Sunday, December 28, 2014

"Extremists, Extremism, and Radicals" Examples: 2012

EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS: 2012 "Extremists, Extremism, and Radicals"
This is no time for a Grand Bargain, because the Republican Party, as now constituted, is just not an entity with which the president can make a serious deal. If we’re going to get a grip on our nation’s problems -- of which the budget deficit is a minor part -- the power of the G.O.P.’s extremists, and their willingness to hold the economy hostage if they don’t get their way, needs to be broken. And somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next few days.
-- New York Times pundit Paul Krugman, December 21, 2012.

Comment: This is "extremists" and "hostage-taking" rhetoric.

Must every tragic mass shooting bring out the shrill ignorance of "gun control" advocates? The key fallacy of so-called gun control laws is that such laws do not in fact control guns. They simply disarm law-abiding citizens, while people bent on violence find firearms readily available. If gun control zealots had any respect for facts, they would have discovered this long ago, because there have been too many factual studies over the years to leave any serious doubt about gun control laws being not merely futile but counterproductive.
-- Pundit Thomas Sowell, December 18, 2012.

Comment: Sowell is using the term "zealots" to mean "extremists", and is suggesting they don't care about facts.

"A March Gallup poll found that Republicans were much less likely than Democrats or independents to say that they worried about global warming. Only 16 percent of Republicans said that they worried a great deal about it, while 42 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents did. This as the National Climatic Data Center reported that “the January-November period was the warmest first 11 months of any year on record for the contiguous United States, and for the entire year, 2012 will most likely surpass the current record (1998, 54.3°F) as the warmest year for the nation.” Surely some of this is because of party isolationism and extremism and what David Frum, the conservative columnist, called the “conservative entertainment complex.” But there is also willful ignorance at play in some quarters, and Republicans mustn’t simply brush it aside. They must beat it back."
-- Columnist Charles Blow, December 7, 2012.

Comment: Blow is indulging in "extremism" rhetoric. "Willful ignorance" amounts to accusing people of not caring about facts. Is this a fair appraisal of people who disagree with the claims of global warming and climate change?

"I think Senator DeMint clearly sees that the Tea Party is not a growth industry. I mean, he had an election that just passed that did not see the ranks of Tea Party members expand. The Senate candidates that he expected to be very likely to join him in the Senate were rejected in red states by the voters who simply know that extremism is just not the way that we need to go forward in getting our economy turned around, in reducing our deficit and creating jobs."
-- Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, December 6, 2012.

Comment: Wasserman Schultz is indulging in "extremism" rhetoric.

"Again and again, the first term revealed Obama’s idea of bipartisanship: Dissenters are unpatriotic and must surrender. Compromise is a one-way street for him. As polarizing and ineffective as that approach was, he was rewarded with four more years. A different man might see that as a mulligan -- a second chance to get it right. Not Obama. His behavior now is even more troubling. That he’s willing to risk sending the economy back into recession and killing even more jobs leads me to believe his second term will be far more radical than the first. A stranger to humility, he thinks re-election confers a blank check. His demand that spending cuts and entitlement reform be put off, while Republicans give him the tax hikes and the stimulus he wants, suggests he’s not serious about facing the mountain of debt."
-- Columnist Michael Goodwin, December 2, 2012.

Comment: Goodwin is complaining that President Barack Obama's idea of bipartisanship is wanting? Is that true? Has Obama called dissent unpatriotic and treated compromise as a one-way street? Goodwin is also accusing Obama of being divisive (by calling him "polarizing"), and indulging in "radical" rhetoric. In addition, he says Obama thinks he has a limitless mandate as a result of re-election, and that Obama is not "serious" about our debt problems. All this combines to create an unflattering caricature of Obama. Goodwin can criticize Obama's positions without resorting to this name-calling and demonizing.

"The President has said he wants a so-called balanced approach to solve this crisis. But what he proposed this week was a classic bait and switch on the American people -- a tax increase double the size of what he campaigned on, billions of dollars in new stimulus spending and an unlimited, unchecked authority to borrow from the Chinese. Maybe I missed it but I don’t recall him asking for any of that during the presidential campaign. These ideas are so radical that they have already been rejected on a bipartisan basis by Congress."
-- Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-UT), December 1, 2012, during the weekly GOP address.

Comment: Hatch is claiming that Obama has no mandate to enact certain policies, because they are not the policies Obama campaigned on. Also, he is indulging in "radicalism" rhetoric. Finally, he is engaging in "bipartisan" rhetoric, apparently arguing that ideas that have been rejected on a bipartisan basis are radical and wrong.

