Friday, January 23, 2015

"Evil" and Demonization Examples: 2012

EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS: 2012 "Evil" and Demonization
"You know, the Republicans -- the disdain that I have seen for poor people, for people who are struggling, like senior citizens on Medicare and Social Security, for low income people and the Women Infant and Children [WIC] program -- we saw the Republicans, last week, vote to [sic] spending cuts that would literally take food out of the mouths of hungry babies."
-- Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), December 28, 2012.

Comment: Schakowsky is demonizing Republicans, saying that they want to cut programs that help poor people because they have "disdain" for them. She rules out the possibility that Republicans believe these programs are poorly managed or that they are unaffordable. Would Schakowsky accept it if she was accused of supporting these programs out of a desire to make people dependent on government so that she and other Democrats could hold power over them? If she doesn't like being demonized, she should demonize others.

"The American people I don't think understand, the House of Representatives is operating without the House of Representatives. It's being operated with a dictatorship of the Speaker, not allowing the vast majority of the House of Representatives to get what they want."
-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), December 27, 2012.

Comment: Though I assume Reid is using the "dictatorship" term metaphorically, this still seems like demonizing.

"A gunman whose name we do not need to memorialize took advantage of our gun control laws to slaughter some 20 children and seven adults in a Newton, Connecticut elementary school. In addition to the gunman, blood is on the hands of members of Congress and the Connecticut legislators who voted to ban guns from all schools in Connecticut (and most other states). They are the ones who made it illegal to defend oneself with a gun in a school when that is the only effective way of resisting a gunman. What a lethal, false security are the Gun Free Zone laws. All of our mass murders in the last 20 years have occurred in Gun Free Zones. The two people murdered a couple of days earlier in the shopping center in Oregon were also in a Gun Free Zone. Hopefully the Connecticut tragedy will be the tipping point after which a rising chorus of Americans will demand elimination of the Gun Free Zone laws that are in fact Criminal Safe Zones."
-- Executive Director of Gun Owners of America Larry Pratt, December 15, 2012, referring to the December 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Comment: Is this politicizing or exploiting the situation? Or even rooting for failure? I don't think so. It's reasonable to respond to a mass shooting by discussing what policies could help prevent such tragedies (which is not to say that Pratt's ideas about what accomplish that goal are correct). It could, however, be argued that Pratt's discussion of gun policy was "too soon". Also, is it really the case that gun control advocates are complicit in murder? Isn't that demonizing, or at least exaggeration?

"The sickening headline flashed across my computer screen this morning: “Multiple Deaths Reported in Connecticut School.” … Meanwhile, the gun lobby, timid politicians and the Supreme Court continue to aid and abet rampant gun violence that is nothing less than domestic terrorism, carried out with weapons of mass destruction that are too freely owned and carried."
-- Author Arnold Grossman, letter to the editor of The New York Times, published December 14, 2012, referring to the shooting that day at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Comment: This is demonizing. There are legitimate disagreements about what the best policy on guns is, and on what policies will do the best job of preventing mass killings. It is unfair to describe gun rights advocates as intentionally aiding terrorists.

Republicans in Congress like to find ways to hold the economy, and ordinary Americans, hostage to their ideological agenda. Just as they are once again threatening another phony debt ceiling crisis that will jeopardize the nation’s credit rating, they are, once again, threatening to withhold vital funds for Hurricane Sandy relief unless the Democrats agree to unrelated spending cuts.The White House has requested $60 billion in federal disaster relief to repair the damage caused by Sandy, but Republicans have balked. Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey called disaster relief “wasteful spending.” And four other right-wing Republicans told The Hill that they would demand cuts in other programs to offset the expense.
-- New York Times pundit Andrew Rosenthal, December 13, 2012.

Comment: This is demonizing -- describing Republicans as wanting to do what's wrong -- and "ideologues" and "hostage-taking" rhetoric.

