of the Confederate flag that was being flown, she can say so without mentioning Haley's immigrant status (which, it turns out, is false; Haley was born a U.S. citizen). There are non-immigrants (other than Haley) who share Haley's belief about the flag's history, so why should it matter whether the belief is held by an immigrant? Plus, why does this belief about the Confederate flag have a bearing on someone's more general understanding of American history? It seems like Coulter is saying that, as an immigrant (which, again, Haley isn't), Haley is not a real American. Can't immigrants understand U.S. history and be just as "American" as those born here?

"[Democrats] are the anti-American party."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, June 4, 2015, during the 3rd hour of his radio show.

Comment: Levin is demonizing Democrats, questioning their patriotism.

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.

"I think he does see America from the Iranian perspective. I think he hates America."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, April 13, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio program. Levin was discussing a comment made earlier that day by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, who said that President Barack Obama is able to see America from the Iranian perspective.

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing Obama of hating his country.

"This is a man on a mission, not on a mission for America but against America".
-- Pundit Mark Levin, April 9, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio program. His remarks referred to President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is demonizing, saying that Obama is acting against his own country.

HUGH HEWITT: Is he naïve, Mr. Vice President? Or does he have a far-reaching vision that only he entertains of a realigned Middle East that somehow it all works out in the end?

DICK CHENEY: I don’t know, Hugh. I vacillate between the various theories I’ve heard, but you know, if you had somebody as president who wanted to take America down, who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world and reduce our capacity to influence events, turn our back on our allies and encourage our adversaries, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama’s doing. I think his actions are constituted in my mind those of the worst president we’ve ever had.
-- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, posted April 8, 2015.

Comment: This is demonizing (Obama's polices are the policies of someone who wants to intentionally dismantle the country) and exaggeration (Obama is as bad as James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce).

"I believe Pope Francis got it right in his Easter Vigil homily when he said, “We cannot live Easter without entering into mystery. To enter into mystery means the ability to wonder, to contemplate, the ability to listen to the silence and hear the tiny whisper amid the great silence by which God speaks to us.” I think that's who we are as Christians, and quite frankly, I think that's who we are as Americans. We're constantly renewed as a people and as individuals by our ability to enter into the mystery. We live our faith when we instill in our children the ability to wonder, to contemplate, and to listen to that tiny whisper amid the great silence. We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country. We live Easter -- and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better. We can always do better."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, April 7, 2015.

Comment: Leaving aside the matter of whether this really illustrates who Christians are, does it tell us who is a real American (and, therefore, who isn't)?

Protesters waving Australian flags and carrying signs such as "Yes Australia. No Sharia" rallied around the country on Saturday in events organisers said were against Islamic extremism. The "Reclaim Australia" events drew hundreds of supporters but also triggered counter-rallies from other groups who criticised them as racist and called for greater tolerance.
-- AFP news report, April 4, 2015, "Hundreds protest Islamic law in Australia".

Comment: "Reclaim Australia" is akin to "take back the country" rhetoric.

-- Headline on the New York Daily News, March 10, 2015. The headline concerns a letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: This is demonizing the Republican senators, and perhaps questioning their patriotism, as well. How does the letter amount to an effort to betray the country, any more than Obama's negotiations with Iran amount to an effort to provide Iran with a nuclear weapon?

"Remember the Republican congressman who yelled out, "you lie" during a State of the Union? How about inviting Bibi Netanyahu into the US Capitol so that he could undercut the President? Now for the trifecta: 47 Republican senators have written to hardliners in Tehran, asking them to scuttle the Iranian nuclear talks, explode them before a deal can even be reached, telling them whatever deal President Obama signs will be printed in disappearing ink, and can't be relied upon once he leaves office. Is this where we stand in this country, where the opposition Republicans will try anything to scuttle an American president's noble effort to avoid a war? … There's no principle involved with the opposition position on this thing. These 47 senators today, I don't know whether it was sedition under the law, whatever it was, but it was an attempt to bring down this president on foreign policy."
-- Pundit Chris Matthews, March 10, 2015. His remarks concern a letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Matthews is accusing Republicans of wanting to risk war in an effort to thwart Obama, which is just as much demonizing as when Obama's critics have accused Obama of wanting Iran to get a nuclear weapon. He also seems to be questioning their patriotism.

