Sunday, March 29, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 29, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
In last week’s Israeli elections, Netanyahu did play the role of Nixon—except that he did not go to China. Nor did he go to Ramallah. He went racist. In 1968, Nixon spoke the coded language of states’ rights and law-and-order politics in order to heighten the fears of white voters in the South, who felt diminished and disempowered by the civil-rights movement and by the Democrat in the White House, Lyndon B. Johnson. Nixon’s swampy maneuvers helped defeat the Democrat Hubert Humphrey and secure the South as an electoral safe haven for more than forty years.
-- Pundit David Remnick, retrieved March 29, 2015.

Comment: Remnick is accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (and US President Richard Nixon) of using coded language to express bigotry.

It took Bibi Netanyahu nearly a week to apologize properly for his inflammatory comment on Israel’s election day warning that Arab voters were “heading to the polls in droves.” On Monday, speaking at his Jerusalem residence to a group of Israeli Arab community leaders, the newly reelected prime minister expressed his regret: “I know the things I said a few days ago wounded Israel’s Arab citizens. That was not in any way my intention, and I am sorry.” But even after four and a half years, there has been no apology from Barack Obama for his inflammatory remarks just before the 2010 election, when he exhorted Latinos to generate an “upsurge in voting” in order to “punish our enemies and . . . reward our friends.” Nor has the president ever expressed regret for his running mate’s racially-tinged warning to a largely black audience in 2012 that the GOP was “going to put y’all back in chains” if Mitt Romney won the White House. In fact, the Obama campaign insisted no apology would be forthcoming.
-- Pundit Jeff Jacoby, March 27, 2015.

Comment: Jacoby is accusing President Barack Obama of hypocrisy when it comes to expressions of racism and bigotry.

"Barack Obama, as a result of this and the other things he’s doing, including arming up the IslamoNazis in Tehran, is the greatest threat the Jews face, not in this country but in Israel, since the 1930s... He is the greatest threat they face since the 1930s. And I say that because he is doing more now to degrade Israel’s military and defense posture, its intelligence information. He’s doing more now to arm Israel’s enemy than anybody. He is the greatest threat that that nation faces. And by the way, he’s a great threat to our nation too, as far as I’m concerned."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, March 26, 2015.

Comment: This couldn't possibly be an exaggeration, could it?

During this era, they’ve gone from gentle nudging to stern warnings, to fearmongering, to conflating the predictive abilities of scientists with science itself, to launching ugly campaigns to shame and shut down anyone who deviates from liberal orthodoxy—which includes not only the existence of anthropogenic global warming, but an entire ideological framework that supposedly “addresses” the problem.
-- Pundit David Harsanyi, March 26, 2015.

Comment: Harsanyi is accusing global warming proponents of resorting to scare tactics.

"Nothing says let's go kill some Muslims like country music."
-- Pundit Jamilah Lemieux, March 25, 2015, regarding Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) self-stated preference for country music after the 9/11 attacks.

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing Cruz of bigotry. But can it be dismissed as simply a joke?

An extremely dishonest man, that's who. [and] vehemently anti-immigrant to boot. RT: @Azi @bonkapp: ¿Quién es Ted Cruz?
-- Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito, March 24, 2015, in a tweet regarding Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Comment: This is demonizing, saying that Cruz is anti-immigrant. Plus, what is her evidence that Cruz is "extremely dishonest"?

"Marie Harf -- or "Barf" whatever you prefer …"
-- Pundit Mark Levin, March 24, 2015, referring to State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf.

Comment: Levin is name-calling, using a term of disgust to refer to someone he disagrees with.

"The inevitability mantle that Hillary Clinton wears so heavily, as it did in 2008, ends up being a magnet for opposition … She’s Vladimir Putin compared to Jim Webb or Martin O’Malley. Her access is controlled. The message is controlled."
-- Former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian, posted March 24, 2015.

Comment: This is "comparing" rhetoric.

There is an upside-down quality to this president’s world view. His administration is now on better terms with Iran—whose Houthi proxies, with the slogan “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, power to Islam,” just deposed Yemen’s legitimate president—than it is with Israel. He claims we are winning the war against Islamic State even as the group continues to extend its reach into Libya, Yemen and Nigeria. He treats Republicans in the Senate as an enemy when it comes to the Iranian nuclear negotiations, while treating the Russian foreign ministry as a diplomatic partner. He favors the moral legitimacy of the United Nations Security Council to that of the U.S. Congress. He is facilitating Bashar Assad’s war on his own people by targeting ISIS so the Syrian dictator can train his fire on our ostensible allies in the Free Syrian Army. He was prepared to embrace a Muslim Brother as president of Egypt but maintains an arm’s-length relationship with his popular pro-American successor. He has no problem keeping company with Al Sharpton and tagging an American police department as comprehensively racist but is nothing if not adamant that the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” must on no account ever be conjoined. The deeper that Russian forces advance into Ukraine, the more they violate cease-fires, the weaker the Kiev government becomes, the more insistent he is that his response to Russia is working. To adapt George Orwell’s motto for Oceania: Under Mr. Obama, friends are enemies, denial is wisdom, capitulation is victory.
-- Pundit Bret Stephens, March 23, 2015.

Comment: Granted, President Barack Obama has been hypocritical in some of his positions, but isn't that true of most politicians? Do the problems with Obama's positions really make him more "Orwellian" – that is, indifferent to truth – than most politicians? This seems like demonizing.

Senate Republicans have kept [Loretta] Lynch — President Obama's nominee for attorney general — waiting for a confirmation vote longer than the combined time it took to confirm her seven predecessors. While doing so, they have retained in office Eric Holder, the attorney general whom congressional Republicans have branded an accessory to murder, a terrorist sympathizer and a supporter of voter fraud. … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he won't allow the full Senate to vote on Lynch's nomination until Democrats stop filibustering a child sex-trafficking bill that contains a restriction on abortions. But many of these Republicans, it seems, are motivated by their opposition to anything Obama wants — even when it appears they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.
-- Pundit DeWayne Wickham, March 23, 2015.

Comment: Wickham is accusing Republicans of obstruction, and is demonizing them by saying they simply want to oppose anything Obama wants. Couldn't it be that they simply want to force the passage of the sex-trafficking bill?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 22, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from. But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. … The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics. And that’s telling us something important about what has happened to half of our political spectrum. … Meanwhile, both budgets call for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including the taxes that pay for the insurance subsidies. That’s $1 trillion of revenue. Yet both claim to have no effect on tax receipts; somehow, the federal government is supposed to make up for the lost Obamacare revenue. How, exactly? We are, again, given no hint. … So, no, outrageous fiscal mendacity is neither historically normal nor bipartisan. It’s a modern Republican thing. And the question we should ask is why. … Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements. What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts. And the simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer.
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, March 20, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is accusing Republicans of not caring about truth. Both Democrats and Republicans make outlandish claims from time to time, why should we conclude that only the latter – and not both of them – is guilty of "raw dishonesty"? More, Krugman is saying that Republicans want to take money from the poor and give it to the rich. This is false and derisive. Republicans generally want to lower taxes and lower social spending: maybe they are wrong to want to do so, but spending less money on the poor is not the same as taking money from the poor, and taking less in taxes from the rich is not the same as giving them money.

"He doesn't like Congress. He's got his pen and his phone. And when Congress doesn't do what he says he's off doing his best Benito Mussolini. He doesn't like Netanyahu. Netanyahu just won in a landslide; Obama's never won in a landslide. The American people rose up in November and told Obama how they are disgusted with his programs and his policies. And what did he do? He turned around and spat in our faces. And he does the same in 2010 when they lose the House of Representatives. Obama has more ability to work with dictators and genocidal types than he does with people who are elected democratically. The fact of the matter is, Sean, I want to say this and this is important. Eric Holder said that this nation is full of cowards because we won't have a discussion about race. Well, I think this nation needs to have a discussion about what's going on in this White House and this administration about anti-Semitism. Because this White House and it's reaching out to Sharpton, the Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR, all these radical nut jobs and groups, their policies which are -- it's not just Netanyahu. They're willing to throw Israel over the side for the Islam regime in Tehran. This president's former relationships with [Rashid] Khalidi, the professor in Columbia now, with Wright the so-called reverend from Chicago. This president has a lot to answer for, and his conduct is contemptible. And I don't care how many liberal Democrat donors -- hold on now. I don't care how many liberal Democrat donors he has who are Jewish. He can hide behind them all he wants. But Mr. Holder, Mr. Obama, let's have a national discussion about the anti-Semitism that reeks from your administration."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, March 18, 2015, appearing on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News.

Comment: In what sense is Levin comparing President Barack Obama with Italian dictator Mussolini that doesn't amount to demonizing? Levin is also issuing "Americans want" rhetoric regarding the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014, insisting that Obama has no mandate for what he is doing. Calling someone anti-Semitic is basically an accusation of racism. Finally, Levin is accusing Obama of guilt by association, for Obama's links to Rev. Al Sharpton, Rashid Khalidi, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and others.

"In a world changing even faster than his, do we retreat from the realities of a 21st century economy? Or do we continue to advance, together, to renew this country’s founding promise of opportunity for everybody and not just some?"
-- President Barack Obama, March 18, 2015.

