Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Sometimes people in politics are asked a question and they avoid answering it.

That's not always wrong. Sometimes you can't answer a question because you don't have the relevant information at hand, or because answering the question would interfere with an ongoing investigation or involve divulging classified information, or because the question concerns something that not relevant (such as a personal matter).

But sometimes people in politics avoid answering questions without offering a good and honest reason not to answer the question. Sometimes, they'll even avoid answering the question while trying to appear like they are answering it. There are a few standard ways these evasions are carried out, such as saying, "I don't answer hypothetical questions", or "it's not my decision, it's up to the voters", or "they have a right to their opinion".

But, however it's done, an evasion is still an evasion. If a politician or anyone else is going to avoid answering a question, they ought to provide us with a good justification for doing so.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard those new poll numbers, 64 percent of Americans don’t think that Donald Trump is qualified to be president. Do you believe he’s qualified? And how do you convince all those voters who think he isn’t?

MCCONNELL: Well, look, I think there’s no question that he’s made a number of mistakes over the last few weeks. I think they’re beginning to right the ship, it’s a long time until November. And the burden, obviously, will be on him, to convince people that he can handle this job. And I think – a good step in the right direction with the changes he’s made in the campaign. He’s beginning to use a prepared script more often, which I think is absolutely appropriate for any candidate, whether you’re a long-time politician like Hillary Clinton or whether you’re new to the game like Donald Trump.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I didn’t hear you say whether you thought he was qualified.

MCCONNELL: Look, I leave that to the American people to decide. You know, he won the Republican nomination fair and square, he got more votes than anybody else against a lot of well-qualified candidates. And so our primary voters have made their decision as to who they want to be the nominee. The American people will be able to make that decision in the Fall.
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), June 26, 2016, being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: This is an evasion, as McConnell never answers the question. In particular, he uses the "it's for the voters to decide" evasion. Of course it's true that voters will have to assess whether they believe Trump is qualified to be president, but that doesn't mean McConnell can't give his opinion on the matter. After all, McConnell already said many of Trump's GOP rivals were "well-qualified"; what's stopping him from expressing his view on whether Trump himself is? Plus, McConnell has endorsed Trump; would he endorse someone who wasn't qualified?

CARSON: It’s something that I strongly advocate: open conversation, civil discussion, as opposed to the way we’ve gotten used to doing things, which is letting other people interpret to us, and then getting in our separate corners and demonizing each other. … Of course we’re all interested in seeing everybody be more civil. Again, I don’t want to make it just about Donald Trump. This is a problem that permeates our entire political system. And we should – and particularly you guys in the media should be encouraging people to be more civil rather than, you know, focusing on the fight and the carnage.

BARNICLE: Dr. Carson, demonization – you spoke about it a couple of times this morning – has been widely, widely consumed in our culture, it’s widely affected our politics, certainly for many, many years. So, unfortunately, today’s conversation and much of what the conversation is about here on a daily basis has to do with Donald Trump. You’ve endorsed him. So we can’t avoid talking about Donald Trump and his campaign, and the issues and the language about his campaign. So my question to you is, demonization – I think we all here at the table agree about the dangers of demonization – but isn’t “Lyin’ Ted”, “Crooked Hillary” – isn’t that a form of demonization, and what do you say to your candidate about the employment of such demonization in the language?

CARSON: Well, I would have to disagree with you that he’s the only one who’s doing it. It’s being done –

BARNICLE: I didn’t say he was the only one. I said he was the one that you endorsed.

CARSON: So, I think what we ought to all be encouraging everybody to do is to talk about the issues. That includes Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, whoever is in the mix, because that is what is going to help us get to the ultimate solution, which is: how do we solve our problems? And we’re trying to make it about personalities. It’s not about personalities. It’s about something so much bigger than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. This is about America. This is about the direction we are taking and what kind of nation are we going to be and what are we going to hand down to our children and our grandchildren.
-- Former Republican presidential contender Ben Carson, June 22, 2016, during interview with Mike Barnicle of MSNBC.

Comment: First, Carson is calling for us to set a higher standard of political debate. Second, however, he is evading the question when it comes to whether or not Trump's rhetoric counts as incivility. Granted, Trump isn't the only one who has resorted to demonizing, but that doesn't mean Carson can't state whether the rhetoric raised by Barnicle also counts as demonizing. Really, how are we supposed to encourage people to good behavior if we don't identify what counts as bad behavior?

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: And on the topic of tweets today, there was a tweet last night from Senator Warren saying that she agreed with Chris Murphy that Republicans have decided to sell weapons to ISIS. Do you think that goes too far?

EARNEST: Well, I didn’t see the tweet, but what I could say about this is simply the situation that is created by Republicans blocking the Feinstein amendment is simply that individuals who are suspected of having ties to terrorism are able to buy a gun with impunity, because Republicans are protecting that loophole at the simple request of the NRA. Those are the facts of the situation. And again, I’ll leave it to Republicans to try to defend that position. I don’t think it's a position that many Americans are going to have sympathy for.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Are you saying that you agree with that sentiment that it's essentially deciding to sell weapons to ISIS?

EARNEST: I think what is -- again, I'll let Senator Murphy and Senator Warren describe the situation as they see it. As we see it, it is without question possible for suspected terrorists to buy guns because Republicans are protecting their ability to do so.
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, June 21, 2016, remarking on comments made by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Murphy and Warren had said that the GOP, by blocking certain Senate legislation on gun control, had "decided to sell weapons to ISIS".

Comment: First, Murphy and Warren's remark amounts to demonizing. There are concerns about whether people should lose their right to travel by plane or own a gun merely because they have been placed on a terror watch list without having been convicted of any actual acts of terrorism. They didn't simply decide to sell guns to The Islamic State. Second, Earnest is evading the question about whether the White House approves of Murphy and Warren's remark is acceptable. He says that it's their job to defend their remarks, which is true, but it often falls on us to evaluate the remarks of others. The White House has routinely criticized remarks made by Donald Trump; they seldom say, "No comment, we'll leave it to Mr. Trump to defend his own remarks."

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

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

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

KRAUZE [translated from Spanish]: I am sure that you know about this topic: various leftist governments, especially the populists, are in serious trouble in Latin America. The socialist model in Venezuela has the country near collapse. Argentina, also Brazil, how do you explain that failure?

SANDERS: You are asking me questions –

KRAUZE [translated from Spanish]: I am sure you’re interested in that.

SANDERS: I am very interested, but right now I’m running for President of the United States.

KRAUZE [translated from Spanish]: So you don’t have an opinion about the crisis in Venezuela?

SANDERS: Of course I have an opinion, but as I said, I’m focused on my campaign.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), posted May 26, 2016, being interviewed by León Krauze of Univision.

Comment: This is an evasion. Presidential candidates routinely discuss what’s going on in other countries, either as a matter of foreign policy or economic policy. There’s no good reason Sanders can’t weigh in on the economic situation in Venezuela.

TODD: Yesterday's State Department IG report was pretty scathing, and it seemed to contradict many of the things you said about the emails. Do you accept everything that the State Department IG report said about your practices as fact?

CLINTON: Well, Chuck, the report makes clear that personal email use was the practice under other secretaries of state. And, the rules were not clarified until after I had left. But, I said this many times, it was still a mistake. If I could go back I would do it differently. And, I understand people have concerns about this, but I hope and expect voters to look at the full picture of everything I've done and stand for.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, May 26, 2016, during an interview with Chuck Todd of MSNBC. The discussion concerned a report by the Inspector General (IG) regarding her use of a private email server while she was head of the State Department.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Clinton never addresses whether she agrees with all the findings of the IG report, including those that contradict her previous statements.

OBAMA: I'm going to take one more question. Go ahead.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned some tactical differences between the two Democratic candidates. But when you hear Bernie Sanders speak, it seems like he's talking more about the issue of trustability and the need for a political revolution. And just yesterday we saw that the State Department's inspector general put out a report about Secretary Clinton's emails, and it basically undermined some of what she said about her email practices. I'm wondering if you think that undermines her trustworthiness with the American people, and if you agree with Bernie Sanders that she should release the transcripts of her highly paid speeches to Wall Street.

