In other words, they're saying that a particular political discussion has already been had and doesn't need to be had again.
But this is mistaken. Political issues are "moral issues writ large", and as such are perennial topics of debate. They're rife with conflicting moral priorities and empirical uncertainties, so what good argument is there that a political debate has been settled and there's no further call to discuss it?
The burden of proof is on the person instructing us not to "rehash" an certain political debate to explain why this particular debate should be different from so many others that have been appropriately debated for decades or even centuries.
EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS
DICKERSON: There's been a lot of commentary this week that this has been the worst week in your campaign. A lot of people want to stop you. Are they succeeding?-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, April 3, 2016, during interview with John Dickerson of CBS News. The two were discussing a question faced by Trump, in which he was asked whether women who had abortions should be punished if abortion were ever made illegal.
TRUMP: I don't know that it's been the worst week in my campaign. I think I have had many bad weeks, and I have had many good weeks. I don't see this as worst week in my campaign. But, certainly, I've had some weeks, and you've been reporting on them, where "that was the end," and then the next week you see poll numbers where they went up and everybody's shocked. So, yeah, people want to stop me because I'm leading by a lot. The new polls that came out had me leading by just about more than ever. NBC had a very good national poll that just came out. I guess I'm leading very big in New York and Pennsylvania.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about abortion. What would you do to further restrict women's access to abortions as president?
TRUMP: Well, look, look, I just -- I mean, I know where you're going, and I just want to say -- a question was asked to me, and it was asked in a very hypothetical -- and it was said, "Illegal, illegal." I've been told by some people that was a older line answer, and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago, very-- on a very conservative basis. But --
DICKERSON: Your original answer, you mean.
TRUMP: My original --
DICKERSON: Punishing the woman.
TRUMP: But I was asked as a hypothetical, hypothetically, hypothetically. The laws are set now on abortion, and that's the way they're going to remain until they're changed.
DICKERSON: Because you had said you wanted -- you told Bloomberg in January that you believed abortion should be banned at some point in pregnancy. Where would you --
TRUMP: Well l first of all, I would have liked to have seen, you know, this be a states' rights, I would have preferred states' rights. I think it would have been better if it were up to the states. But right now, the laws are set, and that's the way the laws are.
DICKERSON: But do you have a feeling how they should change? There are a lot of laws you want to change, you've talked about them from libel to torture, anything you'd want to change on abortion?
TRUMP: At this moment, the laws are set and I think he we have to leave it that way.
DICKERSON: Do you think it's murder, abortion?
TRUMP: I have my opinions on it, but I would rather not comment on it.
DICKERSON: You said you were very pro-life, pro-life views that abortion is murder.
TRUMP: Yeah, but I do have my opinions on it, but I'd rather -- I just don't think it's an appropriate forum.
DICKERSON: But you don't disagree that proposition, that it's murder?
TRUMP: What proposition?
DICKERSON: That abortion is murder.
TRUMP: No, I don't disagree with it.
Comment: Trump is evading questions on the basis of their being hypothetical or that the interview is "not an appropriate forum" (how is a political news program not an appropriate forum to discuss political positions?). Plus, by saying that the laws on abortion are "set", Trump seems to be saying that debating abortion is rehashing old issues.
"She always finds a way to make something good happen, to make people feel empowered, to buy people into the process, to make democracy work the way the Framers intended for it to work. Now, if you don’t believe that we can all grow together again, if you don’t believe that we’re ever going to grow again, if you believe it’s more important to relitigate the past, there may be many reasons that you don’t want to support her. But if you believe we can all rise together, if you believe we’ve finally come to the point where we can put the awful legacy of the last eight years behind us and the seven years before that when we were practicing trickle-down economics and no regulation in Washington, which is what caused the crash, then you should vote for her."-- Former President Bill Clinton, March 21, 2016, referring to his wife, Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton later clarified that the "awful legacy of the last eight years" her husband referred to was the hostility of Republicans to President Barack Obama.
Comment: This is "rehashing the past" rhetoric. Why is it wrong for people to criticize Hillary Clinton's past? Why is it OK for Bill Clinton to criticize – "relitigate"? – the past of the GOP? Plus, President Clinton's remarks about the "awful legacy of the last eight years" were ambiguous in their reference; many thought he was saying that Obama's presidency had been awful.
"On the Democratic side, we agree on a number of things. But I don't think we can answer that question by re-fighting battles from 20 years ago," Clinton said in a nod to the fact she backed the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal that Sanders has cited to attack the former first lady.-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, March 4, 2016, as related in a story by Dan Merica of CNN.
Clinton added, "Anyone running for president owes it to you to come up with real ideas, not an ideology, not an old set of talking points, but a credible strategy designed for the world we live in now. And that is exactly what I am here today to do."
Comment: This is "rehashing old debates", "talking points", and "ideologue" rhetoric. If people disagree with the North American Free Trade Agreement, why can't they criticize Clinton for supporting it? Why should such criticism be dismissed as talking points or ideology?
