Friday, January 23, 2015

Name-Calling Examples: 2008

"Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems -- as if we all didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all."
-- GOP Vice Presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin's (R-AK), September 3, 2008, at the Republican Party National Convention.

Comment: Palin is pushing back against the use of the "silver bullet" caricature against her by Democrats. However, she might be indulging in a caricature of her own by suggesting that Democrats want to "do nothing at all" on energy or drilling.

"It is almost a wrong phrase, the politics of George Bush. It is kind of the inane stupidity and for lack of good, the absolute evil of it".
-- Actor and director Sean Penn, May 14, 2008 [CNN-IBN: Cannes' opening had all the makings of a movie (May 16, 2008)].

Comment: This instance of name-calling has Penn demonizing Bush by deriding him as both evil and mentally deficient.

"All this is too complicated for your average liberal moron."
-- Radio talk show host Mark Levin, April 1, 2008.

Comment: Saying that liberals are morons is name-calling, caricaturing them as mentally deficient.

"Liberalism is a mental disease, a very serious mental disease."
-- Radio talk show host Michael Savage, April 1, 2008.

Comment: Obviously, Savage is not a fan of liberal policies. But saying that liberalism amounts to a mental disorder perfectly illustrates the kind of name-calling in which opponents are described as mentally deficient.

"Liberalism by definition is a lie. Liberal policies, liberal beliefs, liberal plans all fail. Liberals know it. Liberals are in it for a host of reasons other than end results that actually work. End results that work, that don't involve government, threaten liberals. But all of liberalism is a lie".
-- Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, March 26, 2008.

Comment: To say, as Limbaugh does, that liberals consciously lie about all of their political beliefs and are not even hoping to achieve any moral goals, is caricature and demonizing.

"I almost wish Jerry Falwell were alive to see this. Almost. ... Bill O'Reilly, who is too stupid to talk about ... Sean Hannity, the butt boy of Rupert Murdoch".
-- Actor and director Sean Penn, referring to several conservatives in February or March of 2008 [San Francisco: It's a wrap - 'Milk' filming ends in S.F. (March 18, 2008)].

Comment: The name-calling here ranges from describing one person as so bad that it is better that they are dead, describing another as stupid, and using a homophobic slur to refer to two more.

"It's not too soon to explain to people what [Senator Barack] Obama [(D, IL)] and his presidency would mean, either [Senator] Hillary [Clinton (D, NY)] or Obama. You listen to that debate last night as I listened to it and you're listening to two people argue about how to destroy capitalism. That's what I heard. How can we destroy capitalism? ... We're not just talking about people who want to create dependents. We're talking about two people that want as many Americans to become serfs - s-e-r-f, serfs - of the state, as they can make, as they can manufacture".
-- Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, February 27, 2008.

Comment: This is a caricature. Limbaugh may disagree with the wisdom of Clinton and Obama's policies on government spending and taxes, but it is false that they are trying to destroy capitalism and put Americans into forced servitude. Limbaugh is also demonizing Clinton and Obama by falsely accusing them of malicious intentions.

"The Republican Party has been in power for the sake of being in power".
-- Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, February 26, 2008.

Comment: Although there are probably people in both the Democratic and Republican parties who seek public office merely because they enjoy wielding power, Dean's claim that that is the ONLY motivation behind the Republican Party as a whole is derisive and false. It is name-calling and demonizing.

Radio commentator Michael Savage calls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton "two faces of evil" and says they are "not Americans".
-- February 21, 2008.

Comment: This is name-calling in the form of demonizing. In particular, Savage says they don't belong in this country.

"What is wrong with [43rd President] George Bush? That would take a really long time. Let's talk about what is right with him, it is a much shorter answer. He is a very good physical specimen. He shows that a man his age can stay in physical condition."
-- Singer/songwriter/musician Neil Young, February 8, 2008.

Comment: To say that Bush's political views are so irredeemably bad that there is nothing good to say about him beyond praising his physical health is both name-calling and exaggeration. Perhaps Young is joking, but the news reports don't support that interpretation, and I haven't found any video or audio of the quote in order to evaluate the tone in which this quote was delivered.

"...given the economic elitism of the modern Republican Party, populism is unavoidably partisan ... history shows that Republicans are very good at demonizing their opponents as individuals."
-- New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in "The Edwards Effect", February 1, 2008.

Comment: This is a caricature on two counts. First, Krugman's allegation of "economic elitism" caricatures Republican economic policies as being concerned only with the rich. Second, Krugman is falsely implying that it is only Republicans that are adept at demonizing opponents. The wealth of examples on this website demonstrates otherwise.