OBAMA: Okay. You know what, I take it back. I'm not taking another question. We're in Japan. Don't we have something on Asia that we want to talk about? I'll be talking about this in Washington the whole time. Look, I've already said a lot about those issues. I think those are better directed to the campaign. As I said before, during the course of a primary people say what they think might help them get some votes. And once the campaign is over, then they move on, and they make an assessment in terms of how they can make sure that the vision they care most deeply about has the best chance of passing a Congress and getting signed by a President, and that Supreme Court nominees are confirmed, and all the things that make for a functioning, effective government. So I think that the noise that is going on back and forth between the candidates at this point, if you want insights into how they’re thinking about it, those should be directed to them.
-- President Barack Obama, May 26, 2016, while in Japan. The question referred to Democratic presidential contenders former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: This is an evasion. There's no good reason Obama can't discuss issues related to the U.S.A. while he's in Japan, just like he often discusses relating to Japan (and other countries) while he's in the U.S.A. More, Obama is using the "not my decision" evasion: it's true that people in the Clinton and Sanders campaigns are going to have to decide what strategy they're going to use to win the primary; just because Obama isn't part of either of those campaigns doesn't mean he can't express his opinion on which strategy is more effective.

When asked point-blank by "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough whether Sanders was ready for the Oval Office, Clinton raised the senator's recent interview with the New York Daily News.

"Well, I think the interview raised a lot of serious questions," Clinton said. "I think of it this way: The core of his campaign has been 'break up the banks,' and it it didn't seem in reading his answers that he understood exactly how that would work under Dodd-Frank."

Asked again whether Sanders is qualified, Clinton dodged. "Well, I think he hadn't done his homework, and he'd been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn't really studied or understood, and that raises a lot of questions," she said.

Asked a third time, Clinton said she would "leave it to voters to decide who of us can do the job the country needs."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, April 6, 2016, as related in a story that day by Hanna Trudo and Nick Gass of Politico. The discussion concerned Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Clinton is evading the question about whether Sanders is qualified to be president. One of the evasions she is using is the "not my decision, it's up to the voters" evasion. Should no one ever take a position on whether someone is qualified to be president? Should they just say, well, that's up to the voters? That's not the position President Barack Obama has taken on Clinton.

DICKERSON: There's been a lot of commentary this week that this has been the worst week in your campaign. A lot of people want to stop you. Are they succeeding?

TRUMP: I don't know that it's been the worst week in my campaign. I think I have had many bad weeks, and I have had many good weeks. I don't see this as worst week in my campaign. But, certainly, I've had some weeks, and you've been reporting on them, where "that was the end," and then the next week you see poll numbers where they went up and everybody's shocked. So, yeah, people want to stop me because I'm leading by a lot. The new polls that came out had me leading by just about more than ever. NBC had a very good national poll that just came out. I guess I'm leading very big in New York and Pennsylvania.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about abortion. What would you do to further restrict women's access to abortions as president?

TRUMP: Well, look, look, I just -- I mean, I know where you're going, and I just want to say -- a question was asked to me, and it was asked in a very hypothetical -- and it was said, "Illegal, illegal." I've been told by some people that was a older line answer, and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago, very-- on a very conservative basis. But --

DICKERSON: Your original answer, you mean.

TRUMP: My original --

DICKERSON: Punishing the woman.

TRUMP: But I was asked as a hypothetical, hypothetically, hypothetically. The laws are set now on abortion, and that's the way they're going to remain until they're changed.

DICKERSON: Because you had said you wanted -- you told Bloomberg in January that you believed abortion should be banned at some point in pregnancy. Where would you --

TRUMP: Well l first of all, I would have liked to have seen, you know, this be a states' rights, I would have preferred states' rights. I think it would have been better if it were up to the states. But right now, the laws are set, and that's the way the laws are.

DICKERSON: But do you have a feeling how they should change? There are a lot of laws you want to change, you've talked about them from libel to torture, anything you'd want to change on abortion?

TRUMP: At this moment, the laws are set and I think he we have to leave it that way.

DICKERSON: Do you think it's murder, abortion?

TRUMP: I have my opinions on it, but I would rather not comment on it.

DICKERSON: You said you were very pro-life, pro-life views that abortion is murder.

TRUMP: Yeah, but I do have my opinions on it, but I'd rather -- I just don't think it's an appropriate forum.

DICKERSON: But you don't disagree that proposition, that it's murder?

TRUMP: What proposition?

DICKERSON: That abortion is murder.

TRUMP: No, I don't disagree with it.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, April 3, 2016, during interview with John Dickerson of CBS News. The two were discussing a question faced by Trump, in which he was asked whether women who had abortions should be punished if abortion were ever made illegal.

Comment: Trump is evading questions on the basis of their being hypothetical or that the interview is "not an appropriate forum" (how is a political news program not an appropriate forum to discuss political positions?). Plus, by saying that the laws on abortion are "set", Trump seems to be saying that debating abortion is rehashing old issues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

O'DONNELL: Do you believe that Senator [sic] Clinton should release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs?

WARREN: Look, I think that our candidates are out doing what they should do in a primary. They are debating the issues.

O'DONNELL: You're not answering my question, Senator.

WARREN: They answer for themselves. What I'm doing is I'm telling you what I think should be going on right now in this election.

O'DONNELL: It's just a yes-or-no question. It's a yes-or-no question. Should she release the transcripts or not?

WARREN: What I told you is I think the primaries are doing what they should be doing and the candidates are being tested.
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, March 17, 2016, being questioned by Norah O'Donnell of CBS News regarding speeches made by Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: This is an evasion. So, Warren would NEVER offer an opinion about what someone else should or shouldn’t do, because that person answers for themselves?

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: And an endorsement, sir?

OBAMA: I think that the Democratic voters are doing just fine working this out. I think it’s useful that we’ve had a vigorous debate among two good people who care deeply about our country and who have fought hard on behalf of working people in this country for a long time. I think it’s been a good conversation. And my most important role will be to make sure that after primaries is done I’m bringing everybody together so that we focus on winning the general election.
-- President Barack Obama, March 10, 2016, during a press conference, referring to the Democratic Party presidential contest.

Comment: Obama avoids answering the question about who he would endorse, which is fine in principle, but he doesn't provide a good reason for why he won't endorse a candidate. He seems to evade the issue by saying that it's "up to the voters".

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” lasted all of two questions — neither of which were answered during a less-than-four-minute segment before he was booted off the show.

Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski spent nearly as much time talking about the governor — with Brzezinski blasting him over his refusal to answer questions during the interview and questioning whether he should be leading a state — after his segment than they spent talking to him during it.

At the outset of the interview, Scott declined to endorse a Republican presidential candidate.

“Why wouldn’t you endorse the sitting senator from the state of Florida? That seems like a pretty easy endorsement, to me,” Scarborough asked. “I’m confused.”

“Marco’s done a very good job,” Scott said. “We got elected together back in 2010. He’s done a very good job as our senator. Donald Trump is a friend. I’ve met Ted Cruz. I know John Kasich.”

Scott insisted he will stay out and trust the voters, so Scarborough pivoted to Trump’s recent statement that Islam hates America. “Do you think Muslims in the state of Florida hate America?” he asked.

“Well, as you know, in Florida we’re the best melting pot in the world. We love everybody coming to our state,” Scott said, before turning to his opposition to accepting Syrian refugees who aren’t fully vetted.

“That could be a reasonable policy position if you want to debate that, and we can debate that issue. I’m just asking, generally, do you think that Muslims hate Americans, that Islam hates America as Donald Trump said last night,” Scarborough pressed.

“I can tell you what’s going on in Florida,” Scott began, before Scarborough interrupted and asked again for him to answer the question.

“Do you personally think that Islam is a religion that hates America?” Scarborough asked.

Scott’s response was that Florida has a lot of Muslims and Latin Americans who all get along. “We’re a great melting point. That’s what I can tell you about our state,” Scott said. “Donald Trump, he can talk about the things he wants to talk about. Marco Rubio can, Ted Cruz, John Kasich...”

Co-host Mika Brzezinski wasn’t satisfied. “That’s not answering any questions. Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick, I know you and Joe are friends and this is kind of awkward, but can you answer the question or should we scoot?” she asked.
-- Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), as related in a March 10, 2016, story by Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico.

Comment: Scott refuses to endorse a candidate, but without giving much of a reason apart from "trusting the voters", which is the "not my decision" evasion. He also avoids answering the question regarding Islam.

MUIR: Mr. Trump, thank you. I want to bring this to Senator Cruz, then. Because Senator, you did said of Trump's behavior this week, that's not the temperament of a leader to keep this country safe. Why not?

CRUZ: Well, you know, David, the assessment the voters are making here in New Hampshire and across the country is they are evaluating each and every one of us. They are looking to our experience. They are looking to our knowledge. They are looking to our temperament and judgment. They are looking to our clarity of vision and our strength of resolve. The world is getting much more dangerous. We've had seven years with Barack Obama in the oval office, a commander-in-chief that is unwilling even to acknowledge the enemy we're facing. This is a president who, in the wake of Paris, in the wake of San Bernardino, will not even use the words radical Islamic terrorism, much less focus on defeating the enemy. I am convinced every individual standing on this stage, would make a much better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. And the primary voters are making the assessment for each of us, who is best prepared to keep this country safe, to rebuild the military, to rebuild our Navy, our Air Force, our Army, our Marines, and to ensure that we keep America safe.

