Sunday, June 28, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: June 28, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"With this case behind us, we’re going to keep working to make health care in America even better and more affordable, and to get more people covered. But it is time to stop refighting battles that have been settled again and again. It’s time to move on. Because as Americans, we don’t go backwards, we move forwards. We take care of each other. We root for one another’s success. We strive to do better, to be better, than the generation before us, and we try to build something better for the generation coming behind us. With this behind us, let’s come together and keep building something better right now."
-- President Barack Obama, June 27, 2015, during the weekly presidential address.

Comment: First, this is "rehashing old battles" rhetoric. Why should opponents of the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") stop fighting to reverse a law they disagree with? When Democrat-proposed health care reform (known as "Hillarycare") was blocked in 1994, Democrats didn't consider the battle settled. They kept pushing for reform, and it was passed in 2010. Why should Republicans consider the passage of that reform to "settle" the issue? Second, it sounds like Obama is saying that his opponents are rooting for failure, and that his opponents are somehow not real Americans.

"There is something that is very evident from today's decision, which is maybe the most important thing post-2016 is the Court, and who sits on it. I want to talk a little bit about Scalia and the language he used in his dissenting opinion … the bitterness and the virtiol. At one point he was like, "this is unnatural interpretation from the law." And the phrase "SCOTUScare" really revealed a deeply partisan emotional core that informs Scalia's decision making."
-- Pundit Alex Wagner, June 25, 2015, remarking on the dissenting opinion of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on the King v Burwell case.

Comment: This is "partisan" rhetoric.

"Charlotte [sic, meaning Charleston] and the people of SC have just put a giant win in the good-guy column. Now, today, I was on the radio, and I started feeling like, geez man, we’re up against the wall again, because they immediately shifted the argument and went to something else. They're doing everything they can to divide us. That's going to get worse and worse as time goes on, we are going to feel more and more divided. We have to stick together and we have to recognize where we win. We just – the good guys won last week, we won in Charlotte [sic, meaning Charleston], now lets stick together. Because some big decisions are being made at the Supreme Court this week and it could divide us strongly."
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, posted June 25, 2015.

Comment: This is "unify the country" rhetoric.

"It's time to level with the American people. This President, and his apprentice-in-waiting Hillary Clinton, are leading America down the path to destruction. Economically, culturally, and internationally. But the most devastating thing they have tried to do is redefine the American Dream. Instead of the dream being to have opportunity and freedom to control your own destiny and make your own way, their dream is for the government to take care of you and make people dependent on the government. We want to guarantee equal opportunity, but they want to guarantee equal outcomes. The simple fact is they are trying to turn the American Dream into socialism. The folks in Washington may call that the American Dream, but out here in America, we call that the European Nightmare."
-- Gov. Bobby Jindal, June 24, 2015, remarking on President Barack Obama and Clinton, who is running for president.

Comment: This is demonizing, to accuse Obama and Clinton of wanting to make people dependent on government. It is also exaggeration: is life in Europe really a nightmare compared to the U.S.?

"We're making progress. I think you've probably noted that when there are Republican xenophobic measures to take away the DREAMers, their right to have a work permit, you see a dozen or so Republicans vote with Democrats to stop that. And that's happened on more than one occasion. On several occasions when really mean-spirited attempts to even hurt the immigrant community and their advances, you see that there are Republicans that are joining us."
-- Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), June 24, 2015.

Comment: This is demonizing, saying that Republicans are bigots who are intentionally trying to hurt immigrants.

COULTER: I'm a student of American history, so I'm appalled by -- though I would really like to like Nikki Haley since she is a Republican. On the other hand, she is an immigrant and does not understand America's history. The flag we're talking about --

KENNEDY: You think immigrants can't understand the history?

COULTER: Well, she doesn't. The Confederate flag we're talking about never flew over an official Confederate building. It was a battle flag. It is to honor Robert E. Lee. And anyone who knows the first thing about military history, knows that there is no greater army that ever took the field than the Confederate Army.
-- Pundit Ann Coulter, June 23, 2015, remarking on the decision by Gov. Nikky Haley (R-SC) to no longer fly a Confederate flag in the state capitol.

Comment: If Coulter is right that Haley doesn't understand the history of the Confederate flag that was being flown, she can say so without mentioning Haley's immigrant status (which, it turns out, is false; Haley was born a U.S. citizen). There are non-immigrants (other than Haley) who share Haley's belief about the flag's history, so why should it matter whether the belief is held by an immigrant? Plus, why does this belief about the Confederate flag have a bearing on someone's more general understanding of American history? It seems like Coulter is saying that, as an immigrant (which, again, Haley isn't), Haley is not a real American. Can't immigrants understand U.S. history and be just as "American" as those born here?

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