"So, some Mexicans are gonna be given yet another chance to stay in the US. They're gonna be offered a chance to return and have their deportation hearing reheard. Opening the borders has one explicit purpose, in my mind. The reason why all of this is happening is that this administration and the current Democrat Party and the American left really want to dilute and weaken American culture. That's actually what this is all about, in addition to voter registration. But that's where it leads. You want the voter registration so that you can stay in power, and you want people to vote for you to do what you're gonna do to dilute, water down the American culture: traditions, laws, the economy, everything. And part of the American culture is patriotism. Part of the American culture is rugged individualism. And this American culture, patriotism, individualism, American culture is the enemy of the left. Fourth of July. Remember the story we had, the Harvard survey, about the events featuring the American flag are more beneficial to Republicans and don't help Democrats? Why in the world would that be?"
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 27, 2015.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing Democrats, accusing them of sinister motives in their immigration policy, and saying that they are not "real Americans".

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

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

"The bottom line is, José, that I’m using all of the legal power vested in me in order to solve this problem. And one of the things about living in a democracy is that we have separation of powers -- we have Congress, we have the judicial branch -- and right now, we’ve got some disagreements with some members of Congress and some members of the judiciary in terms of what should be done. But what I’m confident about is, ultimately, this is going to get done. And the reason it’s going to get done is it’s the right thing to do and it is who we are as a people."
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration. Obama's remarks concerned the effort to legalize the status of immigrants in the country illegally.

Comment: By saying that his efforts on immigration are in line with "who we are as a people", does Obama mean that people who oppose him aren't "real Americans"?

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

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

HENRY: You said you feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McAuliffe says the Republican party is defunding the Department of Homeland Security "for partisan political reasons … I don't have time for partisan politics. … Tying this whole issue on the immigration to the DHS funding is nothing but a partisan political maneuvering. We shouldn't do that, we shouldn't do it with our budget, and we clearly shouldn't do it with the Department of Homeland Security. It is too vital for our nation's security interest. As I say, as a governor, it will have a tremendous impact on our economy, and it will hurt people. They're not going to get paid."
-- Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), February 20, 2015. McAuliffe is referring to House GOP members voting to deny funding to DHS in order to undo President Barack Obama's executive action on illegal immgration.

Comment: McAuliffe is demonizing Republicans, essentially saying they are putting party ahead of country. It's one thing to say the GOP has adopted a bad policy, it's another to say that the GOP is doing it for "partisan" reasons. The House GOP believes Obama's executive action is bad for the country, too, would it therefore be OK for them to accuse Obama of partisan motives?

"Now, like every new law, every new product rollout, there are going to be some glitches in the signup process along the way that we will fix. … For example, we found out that there have been times this morning where the site has been running more slowly than it normally will. The reason is because more than one million people visited before 7:00 in the morning. … And we're going to be speeding things up in the next few hours to handle all this demand that exceeds anything that we had expected. Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system. And within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads -- or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t. That’s not how we do things in America. We don’t actively root for failure. We get to work, we make things happen, we make them better, we keep going."
-- President Barack Obama, October 1, 2013.

Comment: Obama is accusing critics of the Affordable Care Act (AKA "Obamacare") – in particular, critics of the associated website,, which had a host of problems on its rollout on October 1, 2013 – of rooting for failure. More, he is suggesting that the critics are somehow not true Americans.


Examples from 2012.

"So I’m going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to, because I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems. And given the urgency of this moment, given the hardship that many people are facing, folks have got to get together. But we’re not going to wait for them. We’re going to see if we’ve got some straight shooters in Congress. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party."
-- President Barack Obama, September 05, 2011.

Comment:  It's one thing to disagree about what policy is best for the country, it's another to accuse someone of not caring about what's best for the country. Obama is is demonizing Republicans, saying that their opposition to his policies means they're not motivated by the best interests of the country.

"We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers. And you see it everywhere: It is the Tea Party. And you know, there's only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They've got a war, they got a war with us and there's only going to be one winner: It's going to be the workers of Michigan, and America! We're going to win that war ... President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong."
-- President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters James "Jimmy" Hoffa, Jr., September 5, 2011.

Comment: The "son of a bitches" language is name-calling. In addition, Hoffa is indulging in "war" rhetoric, as well as "real Americans" rhetoric.


Examples from 2008.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM). Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) speak at the "Take Back America 2007 Conference" in Washington D.C., sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future.
-- June 18-20, 2007. Campaign for America's Future is an organization supporting liberal and progressive causes.

Comment: "Take back America" from whom?

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

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

"I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you're not patriotic. And we should stand up and say, we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration".
-- Sen. Hillary Clinton, April 28, 2003, at the annual Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Day fundraising dinner in Connecticut.

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