MUIR: Senator Cruz, I did ask about Mr. Trump. You said he doesn't have the temperament to be commander-in-chief. Do you stand by those words?

CRUZ: I think that is an assessment the voters are going to make. And they are going to make it of each and everyone of us. They are going to assess who is level-headed, who has clear vision, who has judgment, who can confront our enemies, who can confront the threats we face in this country, and who can have the judgment when to engage and when not to engage -- both are incredibly important for a commander-in-chief, knowing how to go after our enemies. In the case of Iran, for example, who has the clarity of vision to understand that the Ayatollah Khamenei, when he chants, "Death to America," he means it. We need a president with the judgment and resolve to keep this country safe from radical Islamic terrorists.

MUIR: Senator Cruz, thank you. We're going to continue on this notion of readiness and experience. I'm going to come back.

TRUMP: Am I allowed to respond? I have to respond.

MUIR: If you would like to respond, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: First of all, I respect what Ted just said, but if you noticed, he didn't answer your question.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz, February 6, 2016, during the GOP presidential debate hosted by ABC News. David Muir was among the hosts, and Republican presidential contender Donald Trump one of the participants.

Comment: Trump is correct that Cruz evaded the question. In particular, he used the "voters must decide" evasion. As Muir noted, Cruz has previously expressed his opinion on whether Trump is suited to be president; why can't he repeat it, rather than saying it's "for the voters to decide"?

GUTHRIE: Some of your Democratic allies, Democratic leaders have said point blank that Bernie Sanders – a democratic socialist, as he describes himself – cannot win a general election, that Republicans cannot wait to have an ad that has the hammer and the sickle. You have kind of tiptoed around it. But this is crunch time. If you believe it, why not come right out and say it: "Bernie Sanders, you may love him, Iowa voters, but he cannot win a general election"?

CLINTON: Well I know, Savannah, that is exactly what a lot of Democrats are saying, a lot of elected Democrats, people who want to take back the Senate in the 2016 election, want to add to the numbers of Democrats in the House, and maybe make some progress –

GUTHRIE: Are you saying it?

CLINTON: – in governors and state legislatures. But I think it's fair to say that he has to run his campaign, and present his views. We have differences, and I've been pointing out those differences. I think that it's important for me to tell voters what I want to achieve, and how I will go about doing that. Because I want them to hold me accountable. Then it's going to be up to caucus goers tonight, primary voters next in New Hampshire, to decide who they think offers the best path forward to keep the progress that we've made going.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, February 1, 2016, during an interview with Savannah Guthrie of NBC News. The question concerned Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: This is an evasion. Clinton never answers the question of whether Sanders is electable in the general election, instead claiming that other Democrats believe Sanders is un-electable, and apparently saying the "voters must decide" whether they think Sanders can win. Of course, one of the ways for voters to decide whether they think voters can win is to consider the opinion of other Democrats, such as Clinton. Ironically, Clinton declares she wants to be "held accountable" even as she isn't answering the question that's been put to her.

TAPPER: You said – quote – "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e- mails." Should voters take from those comments that you think nothing was done was wrong when it comes to how Secretary Clinton handled classified information? Or is that not a fair –

SANDERS: No. No, that is not, I think, a fair assessment. I think this is a very serious issue. I think there is a legal process right now taking place. And what I have said -- and -- you know, and I get criticized. You know, Bernie, why don't you attack Hillary Clinton? There is a legal process taking place. I do not want to politicize that issue. It is not my style.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), January 31, 2016, during an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN. The question concerned Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the investigation of her use of a private email server during her time as head of the State Department.

Comment: How would it be "politicizing" for Sanders to express an opinion on whether he thinks Clinton's use of a private email server was appropriate? How would it be incompatible with the ongoing investigation (which sounds like an evasion)?

COSMOPOLITAN: Donald Trump has called your dad an abuser of women, and your mom his enabler. What do you think of his attacks on your parents?

CLINTON: I find what Donald Trump — and many of the Republicans, because it's not only Mr. Trump — say about Americans far more troubling than what he says about my parents.
-- Chelsea Clinton, from an interview with Cosmopolitan Magazine released January 31, 2016. The question concerned her parents: former President Bill Clinton, and Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: Does Clinton really answer the question? She says she finds Trump's rhetoric about Americans more troubling than the accusations about her father and mother, but that leaves open the matter of whether the accusations about her parents are true or troubling at all.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton declined on Monday to say if she has been in communication with any of the women involved in the sex scandals during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Asked if she has had any interactions with them, or feels empathy for any of them, Clinton told The Des Moines Register: “No, I have nothing to say and I will leave it to voters to determine whether any of that is at all relevant to their decision.”
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 11, 2016, during interview with the editorial board of The Des Moines Register.

Comment: This is an evasion, of the "not my decision" kind. Why can't Clinton state whether she's had any contact with the women involved in her husband's sex scandal, and whether she has any empathy for them? And, of course voters will have to decide whether Bill Clinton's behavior is relevant to her candidacy, but that doesn't mean she can't express an opinion on the matter, does it?

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

CLINTON: Well, you’d have to ask –

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

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

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

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

MATTHEWS: How is that different than a socialist?

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

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

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

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

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

BASH: OK. Donald Trump says that Bill Clinton's sexual history is fair game. Do you agree?

SANDERS: I think that Donald Trump might want to concern himself with the fact that he's dead wrong when he says we should not raise the minimum wage, he's dead wrong when he says that wages in America are too high, he's dead wrong when he thinks we should give huge tax breaks to billionaires like himself, and he's dead wrong when he thinks that climate change is a hoax, when the entire -- virtually an entire scientific community thinks it's the great environmental crisis that we face.

BASH: Senator...

SANDERS: Maybe Trump should worry about those issues, rather than Bill Clinton's sex life.

BASH: Only Bernie Sanders can segue from Bill Clinton's sex life to climate change. That was impressive.

SANDERS: All right.

BASH: But what is the answer to the question? Is it fair game or not?

SANDERS: No. I think we have got more important things to worry about in this country than Bill Clinton's sex life.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), January 3, 2016, being interviewed by Dana Bash of CNN.

Comment: Sanders initially evades the question. His eventual answer doesn't really say whether Clinton's sexual history is a relevant topic of discussion, he only says that there are more important topics.

We are not responding to Trump but everyone who understands the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should.
-- Jennifer Palmieri, a spokesperson for the campaign of Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, December 22, 2015. Palmieri was referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump's remarks that Clinton had been "schlonged".

Comment: Palmieri is saying Clinton's campaign won't comment on Trump's language, while at the same time doing the opposite: pointing out that it's degrading language. This is sort of the reverse of an evasion: saying that you won't comment on something, but then doing it.

INSKEEP: Let me follow up on a couple of things you mentioned. You mentioned slavery. Among the many protests this year are two small but symbolically interesting ones at Ivy League universities. At your alma mater, Harvard Law, there is a seal for the school that is based on the family crest of a slave owner. At Yale there is a school named after John C. Calhoun, who was a great defender of slavery. The call is to get rid of those symbols. What would you have the universities do?

OBAMA: You know, as president of the United States I probably don't need to wade into every specific controversy at a –

INSKEEP: But you can do it. We're here.

OBAMA: But here's what I will say generally. I think it's a healthy thing for young people to be engaged and to question authority and to ask why this instead of that, to ask tough questions about social justice. So I don't want to discourage kids from doing that.
-- President Barack Obama, from an interview released December 21, 2015, with Steve Inskeep of NPR.

Comment: This is an evasion. Like most presidents, Obama has commented on many controversies (including ones related to the one at Harvard Law, such as changing the name of the Washington Redskins), so why not this one as well?

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, who was right in that little debate that we just heard between Senator Rubio and Senator Paul?

CARSON: I think you have to ask them about that. I don't want to get in between them. Let them fight.
-- Republican presidential contender Ben Carson, December 15, 2015, being questioned by Wolf Blitzer of CNN during a GOP presidential debate. The question concerned a disagreement between Republican presidential contenders Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) regarding immigration reform and the government collection of phone metadata.

Comment: This is an evasion. There's no good reason Carson can't express his opinion on these disagreements. If the question had been, "what should our policy be on immigration reform and the collection of phone metadata?" there wouldn't be any basis for ducking the question. The fact that those topics were being discussed by Paul and Rubio doesn't preclude Carson from expressing his views on which (if either) of them is supporting the better policy.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, you oppose letting in Syrian refugees at this time into the United States. The U.S. has already accepted 2,000 Syrian refugees, including 13 living here in Las Vegas right now. Would you send them back? What would you do with these people?

