Sunday, August 30, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 30, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Two anonymous gunmen launched a hit-and-run attack on an Islamic State radio station inside Mosul, the group’s stronghold, a Kurdish official said Saturday.

Al-Bayan radio network airs a news/talk format and broadcasts in Arabic, Kurdish, English, French and Russian. The ISIS radio station has been framed as “highly professional” and compared to NPR and the BBC for tone and quality.
-- From an August 30, 2015, article on RUDAW.

Comment: This is a "comparison" I'm sure NPR and the BBC would rather not have made, but it's clear they're being likened to Islamic State's radio network in terms of production, not ideology.

Women who walk around drunk and provocatively dressed should expect to be sexually assaulted, Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders, has suggested.

The former chart topper claimed in a Sunday newspaper interview that scantily clad women were likely to “entice a rapist” and that it is their “fault” if they are attacked.

She discloses in a new memoir how she was abducted and sexually assaulted by a motorcycle gang in Ohio in the early 1970s – but concludes it was “all my doing” because of the way she was dressed and the fact that she was under the influence of drugs.

She also claimed that pop stars who call themselves feminists but use their sex appeal to sell records were effectively just “prostitutes”.

Charities said her remarks highlighted how victims of sexual assault wrongly blame themselves for their ordeals.

Her comments came in an interview with The Sunday Times, which published extracts from her autobiography entitled “Reckless”.

The book details an incident when she was 21 when she was picked up by a motorcycle gang who promised to take her to a party but instead took her to an empty house and sexually assaulted her.

But she said: “If I'm walking around in my underwear and I'm drunk? Who else's fault can it be? – Er, the guy who attacks you?

“Oh, come on! That's just silly.

“If I'm walking around and I'm very modestly dressed and I'm keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I'd say that's his fault.

“But if I'm being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who's already unhinged — don't do that.”

She added: “You know, if you don't want to entice a rapist, don't wear high heels so you can't run from him. If you're wearing something that says 'Come and ---- me', you'd better be good on your feet… I don't think I'm saying anything controversial am I?"

She went on to argue that many women who describe themselves as feminists were anything but in practice.

Asked whom she meant, she said: “Women who sell what their product is by using sex – that's prostitution.

“A pop star who's walking around, parading themselves as a porn star and saying they're feminists.

“They're prostitutes.

“I'm not making a value judgment on prostitutes, but just say what you are.”
-- Entertainer Chrissie Hynde, as related in an August 30, 2015, story by John Bingham in The Telegraph.

Comment: "Prostitutes" is sexual rhetoric, though Hynde leaves open as to whether or not it should be taken as derisive. She is saying that the victim is to blame in many cases of rape.

MoveOn wants to get New Yorkers moving against Sen. Chuck Schumer, their senior senator and the highest-ranking Democrat to oppose the controversial nuclear agreement.

According to details shared first with POLITICO, the liberal advocacy organization’s political action arm will next week launch a member-backed mobile billboard, dubbed the “SchumerMobile,” that will drive around New York City for five days in an attempt to publicly admonish Schumer and other Democrats who are pondering how they will vote next month on the resolution.

The mobile billboard features the words “MOST LIKELY TO START A WAR” with an arrow pointing to a red circle drawn around Schumer’s photo.
-- From an August 28, 2015, story in Politico by Nick Gass. The story concerns Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his opposition to a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Comment: Accusing Schumer of wanting (or being most likely) to start a war with Iran is exaggeration at best, if not demonizing.

"I don’t know what happened to the good people of Connecticut to be voting for a piece of crap like this."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, August 28, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. Levin was referring to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who had criticized Congress earlier that day for being "complicit" in mass shootings.

Comment: It's fair for Levin to criticize Murphy's remarks, but he can do that without resorting to the language of disgust (i.e., "piece of crap").

“We need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of that establishment,” said Sanders, who is an independent but caucuses with Democrats in the Senate.

Asked later whether he was speaking specifically about Clinton, he told reporters, “I’ll let you use your imagination on that.”
-- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), August 28, 2015, as related in a Washington Post story by Philip Rucker, Anne Gearan and Dan Balz.

Comment: Perhaps he is being sarcastic, but Sanders is avoiding answering the question.

"With respect to the appearance before the committee [the Congressional Committee to Investigate Benghazi], I think this will be by my count the eighth committee in the Congress that has looked into the tragic events in Benghazi. I have been saying for nearly a year I am ready to go up and testify. I offered dates in the spring and summer. And when they came back with alternative dates, I immediately said I'll be there, and I will be there. I hope this will be the last effort by some in the Congress to politicize the tragic events of Benghazi and that we do what all the other investigations, both the Congressional ones and the independent one and press and others who have examined this, we do what we can to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's always been my focus."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State August 28, 2015.

Comment: This is "politicizing" rhetoric.

"Well, you know, her life was cut short. She had so much potential, and, you know, it's senseless that her life and Adam's life were taken by a crazy person with a gun. And, you know, if I have to be the John Walsh of gun control and -- look, I'm for the Second Amendment, but there has to be a way to force politicians that are cowards and in the pockets of the NRA to come to grips and make sense -- have sensible laws so that crazy people can't get guns."
-- Andy Parker, August 27, 2015. Parker's daughter, Alison, was killed along with Adam Ward in an August 26, 2015, shooting.

Comment: This is demonizing, saying that supporters of gun rights have no noble intentions, but are simply cowards who are under the sway of others.

"Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be President of the United States, yet espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century for America. We are going forward. We are not going back."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 27, 2015.

Comment: This is "extremist" and "out of touch" rhetoric. In addition, in comparing Republicans to terrorists or those who "don't want to live in the modern world", Clinton is demonizing Republicans.