"So the net end of this is, that while we apparently are in an improving economy with jobs being created -- so much that the unemployment rate is down to 7.7% -- we still have going to extend unemployment benefits for two million Americans who've already been on unemployment six months. They haven't gotten to their 99 weeks yet. This is a key. These people that we're talking about haven't hit their 99 weeks because the unemployment rate in the states they live in is under 9%.That's why they have to be extended. And since the Obama administration is about Santa Claus -- since the Obama administration is about buying loyalty and votes, since the Obama administration is about providing for people so that they don't have to work -- why does anybody think that's gonna stop after Obama wins (and, to boot, four days after Christmas)? … Mitt Romney was running around campaigning for the office of president of the United States, and among the things that he was saying was, "When I'm elected, I will put Americans back to work," and 51% of the people that voted said, "To hell with that!""
-- Radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, December 10, 2012.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing the people who voted for President Barack Obama. He is saying that the only explanation for people voting that way is that they're lazy, and they believe that Obama will enact government programs that will support them without having to do any work in return.

"Instead of smallpox, plagues, drought and Conquistadors, the Republican decline will be traced to a stubborn refusal to adapt to a world where poor people and sick people and black people and brown people and female people and gay people count."
-- Columnist Maureen Dowd, December 9, 2012.

Comment: Dowd is demonizing Republicans, saying that they don't care about the poor or the sick, and that they are racists, misogynists, and homophobes.

"Lt. Gov. Brian Calley repeatedly gaveled for order during the Senate debate as Democrats attacked the legislation to applause from protesters in the galley. At one point, a man shouted, "Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! That's what you people are." He was quickly escorted out."
-- Tribune wire report, December 7, 2012, "Michigan GOP approves right to work amid union protests".

Comment: The man referred to by the report is demonizing Republicans, saying they are as bad as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

"In the wake of the election, there's no doubt the Republican Party is capable of making some adjustments to rebrand itself. If nothing else, the party has demonstrated its proclivity for sloganeering and marketing and there are plenty of ways it can adjust its messaging. But it's obvious to anyone paying attention that the base simply won't allow the party to change in any meaningful way. The base is deeply encased within the twisted, alternate-reality looking glass that the GOP has been constructing throughout the last three decades: a realm of anger, racial resentment, distrust of government, hatred of immigrants and violently anti-choice misogynists and demagogues. The party has deliberately incited these tendencies via the conservative entertainment complex, as David Frum called it on Morning Joe -- AM talk radio, Fox News Channel and the like -- and augmented it with the generous contributions of wealthy financiers who bankroll everything from astroturf campaigns to the bulk-purchasing of every book-length screed by Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck. The problem this creates, of course, is that the Republican Party has been consumed by misinformed idiots with no substantial connection to the real world, and the first post-election PPP poll only serves to amplify this conclusion."
-- Columnist Bob Cesca, December 6, 2012.

Comment: Cesca is indulging in name-calling, against Republicans, demonizing them and saying that they are stupid, and that they are racists and bigots. Are there no moral considerations animating Republicans, only racism, misogyny, xenophobia, etc.? Cesca also indulges in "demagogue" rhetoric.

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.

"[Imagine that you are] at the beach and a tsunami or some disaster happens, and there are people who are drowning on that beach. People who are struggling. People who are barely hanging on. And you had a lifeguard trying to save them. Now, maybe not the best lifeguard in the world. Maybe a lifeguard that's made some mistakes. Maybe a lifeguard with big ears and a funny name, but a lifeguard that shows up and at least honestly is trying to help. And imagine you have another set of people who could help but won't. Who stand back and say, "No, no, don't throw a rope. In fact, when he throws a rope, cut the rope. Let the bodies pile up on the beach. Let the pain accumulate. Because our view is this -- if enough dead bodies pile up on this beach, they're going to fire the lifeguard and we can get the lifeguard's job." That was the strategy of the President's opponents from the very first day. Let the students drown in debt, don't help them. Let millions of Americans be thrown out in the street by banks that they just bailed out. Don't help them. Let 20 million Americans fall out of the middle-class into poverty on top of the existing poor, and don't do one thing to help them. Vote against our own bills. The President puts forward tax cuts for 98% of Americans, Republicans vote against tax cuts. The President puts forward tax cuts for small businesses, the Republican Party votes against tax cuts for small businesses. Let the bodies pile up on the beach. The president put forward help for veterans. The Republican Party votes against help for veterans. Let the bodies pile up on the beach. We don't care how much these kids suffered overseas. When they come home let them suffer, they'll vote against this president. Let the bodies pile up on the beach. And you were faced with the prospect of that kind of treachery, treasonous activity prevailing in America and we beat 'em. We beat 'em, we beat 'em, we stopped 'em. It did not work."
-- Former Special Advisor to the White House Van Jones, December 5, 2012, speaking at the 16th annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture.

