Thursday, December 6, 2012

Civility Watchdog: December 6, 2012, Edition

Below are some recent remarks and/or events highlighted for their relevance to civil, productive debate:
LIMBAUGH: I think the low-information voters we talk about, in their own way, are very sophisticated. I think we're gonna have to grow up. We're gonna have to admit to ourselves that they do indeed understand the power to tax is the power to destroy, and that's what they're supporting. That's what they're voting for. They are voting to raise taxes on the rich because they want them punished.
STEVE [last name unknown]: Yes.
LIMBAUGH: Therefore they believe they can be punished by raising taxes.
LIMBAUGH: So it's safe to say that they do want the power to destroy.
STEVE: Exactly. And I think they fully realize, the Democrats fully understand that the taxing power is a power to destroy, if they want to use it as such, which they do.
LIMBAUGH: Yes. And by the way, this is not new to Obama.
LIMBAUGH: Bill Clinton, every Democrat since FDR has been running against tax cuts, has been running on class envy against the rich. You and I just happen to be alive at that moment in time where it has finally broken through and a majority of people who vote, will vote for that and agree with it.
STEVE: I mean, it's something that people obviously need to be reeducated about. The Founding Fathers certainly understood that. They were so fearful of the taxing power. I mean, if you look at the arguments that went on before the Civil War over tariffs, whether we should raise tariffs or lower tariffs.
LIMBAUGH: Never before, though, never before in American history has an elected government sought to impoverish its citizens for the advancement of its political objectives. We now live in a moment in time where that's happened.
LIMBAUGH: An elected administration has, via policies, sought to impoverish millions of citizens and then support them.
STEVE: Absolutely.
LIMBAUGH: For the express purpose --
STEVE: Of maintaining their base.
LIMBAUGH: Exactly.
-- Radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, December 6, 2012, speaking with a caller to his show.

Comment: Limbaugh and the caller are demonizing President Barack Obama and Democrats. It's arguable whether raising taxes on the wealthy is a good idea, but it's not an argument between people who want to punish the rich and to have "the power to destroy" so that they can maintain their power versus those who don't.

"Then he [Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)] added: “I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever it is we believe. And that means teaching them science, they have to know the science, but also parents have the right to teach them the theology and to reconcile the two things.” It’s certainly a relief to know that Mr. Rubio thinks children should learn science. Perhaps he could bear a couple of things in mind as he joins the rest of us in the 21st century. (He might also want to check out some of the latest advances in horseless carriages and those little handheld computing thingies.)"
-- Editorial page editor and columnist Andrew Rosenthal, December 5, 2012. Rosenthal is referring to Rubio's earlier comments about the age of the Earth, in which Rubio declined to say whether the Earth was billions of years or merely thousands of years old.

Comment: Rosenthal is engaging in name-calling, caricaturing Rubio as stupid. Perhaps Rubio was wrong not to advocate the scientifically-determined age of the Earth (roughly 4.5 billion years), but is the age of the planet really as obvious as the existence of automobiles and iPads? No. It's a derisive caricature for Rosenthal to describe Rubio as being unaware of cars and computer tablets.

SCHULTZ: The Boehner proposal on its merit, characterize it for us.
PELOSI: Well, I think it is an assault on the middle class, on our seniors, on our investments in the future.
-- House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), December 4, 2012, during an interview with TV pundit Ed Schultz. Pelosi is referring to a fiscal proposal by Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH).

Comment: Pelosi is indulging in violent rhetoric.

"Everybody agrees in the country and in the Congress that we should have a middle income tax cut. The -- what is holding it up is the Republicans are holding it hostage for tax cuts for the wealthy. But left to it on its own, to stand alone, we think it would get a unanimous vote in the Congress."
-- House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), December 4, 2012, during an interview with TV pundit Ed Schultz.

Comment: First, this is "Americans want" rhetoric. Does literally everyone in the country believe there should be a middle-class tax cut? What's the evidence for that? Second, Pelosi is engaging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric. Perhaps the tax cut Pelosi describes would pass if it were considered on its own. Should nothing ever be attached to legislation that would pass on its own?

"The stimulus, which was almost a trillion dollars, that's one huge amount spent within a couple of years. It left not a trace. This is money that went to entitlements, this is money that went to food stamps. At the extreme and the trivial, it went to giving Sandra Fluke free contraceptives that she can't afford at $165,000 a year. She can't shell out $15 a month. … At the other extreme is what you've talked about, the huge increase of people on food stamps. … That's where they want to spend the money and they have to borrow it because we don't have it. … I think it's pretty easy to win elections when you give away candy that you borrow from the Chinese."
-- Commentator Charles Krauthammer, December 4, 2012.

Comment: Krauthammer is claiming that Obama's spending decisions were made on a political basis -- to buy votes -- rather because he thought it was good policy. Couldn't it instead be that he thought helping people was good policy, and people voted for him because they agreed with his judgment?

"After the election of Jimmy Carter, the honorable Coleman Alexander Young, he went to Washington, DC, he came back home with some bacon. That's what you do. That's what you do. This is a -- our people in an overwhelming way supported the re-election of this president and there ought to be a quid pro quo and you ought to exercise leadership on that. Of course, not just that, but why not?"
-- Detroit City Council member JoAnn Watson, December 4, 2012. Young was mayor of Detroit, and had supported the presidential campaign of Carter in 1976. The city of Detroit received millions in federal funds after Carter's election.

Comment: Is Watson claiming that a policy choice -- sending federal funds to the city of Detroit -- should be made on a political basis? That is, as payback -- a quid pro quo -- for the voters in Detroit supporting President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election?

CARNEY: It's not good government for one party in Congress to refuse to acknowledge what a compromise has to include, a compromised position that is not just the President's position, is not just the Democratic Party's position, but it's the position of the majority of the American people. I mean, I think we've seen data again today that reinforced that fundamental fact. And it's certainly not good government -- the reference you made to our debt ceiling debacle -- to even hint at the possibility of holding the American economy hostage again to the ideological whims of one wing of one party in Congress. That’s unacceptable.

REPORTER [unidentified]: Jay, speaking of the debt ceiling, does an agreement to raise the debt ceiling have to be part of an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff?
CARNEY: We're not going to negotiate over what is a fundamental responsibility of Congress, which is to pay the bills that Congress incurred. It should be part of the deal. It should be done and it should be done without drama. We cannot allow our economy to be held hostage again to the whims of an ideological agenda.
-- White House briefing with Press Secretary Jay Carney, December 4, 2012.

Comment: Carney is making a claim about what Americans want (he seems to cite polling data to back up his assertion). Also, Carney is indulging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric. Related to that, why can't Republicans in Congress bargain in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling? If they asked for spending reductions in return for raising the debt ceiling, why couldn't that be cast as "comprehensive" legislation? Why must the two be unrelated? Hasn't unrelated legislation been attached to defense spending bills in the past? Was that "hostage-taking"?

(The list above is not intended to be a comprehensive record of all relevant examples. Click here for previous edition.)

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