Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Patriotism and "Real Americans" Examples: 2012

EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS: 2012 Patriotism and "Real Americans"
"Personalities matter. This president has a chance as he did in ‘09 to come in and say 'I’m going to sit down and work with you. We’re going to be bipartisan, we’re going to put the country first', or he has a chance to do what he did in ’09, which is say, 'I’m going to write a stimulus package with only Democrats and ram it through unread'. He can continue down the road he’s on right now. He -- he guarantees a permanent war because everybody on the right at every level sooner or later is going to get sick of it."
-- Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), December 9, 2012, on NBC's "Meet the Press".

Comment: Gingrich is indulging in many kinds of rhetoric here: "bipartisan" rhetoric, patriotism rhetoric (how is Obama not putting the country first?), and "war" rhetoric.

"[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".

"Here’s what we know about the political context of our fiscal challenges: … The American people, whose trust in government has plunged to near-historic lows, want the parties to resolve their differences through an approach that requires compromise on both sides. … The American people are sick of delay. They are sick of pretend solutions that address the politics of our problems rather than the problems themselves. … Getting this done will require a rebirth of leadership. Specifically: Tell the people the full truth. … Tell us how big the problem is … And once and for all, agree on the facts, so that we can spend our time on the real issues. Govern for the future. … Put the country first. … Finally: work together. … there are only two options: bipartisan compromise and success, or partisan gridlock and failure. There is no third choice, and it’s time for our leaders -- all of them -- to stop pretending that there is. … It’s time for real leadership. And that means it’s time for truth."
-- Political advisor Mark McKinnon and political advisor William Galston, December 4, 2012, in jointly-written article, "With the Fiscal Cliff Looming, It’s Time to Take Politics Off the Table".

Comment: First, McKinnon and Galston are indulging in "Americans want" rhetoric. What is their evidence for their claims about what the American people want or are sick of? Second, what do they mean about "pretend solutions that address the politics" of the situation? They don't specify, though it sounds like "politicizing" rhetoric. What do they believe that politicians are doing that isn't responsive to legitimate aspects of the problems we face? Third, the demand that we should agree on the facts is difficult to follow. The world isn't an open book, we have legitimate disagreements about what's happened in the past (and why it happened) as well as what's likely to happen in the future. This is especially true in social sciences, such as economics. Finally, McKinnon and Galston are indulging in platitudes -- "govern for the future", "put the country first", and "work together" -- without giving much in the way of specifics about how to do so. Are politicians really not putting country first in their disagreements on these issues? Again, how are they supposed to "take politics off the table"?

"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.

OBAMA: I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. You know, when Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt, I said, we’re going to bet on American workers and the American auto industry, and it’s come surging back.
-- President Barack Obama, October 16, 2012, during the second presidential debate in Hempstead, NY, between Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: This is a distortion. Romney never said he wanted Detroit to go bankrupt. He said he didn't think GM and Chrysler should get bailouts. GM and Chrysler are not the totality of the US auto industry -- referred to as "Detroit" by Obama -- there is Ford along with foreign manufacturers that have factories in the US and employ US auto workers (like Chrysler, which is now owned by Italy's Fiat). More, without bailouts, GM and Chrysler would not necessarily have gone out of business. Many companies go through the legal process of bankruptcy and continue to do business. Also, Obama is perhaps questioning the patriotism of people who opposed the auto bailouts by saying he "bet on American workers", as if refusing to bail out an American company means you don't support American workers or believe that they can succeed.

BIDEN: "[W]e are arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. Of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, $800 million -- billion of that goes to people making a minimum of $1 million. We see no justification in these economic times for those, and they’re patriotic Americans. They’re not asking for this continued tax cut."
-- 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 "Americans want" rhetoric. How does Biden know that absolutely no high income people want this tax cut continued? And Biden suggests that it would be unpatriotic if they did ask for the tax cut to be continued. Is it fair to question the patriotism of someone who wants a tax cut?

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.