Comment: Jones is demonizing Republicans, saying that they don't care about human suffering. He argues that this must be true, as it's the only way to explain how Republicans changed position on issues such as tax cuts, so that they are now obstructing things that they previously supported. But whether Republicans have actually flip-flopped in their positions is debatable: it might be, for instance, that the tax cuts they previously supported are different from the ones proposed by Obama, or that the economic conditions in which they're being introduced are different. It's not hypocritical to support some tax cuts and not others, or to support a tax cut during some economic circumstances but not others. But, even if Republicans have flip-flopped, does the only possible explanation for that behavior have to be that they have malicious, sinister intentions? What about when President Barack Obama or Democrats flip-flop (as they certainly have in the past): is the only possible explanation for that sinister? Jones is also suggesting that Republicans are unpatriotic by calling their behavior "treasonous".

"Dot 1. Obama tells Joe the Plumber that we need to raise taxes not to decrease our deficit, but because we “need to spread the wealth around.” Dot 2. Obama admits to Charlie Gibson that raising capital gains may well result in reduced revenues to the government, but he wants those taxes to go up anyway “out of fairness.” In other words, It’s not “fair” that these people earn all that money on their investment income. Dot 3. Obama tells the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (evil capitalists) “at some point you have to admit you’ve made enough money.” Dot 4. Obama submits a “fiscal cliff” plan to the congress (and the media) that not only calls for tax increases on the rich, but also for more spending! Here he shows that he wants the higher taxes so that he’ll have more money to spend, not for deficit reduction. If you connect these dots you will see that Obama’s insistence on a tax increase on the rich has absolutely nothing in the world to do with reducing our deficit. His primary motive is that he believes the wealthy in this country do not deserve the money they have. That money is ill-gotten games --- earned by oppressing the middle class. And Obama is going to correct this problem by seizing the money from those evil exploitive rich people and spend it on his constituency. Remember … Obama also said that America is great because of government spending. Money spent by government is good. Money spent by rich people is bad. This is ALL class warfare. Every bit of it."
-- Radio pundit Neal Boortz, December 4, 2012.

Comment: Boortz is demonizing Obama, accusing him of believing that rich people are evil. Boortz is also indulging in "war" rhetoric by saying Obama is engaging in "class warfare".

OBAMA: It's not me being stubborn. It's not me being partisan. It's just a matter of math. You know, there's been a lot of talk, that somehow we can raise $800 billion or a trillion dollars worth of revenue just by closing loopholes and deductions. But a lot of your viewers understand that the only way to do that would be if you completely eliminated, for example, charitable deductions. Well, if you eliminate charitable deductions that means every hospital and university and non-for-profit agency across the country, would suddenly find themselves on the verge of collapse. So that's not a realistic option.
LIMBAUGH: Yeah, right on. That's BS. You're not gonna let 'em collapse. You'll become the sole benefactor. That's the plan.
-- Rush Limbaugh, December 4, 2012, commenting on remarks made by President Barack Obama earlier that day.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing Obama by saying that Obama would like it if hospitals, universities, and non-for-profit agencies became dependent on government (presumably because it would increase Obama's power).

"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.