PAUL: You know, I think we need to set the record straight on this, because I think Marco misspoke about the bill. On the Gang of Eight bill, there was no provisions really for extra scrutiny or safety for refugees.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, you didn't answer the question about the 2,000 Syrian refugees who are already here in the United States. Will you send them back or let them stay?

PAUL: What my bill would do would be only for refugees going forward. So I haven't taken a position on sending anyone home.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), December 15, 2015, being questioned by Wolf Blitzer of CNN during a GOP presidential debate. Paul initially responded to remarks by Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Comment: Paul initially doesn't answer the question about the Syrian refugees already present in the U.S., though he later states that he's not going to take a position on them (but without giving any reason why he won't take a position on sending them back to Syria or letting them stay here).

HEWITT: Dr. Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command, the control and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It's an executive order. It's a commander-in-chief decision. What's your priority among our nuclear triad?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible; who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I'm frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was totally against going into Iraq because you're going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it. I called it very strongly. And it was very important. But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ball game. Frankly, I would have said get out of Syria; get out -- if we didn't have the power of weaponry today. The power is so massive that we can't just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago we wouldn't care. It was hand-to-hand combat. The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he's saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear -- nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That's in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.

HEWITT: Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority? I want to go to Senator Rubio after that and ask him.

TRUMP: I think -- I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, December 15, 2015, being questioned by Hugh Hewitt of CNN during a GOP presidential debate.

Comment: Trump never answers the question about which of the three components of the U.S. nuclear triad – land-based nuclear weapons, air-delivered nuclear weapons, and submarine-based nuclear weapons – should get priority in being upgraded.

HILLYARD: Mr. Trump, why would Muslim databases not be the same thing as requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany? What would be the difference? Is there a difference between the two?

TRUMP: Who are you with?

HILLYARD: I’m with NBC News. Is there a difference between requiring Muslims to register and Jews in Nazi Germany?

TRUMP: You tell me. You tell me.

HILLYARD: Do you believe –

TRUMP: Why don’t you tell me?

HILLYARD: Do you believe there is?

TRUMP: You tell me.

HILLYARD: Should Muslims be, I mean, fearful? Will there be consequences if they don’t register?
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, November 20, 2015, being questioned by Vaughn Hillyard of NBC News. Trump had faced several questions in the preceding days about whether he thought American Muslims should be registered with the government.

Comment: Hillyard is proposing whether registering American Muslims is comparable to what Jews had to do in Nazi Germany, with the understanding that millions Jews in Nazi Germany were eventually sent to concentration camps, victims of the Holocaust. Trump likely finds the implication of genocide unfair – which is probably why he ultimately ignores Hillyard – but Trump doesn't reject the idea of a database. Despite several discussions on the topic – and despite Trump's insistence that other people (not Trump himself) were raising the idea of a database for registering American Muslims – Trump passed up on plenty of opportunities to reject the idea by simply saying, "No, I won't register Muslims" or to accept it by saying, "Yes, I would register Muslims." In other words, Trump simply evades the question and doesn't answer it.

FORBES: Wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude if you took terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and located them in the city that it could very well enhance that city’s being on one of these targeted lists? Yes or no? That's a pretty easy question. If you disagree with that, you can say "no". If you agree with it, "yes".

LYNCH: Well, Congressman, I thought you were referring to the service members who were on the –

FORBES: I'm making it clear, any list that targets a city or state in the United States, if you bring terrorists from Guantanamo Bay wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that that can enhance that city's ability to be on one of those targeted lists?

LYNCH: I think there are any number of factors –

FORBES: Would you not agree that that would be a factor that would enhance that ability?

LYNCH: I think there are any number of factors –

FORBES: Would that be a factor?

LYNCH: There are any number of factors –

FORBES: But you would disagree that that would be one of those many number of factors?

LYNCH: Congressman, I don't agree or disagree. I said that there would be any –

FORBES: So you, as the attorney general of the United States, you do not have an opinion on whether or not bringing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and locating them in a city would have any capability at all of putting that city on a hit list by ISIS? You don't even have an opinion on that?

LYNCH: Congressman, I think there are any number of factors –

FORBES: I'm asking you would that be one of those factors.

LYNCH: I believe I've indicated there'd be any number of –

FORBES: No, you indicated you wouldn't answer the question, and Madam Attorney General, I think that's atrocious that you don't even have an opinion of that.
-- Attorney General Loretta Lynch during a congressional hearing, November 17, 2015, being questioned by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA).

Comment: Lynch is evading the question, refusing to say that the presence of Guantanamo Bay terrorists would or wouldn't – or even if she's unsure whether they would or wouldn't – incite attacks by ISIS (aka, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) on the city housing the terrorists. If you were to ask your doctor, "Will this medicine I heard about help my illness?" and your doctor routinely answered, "There are a number of factors that will influence your illness", your doctor would be evading the question just as Lynch is. She (and the doctor) could simply say, "yes", "no", or "I'm not sure" instead of withholding any answer whatsoever. I doubt this form of evasion in a court of law would be allowed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've called Hillary Clinton a good friend, strong friend, one of America's finest secretaries of state and said she'd make a great president. So is it fair for Democrats to conclude she's your candidate?

OBAMA: George, I'm not going to make endorsements when, you know, I've said in the past it's important for the process to play itself out. I think Dem I think Hillary's doing great. I think, you know, Bernie Sanders is really adding to this debate--

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would he make a great president?

OBAMA: -- in a very serious way. You know, I think Bernie is capturing a sense among the American people that they want to know the government's on their side, that it's not bought and paid for, that you know, our focus has to be on hard working, middle class Americans not getting' a raw deal. And I think that is in in incredibly important. I think Martin O'Malley has important things to say. So we'll let this process play out. I am confident that we're going to have a good, strong Democratic candidate, and that they'll be able to win in November.
-- President Barack Obama, November 12, 2015, during interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Obama never answers who his favored candidate is. Many people have chosen a candidate, despite the fact that the nomination process is still underway, why can't Obama do the same?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say we're a nation of laws. On the issue of Guantanamo, one of your big promises, closing Guantanamo Speaker Ryan says you can't close it on your own, don't have the authority. He says the law is the law. Do you have the authority to close it on your own?

OBAMA: Well, here's what I know is that we need to close it. That's not just my opinion. If you take a survey of retired generals folks who are currently in uniform they will tell you that this is a consistent recruitment tool for jihadists. It is contrary to our values. It costs huge amounts of money. And it's not sustainable. So it is my--

STEPHANOPOULOS: did on your own.

OBAMA: So it is my job to, first and foremost, work with Congress to try to find a solution. And what we've been able to do during the course of this administration is to systematically transfer and draw down the numbers who are there. My hope is that by the end of this year we are seeing close to under 100 prisoners remaining and detainees remaining. And then my intention is to present to Congress a sensible, plausible plan that will meet our national security needs and be consistent with who are

STEPHANOPOULOS: And when they say no?

OBAMA: Well they I'm not going to one of the things that I've been consistently trying to do is to give Congress the chance to do the right thing before I then look at my next options. And Congress is going to have an opportunity, I think when they look at the numbers, when they look at how much it costs for us to detain these individuals, when they hear from both current and retired military officers who say this is not what we should be doing they're going to have the ability to make their own assumptions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're not ruling out doing it on your own?

OBAMA: My job right now is to make sure that Congress has a chance to look at a serious plan and look at all the facts and we'll take it from there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you rule out executive action?

OBAMA: We'll take it from there.
-- President Barack Obama, November 12, 2015, during interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Obama never answers whether he believes he has the authority to close Guantanamo on his own (though it seems clear that Obama has not ruled out doing so by executive order, which implies that Obama believes he does have the authority).

RITTIMAN: I want to turn more to the race, generally, here. I know he's got his own decision to make here, Joe Biden, does, but in your heart of hearts, you have to be hoping he doesn't get into this race at this point.

CLINTON: I'm not hoping anything about that, I really respect and admire the Vice President, he's been a friend and a colleague of mine for a long time. He has to make up his own mind. And what I know is I have to run may campaign no matter who else is in the race, and so I'm just gonna give him the space that he needs to try to resolve this in his own mind.

RITTIMAN: You feel you're ready to run against him if he were to decide to get in?

CLINTON: I'm not gonna comment on a decision that he hasn't made. I feel like I have a lot to put forward before the American and that's what I intend to do and I will continue to do that.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 14, 2015, during interview with Brandon Rittiman of KUSA 9News.

Comment: This is an evasion of the "hypothetical" sort. Clinton never answers whether she is ready to run against Biden, or whether she wants Biden to get in the race.