"It's time for a new economic patriotism. Rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong, thriving middle class. Read my plan. Compare it to Governor Romney's and decide for yourself. Thanks for listening."
-- President Barack Obama, September 27, 2012, in ad for his presidential campaign.

Comment: By describing his own plan as the "new economic patriotism", is Obama implying that Romney's policies are the old economic patriotism, or just not patriotic at all?

"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.

"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.

"Our platform, crafted by Democrats, is not about partisanship but pragmatism; not about left or right, but about moving America and our economy forward. Our platform -- and our president -- stand firm in the conviction that America must continue to out-build, out-innovate and out-educate the world. … We also must pull from our highest ideals of justice and protect against those ills that destabilized our economy -- like predatory lending, over-leveraged financial institutions and the unchecked avarice of the past that trumped fairness and common sense. … Our platform calls for a balanced deficit reduction plan where the wealthy pay their fair share. And when your country is in a costly war, with our soldiers sacrificing abroad and our nation facing a debt crisis at home, being asked to pay your fair share isn't class warfare -- it's patriotism. But we all know -- it's common sense -- that for an economy built to last we must invest in what will fuel us for generations to come. … Let us not fall prey to rhetoric that seeks to gut investment and starve our nation of critical, common-sense building for our future. … You should be able to afford health care for your family. You should be able to retire with dignity and respect."
-- Convention Co-Chair Mayor Cory Booker (D-Newark), September 4, 2012, during his speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Comment: Booker employs a lot of rhetoric, here, that needs clarification. First, how is the platform "pragmatic" rather than partisan? The distinction between pragmatism and ideology is seldom explained by politicians. Second, Booker employs platitudes by invoking ideals that everyone favors. For instance, we all want affordable health care for everyone and to have top-notch education for our kids, the question is which policies best achieve that goal. And we all want people to pay their fair share, the question is what does fairness demand in particular with respect to taxes and spending. Third, Booker invokes "common-sense" without specifying what it is that amounts to common knowledge. Who is it in terms of financial institutions or political opponents who has behaved -- in Booker's view -- without common-sense? Lastly, Booker invokes patriotism. But, again, he doesn't specify what counts as fairness, so he also doesn't specify what counts as patriotism. Is he saying that people who disagree with the Democratic platform on taxes are unpatriotic?

"You see, we're not afraid. We are not afraid. We're taking our country back".
-- Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), August 28, 2012, giving the keynote address at the GOP National Convention.

Comment: Take the country back from whom? "Take back our country" rhetoric is pretty standard fare in politics, but it suggests that the country needs to be taken back from people who aren't patriotic or aren't American.

"And we understand the big gap there is between what he [President Barack Obama] promises and what he hopes and what he actually delivers. And that's why this November the people of Ohio are going to make sure we get a Republican in the White House and take back America."
-- Presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney, August 25, 2012.

Comment: "Take back America" from whom?

"There's this idea that these people are radically right-wing, and they're against everything that we accept. The unions are part of the American society. We play an important role. Business plays an important role. There is a political link. We are all part of a fabric that makes this country run. They don't accept us as being there. They want to knock us out. And that's what we have to fight."
-- President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters James "Jimmy" Hoffa, Jr., August 22, 2012, referring to presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Hoffa is accusing Romney of rejecting unions as being un-American. Though Romney might not support unions as Hoffa would like him to, there's little evidence that Romney considers unions to not be part of American society. Hoffa also accuses Romney of being radical.

"We the conservative majority can take our party -- AND our country -- back. … There’s only one candidate who’s taken on the GOP establishment elites. Only one man who balanced budgets, cut taxes and cut deficits. And got the government out of the way so Americans could do what Americans do best. Innovate. And create. And we created 11 million jobs under his leadership. That man is Newt Gingrich. It’s time to take our party back. And our country. … It’s Time to Choose. Time to choose the one conservative candidate who can fight the GOP establishment. And beat Barack Obama."
-- Fundraising appeal, retrieved February 16, 2012, for presidential candidate former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA).

Comment: "Take back America" from whom?

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