"Unfortunately, some on the other side of the aisle are advocating a disastrous Thelma and Louise strategy that would take us over the cliff, putting millions of middle-class families, small businesses, and our already weak economy in further jeopardy. They want more and more of the American people’s tax dollars to spend without putting in place any meaningful and responsible reforms to the biggest government programs on the books. That just doesn’t make sense."
-- Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-UT), December 1, 2012, during the weekly GOP address.

Comment: This seems like demonizing. It's not the case that Democrats don't want meaningful and responsible reforms on big government programs. Rather, they disagree with Republicans about which reforms of big government programs are meaningful and responsible.

"Democrats were the knuckle-draggers on race and populist economic reform in the 19th century, Republicans in the latter half of the 20th. … Conservatives of the last decade lost their way by rejecting science, immigration reform and personal freedom, particularly in regard to choices made by women and gays. If you believe in climate change, finding a path to citizenship for millions of hard-working Hispanics and the right to marry the person you love, there is no place in the Republican Party of 2012 for you."
-- Columnist Timothy Egan, November 29, 2012.

Comment: This is name-calling. Egan can criticize the political views of others without resorting to "knuckle-draggers", can't he? And is it rejecting science to be skeptical about some portion of the issue of climate change? Are you opposed to all immigration reform if you oppose a path to citizenship for people (Hispanic or otherwise) who broke immigration and/or border law? Is it rejecting all personal freedom if you oppose gay marriage? Aren't these hasty generalizations, and ones that serve to demonize Republicans or cast them as stupid? Would it be fair to generalize the same way about Democratic positions? For instance, to say that, because they oppose enforcing immigration and border laws on immigrants who have broken those laws, therefore they oppose the rule of law altogether? No, of course not. Nor are Egan's descriptions fair.

"Folks, there is an all-out assault -- forget the word "rich." There's an all-out assault on successful people. There is an all-out assault on prosperity and the future is that government will determine prosperity and will assign it, and they'll also punish it."
-- Radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, November 29, 2012.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric, in that Limbaugh is likening the behavior of Democrats to assault. Limbaugh is also demonizing Democrats, saying that they want to punish success.

"[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 was successfully defined via negative advertising by the Obamaites in the campaign. When Romney was busy raising money, Obama couldn't run ads or even a campaign on his record. There's not one positive thing Obama could say about his record, so the Democrats did what they always do. They set out to demonize their opponents, which is standard operating procedure for them. They demonize all their critics, try to discredit them and so forth, clear the playing field of them. … we had ads and a campaign strategerist, the lovely and beautiful Stephanie Cutter, claiming that Romney was a felon and that he was a corporate criminal and he had all these secret bank accounts and that he didn't care about you. None of it was true. … who are these people that believe these ads? … Look, folks, we gotta be honest. Hard work is not what an Obama voter is interested in. So the message doesn't resonate. But still, who are these people that believe this drivel, these lies, who are these people that believe all of this rotten stuff about George W. Bush that was put out? We don't run ads like that about people, do we? We never attacked Obama's character, his humanity or any of that stuff, and we could have … We didn't go anywhere near that. We are always aboveboard."
-- Radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, November 8, 2012.

Comment: First, Limbaugh is indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature by claiming that only Democrats -- and not Republicans -- resort to demonizing and "negative" politics, and that Republicans never attacked Obama's character. Of course they do, and of course they did. They're not "always aboveboard". Second, Limbaugh is using "negative politics" rhetoric, but to his credit he's defining the term to mean "demonizing" (he's just wrong that Republicans and conservatives don't engage in demonizing). Third, Limbaugh is demonizing people who voted for Obama by saying they are opposed to hard work. Lastly, Limbaugh is saying that Romney and the Republicans lost the 2012 election because they wouldn't stoop to the misbehavior that (allegedly only) Obama and Democrats do, which is "virtuous loser" rhetoric.