RITTIMAN: I do want to ask a judgment question. You used a small Denver company called Platte River Networks to manage your private server. It appears now that data off of that server got backed up to a cloud server somewhere else without your knowledge or consent. Platte River told me if it knew -- and it's not in the business of asking, but if it knew -- that you were planning to send State Department-type information through this system, this is not the system that they would have set you up with. You're the nation's top diplomat in that role. You've gotta know that what you're sending through communications is valuable to foreign intelligence. Why go with this system? Did any part of you think, 'Maybe this isn't a good idea'?

CLINTON: Well, look, I've taken responsibility for what I did, and it was a mistake. The State Department allowed it at the time. And I've tried to be as transparent as possible. I'll be appearing before the Congress next week and answering a lot of questions that they may have, although, now it's clear that this whole effort was set up for political partisan purposes, not to try to get to any useful end. But I'll be in a position to respond and the American people can listen and watch and draw their own conclusions.

RITTIMAN: To someone who thinks that that might have been a foolish move, what would you say about your judgment generally?

CLINTON: Well, nothing I sent or received was marked classified at the time. That is an absolute fact. It's been verified over and over and over again. So I think that we'll have a chance to explain what that means, if people don't understand it.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 14, 2015, during interview with Brandon Rittiman of KUSA 9News.

Comment: Clinton is taking responsibility for her actions, though it's not clear what that means, particularly since she says the State Department let her do it. Does that mean the State Department is responsible, that the mistake was theirs? Clinton perhaps avoids answering the question about whether her decision to set up a private server demonstrated good judgment: if material could have been hacked, then wasn't it a bad idea? If it was the State Department's decision to let her set up a private server, then are they the ones guilty of poor judgment, and should Clinton have exercised good judgment by not letting the State Department make a bad decision?

RITTIMAN: Your closest opponent in the Democratic primary is making some pretty good inroads describing himself as a "democratic socialist", is there anything wrong with democratic socialism?

CLINTON: Well, I'm a progressive Democrat, so I'm not going to comment on labels other people apply to themselves. I want to talk about what I will do and what I've done during the course of my public life to try to bring people together, to try to solve problems, to try to come up with new solutions, something that I believe strongly is in the best interests of America. So, I'm gonna leave the labels to others, I'm gonna talk about what my approaches are, and what my solutions are.

RITTIMAN: Alright, not a brand you would identify yourself with, though?


-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 14, 2015, during interview with Brandon Rittiman of KUSA 9News.

Comment: This is an evasion. Clinton states clearly that the label doesn't describe her own political views, so there must be something she finds bad or rejects about democratic socialism. Why can't she spell out what that is? If someone applied the label "communist" or "white supremacist" or "Republican" or "tea party" to themselves, Clinton wouldn't have any comment? Also, Clinton says that she's brought people together, which sounds like "unify the country" rhetoric. What did she do to bring people together in what way?

MRC TV: You have three children, correct?


MRC TV: How old are they?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I have twin 16-year-olds and a 12-year-old.

MRC TV: In your opinion, were they human beings before they were born?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I believe that every woman has the right to make their own reproductive choices.

MRC TV: But what did you believe about your children?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That I had the right to make my own reproductive choices, which I was glad to have and which I was proud to have.

MRC TV: So were they human beings? Just yes or no.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: They’re human beings today, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to make my own reproductive choices, as – a right that every woman has and should maintain.
-- Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), October 13, 2015, during interview with

Comment: Wasserman Schultz is evading the question, not answering whether her children were human beings prior to being born.

MORROW: Hey, Chelsea. Has your mother ever told you that you’re the daughter of Webb Hubbell, and not Bill Clinton?

CLINTON: I am so proud to be my parents’ daughter.

MORROW: One more quick question, about this book right here. You say it’s targeted towards teenage girls.

CLINTON: It’s targeted, actually, to kids. Girls and boys.

MORROW: Would you say that Bill Clinton also targets teenage girls, except for sexual reasons?

CLINTON: I would say my book is really resonating with kids. I was at the Ann Richards School earlier today and I’m so grateful that it’s resonating to the young girls and the young boys that I’ve been talking to across the country.
-- Activist Robert Morrow questioning Chelsea Clinton – the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – October 9, 2015, at a signing event for Chelsea Clinton's recently published book. Webster "Webb" Hubbell is a political and legal associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Morrow's questions referred to various accusations that Bill Clinton had engaged in sexual misconduct.

Comment: Chelsea Clinton is clearly evading Morrow's question, though you could argue that it's justified in these circumstances. Clinton is a public and political figure, so it's fair to ask her political question, but her parentage is hardly an appropriate topic. Allegations of sexual impropriety by her father, Bill Clinton, is a fair political topic, but what obligations is Chelsea Clinton under to answer to them?

CLINTON: I'm not going to sit here and tell people that I make up my mind – that's the Republicans. They make up their mind, they're never bothered by evidence.

TODD: Bernie Sanders has been on the – sort of, where you are on these issues, Bernie Sanders was there, when it came to marriage, 20 years ago. Do you think one of the reasons he's doing well right now is some progressives think, well, you know what, he was there when it wasn't popular?

CLINTON: Well, he can speak for himself, and I certainly respect his views. I can just tell you that I am not someone who stakes out a position and holds it regardless of the evidence, or regardless of the way that I perceive what's happening in the world around me. And, as I was saying, that's where the Republicans are. You know, they're still believing in trickle down economics, even though it was a disaster not once, but twice for our country.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), September 27, 2015, during an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News. Clinton was questioned on her change of position on certain issues, in comparison to the positions of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Clinton is defending herself for flip-flopping on various issues. She doesn't answer the question of whether or not Sanders' constancy is causing his rise in the polls. Clinton also accuses Republicans of not caring about truth, and of "failed policies".

ZAKARIA: There are a lot of people who are very fierce supporters of Israel, both in Israel and in the United States, who think President Obama has not been sufficiently supportive of Israel and that there are unnecessary tensions that have been created between Israel and the United States. What is your view?

CLINTON: Well, he's certainly maintained their qualitative military superiority. And there's certainly been some very public squabbles not all of which are his fault. Mr. Netanyahu's trip to the Congress was rather unprecedented. On the other hand --

ZAKARIA: And unwise?

CLINTON: Well, you can ask him that. But here's what I think. I think that the most important thing is we'll have a new president, like, in January of 1917 -- I mean, 2017. And I believe the nuclear agreement with Iran is on balance the right thing to do because I don't believe that an Iranian nuclear capacity now would be just Iran. I think there'd be one to four other states that would get nuclear power in the Middle East.
-- Former President Bill Clinton, from an interview released September 27, 2015, with Fareed Zakaria of CNN. The remarks referred to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's speech to Congress in opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal earlier that year.

Comment: Clinton doesn't answer the question. If he can weigh in on whether the Iranian nuclear deal is a good idea, why can't he also voice an opinion on whether Netanyahu's speech to Congress was a good idea?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Pope Francis coming to the United States this week, his first visit to the United States, the first pope ever to speak to the Congress. I know you agree with the pope on the issues of abortion and marriage. Many conservatives have criticized him for his views on climate change, income inequality. Rush Limbaugh even suggested he's a Marxist. One, do you agree with that criticism? And what do you hope to hear from the pope this week?

RUBIO: Well, I'm a Roman Catholic. For me, the pope is the successor of Peter he's the spiritual head of the church, who has authority to speak on matters, doctrinal matters and a -- and theological matters. And I follow him 100 percent on those issues, otherwise I wouldn't be a Roman Catholic. And so I believe that deeply. The pope, as an individual, an important figure in the world, also has political opinions. And those, of course, we are free to disagree with. He obviously opines about this views of the church's role or the -- what we should be doing with the climate or things of this nature, on the economics. Those are issues that -- that the church talks about as regards to their social teachings, or their j sorry, the -- the way you balance government with society. On the social teachings, essential issues, like the sanctity of life and things of this nature, those go deep to the theology of this -- of the faith. And I do believe -- those are binding and I believe strongly in them. On the economic issues, the geopolitical issues, the pope is just trying to bring people together. That's his role as a spiritual leader. And I respect that very much. I have a job as a United States senator to act in the best interests of the United States and of our people. And from time to time, they -- that may lead to different opinions about different things. But I have no problem with the pope and I wish he would meet with dissidents in Cuba when he's there this week, but I would reserve judgment to see what he says when given the chance to address the public there. My hope is that he will discuss human rights and freedoms.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Rubio, thanks for joining us this morning.

RUBIO: Thank you.
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), September 20, 2015, during an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: Rubio doesn't answer the question of whether he agrees that the Pope is a Marxist.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Donald Trump. He's not going to weigh on whether President Obama was born in the United States, whether or not he's not a Muslim. I see you shaking your head.