Comment: This is a platitude. Who doesn't want opportunity for everybody? The question is what set of policies will bring about that result.

"The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out. … Get out to vote, bring your friends and family, vote Likud in order to close the gap between us and [the Labor Party]."
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 17, 2015. Netanyahu's remarks on video (translated here from Hebrew) were released on Facebook on election day in Israel.

Comment: Netanyahu's remarks have been widely criticized as being racist or anti-Arab. But nothing in what he says is deriding Arab Israelis. He is simply saying that Arab Israelis typically vote against right-wing parties (of which Netanyahu's is one), so that in order to counteract that turnout, right-wing groups have to get their own voters out.

"[Regarding CNN anchor Erin Burnett] I'd say she got her job on her looks, but I'd also say that's not possible … [she has the] IQ of a dozen eggs … the women on Fox are a lot more attractive."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, March 17, 2015, during the 3rd hour of his radio program.

Comment: Levin was criticizing Burnett for her take on comments made recently by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but absolutely none of Levin's criticisms required or justified this kind of name-calling, in which he derided her appearance and called her stupid.

ROSEN: At different points, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have suggested that racism is a factor in criticism of them. Is there any truth in that?

CHENEY: I think they’re playing the race card, in my view. Certainly we haven’t given up—nor should we give up—the right to criticize an administration and public officials. To say that we criticize, or that I criticize, Barack Obama or Eric Holder because of race, I just think it’s obviously not true. My view of it is the criticism is merited because of performance—or lack of performance, because of incompetence. It hasn’t got anything to do with race.
-- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, posted March 17, 2015, during interview with James Rosen of Playboy Magazine.

Comment: This is "playing the race card" rhetoric.

OBAMA: The challenge on something like climate change is, there comes a point of no return. And you do have to make sure that we get at this thing quick enough and with enough force to be able to make a difference.

SMITH: Why is the resistance so strong?

OBAMA: Well, some of it's economic. If you poll folks, they're concerned about climate change, but they're even more concerned about gas prices. You can't fault somebody for being concerned about paying the bills or being able to fill up your tank to get to your job. In some cases, though, you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry, and there's lot of money involved. Typically, in Congress the committees of jurisdiction, like the energy committees, are populated by folks from places that pump a lot of oil and pump a lot of gas.
-- President Barack Obama, posted March 17, 2015, during interview with Shane Smith of VICE News.

Comment: At no point in this discussion of beliefs about global warming does Obama allow that someone might legitimately disagree with the science of climate change, or the cost-benefit analysis of fighting global warming, etc. Perhaps some climate change opponents are "shills" (i.e., "special interests"?), but it would be ad hominem to conclude that they are therefore wrong in their position. Plus, isn't there a lot of money to be made in the energy industry, regardless of whether that energy is made by oil, gas, wind, solar, etc.? Does that mean proponents of wind and solar power can be dismissed as "shills" on the same ad hominem basis?

Brown never surrendered with his hands up, and Wilson was justified in shooting Brown. … The unarmed 18-year-old also became a potent symbol of the lack of trust between African Americans and law enforcement. … But the other DOJ report, the one on the actual shooting of Michael Brown, shows him to be an inappropriate symbol. … The DOJ report notes on page 44 that Johnson “made multiple statements to the media immediately following the incident that spawned the popular narrative that Wilson shot Brown execution-style as he held up his hands in surrender.” In one of those interviews, Johnson told MSNBC that Brown was shot in the back by Wilson. It was then that Johnson said Brown stopped, turned around with his hands up and said, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” And, like that, “hands up, don’t shoot” became the mantra of a movement. But it was wrong, built on a lie. Yet this does not diminish the importance of the real issues unearthed in Ferguson by Brown’s death. Nor does it discredit what has become the larger “Black Lives Matter.” In fact, the false Ferguson narrative stuck because of concern over a distressing pattern of other police killings of unarmed African American men and boys around the time of Brown’s death. Eric Garner was killed on a Staten Island street on July 17. John Crawford III was killed in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio, on Aug. 5, four days before Brown. Levar Jones survived being shot by a South Carolina state trooper on Sept. 4. Tamir Rice, 12 years old, was killed in a Cleveland park on Nov. 23, the day before the Ferguson grand jury opted not to indict Wilson. Sadly, the list has grown longer.
-- Pundit Jonathan Capehart, March 16, 2015. Capehart was referring to the August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Dorian Johnson was friends with Brown, and witnessed his shooting. A federal report on the Ferguson, MO, police department claimed it was guilty of racial discrimination, and another federal report concluded Wilson had committed no wrongdoing in shooting Brown.

Comment: This is an example of "the broader truth" rhetoric. Capehart is saying that, even though Brown's shooting is not an instance of police racism, the "broader truth" is that there is a problem of racial violence by police. Capehart goes on to list several such cases, though he doesn't (perhaps for the sake of brevity?) offer proof that these cases – unlike the shooting of Brown – are shootings by police motivated by race.

TED CRUZ: The Obama economy is a disaster, Obamacare is a train wreck and the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind — the whole world is on fire.

JULIE TRANT: The world is on fire?

CRUZ: The world is on fire. Yes! Your world is on fire. But you know what? Your mommy’s here and everyone’s here to make sure that the world you grow up in is even better.
-- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), March 15, 2015. Julie Trant, a 3-year-old, was sitting in the audience with her mother as Cruz spoke.

Comment: This is a case of metaphorical language (in this case, a violent metaphor) being taken literally. It's understandable when children sometimes mistake metaphors as being literal, and Cruz responded to try to correct Trant's understanding of his rhetoric.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 15, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"The main point here that I think everybody needs to understand is the president is about to make a very bad deal. He clearly doesn’t want Congress involved in it at all, and we’re worried about it. We don’t think he ought to make a bad deal with one of the worst regimes in the world."
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), March 15, 2015. His remarks concern a letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: This is a platitude. Who on Earth does want to make a bad deal with one of the worst regimes in the world?

ANDREA MITCHELL: Let's talk about the letter and what these Republican Senators did. You heard what the president said. You were with Secretary Kerry when he lambasted them in his Hillary testimony. How does that influence what Iran does at the negotiating table starting Sunday?

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, the negotiations remain between the negotiators. So, do we think think this will have a direct impact on the room? No. But the fact is, as the president said, this is nearly unprecedented. It's bringing into question what has been precedent for hundreds of years back to when members of Congress were riding horse and buggies to do their job. It really does bring into question whether they want to see a deal, whether they want to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is of course what our objective is here.
-- State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, March 13, 2015. Her remarks concern a letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Psaki is accusing Republicans of wanting Iran to get a nuclear weapon, which is just as much demonizing as when Obama's critics have accused Obama of wanting Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

"Someday, years from now, people will look back on this presidency and see it in sharper contrast. They will read how it started, with the Republican senate leader calling for the president’s defeat, declaring that the business of the opposition from the first day was to ensure the new president (a) accomplishes nothing and (b) gets booted from office as quickly as possible. They will read of a U.S. Congressman yelling “You lie” during a State of the Union. They will read how the Speaker invited, without informing the President, a foreign leader to denigrate his foreign policy before the entire Congress. And, as of this week, they will learn that a new Senator from Arkansas got the signatures of 46 other Senators on a letter to the hardliners in Iran, urging that they reject the efforts of this President to keep them from building a nuclear weapon. They will read all this and wonder: what was it that made the Republican opposition so all-out contemptuous of an American president? What made it treat him as below respect, below the dignity historically accorded his office? They will look at the concerted effort of Republican legislative leaders in three dozen states to make it harder for minorities to vote, even claiming partisan victory when successful in the effort. They will then look at a picture of this president and, perhaps, get the idea that the age of Jim Crow managed to find a new habitat in the early 21st century Republican Party."
-- Pundit Chris Matthews, posted March 13, 2015.

Comment: Matthews is demonizing Republicans, accusing them of racism.

"We're afraid of the police of what they can do and the power that we think that they wield as far as if something happens to me from a police officer, will it be covered up? Will there be justice for me, whatever? With the cops, we don't live in these neighborhoods, we just know what we see on television or what other people have told us. And we're just as frightened as these people, you know, but we have guns. And when you deal with human nature, human nature, not just this is an officer who's dealing with things professionally, he's still a human being. And when that fear kicks in, you never know what can happen. I just made an analogy the other day about how someone can tap you on the shoulder, scare the mess out of you and your first reaction is to turn and you might smack them. Imagine if you have a gun in your hand? It's the same thing. Now, With this thing that happened in Ferguson just now with the two officers, sad, very sad. I hate to say that that FBI report kind of played into this and these things shouldn't be happening, but you reap what you sow in a sense. If that FBI report would have never came out and the scandal or whatever and how they're basically giving people -- paying the city by giving people tickets and things like that. That is incredibly insane but we knew this already, this is common knowledge in the ghetto. When they come in the hood -- I mean, guys used to sit out and drink beer in public, stuff like that, never a problem at times. But when they are trying to make quotas everybody sticks it in their pocket."
-- Rapper Method Man, posted March 13, 2015. His remarks concerned protests on March 13, 2015, against the Ferguson, MO, police department (which has been cited for racial discrimination by the federal government), protests in which two police officers were shot.