"I'm so proud of the job that the men and women in the military are doing there [in Iraq], and they don't want us to raise the white flag of surrender, like Senator Clinton does."
-- Senator John McCain (AZ), January 24, 2008, at the Florida Republican Debate.

Comment: McCain may disagree with Clinton's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq, but to describe her position as "raising the white flag of surrender" is exaggeration, if not outright caricature.

"[Hillary Clinton's] approach to the war in Iraq: just get out as fast as you can. Just -- don't even think about the sacrifice that's been made or the need to keep Al Qaeda from establishing safe havens."
-- Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA), January 24, 2008, at the Florida Republican Debate.

Comment: This is a distortion. Clinton believes that having a large U.S. military presence in Iraq reduces the incentive for the Iraqi government to take the initiative to address security challenges -- such as Al Qaeda. Romney may disagree with that belief, but to say that Clinton cares nothing at all about whether Al Qaeda establishes safe havens in Iraq is false.

Politicians "don't always say what they mean, or mean what they say...That is what this debate in this party is all about."
-- Barack Obama, January 23, 2008.

Comment: This is a caricature. Yes, it's true that politicians often say one thing and then do another. But Obama is implying that he's not that sort of politician whereas his opponents -- notably, Hillary Clinton -- are. But that's false. January 2007 has seen both the Clinton and Obama campaigns stoop to many of the same unfair tactics, despite Obama's call for a new and higher standard of political conduct.

"Senator [Hillary] Clinton said, 'Well, I voted for it, but I hoped the bill would die.'"
-- Barack Obama, January 23, 2008, referring to Clinton's vote on a 2001 bankruptcy bill.

Comment: This is a distortion. Obama is trying to portray Clinton as having a contradictory, both-yes-and-no position on the bill. But Clinton has clearly stated that, although she did vote for the bill, she had come to view her vote as a mistake and regretted it. Thus, she was pleased when the bill eventually failed to pass. If Obama wants to criticize her for not realizing soon enough that the bill was a bad idea, that's one thing. But to say that she was simultaneously in favor of and opposed to the bill is an outright misrepresentation of Clinton's position.

"The one thing that is clear is that when power is confronted with real change, they [referring to Bill and Hillary Clinton] will say anything."
-- Michelle Obama, wife of presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), January 23, 2008.

Comment: This is name-calling, and perhaps ad hominem argument as well. Although it is certainly the case that the Clinton campaign has resorted to unfair tactics, this "stop at nothing to hold on to power" accusation is false and derisive. (This accusation is made in lots of political contests, but is it ever true? Is there ever a candidate or politician who would literally say or do anything to achieve power? I doubt it.) Plus, pretty much every campaign uses unfair tactics at some point or another, Barack Obama's included. Does that mean it's fair to say "Barack Obama will say anything to become president"?

"The facts are that he [Senator Barack Obama] has said in the last week that he really liked the ideas of the Republicans over the last 10 to 15 years."
-- Senator Hillary Clinton, January 21, 2008, at the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) South Carolina Democratic Debate.

Comment: This is a distortion of Obama's comments. Obama had, in the week leading up to the debate, made comments about President Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party. He said the Republican Party had been "the party of ideas" in recent decades "in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom". He also said Reagan "changed the trajectory of America". Clinton alleged that these comments showed that Obama was praising Reagan and the Republican Party. But this is a misrepresentation. Although Obama may have been expressing admiration for Reagan and the Republican Party's dynamism, their ability to change the direction of the country and to challenge conventional wisdom, that is different from endorsing the particular direction they sent the country in and the particular ideas they espoused. And Obama has regularly criticized and taken positions that are at odds with the positions of Reagan and the Republican Party.

OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama, running for president and I approve this message.

ANNOUNCER: It's what's wrong with politics today. Hillary Clinton will say anything to get elected. Now she's making false attacks on Barack Obama. The Washington Post says Clinton isn't telling the truth. Obama "did not say that he liked the ideas of Republicans." In fact, Obama's led the fight to raise the minimum wage, close corporate tax loopholes and cut taxes for the middle class. But it was Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Tom Brokaw, who quote "paid tribute" to Ronald Reagan's economic and foreign policy. She championed NAFTA even though it has cost South Carolina thousands of jobs. And worst of all, it was Hillary Clinton who voted for George Bush's war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton. She'll say anything, and change nothing. It's time to turn the page. Paid for by Obama for America.
-- An ad – "Anything Radio" – from Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) campaign, January 2008, criticizing Democratic presidential contender Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Comment: Obama is responding to remarks in which Clinton distorted Obama's words: Obama wasn't supporting Republicans, he was only noting the success and popularity of their ideas in the 1980s and 1990s. However, in responding, Obama has resorted to the "they'll say anything" caricature.

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