RUBIO: Well, I'm just tired of the -- this has nothing to do with the future of our country. These issues have been discussed ad nauseum over the last few years. It's a big waste of time. Barack Obama will not be president in a year and a half. It's time to start talking about the future of America and the people that are at home. And every time we spend -- I mean I'm more than happy to answer your question, but every time that we discuss these sorts of things, we're not talking about the family who's out there trying to make it. They don't know if they're going to make it to Friday before a check bounces because they don't have enough money in the -- in the checking account. I mean those are the issues I hope we'd focus on. But I'm sorry, go ahead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no, so I take it from your question you accept that President Obama was born in the United States and is not a Muslim?

RUBIO: Yes, this is -- of course it...


RUBIO: -- he's born in the United States. He's a Christian. He's the president of the United States for the next year and a half and we're going to move on. This country is going to turn the page and this election needs to be about what comes next...
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), September 20, 2015, during an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: Rubio is saying that the issues of Obama's birthplace and religious affiliation are distractions, though he's not avoiding answering questions about them.

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

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

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

LAUER: Does a candidate for president, in this case the Republican front-runner, have a responsibility to shut down a supporter when the supporter erroneously says that the President's not an American, that he's Muslim, and then goes on to say, “We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims.” Does Mr. Trump need to apologize to the President and to Muslims?

CHRISTIE: He's got to decide what he wants to do for himself but I would just tell you that if somebody at one of my town hall meetings said something like that I would correct them and say, “No, the President’s a Christian and he was born in this country.” I mean, I think those two things are self-evident.

LAUER: Do you think it would be right for Mr. Trump to apologize to Muslims this morning?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think it's – Donald Trump's got to decide, as we've seen – and I’ve said this all along – he's got to decide how serious a candidate he wants to be and how he handles different problems like this are going to determine that in the eyes of the American people. I'm not going to lecture him about what to do, I'll just tell you what I would do. And I wouldn’t have permitted that. If someone brought that up at a town hall meeting of mine, I would said, “No, listen, before we answer, let's clear some things up for the rest of the audience.” And I think you have an obligation as a leader to do that.
-- Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), September 18, 2015, during an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer. Christie was referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who the day before had not corrected a town hall questioner who claimed that President Barack Obama was not American and was Muslim rather than Christian.

Comment: Christie is evading the question, perhaps with “not my decision” or “not my job to police civility” rhetoric. On the one hand, he’s saying that a leader has an obligation to correct false assertions, but he’s also saying he’s not going to lecture Trump about it. But, if Trump has an obligation that he’s failing to fulfill, then why not say so, and detail how he should live up to the obligation? If there’s a good reason for Christie to correct the record, why isn’t there a good reason for Trump to do the same?

"Kim Davis can not and will not violate her conscience."
-- Mat Staver, the lawyer representing Kim Davis, September 8, 2015. Davis was a county clerk from Rowan County, KY, who had been jailed on contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Upon her release from jail, Staver was being asked whether Davis would issue – or allow her deputies to issue – marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Staver is not saying how Davis would behave with respect to marriage licenses once she returned to her duties.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Has the email issue damaged your campaign? For example, in terms of morale among staff or in fundraising or getting your message to voters.

CLINTON: No. Not at all. It's a distraction, certainly. But it hasn't in any way affected the plan for our campaign, the efforts we're making to organize here in Iowa and elsewhere in the country. And I still feel very confident about the organization and the message that my campaign is putting out.

QUESTIONER: What has this distraction meant for you this summer?

CLINTON: As the person who has been at the center of it, not very much. I have worked really hard this summer, sticking to my game plan about how I wanted to sort of reintroduce myself to the American people. How I wanted to listen and learn what was on the minds of Iowans. And I feel very good.

QUESTIONER: You have been critical in the past of politically motivated investigations. Has the Select Committee on Benghazi devolved in such a way?

CLINTON: Well, the American public will have to determine that. There have been seven previous investigations that were conducted by congressional committees. Of course, there was the independent accountability review board that was conducted by leading Americans with expertise in intelligence, diplomacy (and) the military. They all said that there were changes that needed to be made, which I fully embraced as the outgoing secretary of state. And I testified before both the Senate and the House. This committee has now gone longer and spent, I'm told, more money than the Warren Commission on President Kennedy's assassination and many other investigations. I'll let the American people draw their own conclusion.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), September 7, 2015, during an interview with the Associated Press.

Comment: First, this is "distractions" rhetoric. Second, Clinton avoids the question about whether the Benghazi investigation is “politicized” by using the “not my decision” evasion.

“We need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of that establishment,” said Sanders, who is an independent but caucuses with Democrats in the Senate.

Asked later whether he was speaking specifically about Clinton, he told reporters, “I’ll let you use your imagination on that.”
-- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), August 28, 2015, as related in a Washington Post story by Philip Rucker, Anne Gearan and Dan Balz.

Comment: Perhaps he is being sarcastic, but Sanders is avoiding answering the question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz clashed with Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Tuesday night over whether the Texas senator would deport immigrants who came to the United States illegally if their children were born in the country.

When Kelly pressed the Texas senator on what he would do as president, Cruz said that he’s “not playing the game” and declined to answer the question.

“What would President Cruz do? Do American citizen children of two illegal immigrants, who are born here, the children, get deported under a President Cruz?” Kelly asked.

Donald Trump, she said, “has answered that question explicitly.”

“Megyn, I get that that’s the question you want to ask,” Cruz said. “That’s also the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask.”

Asked whether it is an unfair question, Cruz said that it is “a distraction” from solving the issue.

“You know, it’s also the question that Barack Obama wants to focus on,” Cruz retorted.

“Why is it so hard? Why don’t you just say yes or no?” Kelly asked.

Cruz’s response: “Because, Megyn, we need to solve the problem. And the way you solve the problem is you focus where there’s bipartisan agreement first. Once we’ve secured the border, once we’ve proven we can do this, once we’ve stopped the Obama administration’s policy of releasing 104,000 violent criminal illegal aliens in one year. Once we’ve solved that problem, then we can have a debate, then we can have a conversation.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), August 25, 2015, as related in a story by Nick Gass of Politico.

Comment: Cruz is evading the question, and he never actually answers it. He insists that we should first focus on areas of "bipartisan" agreement before we decide what would happen to the children of illegal immigrants who are U.S. citizens. But that doesn't mean he can't state what his preference would be to deal with that situation, even if his preference doesn't have bipartisan support. More, Cruz engages in "distraction" rhetoric. Finally, he tries to undermine Kelly's question (using guilt by association) by noting that "liberal" journalists want to ask the same question. This is ad hominem, however: just because liberals are posing the question, too, doesn't mean it's an unfair question.

HARWOOOD: So do people misunderstand you're actually not for ending birthright citizenship?

WALKER: I'm not taking a position on it one way or the other. I'm saying that until you secure the border and enforce the laws, any discussion about anything else is really looking past the very things we have to do.
-- Repubilcan presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), from an interview released August 21, 2015, with CNBC’s John Harwood.

Comment: This seems like an evasion. Why can't Walker take a position on whether birthright citizenship should be continued or stopped? Other candidates have taken a position on the issue, either saying, for instance, that ending birthright citizenship would end an incentive for illegal immigration and thus help secure the border, or saying that birthright citizenship should be kept in place regardless of other changes to our immigration policy. It's not clear why Walker can't do the same. Is he saying the issue is a distraction, or involves too many hypotheticals?

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

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

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

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

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

On Tuesday, Fox's Bill O'Reilly grilled the billionaire businessman on his claim that as president he will get Mexico to pay for a wall on the southern U.S. border to help prevent undocumented immigrants from crossing into the United States.

"Bill, they are making a fortune, Mexico is making a fortune off the United States, it's becoming the new China in terms of trade -- they're killing us at the border," Trump said after O'Reilly pressed him twice on the same question.

The third time O'Reilly asked, Trump said, "I'm gonna say, 'Mexico, this is not going to continue, you're going to pay for that wall,' and they will pay for the wall. And Bill, it's peanuts, what we're talking about."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 4, 2015, during an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, as related by an article in CNN by Rebekah Metzler.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Trump never answers how he is going to make Mexico pay for the proposed wall.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The difference between us and the Republicans, is that we really are a big tent party.

MATTHEWS: What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Socialist? I used to think there’s a big difference. What do you think it is?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The difference between…

MATTHEWS: Like Democrat Hillary Clinton and Socialist Bernie Sanders? … Well what’s the big difference between the Democrat Party and Socialist. You’re the chairman of the Democratic Party. Tell me the difference between you and a Socialist.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The relevant debate we will be having over the course of this campaign is what’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican.
-- DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, July 30, 2015, during a discussion on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews about whether Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) – who describes himself as a socialist – would speak at the Democratic Party presidential convention.