Comment: With the phrase, "you reap what you sow", Method Man seems to be explaining that someone (though it's not clear who) "brought it on themselves". Is he referring to the officers who were shot, or law enforcement in general, or someone or something else?

"I think that what had been happening in Ferguson was oppressive and objectionable and was worthy of protest. But there was no excuse for criminal acts. And whoever fired those shots shouldn't detract from the issue. They're criminals, they need to be arrested. … What we have to make sure of is, is that the folks who disregard and disrespect the other side, people who resort to violence that they're marginalized … But they're not the majority. In the same way that you can't generalize about police officers who do an extraordinarily tough job, overwhelmingly they do it professionally. You can't generalize about protesters who, it turns out, had some very legitimate grievances. The Justice Department report showed they were being stopped -- African-Americans were being stopped disproportionately, mainly so the city could raise money, even though these were unjust."
-- President Barack Obama, March 12, 2015, on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live. His remarks concerned protests that day against the Ferguson, MO, police department (which has been cited for racial discrimination by the federal government), protests in which two police officers were shot.

Comment: Obama is explaining the protests and anger at police, but not justifying the violence against the police. He is also saying that the violence against the police shouldn't detract – i.e., "distract"? – from the misbehavior of the police department.

“What is deeply concerning is that 47 Republican members decided to play politics with this because they don’t like this president. He is our president. He was elected twice by a majority of people in this country. They may not like that, but it’s a fact.”
-- Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), reported March 11, 2015, concerning a letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: This is "politicizing" rhetoric and demonizing, accusing the Republicans of opposing Obama's negotiations with Iran simply because they don't like Obama.

STEWART: Now, Congressional subversion vis-a-vis foreign policy, how new is that?

NBC NEWS: Defied White House objections to her visit, Pelosi met this week with Bashar al-Assad, an attempt to open a dialogue with a leader the president has sought to isolate.

STEWART: Oh, (bleep). Democrats did the same thing to President Bush. You know what this means. Juxtapositional Soundbite! Juxtaposition Soundbite Theater! Yeah, we do work hard to make this (bleep) Interesting. So… How did the Democrats feel about Pelosi’s interference in foreign policy in 2007?

HILLARY CLINTON: I applaud Speaker Pelosi. I have long advocated engagement with countries in the region including Iran and Syria.

FEINSTEIN: Time has come for members to begin to go to some of these countries and establish their own dialogue.

MATTHEWS: Why did “The Washington Post” trashing Nancy Pelosi for doing basically what Jim Bakker and Lee Hamilton said to do, engage the neighborhood over there in the Middle East?

STEWART: And how do they feel about the Republican letter now?

HILLARY CLINTON: Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the Commander-in-chief.

ANCHOR: Democratic senator Diane Feinstein called it “A highly inappropriate and unprecedented incursion.”

MATTHEWS: Is this where we stand in this country where the opposition Republicans will try anything to scuttle a noble president’s effort to avoid a war?

STEWART: Both look like exactly the same people!
-- Pundit Jon Stewart, March 11, 2015, showing clips of politicians and pundits, contrasting their position on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2007 during the Iraq Surge (when Syria was aiding – or at least abetting – the Sunni insurgency in Iraq), with a letter sent by 47 Republican senators in March 2015 to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Stewart is pointing out the hypocrisy of several of these individuals, noting that they've taking inconsistent positions, though Stewart doesn't attempt to draw any conclusions about which position they've taken is the correct one (which would risk ad hominem reasoning).

-- Headline on the New York Daily News, March 10, 2015. The headline concerns a letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: This is demonizing the Republican senators, and perhaps questioning their patriotism, as well. How does the letter amount to an effort to betray the country, any more than Obama's negotiations with Iran amount to an effort to provide Iran with a nuclear weapon?

"Remember the Republican congressman who yelled out, "you lie" during a State of the Union? How about inviting Bibi Netanyahu into the US Capitol so that he could undercut the President? Now for the trifecta: 47 Republican senators have written to hardliners in Tehran, asking them to scuttle the Iranian nuclear talks, explode them before a deal can even be reached, telling them whatever deal President Obama signs will be printed in disappearing ink, and can't be relied upon once he leaves office. Is this where we stand in this country, where the opposition Republicans will try anything to scuttle an American president's noble effort to avoid a war? … There's no principle involved with the opposition position on this thing. These 47 senators today, I don't know whether it was sedition under the law, whatever it was, but it was an attempt to bring down this president on foreign policy."
-- Pundit Chris Matthews, March 10, 2015. His remarks concern a letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Matthews is accusing Republicans of wanting to risk war in an effort to thwart Obama, which is just as much demonizing as when Obama's critics have accused Obama of wanting Iran to get a nuclear weapon. He also seems to be questioning their patriotism.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Isn't it time for Hillary Clinton to speak out? If you were advising her, should she address these issues?

JAMES CARVILLE: I wouldn't -- I don't know exactly -- it was legal. It wasn't against regulations. Colin Powell and Jeb Bush did the same thing, but oh, my God. Do you remember Whitewater? Do you remember Filegate? Do you remember Travelgate? Do you remember Pardongate? Do you remember Benghazi? All of this is just the same cockamamie stuff that we go through. The Times got something from right-wing talking points. They print the story. They've got to walk the story back. And everybody -- the chin scratchers go 'Oh, my God. The story's not right, but it says something larger about the Clintons.' This is never going to end. We've lived with this for 20 years. We'll live with it for the rest of the campaign. It's all about nothing. That's my view of the whole thing. … If I were a member of the press and I realized that right-wing talking points helped get us into a war, I would probably rethink the way I get my information.

MITCHELL: Isn't this a distraction that she does not need and that the Democrats are very concerned about?

CARVILLE: First of all, there is always going to be a distraction in Clintonland. There never is a time when there's not. I've lived through this for 20 years. Don't you think that next week there will be some other thing that they'll crop up?
-- Pundit and political strategist James Carville, March 9, 2015, being interviewed by NBC News' Andrea Mitchell regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a non-governmental email server while she was in office.

Comment: What is the relevance of the claim that these accusations are "talking points"? What does it mean, and what does it tell us about whether the accusations are true? Just because an accusation is scripted or comes from a person's enemies doesn't prove that the accusations are false. Mitchell suggests the issue is a "distraction", but a distraction from what? Does being a distraction imply that the accusations aren't well-founded? Finally, Carville resorts to ad hominem reasoning, saying that, because Republicans (i.e., "right-wingers") were wrong about WMDs in Iraq, therefore they shouldn't be believed on the accusations about Clinton. But being wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in no way guarantees that they are wrong about Clinton. Think: how would Carville's argument work against someone who took the same position as the "right-wingers" on Clinton but not on WMDs? Would the accusation about Clinton suddenly stop being false?

"When it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, we should put partisanship aside. Sadly, though, the judgment of my Republican colleagues seems to be clouded by their abhorrence of President Obama. Today Republican senators sent a letter to the Iranian regime’s leaders aimed at sabotaging these negotiations. Let’s be clear – Republicans are undermining our Commander-in-Chief while empowering the Ayatollahs. … But it is unprecedented for one political party to directly intervene in an international negotiation, with the sole goal of embarrassing the President. … This is a hard slap in the face of not only the United States and the world. This is not a time to undermine our Commander-in-Chief purely out of spite. … So I say to my Republican colleagues, do you so dislike President Obama that you would take this extraordinary step? Barack Obama is the President. I have agreed with him on certain things and I have disagreed with him on certain things, but he is my President and he is your President. It is time for Republicans to accept that the citizens of our country have twice elected President Obama by large margins. … Today’s unprecedented letter, originated by a United States Senator who took his oath of office merely 62 days ago, is the kind of pettiness that diminishes us as a country in the eyes of the world. Republicans need to find a way to get over their animosity of President Obama. I can only hope they do it sooner rather than later."
-- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), March 9, 2015. His remarks concern a letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by President Barack Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Reid is accusing the GOP senators of having crass political, "partisan" motives for their actions. This is unfair, because there are legitimate reasons to at least question the deal being considered with Iran. As to the action being "unprecedented", there have been cases of members of Congress holding discussions with foreign heads of state in the past (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2007 during the Iraq Surge (when Syria was aiding – or at least abetting – the Sunni insurgency in Iraq), and Reps. David Bonior (D-MI), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and Mike Thompson (D-CA) went to Iraq in 2002 months prior to the US invasion of that country). Reid offers no evidence that the GOP's letter was motivated by hatred of Obama; is there any reason to think the actions of Pelosi et al were motivated by hatred of President George W. Bush?

Hillary's Watergate
It's nearly impossible to tell the truth when you never have.
-- Synopsis of an article posted on Lucianne Goldberg's website, March 9, 2015.

Comment: This is demonizing, describing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as always lying.