BIDEN: "Look, I don’t doubt [Romney's] personal generosity. … I don’t doubt his personal commitment to individuals. But you know what? I know he had no commitment to the automobile industry. He just -- he said, let it go bankrupt, period. Let it drop out. … And I’ve never met two guys who’re more down on America across the board. We’re told everything’s going bad. … Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy. Show me a policy where you take responsibility."
-- 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 is demonizing Romney and Ryan, saying that their failure to support the bailout of GM and Chrysler shows that they don't care about people, and that their criticism of Obama's handling of the economy is the result of not liking America (i.e., "rooting for failure"?). This is unfair. Obama and Biden chose not to bail out many companies and industries, does that prove that they don't care about the people who worked in them? Or is it just that they thought that the money would better serve people by being used for something else? Couldn't we characterize Romney and Ryan's opposition to the GM-Chrysler bailouts the same way? And criticizing Obama's economic record doesn't amount to "being down on America" any more than Biden was "down on America" when he was criticizing President George W. Bush's record on the economy or on Iraq. Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan don't differ because the former care about people while the latter don't (though Biden might like to caricature the disagreement that way); they differ because they disagree about what policies are more effective at doing what's best for people.

BIDEN: "Look, I -- I just -- I mean, these guys bet against America all the time."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Comment: This is derisive name-calling. The fact that Republicans like Ryan and Romney have been critical of the Obama administration's foreign policy doesn't mean they're "betting against America". Biden is demonizing Republicans, here, perhaps questioning their patriotism or suggesting that they're rooting for failure.

ROMNEY: "You put $90 billion into green jobs. And, look, I’m all in favor of green energy. Ninety billion -- that would have hired two million teachers. Ninety billion dollars. And these businesses, many of them have gone out of business. I think about half of them -- of the ones that have been invested in have gone out of business. A number of them happen to be owned by people who were contributors to your campaigns."
-- GOP presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), October 3, 2012, during the first presidential debate between Romney and President Barack Obama.

Comment: Romney notes that green energy businesses that got government money were people who donated money to Obama's campaign. Romney doesn't say it, but the implication is that something illicit occurred, where Obama rewarded campaign donors with government investment money. If Romney has evidence that this is what happened, he should say so, rather than making an unsubstantiated accusation of wrongdoing (which amounts to demonizing).

OBAMA: "I want to talk about the values behind Social Security and Medicare, and then talk about Medicare because that’s the big driver of our deficits right now. My grandmother, some of you know, helped to raise me -- my grandparents did. My grandfather died a while back. My grandmother died three days before I was elected President. And she was fiercely independent. … And the reason she could be independent was because of Social Security and Medicare. She had worked all her life, put in this money, and understood that there was a basic guarantee, a floor under which she could not go. And that’s the perspective I bring when I think about what’s called entitlements. The name itself implies some sense of dependency on the part of these folks. These are folks who've worked hard, like my grandmother, and there are millions of people out there who are counting on this. So my approach is to say, how do we strengthen the system over the long term."
-- 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 speaks as if there's a disagreement about values rather than methods. Romney and Obama agree that their should be a government system that helps out the elderly. They differ on how it should work -- e.g., whether we should have a single-payer system that pays for health care for the elderly or a voucher / premium support system that helps them purchase health insurance. The question is an empirical one about what system works better at attaining something we value (i.e., health care for the elderly). But Obama seems to be implying that Romney doesn't share the value at all, an implication that amounts to derisive name-calling.

"See, when they skipped town, Members of Congress left a whole bunch of proposals sitting on the table -- actions that would create jobs, boost our economy, and strengthen middle-class security. These ideas have been around for months. The American people want to see them passed. But apparently, some Members of Congress are more worried about their jobs and their paychecks this campaign season than they are about yours."
-- President Barack Obama, September 22, 2012.
"All that we need now is leaders who have the political will to save and strengthen Social Security. But when it comes to protecting this program, President Obama has come up short. The President has no plan -- and no plan doesn’t mean leaving Social Security as it is; it means letting it grow weaker. Inaction today will mean sharp cuts tomorrow. Time and again, this President has ducked the tough issues. He’s put his own job security over your retirement security."
-- GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), September 21, 2012.