Comment: This is an evasion. Of course the difference between Republicans and Democrats is relevant to the 2016 presidential election. But, given that Sanders – a socialist who is running for the Democratic nomination – is being welcomed as a speaker at the Democratic convention, it's also relevant to ask what relationship his political and economic philosophy has to that of the Democratic Party, such that Sanders (but not, say, conservatives) are welcome under the Democratic Party's "big tent". That's a question that Wasserman Schultz avoids answering.

MARCO RUBIO: I think it's important for the president of the United States to be someone that can conduct, and be engaged in a public debate on an issue without demonizing their opponents, that can hold a speech where you don't invite Paul Ryan, sit him in the front row of the speech and lambast him and attack him in front of everybody, knowing he can't respond. It's important for the office the presidency to be be someone that is capable of doing those things. I have said repeatedly, Barack Obama is a great husband and great father. But I do believe the way he has conducted his presidency has been divisive. I think he unnecessarily demonizes his opponents on policy issues, not just disagreement on policies. He wants to convince people that you are a bad person, that you don't care about the disabled or children or women, or someone who is being hurt. I think that's bad for the country. I truly believe that sort of activity, and is he not alone in it, but I do believe that sort of activity is not what we need from a president.

BRET BAIER: So you stand by that statement that the president has no class?

MARCO RUBIO: I think, on the major issues of our time, he has not conducted himself of the dignity of worthy of that was office. Demonization of political opponents and divisions in America which have made it harder for us to solve our problems, and have poisoned the political environment as a result.
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), July 23, 2015, being interviewed by Bret Baier of Fox News. The discussion concerned Rubio's July 22, 2015, remarks stating that President Barack Obama had "no class".

Comment: There are many things going on here. Rubio is calling for civility in political debate, and is accusing Obama of resorting to demonizing. Rubio is also using "hate the policies, not the person" rhetoric. It's not clear whether Rubio answers the question of whether Obama "has no class" or if he evades it. It's certainly true that Obama has resorted to demonization, but, first, is that appropriately summed up by saying Obama has "no class" whatsoever (or is that itself an act of demonizing)? Second, many Republicans have resorted to demonizing, too: will Rubio describe all of them the same way, or is he resorting to the "only my opponent" caricature?

Trump was answering questions from Republican pollster Frank Luntz on stage when he declared that John McCain, who spent six years as a POW in Vietnam, was not a war hero. Trump went on to express his preference for soldiers who weren’t captured, suggesting a belief that prisoners of war have some say in their captivity. Luntz had asked Trump about his reaction to McCain’s comment that Trump had stirred up the “crazies” with his candidacy. When Trump attacked McCain, Luntz asked if Trump was comfortable with that kind of criticism of a war hero.

“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” The comments clearly shocked the crowd at the summit, some of whom reacted with boos and shouts of condemnation.

I asked Trump if he was blaming John McCain for his capture, as his comments implied. “I am saying John McCain has not done a good job,” Trump responded, dodging the question.

When I repeated the question, Trump said: “I am not blaming John McCain for his capture. If he gets captured, he gets captured.”

“Why would you say you like people who don’t get captured?”

Trump: “The people that don’t get captured I’m not supposed to like? I like the people who don’t get captured and I respect the people who do get captured.”

Why would you say that in the context of John McCain: “Excuse me, excuse me. I like the people that don’t get – you have many people that didn’t get captured. I respect them greatly. You’ve got people that got captured. I respect them greatly also. Why – I’m not supposed to respect the people that don’t get captured?

Are you suggesting that John McCain did something to lead to his capture?

Trump: “Of course not.”

Why would you say what you said?

At that point, Trump turned and answered a question about China.
-- From a July 18, 2015, story by pundit Stephen F. Hayes of The Weekly Standard. Hayes' questions to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump concerned Trump's comments about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Comment: Trump is evading Hayes' question. If we're to think poorly of McCain for his time as a prisoner of war (as Trump says he does), is that because McCain made some sort of mistake that got him captured, or is it because we should think poorly of all POWs? Trump never answers, likely because he realizes he's said something unfair about McCain (and, by extension, POWs) but doesn't want to publicly admit his error.

MR. EARNEST: This is an agreement not just between the United States and Iran; this is an agreement between the United States, Russia, China, Germany, the U.K., and France, and Iran. And this is an agreement that is enthusiastically supported by, as the President said, 99 percent of the international community.

KARL: Help me with the math. You said a number of times, 99 percent of the world community. The President said 99 percent of the world. Where is that number coming from?

MR. EARNEST: Well, I guess if you look at the population of the countries that are represented in this particular agreement, the vast majority -- 99 percent of the world -- is on the side of the United States and our international partners in implementing this agreement.

KARL: Have you done the math on our allies in the region, the ones that would be most directly affected by this agreement? What percentage of our allies in the Middle East support this deal?

MR. EARNEST: Well, again, I’ll let them all speak for themselves. But at least when it comes to Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir, who is at the Oval Office today, he indicated that -- when he was at Camp David he indicated that “we” -- meaning, Saudi Arabia -- “welcome the discussions on the nuclear program between the P5+1 and Iran.” And Saudi Arabia has been assured that the objective is to deny Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon, and that all pathways to a nuclear weapon will be closed.

KARL: So you’re telling me the Saudis support this deal?

MR. EARNEST: I'm telling you that the Saudis will speak for themselves. But they -- it’s clear that the --

KARL: But you -- I just asked you about our allies in the region. So I know he supported diplomacy.

MR. EARNEST: But again, you can ask them what their view is of the agreement.

KARL: But the President just met with him; I assume the topic came up.

MR. EARNEST: I assure you that it did.

KARL: Do the Saudis support this deal?

MR. EARNEST: Well, again, I will let them speak for themselves.

KARL: Do the Emiratis support this deal?

MR. EARNEST: will let them speak for themselves.

KARL: Do the Israelis support this deal?

MR. EARNEST: Well, I think they made pretty clear that they don’t. But I think what’s clear, Jon, is you know who does support the deal? The Germans, the British, the French. Certainly, the President. The Chinese, the Russians, the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Indians. All of the countries that were involved in pressuring Iran to come to the negotiating table in the first place.
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, July 17, 2015, being questioned by ABC news reporter Jonathan Karl regarding international support for the Iranian nuclear deal.

Comment: This is an evasion. If Earnest and the administration of President Barack Obama (and Obama himself) are going to say that 99% of the world community supports the deal, then they have to support that claim by saying which countries it is that add up to 99%. To say "I will let other countries speak for themselves" on whether they support the deal – particularly after he's made it clear the overwhelming majority of countries do support it – is to also resort to a version of the "not my decision" evasion. Earnest just spoke for 99% of the world on the Iranian deal, but now won't answer on their behalf?

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

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

TODD: Rhetoric matters.

CRUZ: You know --

TODD: Doesn't rhetoric matter?

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

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

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

ELIZABETH HASSELBECK: Should he apologize for what he said?

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

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

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

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

CHUCK TODD: Over the last decade, she’s shifted her position on same-sex marriage, on immigration, on NAFTA, on the Iraq War, on Cuba policy, on criminal justice reform. Just a few that she’s done recently. They’re all to the left — all to the progressive side of things. How should progressives believe these are changes in conviction and not simply changes in convenience because the Democratic electorate has changed.

JOHN PODESTA: Chuck, I don’t think there’s anybody who’s been more consistent in their entire career, from the day she left law school, went to work for the children’s defense fund. From her in Arkansas to First Lady of the United States. She’s fought for children, for families. She’s made her priorities clear, her values clear. You know, times change. A decade ago, I think a lot of people had a different view on marriage equality. Today, the country has shifted. She’s at the forefront of saying that that is a right that every American should have. She’s gone further and said we need to protect the LGBT community in the workplace. So I think circumstances change. This isn’t 1992. It’s not 2008. It’s 2015, and she’ll take positions that are consistent with a set of longtime values that have made her a progressive in the best sense of the word. Fighting for working families, fighting for children, fighting for women across this country and across the world.
-- John Podesta, chair of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, June 14, 2015, during an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press".

