Sunday, July 5, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: July 5, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"Every single one of these candidates serving in Congress has supported cutting taxes for folks at the top while slashing investments in education. I know that sounds familiar. Some of those members of Congress voted to do it. Every single one of them is still obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act despite the fact that, by every measure, it’s working. You know, look, you could make an argument against Obamacare before it passed -- it’s something new; it’s untried; you don’t know. But now, where it’s doing exactly what it was supposed to and actually costing less than we expected, and people are satisfied with the coverage we’re getting, it just seems a little mean to say that you don’t want to provide coverage to 16 million people. And you’ve got nothing to replace it with -- that’s a bad idea."
-- President Barack Obama, July 2, 2015.

Comment: The point of much of the Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act (aka, "Obamacare") is that they don't believe it's working (for instance, people have lost their favored health care plan and/or doctor, premiums have not dropped by as much as $2,500 a year as Obama projected). To say that their position is "mean" is to accuse them of intentionally trying to hurt people, which is demonizing.

"And I want to emphasize -- I know some of them well. They’re good people. It’s just their ideas are bad. And I want to emphasize that. We’re one country, we’re all on one team, and so we’re all one American family. But we all go -- we're at Thanksgiving and Uncle Harry starts saying something and you say, “Uncle Harry, that makes no sense at all.” You still love him. He’s still a member of your family. Right? But you’ve got to correct him. You don’t want to put him in charge of stuff. That’s all I'm saying."
-- President Barack Obama, July 2, 2015.

Comment: This is "hate the policies, not the person" rhetoric. It's also "stupid" rhetoric.

"And they talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. Their menu doesn’t have a whole lot of options for the middle class. The one thing that the bus full of people who are fighting to lead the Republican ticket all share is they keep on coming up with the same old trickle-down, “you’re on your own” economics that helped bring about the crisis back in 2007-2008 in the first place."
-- President Barack Obama, July 2, 2015.

Comment: This is "failed policies" rhetoric. What evidence does Obama have – apart from flawed post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning – that Republican fiscal policy caused the Financial Crisis? Were Democrats – or, was Obama – offering any policies in the 2000 or 2004 presidential elections that would have prevented the recession?

"And so the question we’ve got to keep asking ourselves is, where do we go from here? Because we still have choices. Will we drift toward an economy where only a few of us do very well and everybody else is still scrabbling, struggling to get by? That’s not the right way to do it. Or will we keep working towards an economy where everybody who works hard has a chance to succeed? And over the next year and a half, you’re going to hear a lot of pitches from a lot of people -- they’re going to deny that any progress has been made. You’ll hear a lot of folks trying to sell you on their vision of where our country should go. They’re going to be making a whole bunch of stuff up. And when I say a lot of stuff, I mean a lot of stuff. We’ve got some healthy competition in the Democratic Party, but I’ve lost count of how many Republicans are running for this job."
-- President Barack Obama, July 2, 2015.

Comment: First, it's a platitude to say we should have an economy that works for everyone. Everybody wants that, but there's a disagreement about which policies will achieve that goal. Second, Obama accuses Republicans of "making stuff up" without noting that Democrats (including Obama himself) are guilty of the same behavior. That is, Obama is indulging in the "only my opponent" caricature.

"He is a clown in blackface sitting on the Supreme Court. He gets me that angry. He doesn't belong there. And for him to say slaves had dignity. I mean, doesn't he know slaves were chained? That they were whipped on the back? If he saw the movie, "12 Years as a Slave", you know, they were raped, and he says they had dignity as slaves? My parents lost everything that they worked for in the middle of their lives in their thirties. My father's business, our home, our freedom. And we're supposed to call that dignified? Marching out of our homes at gunpoint? This man does not belong on the Supreme Court. He is an embarrasment. He is a disgrace to America."
-- Actor and pundit George Takei, June 30, 2015. Takei was referring to a dissenting opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas released June 26, 2015, regarding the Obergefell v Hodges case legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Comment: First, Takei is distorting Thomas' opinion. Thomas' point was that the intrinsic dignity of people is not undermined by undignified treatment. That is, people don't lose their humanity when they are enslaved. Slavery mistreats them, but doesn't cause them to lose their inherent worth; rather, slavery is wrong because it is contradictory to peoples' inherent worth. So, he wasn't saying that slaves (or Japanese-Americans who were forced into internment camps) were being treated with dignity. Second, "blackface" is a racist term. Takei insists he used the word "to evoke a history of racism in the theatrical arts", but he must have known it wouldn't be taken that way. Third, calling Thomas a disgrace to America is akin to calling him un-American.

"After seven years I heard the President of the United States say the other day that the world respects America more because of his leadership. This convinces me, it is the final confirmation that President Obama lives in his own world, not in our world. "
-- Presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), June 30, 2015, regarding remarks made by President Barack Obama on June 1, 2015.

Comment: This is "out of touch" rhetoric.

TED CRUZ: When it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific, I think he’s brash, I think he speaks the truth. And I think NBC is engaging in political correctness that is silly and that is wrong.

ELIZABETH HASSELBECK: Should he apologize for what he said?

TED CRUZ: I don’t think you should apologize for speaking out against the problem that is illegal immigration. I recognize that the PC world, the mainstream media, they don’t want to admit it. But the American people are fed up. Now, listen, we are also a nation of immigrants, and we should celebrate legal immigrants, but Donald Trump is exactly right to highlight the need –

BRIAN KILMEADE: Are they mostly drug dealers and rapists that are coming across the border?

TED CRUZ: Look, they’re not mostly that. But Donald Trump, he has a way of speaking that gets attention. And I credit him for focusing on an issue that needs to be focused on.
-- Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), June 30, 2015. Cruz was responding to remarks made by presidential candidate Donald Trump on June 16, 2015.

Comment: This is an evasion. Trumps remarks made it sounds as if the Mexican people crossing the border illegally into the U.S. are largely drug dealers or rapists, which there is no evidence for. Trump wasn't being criticized for talking about the problem of illegal immigration (which is perfectly acceptable for Trump to do), Trump was being criticized for this slur against Mexicans. In other words, Cruz is knocking down a straw man. The problem isn't that Trump talked in a way that "gets attention"; the problem was that he spoke in a way that was false, and that demonized Mexicans.

Gerrard obviously intended for this to be a provocative piece, but he doesn’t offer any particular new affirmations of science and he ignores some obvious problems with his argument. For instance, if global warming has the impact he wants it to suggests it could, won’t the United States also have climate change refugees? … Those on the left who make these kind of bizarre assertions are feeding the fears of some, but the doubts of many others.
-- Pundit Ed Rogers, June 29, 2015. Rogers' remarks concern an article by pundit Michael B. Gerrard entitled, “America is the worst polluter in the history of the world. We should let climate change refugees resettle here.”

Comment: In his strikethrough, Rogers seems to suggest that Gerrard wants global warming to have a negative impact, which is demonizing, perhaps even "rooting for failure" rhetoric. Also, Rogers uses "scare tactics" rhetoric.

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