Friday, January 23, 2015

Name-Calling Examples: 2007

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) accuses President George W. Bush (R) of "pulling the strings on the 49 puppets he has here in the Senate."
-- December 4, 2007.

Comment: Reid was expressing frustration that the 49 Republicans in the Senate were stopping passage of a certain piece of tax legislation. His statement is name-calling -- deriding the Republican senators as being mere minions with no initiative of their own, and implying that there are no legitimate reasons to be opposed to the legislation. (To the contrary, tax policy is almost always legitimately controversial, there being pros and cons to any particular piece of legislation.)

"I don't mind taking hits on my record on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud at least we can hope it's accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook."
-- Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Hillary Clinton (NY), November 15, 2007.

Comment: This is an interesting example, because Clinton is caricaturing her own party, the Democrats, by implying that Democrats typically don't resort or uncivil debate (in contrast to Republicans). This is false: both parties routinely engage in uncivil debate.

Jim Cramer, a financial commentator on CNBC, speaking about New York State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, says "Cuomo's about confiscation -- genuine communist".
-- November 7, 2007.

Comment: This is a distortion of Cuomo's positions on taxes and spending. Cuomo is not calling for the abolition of free markets, the creation of a planned, command economy, and the institution of one-party rule. There may be good reasons to oppose Cuomo's economic ideas, but to call Cuomo a communist is an outright distortion.

"You [Republicans] don't have money to fund the war or [health care for] children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement...The truth is that Bush just likes to blow things up, in Iraq, in the United States, and in Congress."
-- Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), October 18, 2007.

Comment: This is a standard attribution of callousness, saying that your political opponent wants people to be killed, and is even entertained by it.

"Well, let me give the governor a description that he might consider for himself. How about spoiled rich kid brat who is treating New York residents as if he thinks they're his rich father's tenants, instead of citizens? I wonder what the governor would think of that."
-- CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, October 17, 2007, speaking about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

"Today, being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised. It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them. So if science says that we have a big problem that can't be solved with tax cuts or bombs -- well, the science must be rejected, and the scientists must be slimed."
-- New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, October 15, 2007.

Comment: This is caricature. There are several contemporary Republicans who have supported tax increases (for instance, presidential candidate and former governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR)). Republicans have supported negotiations on several issues with several different countries, and no Republican has advocating bombing and/or bullying all foreigners. Finally, there are plenty of Republicans who appeal to science to solve problems rather than "tax cuts or bombs".

Political advocacy group runs an ad in the New York Times suggesting that Gen. David Petraeus -- the head of U.S. forces in Iraq -- be referred to as "General Betray Us" in light of his testimony to Congress regarding the conflict in Iraq.
-- September 10, 2007.

Comment: This is standard name-calling, attributing sinister motives to those with whom you disagree.

A political ad run by the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton (D, NY) says that struggling American families and American soldiers are "invisible" to President George W. Bush.
-- August 14, 2007.

Comment: Another example of the claim that one's opponent is indifferent to the suffering of others.

Radio and TV talk show host Sean Hannity, in the opening monologue of his radio show, refers to his opponents as the "daily kook crowd", an apparent reference to Daily Kos.
-- August 10, 2007.

"[Smaller, less intrusive government is] what makes America great, not this nanny government that Democrats want to give us, where government controls your entire life."
-- Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, July 30, 2007.

Comment: This is caricature. Democrats may want more intervention in the lives of Americans than Giuliani finds acceptable, but they do not want government to control people's entire lives any more than Republicans want to eliminate all government, including police departments.

"This guy is brain-dead".
-- Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), July 4, 2007. Biden was referring to President George W. Bush. [NYTimes blog, The Caucus: Biden Talks Tough (July 4, 2007).]

Comment: In this standard example of name-calling, Biden derides a political opponent as being mentally deficient.

"It is no comfort to watch as this generation's Know-Nothings bray against 'amnesty' from their anchor chairs and campaign lecterns, knowing that it gives hope to the people they hate."
-- The New York Times' editorial page, "The Immigration Deal," May 20, 2007.

Comment: This exhibits both of the standard ways of deriding your opponent: calling them stupid ("Know-Nothings"), and claiming they are motivated by sinister intentions (in this case, hatred).

"I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I'm -- so, kind of at an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards, so I think I'll just conclude here and take your questions."
-- Ann Coulter, author and columnist, March 2, 2007.

President George W. Bush is "a Beelzebub -- and a dumb one."

Comment: This instance of name-calling involves both demonizing AND calling someone mentally deficient.

President George W. Bush's economic policies are "Social Darwinism -- every man or woman for him or herself".
-- Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, March 27, 2007, [AP: Obama Accuses Bush of 'Social Darwinism'], July 25, 2005 [AFL-CIO National Convention] and June 4, 2005 [Commencement Address: Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois].

Comment: This is a distortion of Bush's policies. Bush never called for the elimination of all government aid, and has in fact supported and signed into law programs that provide such aid (along with supporting private charity). It would be one thing for Obama to say that he believes Bush has failed to provide enough aid or the right kind of aid from the government; but to say that Bush opposes giving any help whatsoever is false, and serves to unjustly demonize Bush.

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