Monday, May 25, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: May 24, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"My problem is, why is it only us? Why is it only we be concerned about tone. The meanest, most extreme people in American politics are members of the Democrat Party and the American left. Tone? These are the people rooting for people to die on Twitter! These are the people rooting for people to get cancer on Twitter. These are the people who are intolerant, mean-spirited. They're the bullies, and they don't care one bit about their tone, and they don't get punished for it. Yet we come along and we're the ones that have to make sure that we're not seen as mean-spirited and bullyish and only one way of looking at anything. (sigh) This whole notion of "tone," I totally understand the art of the persuasion here and I understand where tone can come into it. But the problem I have is that all of these rules that end up shackling people, all these rules that end up causing people to be not who they are on our side, are never applied to people on the left. Look what these people say about -- take your pick. What they say about anything. George W. Bush. Sarah Palin. Take your pick of any Republican anywhere, and what they say about them, and they're never punished for it. Nobody ever goes to them and says, "Your tone needs to be moderated a little bit here, Mr. Hoyer. Your tone needs to moderated a little, Ms. Pelosi." Dingy Harry? For crying out! Tone?"
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, May 21, 2015, remarking on comments made earlier that day by Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) on a need to improve the tone of political debate.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing Democrats and liberals with the "only my opponent" caricature. What evidence does he have – rigorous evidence that doesn't involve selective cherry-picking – that Democrats and liberals are more uncivil than Republicans and conservatives? He is asserting that there is hypocrisy in the application of standards of civil debate, that Democrats and liberals impose them on Republicans and conservatives but not on themselves. This might not amount to saying that civility is bogus, but he does seem to say it's not worth policing.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday stressed the importance of tone when Republicans talk about issues like abortion and gay marriage, saying that folks in his state know where his “heart is” as a pro-life governor in a blue state.

“I think it’s how you present yourself — I feel very strongly about the things I feel strongly about, but I don’t have to denigrate somebody else in the process,” Mr. Christie, known for his straight-talking demeanor, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “And I think part of our problem has been tone over time. And I think if the Republican candidate for president’s tone is better and more inclusive, then you can get to a lot of the other issues that the media doesn’t want you to get to.”

Mr. Christie, who is laying the groundwork for a potential 2016 White House run, said tone matters on divisive issues like gay marriage and abortion.

“If you talk about these issues in a way that you are absolutely critical of a person who has a different view than you and dismissive of them, well then they’re going to be dismissive of you as a candidate,” he said. “If you are talking to a person who’s pro-choice on abortion and you’re pro-life, and you say to them, Listen, I’m pro-life and that means I’m going to heaven and you’re pro-choice and you’re going to hell,’ well, you know, if that’s you’re tone, they don’t care what you have to say about pro-growth policies.”

“They don’t care what you have to say about any of that stuff — they care that you seem intolerant to them,” he added. “That’s tone — that’s not position. I’m-pro life, and I’ve had that position as a two-term governor of New Jersey — the first person who’s ever been elected as a pro-life person to a statewide office in New Jersey. My state is a predominantly pro-choice state, but the folks in my state know that I believe it’s a difficult issue and they know where my heart is. But they don’t think that I dismiss them — that’s the difference.”
-- Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), from an article in The Washington Times, May 21, 2015, by David Sherfinski.

Comment: Christie is calling for setting a higher standard of political debate.

"The last election, 2012, about 12 million Latinos went to the polls. In 2016, about 16 million Latinos will go to the polls. And there's a new rule in American politics, and it's beautiful: That no one can make it to the White House without the Hispanic vote. And this is new. It wasn't true in the past. … In a very close election, and the next election is going to be very close again, Latinos will decide, 16 million votes will decide who is going to be the next president of the United States."
-- Pundit Jorge Ramos, posted May 20, 2015.

Comment: Is this racism or identity politics, or merely a statement about electoral facts?

"In their world, truth doesn't matter."
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, May 20, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio show, remarking on President Barack Obama, liberals, and Democrats.