Comment: In both cases, the claim is that "my opponents care about themselves more than they care about you". Obama and Ryan are each trying to get us believe that their opponents don't have legitimate reasons for disagreeing with them. Their opponents aren't motivated by any moral considerations. Rather, they're only motivated by concern for their own re-election. (Obama is also indulging in some "Americans want" rhetoric, here.) Ryan and Obama, as is typical, are adopting the worst interpretation of their opponents actions, and it amounts to name-calling, demonizing. This is just the usual attempt to cast a political disagreement as good people vs bad people, when it's actually a disagreement between two groups about what the best course of action is.

"You know, we have had a lot of bad news this week. On my way over, I was reading another story about a distant place where thugs had put 400,000 children out in the streets. And then I realized that was a story about the Chicago teachers strike".
-- Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), September 14, 2012, addressing the Values Voter Summit.

Comment: If DeMint believes that the teachers strike is unfair to the children who are taught by those teachers, then he should explain why. But calling them "thugs" is false and derisive. He can and should make his case without resorting to name-calling.

"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.

"On every issue, the choice you face won't be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future. Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known; the values my grandfather defended as a soldier in Patton's Army; the values that drove my grandmother to work on a bomber assembly line while he was gone. They knew they were part of something larger -- a nation that triumphed over fascism and depression; a nation where the most innovative businesses turned out the world's best products, and everyone shared in the pride and success -- from the corner office to the factory floor."
-- President Barack Obama, September 6, 2012, addressing the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: This seems like a derisive caricature. Is Obama saying that Republicans don't share the values that Americans (like General George S. Patton) had as they fought to defeat the Nazis in World War II? That they don't believe that they're part of something larger than themselves?

"You know what? That's not who we are. That's not what this country's about. As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights -- rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative. We're not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system -- the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known. But we also believe in something called citizenship -- a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations. … We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense."
-- President Barack Obama, September 6, 2012, addressing the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: Republicans don't believe in citizenship? They don't believe that we have obligations to one another and to future generations? Of course they believe that, they just disagree about how much of a role government should play in fulfilling those obligations. Obama is derisively distorting Republicans. Also, Obama seems to be implying that Republicans aren't real Americans or are somehow unpatriotic.

"But we don't think that government is the source of all our problems -- any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles."
-- President Barack Obama, September 6, 2012, addressing the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: This is another derisive caricature. Republicans don't believe that government is the source of all our problems any more than Democrats believe that government is the solution to all our problems. Nor do Republicans believe that welfare recipients, immigrants, etc., are the source of all our problems.

"If you reject the notion that this nation's promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election. … if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November."
-- President Barack Obama, September 6, 2012, addressing the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: These are platitudes. Of course, we all believe that "America's promise" (whatever it is) should be for everyone, not just the few. However, Republicans and Democrats disagree about what policies do the best job of creating equal opportunity. And we all want fairness, we just disagree about what constitutes fairness and about which policies will attain it. To say otherwise is just derisive caricature.

"We listened to Senators, Congressmen, outside advisors, even some of our own advisors say -- we shouldn’t step in, the risks were too high, the outcome too uncertain. The President patiently listened. But he didn’t see it their way. He understood something they didn’t. He understood that this wasn’t just about cars. It was about the Americans who built those cars and the America they built."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, September 6, 2012, addressing the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: It's a derisive distortion to say that people (for instance, GOP candidate Mitt Romney) who opposed the auto bailouts somehow didn't understand that this was an issue that affected real people and not just cars. Of course they understood that, but they disagreed about whether bailing out GM and Chrysler was the best course of action regarding a whole host of people.

"Governor Romney believes that kids-the kids we call DREAMers -- those immigrant children who were brought to America at a very young age, through no fault of their own -- he thinks they’re a drag on America."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, September 6, 2012, addressing the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: This is another derisive distortion. There are reasons to oppose the DREAM Act that don't depend on viewing immigrants who were brought here illegally as children as "a drag on America". For instance, someone might agree with the proposal that military service should be sufficient to give DREAM Act children legal residence, but not with the proposal that going to college should render the same result.