"[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.

ROMNEY: [T]he key that we're going to have to pursue is a -- is a pathway to -- to get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own. We don't want another Iraq. We don't want another Afghanistan.
-- Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), October 22, 2012, during the third presidential debate in Boca Raton, FL, between Romney and President Barack Obama.

Comment: Romney is indulging in "extremism" rhetoric. What, in particular, does Romney believe that the Muslim world should reject?

OBAMA: So there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they’re not on economic policy. In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy, and I think that’s a mistake. That’s not how we’re going to move our economy forward.
-- 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 is indulging in "extremism" rhetoric. Why not just say Romney is wrong and then explain why?

RYAN: "The vice president himself went to China and said that he sympathized and wouldn’t second guess their one child policy of forced abortions and sterilizations. That to me is pretty extreme."
-- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden.

Comment: First, it's not clear that Biden sympathized with China's "one child" policy, though he certainly didn't take the opportunity to criticize it. That, arguably, is a failure to defy injustice. Second, this is "extremism" rhetoric. Rather than extreme, why can't Ryan just say Biden is wrong?

"Let me start tonight with this: Attack. A month now stands between here and election. Four weeks to sell the country on the difference between Obama and Romney on the big issues of our times. Time to attack. Time to remind voters who rode to the rescue -- who did ride to the rescue of the American auto industry, and who stood out there telling it to go bankrupt. Time to attack. Which candidate fought to get equal pay for equal work for women so that no girl in America will ever grow up thinking her time, her sweat is worth less than a boy's? Time to attack. Which candidate saw 40 million people uninsured dragging themselves to sit for hours in emergency rooms across the country -- he saw it, Obama did, and he refused to let it stay that way through yet another presidency. Mitt Romney saw the way things were and said he wants to keep things that way. If you don't have insurance, tough, go get a seat with the other victims and moochers. Well, this is where Romney's vulnerable, where Obama can come charging from his ground of strength. Now's the time. Romney -- be taken to task for his positions so far from the American mainstream."
-- Commentator and TV anchor Chris Matthews, October 9, 2012.

Comment: Romney and Republicans would no doubt take issue with the way Matthews describes -- perhaps, caricatures -- their positions. Matthews is telling Obama and Democrats to get tough and "attack" (and to do so with points that they've already made time and time again). Matthews also indulges in some "extremism" rhetoric by describing Romney's positions as "so far from the American mainstream".

LEHRER: "And so I want to ask, finally here -- and remember, we’ve got three minutes total time here. And the question is this: Many of the legislative functions of the federal government right now are in a state of paralysis as a result of partisan gridlock. If elected, in your case -- if reelected, in your case -- what would you do about that? Governor?"

OBAMA: "Well, first of all, I think Governor Romney is going to have a busy first day, because he's also going to repeal Obamacare, which will not be very popular among Democrats as you're sitting down with them. But, look, my philosophy has been I will take ideas from everybody -- Democrat or Republican -- as long as they're advancing the cause of making middle-class families stronger and giving ladders of opportunity to the middle class. … And so part of leadership and governing is both saying what it is that you are for, but also being willing to say no to some things. And I've got to tell you, Governor Romney, when it comes to his own party during the course of this campaign, has not displayed that willingness to say no to some of the more extreme parts of his party."
-- President Barack Obama, October 3, 2012, during the first presidential debate between Obama and GOP presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Obama makes a good point that, by repealing Obamacare, Romney would be upsetting the supporters of that health care reform and making it difficult for him to unify the country. (Though, the same could be said to Obama: how does he intend to unify the country by keeping Obamacare in place, given that it is unpopular with many Americans?) Obama also indulges in "extremism" rhetoric. Neither candidate says that he will refrain from calling his opponents names and will chastise his own supporters and members of his own party if they resort to name-calling.

"[T]he problem is not Romney but the new Republican Party. Given the direction in which it has moved and the pressures from its most extreme -- yet most powerful -- elements, any nominee would face the same challenge: Can you be a serious candidate for the general election while not outraging the Republican base?"
-- Commentator Fareed Zakaria, September 26, 2012.

