Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Civility Watchdog: November 28, 2012, Edition

Below are some recent remarks and/or events highlighted for their relevance to civil, productive debate:
"Well, [Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)] lost 11 of the Tea Party guys, but he's got then 70 guys who didn't go to Congress to limit government, they came there to stop it. So, how do you deal with guys who came to stop government, or Grover wondering the earth in his white robes, saying he wanted to drown government in the bathtub? I hope he slips in there with it. We'll put some soap in the tub. Throw it in there."
-- Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), November 27, 2012.

Comment: Simpson is referring to political advocate Grover Norquist, who said that he hoped to get government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub". Simpson is piggy-backing on Norquist's violent rhetoric to engage in the same.

"These Tea Bag bastards -- who by the way, I just wish they would all just go away -- or, like in Passover, I just wish there was an angel of the Lord that would pass over -- instead of killing the first born in all the households of Egypt just wipe out all the Tea Baggers. Just, you know, the terrible swift sword, just [mimics sound of sword] -- lop their heads off!"
-- Radio pundit Mike Malloy, November 26, 2012.

Comment: Malloy's slurs amount to name-calling, and his Biblical allusion is violent rhetoric.

SCHULTZ: Republicans are also giving off clues about an upcoming deal. Several House and Senate Republicans are openly rejecting an anti-tax pledge of Gorver Norquist. But as Sen Lindsey Graham [R-SC] says, rejecting the pledge comes with strings attached.
GRAHAM: I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.
SCHULTZ: OK, so get out the gun and hold it to our head, right? Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers are giving the impression that a deal can be reached as long as there are cuts that are near and dear to a lot of Americans: Medicare and Medicaid.
-- TV pundit Ed Schultz, November 26, 2012, responding to comments by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Comment: Schultz is describing the situation -- in which government programs may be cut -- with violent rhetoric.

"Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont has spoken on this program about the need to protect programs for the middle class in debt negotiations. Sen. Sanders [I-VT] released this statement to the Ed Show tonight: "What [presidential advisor] David Plouffe has stated deeply concerns me. Despite Mr. Plouffe's assertions, the American people have been clear, both through their votes in the election and in poll after poll after poll. At a time when the middle class is disappearing and the number of people living in poverty is at an all-time high, the American people have demanded that there be no benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and that the wealthiest people and largest corporations in this country, who are doing phenomenally well, must be asked to play a significant role in reducing the deficit." Here, here, Bernie! I'm on board with that! The public agrees with Sen. Sanders, I'm not the only one. In the latest CNN poll, 56% of Americans believe that taxes for the wealthy should be raised to help pay for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid."
-- TV pundit Ed Schultz, November 26, 2012.

Comment: Citing an opinion poll that claims 56% support for a positions indicates a majority, but does it indicate what Americans want as a whole? Plus, is Schultz making an appeal to popularity?

"If we do nothing, all the tax cuts expire. … [Tax rates will] go back to Clinton-era rates, which -- guess what? -- worked pretty darn well for the economy when Clinton was president."
-- Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), November 26, 2012.

Comment: Perhaps it's true that the economy did well while tax rates were at a certain level. But does that prove that it did well because tax rates were at that level? Is this false causation reasoning?

"We’ve been reasonable, even as we’ve remained firm on this point: no tax increases now for promised spending cuts that won’t materialize later. The American people have seen that game before. They won’t be fooled again."
-- Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), November 26, 2012, from the floor of the Senate.

Comment: This is "Americans want" rhetoric. Are the American people as a whole opposed to the same things McConnell is opposed to?

"[A] vocal minority on the hard-left continues to argue to the leaders of their party -- from the President on down -- that Democrats in Washington should do absolutely nothing about short-term or long-term spending problems. This is the Thelma and Louise crowd, the ones who dream about higher taxes and the bigger government it will pay for, regardless of the impact on jobs or the economy or America’s standing in the world. These are the ones who recklessly ignore the fact that we can’t keep running trillion dollar deficits every year and throw a tantrum if somebody suggests that maybe the taxpayers shouldn’t keep subsidizing every last program Washington ever dreamed up. Their reckless and ideological approach threatens our future. And anyone who’s serious about solving the problems we face should ignore it, starting with the President. … It’s time for the President to present a plan that rises above these reckless and radical voices on the hard-Left, that goes beyond the talking points of the campaign trail, and that has a realistic chance of passing the Congress. The time for campaigning is over. It’s time for the President to lead."
-- Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), November 26, 2012, from the floor of the Senate.

Comment: First, who is saying this? McConnell doesn't name who holds the "Thelma and Louise" position he describes. The danger -- which brings us to the second point -- is that McConnell is creating a straw man, a caricature of his opponents. They really don't care at all about the impact on the U.S. economy? Third, McConnell is engaging in "ideological" rhetoric, as well as "radical" rhetoric, as well as "talking points" rhetoric.

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

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