Q [unidentified]: Can you comment on the Republican letter to Iran? Can you comment on that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think it's somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran. It's an unusual coalition. I think what we’re going to focus on right now is actually seeing whether we can get a deal or not. And once we do -- if we do -- then we’ll be able to make the case to the American people, and I'm confident we’ll be able to implement it. All right. Thank you very much.
-- President Barack Obama, March 9, 2015. His remarks concern a letter sent by 47 Republican senators to Iran's leaders, declaring that the US Senate might not support an agreement made by Obama regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: This is guilt by association rhetoric. Just because GOP senators – like hardliners in Iran – are opposed to the nuclear deal currently in the works doesn't mean they agree with hardliners in Iran on everything. It doesn't even mean the GOP senators oppose the nuclear deal for the same reasons at the hardliners in Iran. Consider the same argument being turned on Obama: he, like Iran, is in favor of fighting the Islamic State (aka, ISIS). Does that mean he agrees with Iran on all other things, and supports Iran's position on terrorism or it's killing of US troops in Iraq in 2007-2008? Of course it doesn't.

PLANTE: After that scathing report about police conduct in Ferguson, do you think the police chief or others should be fired?

OBAMA: Well, ultimately, those are going to be local decisions. But, the Justice Department, obviously, in light of this investigation and the well-documented instances of bias, is going to, I think, be in a position to press for action at that local level.
-- President Barack Obama, during interview with CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, posted March 8, 2015. The remarks concern a federal report on racial discrimination by the police department in Ferguson, MO.

Comment: Obama is offering a "not my decision" evasion. Granted, it is not in the president's authority to fire a local police chief, but that doesn't mean he can't express any opinion about whether the police chief ought to be fired.

PLANTE: Hillary Clinton used an email system outside the US government for official business while she was Secretary of State … Were you disappointed?

OBAMA: Let me just say that, Hillary Clinton is and has been an outstanding public servant. She was a great Secretary of State for me. The policy of my administration is to encourage transparency, and that's why my emails, the BlackBerry that I carry around, all those records are available and archived. And I'm glad that Hillary has instructed that those emails that had to do with official business need to be disclosed.
-- President Barack Obama, during interview with CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, posted March 8, 2015. The remarks concern former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a non-governmental email server while she was in office.

Comment: This is an evasion. Obama never addresses the matter of whether Clinton's release of the emails at this time – a year after leaving office – is consistent with Obama's commitment to transparency and other standards of good conduct, or whether it is a failure (i.e., a "disappointment").

"The broader point, though, is not one specific law. It's, do we have a structure in place that allows enforcement of laws that, not only does the overwhelming number of Americans already agree with, but for which a lot of blood and sweat and tears was shed for us to secure. This is not a partisan issue. Historically, Republicans were at least as important as Democrats in achieving. Back then, there were a lot of Democrats who were the ones who were opposed to it. And Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush signed reauthorizations of this. This is something that should transcend party. This has to do with whether or not we believe in the basic notions of self-government upon which so much of our other rights and freedoms depend."
-- President Barack Obama, during interview with CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, posted March 8, 2015. The remarks concern Obama's support for the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

Comment: This is "politicizing" or perhaps "bipartisan" rhetoric. Just because there has been bipartisan support from something in the past doesn't mean there has to be now. There is a legitimate debate about how the VRA should apply to southern states 50 years after the end of segregation. It's demonizing to suggest that opponents of reauthorizing the VRA could only have crassly political motives, or are somehow opposed to the basic notions of self-government.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 8, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"This president is trying to destroy this country every way he can."
-- A caller named "John" on the 2nd hour of Live on Sunday Night, it's Bill Cunningham, March 8, 2015.

Comment: The caller is demonizing President Barack Obama. The radio show host, pundit Bill Cunningham, said nothing to contradict the caller.

"And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge –- and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, 50 years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, the Voting Rights Act stands weakened, its future subject to political rancor. How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic efforts. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President George W. Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right to protect it. If we want to honor this day, let that hundred go back to Washington and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore that law this year. That’s how we honor those on this bridge."
-- President Barack Obama, March 7, 2015, during speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery.

Comment: There is a legitimate debate to be had about how stringent the requirement should be for people to register to vote and cast ballots. There is also a legitimate debate about how the Voting Rights Act should apply to southern states 50 years after the end of segregation. It is demonizing for Obama to describe his opponents on this issue as wanting it to be harder for people to vote.

"We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America. … Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that Ferguson is an isolated incident; that racism is banished; that the work that drew men and women to Selma is now complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us."
-- President Barack Obama, March 7, 2015, during speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery.

Comment: Granted, both claims – that America is irredeemably racist, and that it is completely free of racism – are false, but what evidence is there that the latter one is more commonly believed or espoused than the former? Who has been saying that there is no longer any racism in the United States? Is that a straw man? Is the former claim also a straw man that no one really believes?

The kindest thing that can be said of Netanyahu’s attempt to equate Iran with the medieval barbarians of Islamic State, and to dismiss the fact that Iranian help today furthers America’s strategic priority of defeating those knife-wielding slayers, is that it was an implausible stretch. Of course Netanyahu mentioned the Persian viceroy Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jews, but not Cyrus of Persia, who ended the Babylonian exile of the Jews. The prime minister’s obsessive Iran demonization runs on selective history. The Islamic Republic is repressive. It is hostile to Israel, underwrites Hezbollah and has sponsored terrorism. Its human rights record is abject. The regime is wedded to anti-Americanism (unlike the 80 million people of Iran, many of whom are drawn to America). But the most important diplomacy is conducted with enemies. Given Iran’s mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle, there is no better outcome for Israel and the world than the successful conclusion of the tough deal sought by Obama; one involving the intensive verification over an extended period of a much-reduced enrichment program that assures that Iran is kept at least one year away from any potential “breakout” to bomb manufacture. One word did not appear in Netanyahu’s speech: Palestine. The statelessness of the Palestinians is the real long-term threat to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Iran has often been a cleverly manipulated distraction from this fact. Among foreign leaders, nobody has been invited to address Congress more often than Netanyahu. He now stands equal at the top of the table along with Winston Churchill. Behind Netanyahu trail Nelson Mandela and Yitzhak Rabin. That’s a pretty devastating commentary on the state of contemporary American political culture and the very notion of leadership.
-- Pundit Roger Cohen, March 6, 2015, remarking on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech that day to the United States Congress regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Cohen is accusing Netanyahu of "comparing" Iran to ISIS. Cohen is also using "distraction" rhetoric.

A recent Bloomberg report noted that major pizza companies have become intensely, aggressively partisan. Pizza Hut gives a remarkable 99 percent of its money to Republicans. Other industry players serve Democrats a somewhat larger slice of the pie (sorry, couldn’t help myself), but, over all, the politics of pizza these days resemble those of, say, coal or tobacco. And pizza partisanship tells you a lot about what is happening to American politics as a whole. … The pizza lobby portrays itself as the defender of personal choice and personal responsibility. It’s up to the consumer, so the argument goes, to decide what he or she wants to eat, and we don’t need a nanny state telling us what to do. … free-market fundamentalists don’t want to hear about qualifications to their doctrine. Also, with big corporations involved, the Upton Sinclair principle applies: It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. … At a still deeper level, health experts may say that we need to change how we eat, pointing to scientific evidence, but the Republican base doesn’t much like experts, science, or evidence. … Pizza partisanship, then, sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. It is, instead, a case study in the toxic mix of big money, blind ideology, and popular prejudices that is making America ever less governable.
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, March 6, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is demonizing the "Republican base", saying that they don't care about truth. More, though the quote from Sinclair may be true, it risks an implied ad hominem argument: just because it's in someone's interest to adopt a certain position doesn't mean their position is wrong.

"The evidence of racial bias comes not only from statistics, but also from remarks made by police, city and court officials. A thorough examination of the records – including a large volume of work emails – shows a number of public servants expressing racist comments or gender discrimination; demonstrating grotesque views and images of African Americans in which they were seen as the “other,” called “transient” by public officials, and characterized as lacking personal responsibility. I want to emphasize that all of these examples, statistics and conclusions are drawn directly from the exhaustive Findings Report that the Department of Justice has released. Clearly, these findings – and others included in the report – demonstrate that, although some community perceptions of Michael Brown’s tragic death may not have been accurate, the widespread conditions that these perceptions were based upon, and the climate that gave rise to them, were all too real."
-- Attorney General Eric Holder, March 4, 2015, in a report on the police department of Ferguson, MO.

Comment: This is "the broader truth" rhetoric. Is it understandable that protesters concluded the shooting of Brown was an act of racism? If there were so many verifiable cases of racism committed by the Ferguson, MO, police department, then shouldn't protesters have gotten upset about those examples, and not the unverified accusations of racism in the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson? It wouldn't be acceptable to argue the other way, would it? That is, could Wilson have argued that, even if he was wrong in assessing the behavior of Brown in particular, the broader truth is that there is a climate of crime and hostility to police, therefore making Wilson's reaction to Brown understandable?

"Of course, violence is never justified. But seen in this context – amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings, and spurred by illegal and misguided practices – it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg."
-- Attorney General Eric Holder, March 4, 2015, in a report on the police department of Ferguson, MO.

Comment: Holder is explaining the violent protests after the shooting of Michael Brown, but not justifying them.