"Finally, when he tries to make big government sound reasonable and inclusive, President Obama likes to say, “We’re all in this together.” And here, too, he has another handy straw man. Anyone who questions the wisdom of his policies must be lacking in compassion. Who else would question him but those mean people who think that everybody has to go it alone and fend for themselves. “We’re all in this together” -- it has a nice ring. For everyone who loves this country, it is not only true but obvious. Yet how hollow it sounds coming from a politician who has never once lifted a hand to defend the most helpless and innocent of all human beings, the child waiting to be born. Giving up any further pretense of moderation on this issue, and in complete disregard of millions of pro-life Democrats, President Obama has chosen to pander to the most extreme elements of his party."
-- GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), September 14, 2012, addressing the Values Voter Summit.

Comment: Again, it's true that Obama frequently caricatures Republicans as having no compassion or being unwilling to help others -- for instance, by calling them "Social Darwinists" -- but it's also a caricature to say that people who aren't pro-life when it comes to abortion are hypocrites when they say "we're all in this together". Abortion is a complicated moral dilemma involving moral standing and the extent of our duty to help others. The fact that someone supports the right to abortion doesn't mean they have no concern for others. A comparable distortion from the pro-choice side is to say that it's hypocritical for people who oppose abortion to also say they support women's rights. Ryan wouldn't accept that caricature, I'm sure, so he shouldn't be content to caricature others. This is also an example of "extremists" rhetoric.

"He's talked publicly since going into hiding, remaining defiant, saying that Islam is a cancer … And saying this was a deliberately provocative film to show, as he said, Mohammed is a fraud. And clearly the film showed him as a womanizer, a pedophile, a thug, and generally denigrated Islam. Now, there is, obviously, freedom of expression in this country. There is also 100-year law by the United States Supreme Court which says you can't cry fire in a crowded theater. So, now, one has to, really, try to figure out the extremists in this country and the extremists out there who are using this and whipping up hatred."
-- Anchor Christiane Amanpour, September 12, 2012. Amanpour was commenting on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, which some claimed was a reprisal for a film -- produced by a moviemaker in the U.S. -- that was deemed insulting to Muslims.

"The Democratic Party plank on abortion is the most extreme plank in the United States."
-- Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), September 2, 2012.

"A long history of social extremism makes Paul Ryan an emblem of the Republican tack to the far right."
-- Editorial from The New York Times, August 26, 2012.

"I can't speak to Governor Romney's motivations. What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some of the things that he's talked about."
-- President Barack Obama, August 23, 2012, during interview with the Associated Press published August 25, 2012.

Comment: Supposing that it's true that presidential candidate Romney's positions are extreme (how would you measure that?), that doesn't resolve the issue of whether those positions are wrong.

"Look, they love to paint me as this Big Government, tax-and-spend liberal. The truth is that growth in the federal government is slower than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower. Taxes are lower than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower. The tax reforms I’m calling for would simply take us back to the tax rates under Bill Clinton for people above $250,000, which means taxes will still be lower under me than they were under either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan. We’re not looking for anything radical here. And frankly, the country doesn’t need radical changes. What it needs is some commonsense solutions that stay focused on helping middle-class families."
-- President Barack Obama, August 21, 2012, during interview with White House correspondent for TIME Michael Scherer.

Comment: Obama is contrasting "radical" ideas against "common-sense" ones. But he doesn't specify what counts as radical or common-sense, so how are we to evaluate his claim that the changes he's proposing are the latter and not the former?

"[GOP presidential candidate Mitt] Romney and [GOP vice presidential candidate Paul] Ryan have put ideology ahead of what's right. … The embrace of an ideologue like Paul Ryan may appeal to the Republican Party's Tea Party base, but it will completely alienate independent voters, especially in battleground states. … Throughout this campaign, Mitt Romney has lacked a clear vision. Now he's embraced a radical ideologue with a dangerous one. This election is absolutely a choice between two visions for our country's future. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have solidified their roles as rubber stamps for the reckless and failed economic theories of the past."
-- Commentator and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, August 12, 2012.

Comment: There's a lot going on here. First, the "ideology" accusation. Then the claim that Romney and Ryan put ideology "ahead of what's right", as if they know what's right and best, and instead do something else. Rather, Romney and Ryan have a different idea of what policies are good for the country, different from Brazile and other Democrats. Then there's the accusation that Ryan is a radical. Finally, there is the "failed policies" accusation.

"The Van Jones thing. When it happened, I can't tell you the number of people who asked, "How did a guy like that get by Obama?" How did he get by? Obama wanted him there! So old Joe here is right. This guy at the EPA who couldn't wait to "crucify" Big Oil? "Gosh, how did some extremist like that get past Obama?" He is Obama! Obama is that guy! This is hard for people to get their arms around."
-- Radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, June 1, 2012.

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