Friday, December 26, 2014

Evasion Examples: 2012

REPORTER [unidentified]: Jay, if I could ask about -- in connection with the shootings, yesterday and today, obviously tragic events. Do these raise limiting handgun violence or other gun violence on the President's list of priorities in any way?
CARNEY: We're still waiting for more information about the incident in Connecticut. As we do, I think it's important on a day like today to view this as I know the President, as a father, does; and I, as a father, and others who are parents certainly do -- which is to feel enormous sympathy for families that were affected and to do everything we can to support state and local law enforcement and to support those who are enduring what appears to be a very tragic event. There is I'm sure -- will be, rather, a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I don't think today is that day.
-- White House briefing with Press Secretary Jay Carney, December 14, 2012, referring to the shooting that day at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Comment: This could be classified as an evasion, as Carney doesn't answer the question about what President Barack Obama's policy on guns is. However, as a timing issue, Carney does make a legitimate point that the discussion of gun policy -- which is a contentious debate that doesn't serve to comfort those hit by the tragedy -- is an inappropriate foray into politics that can be postponed briefly (though not indefinitely).

KERRY LADKA: This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

OBAMA: [A]s soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team, and I gave them three instructions. Number one, beef up our security and -- and -- and procedures not just in Libya but every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure that folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this, and we are going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them. … And when it comes to this issue, when I say that we are going to find out exactly what happened, everybody will be held accountable, and I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there, because these are my folks, and I’m the one who has to greet those coffins when they come home, you know that I mean what I say.
-- President Barack Obama, October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Obama doesn't answer Ladka's question. Presumably, this is because the matter hasn't been investigated sufficiently to say who denied the enhanced security and why, but Obama doesn't say so.

OBAMA: When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China and is currently investing in countries -- in -- in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks. That’s -- Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.

ROMNEY: Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in -- in Chinese companies. Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: You know, I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it -- it doesn’t take as long.

ROMNEY: You also investments in Chinese companies.
OBAMA: Yeah.
ROMNEY: You also have investments outside the United States.
OBAMA: Yeah.
ROMNEY: You also have investments through a Caymans trust, all right?
OBAMA: All right.

OBAMA: Now Governor Romney talked about China. As I already indicated, in the private sector, Governor Romney’s company invested in what were called pioneers of outsourcing. That’s not my phrase; that’s what reporters called it.
-- President Barack Obama, October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Obama's argument -- that Romney as president will outsource jobs just like he did when he worked in investment -- is not valid reasoning. It would be akin to arguing that, because Obama organized protests as a community organizer, therefore that's what he'll do as president. Obviously, that didn't happen. When people switch jobs, they frequently behave differently. Also, Obama avoids Romney's question about the contents of his pension. Finally, Romney risks engaging in ad hominem reasoning (of the "you too" variety) by pointing out that Obama is doing the same as Romney is doing (i.e., investing in Chinese companies). He can't simply argue that what he's doing is OK because other people are doing it (even if the other people doing it are the same ones who are criticizing what he's doing). He has to make the case that what he's doing is OK regardless of whether his critics are also doing it.

CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women.
ROMNEY: Thank you. And -- important topic and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the -- the chance to pull together a Cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
-- Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Romney and President Barack Obama.

Comment: Romney didn't answer this question so far as ensuring pay equity for women. He spoke about what he had done in the past to hire women, and what he would do to spur the economy to hire more workers in general, but did not address whether or what he would do to ensure that women and men are paid the same for equal work.

MARY POLLANO: Governor Romney, you have stated that if you’re elected president, you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue. Concerning the -- these various deductions -- the mortgage deduction, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also the … The education credits, which are important to me because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important for the middle class?

ROMNEY: I want to get some relief to middle-income families. That’s part -- that’s part one. Now, how about deductions? Because I’m going to bring rates down across the board for everybody, but I’m going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits, particularly for people at the high end, because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they’re paying now. … Middle-income people are going to get a tax break. And so in terms of bringing down deductions, one way of doing that would be to say everybody gets -- I’ll pick a number -- $25,000 of deductions and credits. And you can decide which ones to use, your home mortgage interest deduction, charity, child tax credit and so forth. You can use those as part of filling that bucket, if you will, of deductions. But your rate comes down, and the burden also comes down on you for one more reason.
-- Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Romney and President Barack Obama.