"Obama hasn't tamed the world's tyrants. Obama makes excuses for them! That's another big contrast in this speech out there today. Netanyahu was like fearless in speaking up for his own country and explaining why his own country was worth saving. He promised and had no equivocation about the value of his own country and no equivocation about how he would go to save it and defend it. Contrast that to Obama, who, when he tells us about our enemies, we have to understand them. He tells us we need to understand them, he tells us we need to understand and we need -- like Marie Harf (impression), "Well, no, you just have to understand, they're not really militant Islamists. They just don't have jobs, and they have bad economy and so we need a jobs program for ISIS!" So we get from our administration excuses made for our enemies. It's worse than that. Our administration tells us how or country is responsible for our enemies!"
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, March 3, 2015.

Comment: This is distortion and demonizing. President Barack Obama has not tried to excuse the enemies of the United States, and no one in his administration (including State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf) has ever said that ISIS could be defeated simply with a jobs program (an example of the "silver bullet" caricature).

"Like I asked you maybe a moment ago: Why does Obama seem so interested in Iran getting a weapon, folks? Seriously now. The official position of the United States up until Obama's election was, Iran will never get a nuclear weapon. Now, that doesn't mean that Bush had committed to military action to stop it. I'm talking about in a diplomatic sense, that was the official position. Now Obama's in the White House and it seems like, to casual or astute observers, Obama's very interested in these people getting a nuclear weapon. … Why is it that, for the first time in American history, an American president is adopting a negotiating stance that guarantees the Iranians getting a nuclear weapon? Why does Obama seem to interested in Iran getting one? Do you want to know the answer? "To counter the nuclear dominance of Israel in the region," folks, is the answer to the question. Now, you may not like hearing it, and you may think that it's offensive, and you may think it's extreme, and you may think it's properly characterizing Obama. But I'm telling you: That's the answer. I don't think Obama wants Iran to start nuking people. I think he doesn't trust Israel as the only nuclear power in the region. I think he wants Israel, as a nuclear power, balanced -- neutered, if you will."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, March 3, 2015.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing President Barack Obama, accusing him of wanting Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

That is why, as one who values the U.S. – Israel relationship, and loves Israel, I was near tears throughout the Prime Minister’s speech – saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5 +1 nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation.
-- House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), March 3, 2015, remarking on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech that day to the United States Congress regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: Granted, Netanyahu strongly disagrees with the policies of President Barack Obama toward Iran, and Netanyahu likely went wrong in accusing Obama of "paving" a path for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. But was Netanyahu insulting the intelligence of the United States? Was he being unacceptably condescending, or any more condescending than most politicians who give speeches to the public? Pelosi seems to be demonizing Netanyahu.

"So you see, my friends, this deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. That's why this deal is so bad. It doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb."
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 3, 2015, during a speech to the United States Congress.

Comment: It's fair to disagree with President Barack Obama about what the best way is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But the metaphorical use of the word "paving" sounds as if Netanyahu is accusing Obama of actively helping Iran develop nuclear weapons (rather than merely failing to block Iran from doing so), which is either an exaggeration or outright demonizing.

JEFF MASON, REUTERS: Let’s start right on Israel. Your administration has described Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress tomorrow on Iran as destructive. What damage has really been done?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to realize the depth of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Under my administration, billions of dollars have gone to support Israel’s security, including the Iron Dome program that has protected them from missiles fired along their borders. … I don’t think it’s permanently destructive. I think that it is a distraction from what should be our focus. And our focus should be,‘How do we stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?’
-- President Barack Obama, March 2, 2015, during an interview with Jeff Mason of Reuters.

Comment: This is "distraction" rhetoric.

WALLACE: Do you believe that a woman has a right to end a pregnancy at any point during those nine months?

WALKER: Well, I think ultimately, I mean pro-life because that's an unborn child. When I think of the ultrasound picture that Tonette, my wife, and I saw of our first son, who's now going to be 21 this June, it's indistinguishable not to recognize that it's a human life. That's why I'm pro-life. My point is we acted on the grounds that we have legally to be able to act under the Supreme Court's decision. We'll act that way at the federal level if we were in a position like that, as well. But ultimately, it is a life.

WALLACE: But ultimately it's her choice?

WALKER: Well, legally, that's what it is under the guidelines that was provided from the Supreme Court.

WALLACE: And would you change that law?

WALKER: Well, I -- that's not a change you can make. The Supreme Court ultimately has made that. I believe in the right to life and I believe that there are other things that can be done at both the state and the federal level.
-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), March 1, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday.

Comment: This seems like a "not my decision" evasion. Granted, a president can't unilaterally change abortion law, but that doesn't mean they can't work with Congress (and, in addition, appoint Supreme Court justices) to do so. The question remains: would Walker, as president, act in ways that would change the current laws on abortion?

WALLACE: While you've rolled back collective bargaining rights for public worker unions, during your reelection campaign, you said that a right to work law for private unions would be a distraction.


WALKER: It would bring in another group of protesters in large volume to the capital would distract from all the other things, tax reform, education reform, entitlement reform, UW reform all the things we want to do going forward.


WALLACE: Now, the Republican legislature is fast tracking right to work and you say you're going to sign it. Why the flip?

WALKER: Well, it's not a flip. It's I was a sponsor in the legislature. I never said I'd veto it. I asked for them not to make it a distraction early on in the session. I presented my budget, I laid out my agenda, they're acting on that right now. Now is the perfect time. So, it's in the midst of the early things they brought up and the things that will come up --


WALLACE: So, why is it the distraction during the election campaign, but it isn't now?

WALKER: I laid -- well, I laid out early on, the things that I wanted to do with education reform, tax reform, entitlement reforms. We've been able to lay out on the table. It is a perfect time now because the legislature is not acting on those things in the budget, and will have signed it by next week.
-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), March 1, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday.

Comment: This is "distraction" rhetoric.

WALLACE: You have taken some heat recently, I do have to tell you, for refusing to say whether or not President Obama loves this country and whether or not he's a Christian. And the conventional wisdom is either you're pandering to the Obama haters or you're not ready for prime time. Which is it?

WALKER: The answer is neither. I am not going to take a manufactured media crisis and take and follow that path instead of going to the path that I think Americans want, which is leaders who will stand up and tell them where they stand on the issues that matter to them and talk about how you're going to ensure that that family that's been out of work for the last six months can find a way to be a part of this recovery, talk about how we're going to take the power out of Washington and put it in the hands of the hardworking taxpayers. Those are the things people care about. And as I, after last week's visits to Wisconsin and to Michigan, when I heard from people talk about what happened in Washington, they said you need to push back and say that's what the American people want to talk about, not this nonsense.

WALLACE: I agree with you, the question about whether or not Obama is a Christian was nonsense, was stupid. On the other hand, the question about whether or not he loves the country, Rudy Giuliani said that at a dinner for you. It seems to me, it's fair game to say to you after the dinner, what do you think of it? Marco Rubio, one of your potential contenders, said I don't think there's any doubt he loves the country. I just think his policies are wrong. Isn't that a better, smarter way to handle that?

WALKER: Yes. But let's be clear on the point with the mayor. The mayor wasn't speaking on my behalf. He happened to show up half-way through an event that we had that night and he can speak on his own. That's what I've said repeatedly since that time, as the president can. I don't question that. I think any person who's going to put their name on the ballot has to have a love for their country and their state and their jurisdiction no matter where they were. So, I -- I don't contest that against anyone who's running for office out there. My point wasn't to get in the middle of that, but rather to say I want to lift the debate up, to talk about issues that people really care about. I'm not going down that path. I'm not making those arguments. I'm going to talk about the things that matter to everyday Americans.

WALLACE: Just to be clear, because you seem to -- to indicate you think the president, President Obama, loves this country?

WALKER: I think, in the end, he and anybody else who is willing to put their name on the ballot certainly has to have the love for country to do that.
-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), March 1, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday. The conversation concerned remarks made by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) on February 18, 2015, at an event Walker also spoke at.

Comment: First, Walker is using "Americans want" rhetoric. More, Walker is saying he doesn't have an obligation to police Giuliani's remarks disparaging President Barack Obama. Is that true? By comparison, did Obama have an obligation to police the remarks Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa made disparaging the Tea Party at an event they both spoke at on September 5, 2011? Given that Walker is insisting we should talk about substantive issues and "lift up the debate", isn't it fair to ask him if he will denounce Giuliani's remarks, remarks which don't seem to live up to the standard of debate that Walker is advocating?

WALLACE: You're [sic] big appeal, and you could see it here at CPAC, is the fact that you took on and beat the public worker unions in Wisconsin. But this week, you seemed to compare that to taking on ISIS.


WALKER: If I could take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.


WALLACE: Governor, isn't there a big difference between protesters and terrorists?

WALKER: There is, absolutely. And I -- I made that clear. And I want to make it clear right now. I'm not comparing those two entities. What I meant was, it was about leadership. The leadership we provided under extremely difficult circumstances, arguably, the most difficult of any governor in the country, and maybe in -- in recent times, in taking on the challenge of not just the protesters, but everything we had to do the last four years in stepping up and fighting the leadership to move our state forward. To me, I apply that to saying if I were to run and if I were to win and be commander-in-chief, I believe that kind of leadership is what's necessary to take on radical Islamic terrorism.
-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), March 1, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday. The conversation concerned remarks made by Walker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 26, 2015.

