Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hypocrisy and Flip-Flopping Examples: 2012

EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS: 2012 Hypocrisy and Flip-Flopping
"the current budget deficit is overwhelmingly the result of the depressed economy … So, the whole deficit panic is fundamentally misplaced. And it’s especially galling if you look at what many of the same people now opining about the evils of deficits said back when we had a surplus. Remember, George W. Bush campaigned on the basis that the surplus of the late Clinton years meant that we needed to cut taxes -- and Alan Greenspan provided crucial support, telling Congress that the biggest danger we faced was that we might pay off our debt too fast. Now Greenspan is helping groups like Fix the Debt."
-- Columnist Paul Krugman, December 29, 2012.

Comment: Krugman is making an accusation of hypocrisy. That is, he is saying that Greenspan (and others, though he doesn't name them) are expressing concern about the debt and deficits even though they didn't previously. First, this change isn't necessarily inconsistent. One might claim that circumstances earlier were different from now, and that therefore the deficit and debt that might have been unproblematic earlier may no longer be. Second, supposing that it is inconsistent, is it a change of position that is negative -- as in a "flip-flop" -- or positive -- as in an "evolution"? If Krugman is arguing that the hypocrisy demonstrates that Greenspan's position (earlier or later) is wrong, then he's engaging in ad hominem reasoning.

"[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".

OBAMA: Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, this plant kills, and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal. So what I’ve tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter.
-- President Barack Obama, October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: What Romney has said isn't contradictory. As pointed out by PolitiFact, Romney was referring to one plant that had a history of problems. Romney wasn't saying all coal plants kill and that they should all be shut down. You can be an advocate for coal power while wanting some poorly run plants to be closed down, which is akin to what Obama himself calls for in the quote above. Similarly, you can be an advocate for car manufacturing while calling for some poorly operating cars to be discontinued through fuel efficiency standards, like the ones Obama has advocated. Obama is making a baseless accusation that Romney is flip-flopping. (PolitiFact ranks Obama's statement "True" despite the false implication that Romney was opposing all coal plants.)

RYAN: "What we should not be doing is saying to the Egyptian people, while Mubarak is cracking down on them, that he’s a good guy and, in the next week, say he ought to go."
-- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), October 11, 2012, during the vice presidential debate in Danville, KY, between Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden.

Comment: Did the Obama administration do this? Did they praise Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak one week and then call for his ouster the next? Or is this a false accusation of a flip-flop?

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