Comment: This seems like an evasion. Romney doesn't say clearly what his position is on the various deductions mentioned by Pollano (for instance, which of them he wants to get rid of or would refuse to get rid of). Instead, he suggests that putting a cap on how much you can claim in deductions is "one way" of changing things. He doesn't clearly say that's what he would do as opposed to eliminating deductions.

ROMNEY: In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.
OBAMA: Not true, Governor Romney.
ROMNEY: So how much did you cut them by?
OBAMA: It’s not true.
ROMNEY: By how much did you cut them by, then?
OBAMA: Governor, we have actually produced more oil on --
ROMNEY: No, no, how much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?
-- President Barack Obama, October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Obama didn't answer the question. He went on to talk about what he had done with companies with unused leases on public lands, but he didn't address whether such permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters had been cut in half (as Romney claimed and queried).

PHILIP TRICOLLA: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?

OBAMA: We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I’ve also said is we can’t just produce traditional sources of energy; we’ve also got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s why we’ve doubled clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels. … I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States. So that’s going to help Jeremy get a job, it’s also going to make sure that you’re not paying as much for gas.
-- President Barack Obama, October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Obama doesn't answer the question about whether Chu is wrong to say that it's not the job of the Energy Department to lower gas prices (assuming Chu did say this). More, while Obama says that his policies are lowering gas prices (which is another arguable empirical matter), he doesn't address whether it is the job of the Energy Department to do so.

JEREMY EPSTEIN: Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. Can -- what can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

ROMNEY: I know what it takes to create good jobs again. I know what it takes to make sure that you have the kind of opportunity you deserve. And kids across this country are going to recognize we’re bringing back an economy. It’s not going to be like the last four years. The middle class has been crushed over the last four years, and jobs have been too scarce. I know what it takes to bring them back, and I’m going to do that and make sure when you graduate … I’m going to make sure you get a job.
-- Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Romney and President Barack Obama.

Comment: Romney didn't answer the question. Romney spoke about things he would do to help future college students graduate with less debt, but he didn't give any real detail to what he would do to ensure that Epstein would be able to support himself when he graduated.

RADDATZ: "You have refused -- and, again -- to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut [proposed by Romney-Ryan]. Do you actually have the specifics? Or are you still working on it, and that’s why you won’t tell voters?"
RYAN: "Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements. … look at what Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did. They worked together out of a framework to lower tax rates and broaden the base, and they worked together to fix that. What we’re saying is, here’s our framework. Lower tax rates 20 percent. We raised about $1.2 trillion through income taxes. We forego about $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions. And so what we’re saying is, deny those loopholes and deductions to higher-income taxpayers so that more of their income is taxed, which has a broader base of taxation … so we can lower tax rates across the board. Now, here’s why I’m saying this. What we’re saying is, here’s the framework … We want to work with Congress -- we want to work with the Congress on how best to achieve this."
-- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden.

Comment: Ryan avoids answering the question. He indulges in "bipartisan" rhetoric, while laying out a framework for what his side wants done. But whether that framework can be accomplished depends on details -- for instance, which loopholes and deductions get eliminated. If he's not going to provide those details, he needs to give a good reason for not doing so.

RADDATZ: "Mr. Vice President, what would you suggest -- what would you suggest beyond raising taxes on the wealthy, that would substantially reduce the long-term deficit?"
BIDEN: "Just let the taxes expire like they’re supposed to on those millionaires. We don’t -- we can’t afford $800 billion going to people making a minimum of $1 million. They do not need it, Martha. Those 120,000 families make $8 million a year."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Comment: Biden doesn't answer the question. He doesn't suggest anything "beyond raising taxes on the wealthy", he instead just reiterates that tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire.