Comment: Wallace is accusing Walker of "comparing" ISIS militants with protesters who support labor rights. Walker makes clear that he only meant that leadership is needed in dealing with both, not that the two groups present the same threat (which they obviously don't). A fuller quote of Walker from CPAC is: "I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message, not only that we will protect American soil, but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 1, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"In America, we believe that a lifetime of hard work and responsibility should be rewarded with a shot at a secure, dignified retirement. … we’ve got more work to do to make sure that our recovery reaches more Americans, not just those at the top. That’s what middle-class economics is all about—the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."
-- President Barack Obama, February 28, 2015, during the weekly presidential address.

Comment: These remarks by Obama on fairness seem to involve either platitudes or "Americans want" rhetoric.

"Comparing the events of today to the events of 1000 years ago, how does that make sense to any thinking human being?"
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, February 27, 2015, on his radio show. Beck is referring to remarks made by President Barack Obama in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5, 2015.

Comment: Obama didn't "compare" today's Islamic terrorists with the Christian Crusaders, at least not in the sense of equating the two. Rather, he said that if the former violence shows that Islam is fundamentally violent, then the latter violence proves the same about Christianity. So Beck's accusation is a distortion.

"So, some Mexicans are gonna be given yet another chance to stay in the US. They're gonna be offered a chance to return and have their deportation hearing reheard. Opening the borders has one explicit purpose, in my mind. The reason why all of this is happening is that this administration and the current Democrat Party and the American left really want to dilute and weaken American culture. That's actually what this is all about, in addition to voter registration. But that's where it leads. You want the voter registration so that you can stay in power, and you want people to vote for you to do what you're gonna do to dilute, water down the American culture: traditions, laws, the economy, everything. And part of the American culture is patriotism. Part of the American culture is rugged individualism. And this American culture, patriotism, individualism, American culture is the enemy of the left. Fourth of July. Remember the story we had, the Harvard survey, about the events featuring the American flag are more beneficial to Republicans and don't help Democrats? Why in the world would that be?"
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 27, 2015.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing Democrats, accusing them of sinister motives in their immigration policy, and saying that they are not "real Americans".

"And imagine if we had a commander-in-chief that understood that the way to defeat ISIS is not to find them a job."
-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), February 27, 2015.

Comment: This is a distortion – in particular, the "silver bullet" caricature – of the words of State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf. Harf never said jobs were all that was needed to defeat ISIS, in fact she clearly spelled out that military force (among other things) would be used as well.

"Last November, President Obama announced a series of sweeping executive actions on immigration. In doing so, he completely reversed his own opinion. Remember that 22 times the president said he didn't have the authority to do what he eventually did. … I just think it's outrageous that Senate Democrats are using homeland security funding for blackmail to protect the actions of the president, where the president himself said he didn't have the authority to do this."
-- Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), February 26, 2015. Boehner's remarks were in response to Senate Democrats blocking passage of a bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security (as President Barack Obama and others want) but not the portion of the department that would enact Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Comment: "Blackmail" is essentially "hostage-taking" rhetoric.

[Regarding the Supreme Court case King v. Burwell], in the event that the court strikes down the subsidies as illegal, Congress must be prepared to offer immediate, targeted protection to those hurt by this administration’s reckless disregard for the rule of law. ObamaCare took these patients hostage. Conservatives have a duty to save them.
-- Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), February 25, 2015.

Comment: This is "hostage-taking" rhetoric.

"And if you hear people during the course of the future campaigns, over the next several months and into next year, if all they’re doing is demagoging -- if all they’re saying is, “we have to do something about these illegal immigrants,” but then when you ask them, okay, what is it that you want to do, then they don’t have a good answer, or they pretend that we’re going to somehow deport 11 million people, even though everybody knows that the economies of Miami, New York, Chicago, the entire Central Valley in California would collapse -- so they’re not being serious about it -- if you hear people not being serious and not being honest about these issues, then you got to call them on it."
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric, albeit hypothetical or speculative. Plus, it's a false choice to suggest that you must either deport all 11 million illegal immigrants or legalize them: you could instead do neither.

"One of the things I’ve learned in this position is that as the only office in which you’re the President of all the people, not just some, you have to be thinking not just in terms of short-term politics, you have to be thinking about what’s good for the country over the long term. Now, over the long term, this is going to get solved, because at some point there’s going to be a President Rodriguez, or there’s going to be a President Chin, or there’s going to be a -- the country is a nation of immigrants, and ultimately, it will reflect who we are, and its politics will reflect who we are. And that’s not something to be afraid of. That’s something to welcome. Because that’s always been how we stay dynamic and stay cutting-edge, and have energy and we’re youthful. So what I would say to the next President is: Think ahead. Don’t say something short term because you think it’s politically convenient, and then box yourself in where you can’t do what’s right for the country. Think long term."
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration.

Comment: This sounds like Obama is deriding opponents of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) as being motivated by "short-term" politics rather than legitimate concerns, or thoughts about what's good over the long term. (What about the objection that CIR unfairly gives work permits to immigrants who broke the law ahead of those who are abiding by visas that prohibit their working?) This is a distortion, if not outright demonizing, particularly when Obama says that CIR – and not its opponents – reflects "who we are" as Americans. It sounds like Obama is saying CIR opponents are opposed to immigrants as a whole and aren't "real Americans". Plus, haven't we already had a president with a non-traditional name: "President Obama"?

MR. DIAZ-BALART: Mr. President, I can’t tell you the amount of questions that we’ve received, both on Telemundo and MSNBC, has really been extraordinary. And one I get a lot, over and over and over again, is a question, Mr. President, when you had absolute control of Congress, you really didn’t fight for immigration. And then when you had the situation where you lost majorities, then you take action. Is there political implications behind something that affects so many people so close to their hearts?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know if anybody remembers, José, that when I took office and I had a majority, we had the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The global economy was collapsing. The unemployment rate in the Latino community and the immigrant community had soared. People were losing homes and entire communities were being devastated. So it wasn’t as if I was just sitting back, not doing anything.

MR. DIAZ-BALART: No one says you were sitting back not doing anything --but you did do the ACA, for example.

THE PRESIDENT: We were moving very aggressively on a whole host of issues. And we moved as fast as we could and we wanted immigration done. We pushed for immigration to be done. But, ultimately, we could not get the votes to get it all done.… I appreciate Mr. Bush being concerned about immigration reform. I would suggest that what he do is talk to the Speaker of the House and the members of his party. Because the fact of the matter is that even after we passed bipartisan legislation in the Senate, I gave the Republicans a year and a half -- a year and a half -- to just call the bill. We had the votes. They wouldn’t do it. And then the notion that, well, if you just hadn’t taken these executive actions, if you hadn’t done DACA, maybe we would have voted for it -- well, that doesn’t make any sense. That’s an excuse.

MR. DIAZ-BALART: Yeah, but they’re saying --

THE PRESIDENT: That’s an excuse.
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration.

Comment: This is an evasion in the form of Obama distorting his own record as president. On May 28, 2008, Obama "guaranteed" that a comprehensive immigration reform bill would be introduced in his first year as president, and on several occasions in 2009 (after becoming president in January of that year, by which time he was well aware of the financial crisis) he reaffirmed that pledge. By the end of 2009, Obama had had ample opportunity to either push a bill or to adopt the position that the flurry of crises at hand prevented him from pushing a bill, yet he did neither. On top of that, the executive actions he has introduced in November 2014 could have been done at any point since January 2009, and without Congress. Why not, in December 2009, say, "Sorry, there's too much going on for me to keep my promise to push immigration reform through the Congress, so instead I'll enact changes by executive order"? So, he hasn't answered the question of why he didn't move on immigration – either in the form of a bill or executive action – years ago. And, if having other priorities is really an excuse for his inaction, then why can't it also be one for Republicans in Congress?

"The bottom line is, José, that I’m using all of the legal power vested in me in order to solve this problem. And one of the things about living in a democracy is that we have separation of powers -- we have Congress, we have the judicial branch -- and right now, we’ve got some disagreements with some members of Congress and some members of the judiciary in terms of what should be done. But what I’m confident about is, ultimately, this is going to get done. And the reason it’s going to get done is it’s the right thing to do and it is who we are as a people."
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration. Obama's remarks concerned the effort to legalize the status of immigrants in the country illegally.

Comment: By saying that his efforts on immigration are in line with "who we are as a people", does Obama mean that people who oppose him aren't "real Americans"?

"Now, what we did most recently was to expand that so more people would qualify for DACA, and we also said if you are the parent of a U.S. citizen or a legal resident, if you’ve been here for a while, if you're part of our community, then you should be able to come forward, get registered, go through a background check, and if you generally have been contributing to our community, you should be able to stay here legally and not be in fear of deportation. It did not provide citizenship because only Congress can do that, but it was going to help. And I think we saw the reaction in the community and, the truth is, across the country, people recognized this was the right thing and the smart thing to do. Now, unfortunately, a number of Republican governors chose to sue. They found a district court judge who has enjoined -- meaning stopped -- us going forward with this program. … And in the meantime, what we said to Republicans is, instead of trying to hold hostage funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is so important for our national security, fund that, and let’s get on with actually passing comprehensive immigration reform."
-- President Barack Obama, February 25, 2015, during town hall on immigration.

