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.

No comments: