Monday, July 13, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: July 12, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
“We have to reject this demagogue. If we don’t we will lose and we will deserve to lose.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), July 12, 2015. He was referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: This is “demagogue” rhetoric.

“The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take the country back”.
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, July 11, 2015.

Comment: This is “take back the country” rhetoric.

"Mr. Speaker, last night in the South Carolina legislature, we saw Democrats and Republicans join together to take down the Confederate battle flag, many with tears in their eyes as still grieving the nine lives lost lost in Charleston. And while the people of South Carolina move one step past this terrible tragedy, many House Republicans want to take our nation one hundred and fifty years back. We were scheduled to vote on the Interior appropriations bill today. The bill was pulled because members on the other side of the aisle objected to banning the display and sale of the Confederate flags at national park facilities. For years, I’ve heard all the arguments from those who defend the display of the Confederate battle flag. But it is moral cowardice to ignore this flag’s history of white supremacy and treason, to pretend it symbolizes anything other than a heritage of hate and human oppression. The Confederate battle flag does not belong atop our state capitols and it certainly should not be sold or displayed at our national parks. It belongs in a museum of shame, alongside the other relics of hate and division that tore our country apart."
-- Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), July 9, 2015.

Comment: This is exaggeration if not outright demonizing. Whatever the propriety of displaying Confederate flags at national park gift shops, it hardly amounts to reinstating slavery as existed 150 years ago.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus phoned Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon, urging him to tone down his controversial comments on immigration.

The Washington Post reported that Priebus spent about an hour speaking to the GOP presidential candidate, a move that was motivated by concerns from party leaders.

Trump campaign spokesman Corey Lewandowski described the call as nothing “unusual” for “the leading candidate for the GOP nomination.”

The business mogul has since challenged reports about the phone conversation, writing on Twitter Thursday morning, “Totally false reporting on my call with @Reince Priebus. He called me, ten minutes, said I hit a ‘nerve,’ doing well, end!”
-- From a story in the Washington Free Beacon posted July 9, 2015. The phone call concerned remarks made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on June 16, 2015.

Comment: This is “struck a nerve” rhetoric.

Addressing climate change, Brown said, requires reckoning with things that have made life comfortable for billions of people.

“Oil, gas, coal has created the wealth we enjoy,” he said. “What was the source of our wealth now becomes the challenge of our future.”

He criticized politicians, particularly Republicans in Congress, who refuse to take action.

“We have a lot of troglodytes south of the border,” he said.
-- Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), July 8, 2015, from a story by Chris Megerian of the LA Times. Brown spoke at a conference in Canada; “south of the border” thus refers to the United States.

Comment: “Troglodytes” is name-calling, of perhaps the “evil” or “stupid” variety.

The Republican Party can’t dump Trump because Trump is the Republican Party. … But Trump has merely held up a mirror to the GOP. The man, long experience has shown, believes in nothing other than himself. He has, conveniently, selected the precise basket of issues that Republicans want to hear about — or at least a significant proportion of Republican primary voters. He may be saying things more colorfully than others when he talks about Mexico sending rapists across the border, but his views show that, far from being an outlier, he is hitting all the erogenous zones of the GOP electorate. Anti-immigrant? Against Common Core education standards? For repealing Obamacare? Against same-sex marriage? Antiabortion? Anti-tax? Anti-China? Virulent in questioning President Obama’s legitimacy? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check.
-- Pundit Dana Milbank, July 8, 2015. His remarks concerned Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: This is distortion and demonizing. It’s far from clear that Trump holds all the positions Milbank says he does, and it’s certainly not true that all Republicans do.

“The Democrats nominate people who truly hate the country.”
-- Pundit Mark Levin, July 7, 2015, during the 3rd hour of his radio program. His remarks concerned former President Jimmy Carter (and presumably other Democratic presidents, as well).

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing Democrats (both candidates and those involved in nominating candidates) of being unpatriotic.

AVILA: And briefly, just on another subject, out in San Francisco, on the shooting that happened there. The administration has been focused on prioritizing criminals as far as deporting those who have violated our immigration laws. Is this a failure in this case where this man apparently -- a criminal -- came over time after time and still was able to keep coming and was not deported? Is there a problem between the cooperation between some cities in this country and the United States government? Where do you see the problem?

EARNEST: Well, Jim, for this particular case, I’d refer you to DHS. I can’t speak to the details of this particular case. … I would say -- and it bears repeating in this case -- that these efforts would be significantly augmented had Republicans not blocked common-sense immigration reform. You’ll recall that the piece of legislation that was blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives actually included the biggest-ever increase in border security. And that’s why it’s particularly disappointing that congressional action -- or congressional inaction, in this case -- has blocked efforts to put in place common-sense reforms that would be good for our country, good for our economy, and good for public safety.