Comment: First, this sounds like "Americans want" rhetoric: did ALL the people across the country recognize that what Obama did was right, or just some of them? Second, Obama is indulging in "hostage-taking" rhetoric.

"The prime minister, as you recall, was profoundly forward leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision. He was extremely outspoken about how bad the interim agreement was during which time he called it the deal of the century for Iran, even though it has clearly stopped Iran's program, and more importantly, he has decided it would be good to continue it. So you know, he's -- I talk to him frequently. We work very, very closely together. We are deeply committed. We, this administration, I think we have done more to help Israel. I have a packet of 25 pages or more of things we have done on behalf of Israel in the course of this administration to stand up for it, stand with it, protect, fight back against unfair initiatives. So we won't take a backseat to anybody in our commitment to the state of Israel, but he may have a judgment that just may not be correct here. And, you know, let's wait and hear what he says. I'm not going to prejudge his statement anymore than he should prejudge this agreement. But when we have heard, if appropriate, I'll respond."
-- Secretary of State John Kerry, February 25, 2015, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's criticism of negotiations with Iran concerning Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: This is ad hominem reasoning. If Netanhayu was incorrect in his judgment regarding the Iraq War, how does that prove that he's wrong about negotiations with Iran? Shouldn't the quality of one's argument determine whether or not they're correct? Maybe Netanyahu had a bad argument back then, but now has a good argument. If Kerry was wrong on February 16, 2007, when he said the Iraq Surge would not end violence or rein in militias, does that mean his judgment on negotiations with Iran is also flawed?

Anyone who has watched Obama’s genteel response to his Republican tormentors shouldn’t be surprised at his delicacy about Islam. He resists generalizations and looks for common ground, whether the context is terrorism or domestic politics. No matter what Republicans do—heckle his speeches, impugn his patriotism, shut down the government, threaten a credit default, stage countless votes to repeal his health care law—he refuses to categorically condemn them. … Republicans, determined to block his immigration agenda, were withholding money for the Department of Homeland Security. But Obama said these saboteurs didn’t represent the true GOP: “A large percentage of Republicans agree that we need comprehensive immigration reform.” Instead of using the fight for partisan advantage, Obama spread the blame to his own party. “Republicans and Democrats in Congress should not be playing politics” with the department’s funding, he warned. … That’s how Obama treats his domestic adversaries. He doesn’t take the bait. He doesn’t define the whole opposition party by its worst elements. He rejects polarization. He emphasizes shared values. He reminds his own partisans that they, too, are sinners. For Democrats, this can be exasperating. It’s especially exasperating when Republicans refuse to take responsibility for, or even disown, outbursts from their colleagues, such as Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” or Rudy Giuliani’s “I do not believe that the president loves America.” … Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana backs up Giuliani’s insinuation that Obama favors the enemy over his own country: “[Giuliani] is understandably frustrated with a president who, as I said before, is fully willing to lecture the people of this country about the Crusades but is unwilling to call Islamic extremism for what it is.” Please. If we’re going to start calling out religious and political groups for extremism, we could start at home with Republicans. Too many of them spew animus. Too many foment sectarianism. Too many sit by, or make excuses, as others appeal to tribalism. If Obama were to treat them the way they say he should treat Islam—holding the entire faith accountable for its ugliest followers—they’d squeal nonstop about slander and demagogy. They’re lucky that’s not his style.
-- Pundit William Saletan, February 24, 2015, in an article entitled, "Go Ahead and Say It, Mr. President: Republicans are your true enemy".

Comment: This is the "only my opponent" caricature. Contrary to Saletan's description, President Barack Obama has a long history of derisive generalizations that demonize his opponents (for instance, accusing Republicans of "Social Darwinism", saying that they put party ahead of country, and declaring President George W. Bush to be "unpatriotic" for ringing up $4 trillion in debt). And Obama has routinely failed to condemn fellow Democrats for demonizing Republicans (for instance, Teamsters' President Jimmy Hoffa's "son of a bitches" remarks about the Tea Party movement at a 2011 Labor Day rally at which Obama also spoke). Again contrary to Saletan's account, Obama has also singled out Republicans in Congress (as opposed to Democrats) for blame on any number of issues. In addition, Saletan is using "extremist" rhetoric (in response to Pence's use of it). Finally, Saletan is accusing Republicans of wanting to treat all Muslims as terrorists. Perhaps there are some Republicans who want this (Saletan should name them), but it's certainly not the case that all of them do. Rather, that's an unfair generalization and a straw man, if not outright demonizing.

So, yeah, Kerry has basically set 'em up, Obama set 'em up for the acquisition, if they can pull it off, of a nuclear weapon in ten years. … Yeah. I'm at a loss here. Actually I'm not at a loss. I know exactly, folks, I know exactly why they're doing this. It doesn't make any sense. I'm just telling I know exactly why they're doing it. Obama's worldview is there's no such thing as American exceptionalism. We're not special except in our own minds, just as every other country thinks its special in its own mind, but there's nothing essentially about us better than anybody else. That's a myth. And the idea that we get to determine which nations get nuclear weapons, who the hell are we? We don't have that right, and we never have had, as far as Obama's concerned. That's an example of our imperialism. Us, telling the Iranians, they're just good Muslims, they can't have their own bomb? What right to we have? That's his worldview on this and John Kerry's and every other one of them.
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 24, 2015, concerning a deal being negotiated between the US and Iran (and others) regarding Iran's nuclear program. US Secretary of State John Kerry, a member of President Barack Obama's cabinet, is part of the negotiations.

Comment: In explaining the move to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons (assuming that the deal actually allows that), is Limbaugh justifying what Obama is doing? Or is explaining different from justifying?

Far from the dire picture painted by the president and his fellow Democrats, 90 percent of the Department of Homeland Security would remain on the job in a partial government shutdown. President Obama and congressional Democrats are offering up doomsday scenarios if the Department of Homeland Security funding authorization expires this Friday. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson implied on the talk shows Sunday morning that efforts to thwart terrorist attacks and assist Americans buried in snow could be imperiled if Republicans keep trying to de-fund the president’s executive action on illegal immigration. Johnson amplified his dire predictions that afternoon before a gathering of the National Governors Association, saying: “[A shutdown] means taking people off the front line and realigning their responsibility.” Not to be outdone, the president issued his own warning in a session Monday before the National Governors Association. A partial government shutdown, he said, would end up suspending pay for more than 100,000 Homeland Security agents, which “will have a direct impact on America’s national security because their hard work helps to keep us safe.” All very interesting, except what they’re saying isn’t true. According to figures from the brief government shutdown last year, the department has 231,117 employees, 31,295 of whom, or 13.5 percent, were furloughed. A closer examination reveals that all essential personnel would remain on the job, from Secret Service agents who protect the president to TSA screeners protecting us in airports and counterterrorism personnel. Looked at another way, 87 percent of Homeland Security personnel were deemed essential and remained at their posts during the last funding impasse between the White House and Congress. Eighty-seven percent. … Obama and his Democrat enablers are Chicken Littles predicting dire harm to the country when they know nothing is further than the truth.
-- Pundit Ron Christie, February 24, 2015, in an article entitled, "Obama Is the Scaremonger-in-Chief".

Comment: Christie is accusing President Barack Obama of fear-mongering, though he is explaining why he believes the fears are unjustified. He is also accusing Obama and Democrats of lying.

Liberals know they are full of it; they just think the rest of us are as foolish as the welfare-guzzling mouth-breathers who vote for them. It’s time for the lies to stop. Liberals, stop lying about the weather. There is no climate change crisis. Whatever changes our climate is undergoing are part and parcel of the natural processes that have been going on since the Earth was formed. … Liberals, stop lying about our war with radical Muslims. This bloodshed isn’t “random.” This isn’t about “violent extremism.” Mass enslavement, mutilation and murder isn’t “workplace violence,” and these semi-human freaks aren’t going to stop if someone hands them a mop, bucket and paycheck. We are at war – war – with radical Islam, and we need to end the lies, the equivocation and dissembling and speak the truth. Our enemies think they are Muslims, and they think the Koran commands their actions. This isn’t about theology – whether their version of Islam is a misunderstanding or misinterpretation is utterly irrelevant. They think they’re pious Muslims even if we, as well as most of the world’s Muslims, disagree. … Well, here’s a conservative who says it’s critical to understand the radical Muslims. We need to fully appreciate how they think, their goals, their ideas, their feelings. Understanding them will help us more effectively hunt down and kill them. … Liberals, stop lying about illegal aliens. They aren’t all hardworking and they aren’t all here because they love America and have dreams and stuff. Some are criminals. Some are bums. None were invited. Their problems are a result of their choices. We owe them nothing. Want out of the shadows? Go home. … Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton. Lena Dunham. Jon Gruber. That woman with the glasses who thinks we should carpet bomb ISIS with want ads. All liberals. All liars. Liberals, stop lying about everything.
-- Pundit Kurt Schlichter, February 23, 2015.

