"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?-- President Barack Obama, March 2, 2015, during an interview with Jeff Mason of Reuters.
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?’
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?-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), March 1, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday.
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.
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.-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), March 1, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
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?-- 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.
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.
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.-- 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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALKER: If I could take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
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."