Saturday, September 1, 2012

Civility Watchdog: Gov. Mitt Romney's Acceptance Speech to GOP Convention

On August 30, 2012, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) gave a speech accepting the presidential nomination at the GOP National Convention. Below are some of the highlights concerning civil, productive debate:
"I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. … Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us. To put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations. … The America we all know has been a story of the many becoming one, uniting to preserve liberty, uniting to build the greatest economy in the world, uniting to save the world from unspeakable darkness."
Comment: This is "unify the country" rhetoric. How is it that we're supposed to unite and put aside divisiveness if we have different ideas about which policies are best for the country or for the economy?

"The president hasn't disappointed you because he wanted to. The president has disappointed America because he hasn't led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government. I learned the real lessons about how America works from experience."
Comment: This is poor reasoning, of the "appeal to authority" sort. It's not like someone who has worked in the private sector necessarily has a better idea of how to create jobs than someone who hasn't. It's not like a carpenter who builds houses is an expert on the economics of housing, nor is an expert on the economics of housing necessarily also someone who knows carpentry. Likewise, there's no necessary link between working in the private sector and having the right policies for the private sector. Romney should focus on the content of Obama's policies and the evidence for or against those policies, not on the background of the person advocating those policies.

"These are American success stories. And yet the centerpiece of the President's entire re-election campaign is attacking success. Is it any wonder that someone who attacks success has led the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression? In America, we celebrate success, we don't apologize for it. We weren't always successful at Bain. But no one ever is in the real world of business. That's what this President doesn't seem to understand."
Comment: This is a derisive distortion (AKA demonizing). Obama doesn't oppose success, he just has different beliefs about what policies will best promote success in the economy. Saying that Obama is attacking success is a caricature akin to saying that Republicans don't care about the poor.

"In the richest country in the history of the world, this Obama economy has crushed the middle class. Family income has fallen by $4,000, but health insurance premiums are higher, food prices are higher, utility bills are higher, and gasoline prices have doubled. Today more Americans wake up in poverty than ever before. Nearly one out of six Americans is living in poverty. … His policies have not helped create jobs, they have depressed them."
Comment: This is "failed policies" rhetoric, and perhaps faulty reasoning of the "false causation" sort, as well. It's not enough to state that there are bad circumstances after Obama took office. You have to show that there's a causal link, that the bad economic data is because of Obama being president.

"You might have asked yourself if these last years are really the America we want, the America won for us by the greatest generation. Does the America we want borrow a trillion dollars from China? No. Does it fail to find the jobs that are needed for 23 million people and for half the kids graduating from college? No. Are its schools lagging behind the rest of the developed world? No. And does the America we want succumb to resentment and division? We know the answer."
Comment: Of course the answer to these questions is obvious, because we all agree that we don't want to borrow more money or have high unemployment or bad schools or resentment and division. It's nothing more than a platitude to state that we don't want these things. The question is how to avoid them, what policies will do the best job?

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