Comment: Schlichter references a lot of different "liberal" words and deeds, too many for me to cover all of what he's said, but here are a few points: first, "welfare-guzzling mouth-breathers" is simply name-calling. It's a slur. Second, is it really true that ALL liberals believe these things? Isn't that a hasty generalization (along the same lines as "all illegal aliens are hard-working"), one that means Schlichter himself is lying? Third, Schlichter gives no evidence for the claim that global warming is natural, and – even if it is – is it really unreasonable to the point of being a lie for someone to believe global warming is man-made? Fourth, notice that Schlichter points out that we need to understand (though not justify) terrorism, and that noting the Islamic affiliation of many terrorists is a key part of understanding them (which will in turn help us stop them). Finally, Schlichter is distorting the words of State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf ("That woman with the glasses who thinks we should carpet bomb ISIS with want ads."), using the "silver bullet" caricature. Harf never said jobs were all that was needed to defeat ISIS, in fact she clearly spelled out that military force (among other things) would be used as well.

"Let me just say this. It is fantastic to finally see some people realizing what's going on when the left, the media, keeps going to our candidates, "What do you think about what Rudy said about Obama?" In the first place, Scott Walker is showing everybody how to answer that question, how to answer all those questions. And another thing about this, we're also finally getting people turning it around on 'em. "Hey, why don't you go ask some Democrats what they think of Bill Clinton flying all over the world with a pedophile? Why don't you guys go ask the Democrats what it's like to have to stand up and defend Joe Biden every day." It's always a one-way street. Obama goes out and says some crazy things, apologizes for the country, or Rudy will come out and say, "I don't think he loves the country. Not the way we do." Then the press will go to other Republicans and ask them two things, to condemn Rudy and to validate Obama. … But it never works the other way. … And finally there's some people now pointing out the right way to do this. Don't answer the question and turn it back on 'em. For example, Scott Walker, this is just an example. He had his own answer to it. He was asked about Obama's Christianity. He said: I don't know. I don't know whether Obama's a Christian. Why are you asking me? Go ask him. It doesn't matter to me whether Obama's a Christian. … Somebody will ask a Republican, "Well, what do you think about Rudy, Rudy insulting Obama, Rudy saying that Obama doesn't love America?" The response is, "You know, I don't remember the last time you guys went around and started asking Hillary if she's very worried about her husband flying all over the world with a pedophile and showing up at the pedophile's homes in New York and Florida. When are you gonna ask Bill Clinton what it's like, when are you gonna ask people in the Democrat Party to defend Bill Clinton for doing this kind of stuff?" … A TV station in Florida, WPBF … They were interviewing Rubio about Giuliani's remarks, and Marco Rubio said, "I don't feel like I'm in a position to have to answer for every person in my party that makes a claim." … This is Rubio: "Democrats are not asked to answer every time Joe Biden says something embarrassing, so I don't know why I should answer every time a Republican does. I'll suffice it to say I believe the president loves America. I think his ideas are bad.""
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 23, 2015, discussing the responses by Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's remarks that President Barack Obama does not love the country.

Comment: Limbaugh and Rubio (and perhaps Walker) are saying that it is not their job to police civility. Inconsistent treatment on the part of the media when it comes to reporting and condemning unacceptable rhetoric (that is, hypocritically going easy on Democrats and liberals while piling on Republicans and conservatives, such that the latter get hit with guilt by association accusations but not the former) is no excuse failing to repudiate name-calling and invective. The fact that people fail to be consistent in implementing civility doesn't mean civility is bogus.

"This is exactly what we have to get away from in our politics. We have to find a way to disagree without disqualifying each other as Americans."
-- David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, February 23, 2015.

Comment: Axelrod is calling for a higher standard of debate, but he apparently didn't spell out any specifics of what that means in practice, nor did he apologize or take responsibility for any acts of uncivil debate on his part or the part of the Obama administration.

"You want to know how to take all the wind out of the sails of the Sovereign Citizens? Obey the Constitution."
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, February 23, 2015. The Sovereign Citizen movement believes that much of the federal government is intrusive and acting beyond what the United States Constitution allows. Prior to Beck's remarks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had cited the movement as being a major domestic terrorism threat.

Comment: Notice that Beck is suggesting an explanation for the (sometimes violent) actions of members of the Sovereign Citizen movement: they have a grievance, in that they believe that the Constitution is being disobeyed in a way that reduces our freedoms. While Beck agrees with that grievance, he did not justify their violent actions. Explaining is not justifying, and saying that someone has a grievance (even a legitimate one) is not the same as defending anything they do in the name of that grievance.

Many were left flat-footed and with jaws dropped after the president’s remarks at the recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he let the Islamic terrorists know that he is keeping their actions in context. Obama felt compelled to equate today’s Islamic terrorist butchers to the Christian Crusaders of 900 years ago. It was just another example of how the president appears willing to try to understand — if not justify — the actions of those who hate America. When the president is slow to condemn our enemies, it raises doubts about what he really thinks of their case against America.
-- Pundit Ed Rogers, February 23, 2015. Rogers is referring to remarks made by President Barack Obama in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 5, 2015.

Comment: First, Obama didn't equate (or, "compare") today's Islamic terrorists with the Christian Crusaders: rather, he said that if the former violence shows that Islam is fundamentally violent, then the latter violence proves the same about Christianity. So Rogers' accusation is a distortion. Second, trying to understand terrorist acts against America can simply be an effort to explain and predict terrorism, and need not be the same as justifying terrorism. Explaining is not the same as justifying., and Rogers is demonizing Obama to suggest otherwise. (Also, isn't pointing out the Islamic affiliation of many terrorists – as Rogers does – an effort to explain, understand, and/or predict terrorist acts, yet without justifying them?)

GLENN BECK: You're not going to win by bombing them, you're not going to win from the air.

PAT GRAY: No, we're going to win by giving them jobs.

STU BURGUIERE: And a three-day summit.

BECK: You cannot fight an enemy like World War Two, or an enemy like we have in ISIS, by saying, "We're gonna hug it out. We're gonna give you a job."
-- Pundits Glenn Beck, Pat Gray, and Stu Burguiere, the week of February 23-27, 2015, on the Glenn Beck Radio Program.

Comment: This is a distortion – in particular, the "silver bullet" caricature – of the words of State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf. Harf never said jobs were all that was needed to defeat ISIS, nor did President Barack Obama's administration say that the three-day summit on terrorism would be sufficient. Harf and Obama have clearly stated that military force (among other things) would be used as well. The idea that the Obama administration has suggested "hugging it out" is just another caricature.

BORGER: … we have asked lots of potential presidential candidates this week about Rudy Giuliani's comments. Some of them have disowned them, for example, Jeb Bush. Some of them, like Scott Walker, refused to comment. Yesterday, he told "The Washington Post" he wasn't sure if the president was a Christian. And then his press secretary had to clean that up a little bit. Don't you think Republican presidential candidates, who are blindsided by this, I admit, but don't you think they have to come out there and say what they believe about what Rudy Giuliani said directly? You need to do that?

PATAKI: I think -- I think, when you're asked the question, you have to answer it.


PATAKI: Yes, I think what he said was wrong. But I am -- I think it was wrong. But what I understand is that Rudy and I saw the horrible consequences of looking the other way because radical Islamic terror was thousands of miles across the world. And we saw the thousands of people, many of whom both of us knew, die that day. And we saw the courage with which Americans and New Yorkers responded. And it's deep in our bloods. And when we look today and we see them have training camps, we see them have recruiting centers, we see them have social media capability...

BORGER: Right.

PATAKI: ... and our own homeland security secretary coming on and saying we have to use extreme caution going to a mall here, and we have very weak leadership from Washington, I can understand how you get very upset about that. I get upset about it as well.
-- Former Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), February 22, 2015, during an interview with CNN's Gloria Borger. The discussion concerned former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's comments the previous week that President Barack Obama didn't love the country.

Comment: Pataki is not evading the question about Giuliani's comments. He is explaining Giuliani's behavior, but explaining is not justifying.

[Regarding the Islamic affiliation of many terrorists] President Obama continues to insist the opposite, pretending that what is true is false, and even suggesting those who are speaking the truth are actually endangering the lives of innocent people. … in its statement the White House avoided saying that the 21 Egyptian Christians who were beheaded by members of ISIS were Christian, even though that was the reason they were beheaded. At the same time the president suggested that the murder of three Muslim students at the University of North Carolina was because they were Muslim, when in fact that wasn’t by any means clear when the White House issued its statement. … And then there was the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, in which the president and his attorney general constantly spoke about the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson as if race was a factor in the shooting. That assertion is fiction. It was an invention, just as it was an invention to suggest, as the president did back in 2009, that the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley was racially motivated. … Which makes Mr. Obama a truly post-modern president, in which there is no objective truth but simply narrative. Mr. Obama doesn’t just distort the facts; he inverts them. He makes things up as he goes along. … The sheer audacity of Mr. Obama’s multipronged assault on truth is one of the more troubling aspects of his deeply troubling president.
-- Pundit Peter Wehner, February 22, 2015.

Comment: Wehner is arguing that false statements, distortions, and hypocritical double-standards on the part of President Barack Obama prove that Obama doesn't care at all about truth or facts. Does the same standard apply to everyone who says something false or is found guilty of double-standards?