Comment: First, Todd is accusing Clinton of flip-flopping. Second, Podesta is surely exaggerating when he says nobody has been more consistent than Clinton in their political positions. Third, Podesta seems to then contradict himself, saying that there have been changes in "circumstances". Does he mean that Clinton hasn't changed positions even as times have changed? Is it really true that she has the same position now on, say, same-sex marriage that she had a decade or two ago? Or is he saying that the changing times have resulted in her changing her position? At any rate, Podesta doesn't answer Todd's question, so this all amounts to an evasion.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Why are you the best choice for President of the United States?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Because for the last 30 years, I've been standing up for the working families of this country and I think I'm the only candidate who is prepared to take on the billionaire class which now controls our economy and increasingly controls the political life of this country. We need a political revolution in this country involving millions of people who are prepared to stand up and say enough is enough. And I want to help lead that effort.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that mean Hillary Clinton is part of the billionaire class?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It means that Hillary Clinton has been part of the political establishment for many, many years. I have known Hilary for 25 years. I respect her and I like her. But I think what the American people are saying, George, is that at a time when 99% of all new income is going to the top 1%, and when the top one-tenth of 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, maybe it’s time for real political shake-up, in this country, and go beyond establishment politics.
-- Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), May 3, 2015, during an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

Comment: First, this is an evasion, as Sanders never answers the question of whether Clinton is part of the "billionaire class". Second, Sanders is engaging in "Americans want" rhetoric by claiming they want a "shake-up beyond establishment politics".

KARL: And the memorandum of understanding that governed Hillary Clinton’s financial dealings, the financial dealings of the foundation and her husband’s speaking fees -- first of all, can you make that memorandum public? Because I don't think we’ve ever seen it.

EARNEST: This is a memorandum of understanding that resides at the State Department, so you can ask them about their policy for disclosing it or not.

KARL: Okay, we’ve asked for that. I’m wondering if you can -- I mean, this is -- I mean, in the interest of transparency this was supposed to be all about transparency. Can we see that memorandum?

EARNEST: I think the goal of the memorandum was to ensure that even the appearance of a conflict of interest was avoided by ensuring that there was greater transparency and greater knowledge about the contributions that were being accepted by the Clinton Foundation for the charitable work that they do. That was the goal of the memorandum.

KARL: I mean, essentially, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that she would make public the donations to the Clinton Foundation and also speaking fees for President Clinton. Isn’t it clear now that Secretary Clinton did not abide by her own memorandum of understanding with the President?

EARNEST: I’m not sure that that's clear, but you should go ask Secretary Clinton’s team about that.

KARL: Well, I’m asking you, because we now read that Uranium One, a foreign company, donated over $2 million to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State. That would seem to be a pretty clear violation of a memorandum of understanding as it’s been explained to us by you.

EARNEST: Well, again, for the details of this transaction I’d refer to either the State Department or Secretary Clinton’s team. Obviously, that's not something that was reviewed at this level.

KARL: And we also know that, previously, that a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government went to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Again, isn’t this a clear violation of a memorandum of understanding that said that, first of all, there was going to be an end to foreign donations, and these donations would -- and donations to the foundation would be made public?

EARNEST: Again, I’d refer to you Secretary Clinton’s team about that.

KARL: Well, can you check in on this, as well? This is an understanding with the President, right? This was --

EARNEST: Yes, but you're asking about their compliance with this particular matter and whether it lived up to the standards that Secretary Clinton had set for herself. And so I’d refer you to Secretary Clinton’s team to render some judgment on that.
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, April 23, 2015, being questioned by ABC news reporter Jonathan Karl regarding the financial dealings of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was part of the administration of President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is an evasion, perhaps of the "not my decision" sort. The memorandum in question was an understanding reached between Clinton and the Obama administration, so the administration can reasonably be asked whether she lived up to what it outlined. And, even if the standards were simply something Clinton outlined for herself, she did it while she was a member of Obama's cabinet and it concerned her behavior in that position. So, again, what reason does the Obama administration have for not weighing in on whether those standards were fulfilled?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLANTE: Hillary Clinton used an email system outside the US government for official business while she was Secretary of State … Were you disappointed?

OBAMA: Let me just say that, Hillary Clinton is and has been an outstanding public servant. She was a great Secretary of State for me. The policy of my administration is to encourage transparency, and that's why my emails, the BlackBerry that I carry around, all those records are available and archived. And I'm glad that Hillary has instructed that those emails that had to do with official business need to be disclosed.
-- President Barack Obama, during interview with CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, posted March 8, 2015. The remarks concern former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a non-governmental email server while she was in office.

Comment: This is an evasion. Obama never addresses the matter of whether Clinton's release of the emails at this time – a year after leaving office – is consistent with Obama's commitment to transparency and other standards of good conduct, or whether it is a failure (i.e., a "disappointment").

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BORGER: … we have asked lots of potential presidential candidates this week about Rudy Giuliani's comments. Some of them have disowned them, for example, Jeb Bush. Some of them, like Scott Walker, refused to comment. Yesterday, he told "The Washington Post" he wasn't sure if the president was a Christian. And then his press secretary had to clean that up a little bit. Don't you think Republican presidential candidates, who are blindsided by this, I admit, but don't you think they have to come out there and say what they believe about what Rudy Giuliani said directly? You need to do that?

PATAKI: I think -- I think, when you're asked the question, you have to answer it.


PATAKI: Yes, I think what he said was wrong. But I am -- I think it was wrong. But what I understand is that Rudy and I saw the horrible consequences of looking the other way because radical Islamic terror was thousands of miles across the world. And we saw the thousands of people, many of whom both of us knew, die that day. And we saw the courage with which Americans and New Yorkers responded. And it's deep in our bloods. And when we look today and we see them have training camps, we see them have recruiting centers, we see them have social media capability...

BORGER: Right.

PATAKI: ... and our own homeland security secretary coming on and saying we have to use extreme caution going to a mall here, and we have very weak leadership from Washington, I can understand how you get very upset about that. I get upset about it as well.
-- Former Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), February 22, 2015, during an interview with CNN's Gloria Borger. The discussion concerned former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's comments the previous week that President Barack Obama didn't love the country.

Comment: Pataki is not evading the question about Giuliani's comments. He is explaining Giuliani's behavior, but explaining is not justifying.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a prospective Republican presidential contender, said Saturday he does not know whether President Obama is a Christian.

“I don’t know,” Walker said in an interview at the JW Marriott hotel in Washington, where he was attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Told that Obama has frequently spoken publicly about his Christian faith, Walker maintained that he was not aware of the president’s religion.

“I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said, his voice calm and firm. “I’ve never asked him that,” he added. “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”
-- Washington Post story, February 21, 2015, by Dan Balz and Robert Costa.

Comment: This is an evasion. Don't we typically take people's word for their religious faith until they do something grossly in violation of that religion? Should we ignore Walker's claims that he is a Christian until we've talked to him personally? (In the background is Obama's refusal to say that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terror groups are Islamic, despite the fact that they call themselves Muslim. This is a fair point to criticize Obama for, but just because Obama fails to take ISIS's religious declarations at face value doesn't mean that it's OK for Walker to do so, as well.)

BECKY QUICK: You were at a dinner last night where Rudy Giuliani spoke, you were sitting just a few chairs away when he said, "I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country." What do you think about those comments, because they are raising a stir this morning.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER: The mayor can speak for himself. I’m not going to comment on what the president thinks or not. He can speak for himself as well. I’ll tell you, I love America, and I think there are plenty of people — Democrat, Republican, independent, everyone in between — who love this country. I think we should talk about ways that we love this country, and that we feel passionate about America, whether it's about making sure everyone can succeed and live the American Dream, or whether it's talking with.

ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: But did you agree with those comments? Were you offended by those comments? What was your reaction when you heard them?

WALKER: I’m in New York, I’m used to people saying things that are aggressive out there.
-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), February 19, 2015, on "Squawk Box".

Comment: This is an evasion, perhaps the "not my decision" evasion. The point is, Giuliani is speaking, not simply for himself, but attributing a deplorable mindset to President Barack Obama. Given that Obama can speak for himself, does Walker think it's OK to speak for Obama and declare that Obama doesn't love the country or the people in it? Would it be OK if someone did the same to Walker? Walker seems comfortable speaking for lots of other people -- "Democrat, Republican, independent, everyone in between" -- and saying that they love the country, so why can't he do the same for Obama and therefore repudiate Giuliani?


Examples from 2013.


Examples from 2012.


Examples from 2011.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think Senator Biden is qualified?
MCCAIN: I think that Joe Biden is qualified in many respects.
-- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), October 15, 2008, during the third presidential debate at Hofstra University, NY, between McCain and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), hosted and moderated by by Bob Schieffer of CBS.

Comment: It's not clear that McCain answers Schieffer's question regarding whether Biden is qualified to be president. Is McCain saying that Biden is qualified to be president, and that there are many reasons he is? Or is he saying that Biden is qualified in some respects to be president, but not in others, and so is therefore not qualified overall? McCain's statement is ambiguous. Unfortunately, he didn't clarify it, nor did Schieffer or Obama ask him to do so.

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

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