Comment: Hannity is demonizing his opponents, saying they don't care about truth.

[Rep.] Alan Grayson [(D-FL)] is Elizabeth Warren without a filter — but he intends with her help to become Florida’s great Democratic hope. Since Grayson first burst onto the national media scene as a first-term congressman from Central Florida with a savage wit, he has generated near non-stop headlines and Internet hits, calling all manner of political opponents “whores,” “vampires” and “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.” Even some Democrats who agree with almost all of his policy positions want to keep their distance. … After he shot into the national media arena in 2009, Grayson was unbowed, asking me, “Is it a necessary element of this job that I take shit from people? No one gets a free pass if they attack me. I don’t think it’s beneficial to turn the other cheek. There is no reason a Democrat has to be a weakling.” … His strident criticism of the financial system led to an early — and highly embarrassing — gaffe in February 2010, what soon would become just an indicator of what was to come. In a radio interview, Grayson attacked Linda Robertson, a senior adviser to Fed Chairman Paul Bernanke, calling her a “K street whore” and accusing her of “trying to teach me about economics.” He later apologized. Yet once catapulted into the national spotlight for his outrageousness, he never looked back. In fact, he doubled-down, comparing former Vice President Dick Cheney to a vampire bat (“I have trouble listening to what he says sometimes because of the blood that drips from his teeth while he’s talking”), calling the Republican Party a “lie factory” and dubbing Rush Limbaugh a “a has-been hypocrite loser” who was “more lucid when he was a drug addict.”
-- From an article in Politico, May 20, 2015, by Mark I. Pinsky.

Comment: What Pinsky calls a "savage wit" and "gaffe" on the part of Grayson is better described as demonizing. "Whore" is name-calling of the "sexual deviancy" sort. Also, Grayson reportedly uses "get tough" rhetoric, according to Pinsky.

But my appreciation of [Bill and Hillary] Clintons' strengths doesn't blind me to their weaknesses, including entitlement, mild paranoia, and an ends-justify-the-means mentality. Nor does my criticism mean that I hate them.
-- Pundit Ron Fournier, May 20, 2015.

Comment: Everybody believes that the ends justifies the means in some circumstances, why is it wrong for the Bill and Hillary Clinton to do so?

"Barack Obama has a very high tolerance for the brutalization and enslavement of other people."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, May 19, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. Levin's remarks were aimed at President Barack Obama's refusal to send ground troops into Iraq to fight the Islamic State (aka "ISIS"), which has been committing atrocities throughout the region.

Comment: Does this have to be the reason Obama doesn't send troops to fight ISIS? There are people suffering in North Korea, in Ukraine, and in many other parts of the world: is a lack of compassion the only reason we don't send troops to these places, or is that just demonizing?

U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez has apologized for an ethnically touchy gaffe that was caught on cell phone video.

The Democrat, who is running to replace California's retiring Sen. Barabara Boxer, would otherwise seem like a paragon of diversity. But when she let out a stereotypical Native American "war cry" over the weekend, it marred that image and sent her running.

Literally -- away from a reporter trying to chase her down for comment on the gaffe that many found racially offensive. But late Sunday, she spoke about the slip-up.

Native Americans know she's watching out for them, she said at a Democratic Party convention in Anaheim, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. "And they know what many of you don't know — that like so many Mexican Americans, I am proudly Native American on my mother's side," Sanchez said.

Sanchez was ad-libbing at a California Democratic party convention in Anaheim, when she made a stereotypical Native American "war cry."

Raising her hand to her lips, she let out about two seconds of it.

"I'm going to his office, thinkin' that I'm gonna go meet with woo-woo-woo-woo, right? 'Cause he said 'Indian American,'" she said, using the gesture to try to discern between Indian Americans -- with ancestry from India's subcontinent -- and Native Americans.
-- From a CNN article, May 17, 2015, about remarks made by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), on May 16, 2015.

Comment: Were Sanchez's remarks a "gaffe" or a racist slur?

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