AVILA: I hear your reluctance to comment on this case, but this case is being used by opponents of the administration to say that your policy is not working and that repeat criminals are coming across the border.

EARNEST: And what I’m saying is that those critics are individuals who oppose legislation that would have actually made a historic investment in border security. So I recognize that people want to play politics with this, but if you take a simple look at the facts, the fact is the President has done everything within his power to make sure that we’re focusing our law enforcement resources on criminals and those who pose a threat to public safety. And it’s because of the political efforts of Republicans that we have not been able to make the kind of investment that we would like to make in securing our border and keeping our communities safe.
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, July 6, 2015, being questioned by ABC News’ Jim Avila regarding the July 1, 2015, killing of Kathryn Steinle by Francisco Sanchez.

Comment: Earnest engages in “common-sense”, “politicizing”, and “obstruction” rhetoric. There is a legitimate debate about what immigration reform should look like, and whether it needs to include all thing things that President Barack Obama would like it to include. Opposing Obama’s views on immigration does not amount to opposing common-sense. More, it is not “politicizing” Steinle’s death to mention it in or claim it to be relevant to the debate about immigration.

"He's giving Iran a nuclear weapon. The largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world is moving towards a nuclear weapon with the permission of the United States. It's outrageous."
-- Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-TX), July 6, 2015. His remarks concerned President Barack Obama, whose administration is part of negotiations concerning Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: There are legitimate disagreements about the best way to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. It is demonizing for Christie to say Obama is intentionally giving or permitting Iran to get nuclear weapons.

“I’m glad they see us as a threat,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview. “They should.”

He added that it made sense that the Castro government was closely following a presidential candidate whose election would not, to put it mildly, be welcomed. “If that’s the line the Cuban government has taken against me and is trying to indoctrinate their people in that way, it shows that we’re on to something,” he said.

Cuban government officials claim disinterest when asked about American presidential candidates, but Mr. Rubio clearly strikes a nerve, prompting eye rolling, dramatic rocking-chair rocking and unkind comments.
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), from a July 6, 2015, article in The New York Times.

Comment: This is "struck a nerve" rhetoric.

CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: Let's bring up Donald Trump. You've defended him. Your former governor, Rick Perry, has criticized him. You've had an experience with plenty of Mexican immigrants in Texas. Are they -- are these immigrants that are coming into Texas what Donald Trump describes? Are they drug dealers, rapists, and such?

SEN. TED CRUZ: Listen, I am a passionate advocate for legal immigrants. I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba. And I'll tell you, from the day I started campaigning, I traveled the state of Texas, talking about how all of us, we are the children of those who risked everything for freedom, that that immigrant experience of all of us is what makes us Americans, because we value in our DNA liberty and opportunity above all else. Now, when it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump. He's bold, he's brash. And I get that it seems the favorite sport of the Washington media is to encourage some Republicans to attack other Republicans. I ain't gonna do it. I'm not interested in Republican on Republican violence.

TODD: Rhetoric matters.

CRUZ: You know --

TODD: Doesn't rhetoric matter?

CRUZ: I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration. The Washington cartel doesn't want to address that. The Washington cartel doesn't believe we need to secure the borders. The Washington cartel supports amnesty and I think amnesty's wrong. And I salute Donald Trump for focusing on it. He has a colorful way of speaking. It's not the way I speak. But I'm not gonna engage in the media's game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans. I'm just not gonna do it.
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), July 5, 2015, during an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press". Cruz was referring to remarks made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on June 16, 2015.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Cruz never addresses whether Trump's remarks were appropriate. Is Cruz never going to criticize remarks made by other Republicans, no matter what they are, because that would be "Republican on Republican violence"? (Note that Cruz also uses violent rhetoric, though as a (comically exaggerated?) metaphor.) Is he never going to oppose another GOP candidate on anything? What if someone doesn't like the idea of Americans being "encouraged to attack" one another: does that mean Republicans shouldn't criticize the remarks of Democrats, either, and vice versa? Of course not. Cruz isn't being asked to engage in name-calling, demonizing, or negative politics. He's being asked to take a stand on whether someone else's rhetoric is acceptable, and he's refused to. He's evaded the question by praising Trump for criticizing illegal immigration – which was never the issue; the issue was Trump's description of illegal Mexican immigrants as being mostly rapists and drug-runners – and by accusing the media of trying to draw him into some contrived conflict. But it's entirely appropriate to ask a politician to take a stand on the rhetoric of another politician. Note, the word "colorful" is essentially a way of designating Trump's rhetoric as being attention-getting, but not wrong (for the record, what Trump said was wrong).

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