"I told you the choice is stark. Two different visions. Two different value sets. And at its core, the difference is, we have incredible faith in the decency, and the hard work of the American people. And we know what has made this country great -- its people. … I’ve got news for Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, it has never, never, ever, been a good bet to bet against the American people."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, September 6, 2012, addressing the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: Republicans don't have faith in the decency and the hard work of the American people? That's just another derisive distortion. And, just because Romney and Ryan support different policies than Obama and Biden doesn't mean that they're somehow betting against the American people.

"If you want -- if you want America -- if you want every American to vote and you think it is wrong to change voting procedures just -- just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority, and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama."
-- President Bill Clinton, September 5, 2012, during his address at the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: Claiming that Republicans support voter ID laws so that they can disenfranchise minorities and other groups that support Democrats is demonizing. It's just as much of a derisive caricature as when Republicans say that Democrats oppose voter ID laws because they want fraudulent voters to help them win elections.

"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."
-- GOP presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), August 30, 2012, at the Republican Party National Convention.

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.

"I'm the newcomer to the campaign, so let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power. They've run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they've got left. With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money— and he's pretty experienced at that. You see, some people can't be dragged down by the usual cheap tactics, because their ability, character, and plain decency are so obvious— and ladies and gentlemen, that is Mitt Romney."
-- GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), August 29, 2012, at the Republican Party National Convention.

Comment: Democrats are desperate to keep power? This is similar to the way that Howard Dean demonized Republicans on February 26, 2008. Ryan is also making the "fear-mongering" accusation as well as the "divisive" accusation. I think there's an implicit "only my opponent does it" caricature here, as well.

"Let me be clear with the American people tonight. Here's what we believe as Republicans and what they believe as Democrats. … They believe that the American people don't want to hear the truth about the extent of our fiscal difficulties. They believe the American people need to be coddled by big government. They believe the American people are content to live the lie with them. … They believe seniors will always put themselves ahead of their grandchildren, and here's what they do. They prey on their vulnerabilities and scare them with misinformation for the single cynical purpose of winning the next election. Here's their plan: whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power when we fall. … They believe the educational establishment will always put themselves ahead of children, that self-interests will always trump common sense. They believe in pitting unions against teachers; educators against parents, lobbyists against children. They believe in teachers' unions. We believe in teachers."
-- Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), August 28, 2012, giving the keynote address at the GOP National Convention.

Comment: This is a derisive caricature. Democrats and Republicans have legitimate differences of opinion regarding how bad the fiscal problems of the federal government are and regarding the best way to solve them. This isn't an argument between people who don't care about truth and people who do, to say that it is just name-calling of the sort that describes your opponents as intentionally doing what's wrong. It's also an accusation of fear-mongering. Christie wouldn't like it if Democrats caricatured him and Republicans as people who don't care about the poor, the elderly, or about investing in our children (as they will likely do in next week's Democratic Party National Convention), he shouldn't engage in the same misbehavior.

"[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.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement, and the government should give it to them, and they will vote for this president no matter what. And, I mean, the President starts off with 48, 49 -- he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So, our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. He’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And, so, my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon, in some cases, emotion, whether they like the guy or not".
-- GOP presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), May 17, 2012, speaking at a fundraiser (video released September 17, 2012).

Comment: Romney is demonizing people by saying they have all rejected taking personal responsibility for their lives (i.e., they're not working for a living), and that they will therefore only vote for a candidate (i.e., President Barack Obama) who will have government pay their way for them. This is a derisive caricature. No doubt, there are probably some people on government assistance who fit this bill, but not all of them. Some are disabled or elderly, they haven't rejected personal responsibility. And it's far from clear that, of the people on government assistance, none of them would vote for Romney. Romney's comments were worse than "not elegantly stated", they were demonizing.

"What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before those days, when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin. Why are we allowing our country to move backwards instead of moving forward?"
-- Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), March 8, 2012.

Comment: Palin is baselessly accusing Obama of having sinister intentions.

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