RADDATZ: "Vice President Biden, let me ask you, if it could help solve the problem, why not very slowly raise the Medicare eligibility age by two years, as Congressman Ryan suggests?"
BIDEN: "Look, I was there when we did that with Social Security in 1983. I was one of eight people sitting in the room that included Tip O’Neill negotiating with President Reagan. We all got together and everybody said, as long as everybody’s in the deal, everybody’s in the deal, and everybody is making some sacrifice, we can find a way. We made the system solvent to 2033. We will not, though, be part of any voucher plan eliminating -- the voucher says, “Mom, when you’re -- when you’re 65, go out there, shop for the best insurance you can get. You’re out of Medicare.” You can buy back in if you want with this voucher, which will not keep pace -- will not keep pace with health care costs. Because if it did keep pace with health care costs, there would be no savings. That’s why they go the voucher. They -- we will be no part of a voucher program or the privatization of Social Security."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Comment: Biden doesn't really answer the question about raising Medicare eligibility. He just says he's OK with some compromise, without saying whether he'd be OK with a compromise involving an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility.

RADDATZ: "Last week, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates said a strike on Iran’s facilities would not work and, quote, “could prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations.” Can the two of you be absolutely clear and specific to the American people how effective would a military strike be? Congressman Ryan?"
-- ABC News' Martha Raddatz, questioning Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden.

Comment: Ryan did not answer this question, he instead criticized the Obama administration's record on sanctions against Iran (which, for the sake of brevity, I didn't quote here).

REPORTER MARY [last name unknown]: The President also had his fair share of private moments that have later been made public. During the 2008 election, he said that rural voters "get bitter" and they cling to their guns or religion. Like Mr. Romney, this was also said privately to donors and then later made public after the fact. Rural voters certainly aren't 47 percent of the electorate, but they are a large demographic. How is Mr. Romney's comments any different from what the President said?
JAY CARNEY: Look, I think that happened four years ago and was discussed in abundance at the time. What the President said four years ago, what he said eight years ago, what he says today and what he said ever since he took office here is that he's fighting for every American, that he firmly believes that as a nation we're all in this together, that what unites us is far stronger and greater than what divides us, that we're not red America and blue America, we're the United States of America. And I think that that's a fundamental fact about Barack Obama. And it's been the guiding philosophy and principle behind the policy decisions he's made. I think, again, citing some of the examples from what he's done in office…
-- White House briefing with Press Secretary Jay Carney, September 18, 2012.

Comment: Carney went on to give examples of actions Obama had taken as president, but didn't explain what the difference between Obama's 2008 comments and Romney's May 2012 comments.

REPORTER CONNIE [last name unknown]: Jay, may I?
JAY CARNEY: Yes, Connie.
CONNIE: What city does this administration consider to be the capital of Israel -- Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?
CARNEY: I haven't had that question in a while. Our position has not changed, Connie.
CONNIE: What is the position? What's the capital?
CARNEY: You know our position.
CONNIE: I don't.
REPORTER LESTER KINSOLVING: No, no, she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. That's why she asked.
CARNEY: She does know --
CONNIE: I don't.
KINSOLVING: She does not know. She just said she doesn’t know. I don't know.
CARNEY: We have long -- Les, I call on Christi. Go ahead.
REPORTER CHRISTI [last name unknown]: Back on the question of gun violence.
KINSOLVING: Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?
CARNEY: You know the answer.
KINSOLVING: No, I don't know the answer. We don't know the answer. Could you just give us an answer? What do you recognize -- what does -- 
CARNEY: Our position hasn’t changed, Lester. Goyal.
REPORTER GOYAL [last name unknown]: Thank you. Two questions, Jay. One, India has now a new President...
-- White House briefing with Press Secretary Jay Carney, July 26, 2012.
Comment: The issue of whether Jerusalem or Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel is a controversial matter between Israelis and Palestinians. Perhaps that is why Carney avoided answering the question. Or perhaps he didn't know the Obama administration's position on the issue and was hoping to avoid revealing that. Whatever the case, Carney was evading the question.

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