CALLER: If Trump is gonna be start with Bush number two being the -- being the part of the culprit, and when I read his language, when I read his words -- we all know words mean things -- he's partially putting blame on Bush 43 for the terrorist attacks.-- A caller to the Rush Limbaugh Show, Todd in San Diego, October 20, 2015, discussing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Earlier, Trump had said the country was not safe under President George W. Bush, given that the September 11, 2001, attacks happened while Bush was president.
LIMBAUGH: Yeah, he is. And he's --
CALLER: Well, okay, but why stop there? Let's go all the way back to Carter and Reagan. Because it was Ollie North that warned us in 1976 who the problem was. So it's not Bush 43 … I'm holding a double-edged sword 'cause I don't totally trust Trump. I don't agree with this tack for politics. I think it's, you know, more Trump kind of shooting off the hip again. I don't agree with it, because there's no purpose in rehashing old business, especially when it's completely not in proper context. I don't think Trump put this in proper context by going after Bush. He should have... Why didn't he go after Clinton? Our target is the left.
Comment: Todd is using "rehashing old debates" rhetoric. What's wrong about discussing the past?
Our nation is faced with all manner of heartbreak and chaos that needs our urgent attention, so why are many of you focused on reopening resolved issues like a woman's right to choose, the reality of Obamacare as law and America's longstanding tradition on immigration? My question: If you must go back into these issues, what will you do to resolve the new problems caused by the destruction of settled law and on-the-ground reality?-- Activist and actor Sharon Stone, from a September 15, 2015, list of questions posted on CNN for GOP presidential candidates.
Comment: Stone is accusing Republicans of rehashing old debates.
"With this case behind us, we’re going to keep working to make health care in America even better and more affordable, and to get more people covered. But it is time to stop refighting battles that have been settled again and again. It’s time to move on. Because as Americans, we don’t go backwards, we move forwards. We take care of each other. We root for one another’s success. We strive to do better, to be better, than the generation before us, and we try to build something better for the generation coming behind us. With this behind us, let’s come together and keep building something better right now."-- President Barack Obama, June 27, 2015, during the weekly presidential address.
Comment: First, this is "rehashing old battles" rhetoric. Why should opponents of the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") stop fighting to reverse a law they disagree with? When Democrat-proposed health care reform (known as "Hillarycare") was blocked in 1994, Democrats didn't consider the battle settled. They kept pushing for reform, and it was passed in 2010. Why should Republicans consider the passage of that reform to "settle" the issue? Second, it sounds like Obama is saying that his opponents are rooting for failure, and that his opponents are somehow not real Americans.
JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: In his remarks at the Ted Kennedy the other day, the president lamented that our politics today are not more purposeful and elevated. He also lamented that too often ideology gets in the way of basic respect. Those remarks struck me because this week we saw my CNN colleague Dana Bash do an interview with the Senate minority leader Harry Reid in which he asked him about his decision in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign to take to the Senate floor and accuse Mitt Romney of not paying his taxes, and when Dana Bash mentioned this to him, she mentioned how it seemed to some people McCarthyite. And of course no evidence has ever been produced that Mitt Romney failed to pay his taxes, and I wonder if President Obama, who has lamented this lack of civility in our politics, this disrespect in our politics, has any view of Harry Reid telling Dana Bash, "Well Romney didn't get elected did he?"-- White House press briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest April 1, 2015. The quote in question comes from a March 31, 2015, interview of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) by CNN's Dana Bash.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Well I haven't had the opportunity to talk to the president about Sen. Reid's interview. Obviously, Sen. Reid is somebody who is going to decide for himself about what he says on the Senate floor. He obviously is a vocal supporter of the president, and they have had a partnership that will go down in history as very productive. But ultimately, it is up to Sen. Reid to decide, what he is going to say on the House floor. There are a number of things Sen. Reid, over his career that, he has said pretty proudly were independent of the view of anyone else.
JAMES ROSEN: But it is the president's choice and his spokesman's choice to call out conduct unbecoming of our highest elected officials, when it is in fact unbecoming. Are you going to take this opportunity now?
JOSH EARNEST: Not when it is three years old.
Comment: First, this is the "not my decision" evasion. Yes, Reid is in charge of what Reid says, but that's true of most everybody, right? How does that prevent us from criticizing Reid's remarks (or anyone else's remarks, for that matter)? Second, there's no good reason that President Barack Obama can't police civility on remarks that are three years old. Obama recently criticized remarks made by Republicans about the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") back when it was passed in 2010, why can't he comment on remarks made in 2012?
"We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. It will have earned my veto."-- President Barack Obama, January 20, 2015, during the 2015 State of the Union address.
Comment: What is wrong with "refighting past battles"? When Obama came into office in 2009, he pushed for health care reform, comprehensive immigration reform, and a host of other causes that had been frequently discussed in politics. Was he wrong to "refight" these "past battles"? If it was OK for him to do so then, why can't his opponents do the same now? It can't be that "refighting past battles" is only OK depending on whether someone likes the result of those past battles.
(The list above is not intended to be a comprehensive record of all relevant examples.)