"And here come these young kids at the New Republic thinking (summarized), "Oh, my God! Oh, my God! What if? What if Stalin, what if Mao -- oh, my God, what if Gorbachev -- had just had the computers and us that we have today! "Can you imagine with the data collection and the data mining and the algorithms what beautiful results we could create for people?" So it finally cemented something I know, and that is all of this liberalism, most of it -- all of this dreaming and fantasies -- is all rooted in emotion. There isn't a single element of intellectual application to it."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, August 27, 2015.

Comment: By saying that their positions are based on emotion rather than reasoning, Limbaugh is resorting to "stupid" or "they don't care about facts" rhetoric.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has rankled some Virginia Republicans by repeatedly calling for greater gun control after Wednesday’s deadly shootings in Southwest Virginia.

“Clearly, that gentleman should not have owned a gun,” McAuliffe said of Vester L. Flanagan II, who killed a two-person news crew on live television early Wednesday. “That’s plain and simple. That was a tragedy. Now, I have no idea if any new gun laws would have changed that, we don’t know, but my job as governor is to do everything I humanly possibly can do to make our communities safe.”

Several Republican legislators took to Twitter to blast McAuliffe for what one called his “shameless politicization of tragedy” — particularly because closing the gun show loophole, a gun control measure McAuliffe mentioned, wouldn’t have kept the gun out of Flanagan’s hands.
-- Gov. Terry McAuliffe, as related by an August 27, 2015, story in the Washington Post by Laura Vozzella and Jenna Portnoy. McAullife had spoken in favor of gun control in the wake of a deadly shooting August 26, 2015, near Roanoke, VA.

Comment: McAuliffe is being accused of "politicizing" and "exploiting a tragedy".

Normally, when your main geopolitical rivals are shooting themselves in both feet, the military manual says step back and enjoy the show. But I take little comfort in watching China burning money and Russia burning food, because in today’s interdependent world we’re all affected. I also find no joy in it because we Americans, too, have started burning our most important source of competitive advantage — our pluralism. One of our two political parties has gone nuts and started following a pied piper of intolerance, named Donald Trump. … America’s greatest advantage is its pluralism: It can govern itself horizontally by its people of all colors and creeds forging social contracts to live together as equal citizens. But right now we’re messing around with that incredible asset. Yes, we must control our borders; it is the essence of sovereignty. It has been a failure of both our political parties that the Mexican-American border has been so porous. So I am for a high wall, but with a very big gate — one that legally lets in energetic low-skilled workers and the high-I.Q. risk-takers who have made our economy the envy of the world — and for legislation that provides a pathway for the millions of illegal immigrants already here to gain legal status and eventually citizenship. In June 2013, the Senate, including 14 Republicans, passed a bill that would do all that. But the extremists in the G.O.P. House refused to follow, so the bill stalled. And now we have Trump shamelessly exploiting this issue even more. He’s calling for an end to the 14th Amendment’s birthright principle, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born here, and also for a government program to round up all 11 million illegal immigrants and send them home — an utterly lunatic idea that Trump dismisses as a mere “management” problem. Like lemmings, many of the other G.O.P. presidential hopefuls just followed Trump over that cliff. This is not funny anymore. This is not entertaining. Donald Trump is not cute. His ugly nativism shamefully plays on people’s fears and ignorance. It ignores bipartisan solutions already on the table, undermines the civic ideals that make our melting pot work in ways no European or Asian country can match (try to become a Japanese) and tampers with the very secret of our sauce — pluralism, that out of many we make one. Every era spews up a Joe McCarthy type who tries to thrive by dividing and frightening us, and today his name is Donald Trump.
-- Pundit Thomas Friedman, August 26, 2016.

Comment: "Gone nuts" is "stupid" rhetoric. Friedman also engages in "extremists" and "exploiting" rhetoric. Friedman demonizes Trump's immigration plan as being racist (i.e., "nativism"), which is a distortion, given that it doesn't end legal immigration. Friedman also engages in "fear-mongering", "bipartisan", and "divisive" rhetoric.

"I will tell you, he was totally out of line last night. I was asking and being asked a question from another reporter. I would have gotten to him quickly, and he stood up and started ranting and raving like a madman, and frankly, he was out of line".
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 26, 2015. Trump was referring to Univision's Jorge Ramos, who interrupted Trump's press conference on August 25, 2015.

Comment: "Madman" is "out of touch with reality" rhetoric.

It's said ONLY 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, ONLY 7% of Germans Were Nazis. How'd that go?
-- From a meme retweeted by ESPN analyst Curt Schilling, August 25, 2015. CNN's link to the story was titled, "ESPN analyst compares Muslims to Nazis".

Comment: First, the meme uses "extremist" rhetoric. Second, CNN used "comparing" rhetoric in describing the text of the meme. Technically, the meme isn't comparing Muslims to Nazis; rather, it is comparing extremist Muslims to Nazis, and comparing Muslims in general to Germans. (Whether the percentages cited by the meme are accurate is a separate issue.) In likening extremist Muslims to Nazis, the meme is describing them as a group that should be opposed by violence.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Can we start with the comments last night, the “crazies” comments, and the opposition to it that’s already come out? Representative Black saying that it was incendiary rhetoric that causes problems in politics. Do you want to clarify those remarks?

SCHULTZ: I haven't seen Representative Black’s statement, so I don’t have a direct response. … the President came back from vacation and was remarking with Senator Reid at the challenges they face this fall. And he may have been a little flip in his language, but we have seen Republicans do wildly irresponsible things in the past, and that includes shutting down the government for ideological reasons. That’s a prospect that came to fruition a few years ago, and it’s something that Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are floating this time as well.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: But does he think that that rhetoric is helpful to the debate and helpful to getting things through, calling the opposition “crazies”?

SCHULTZ: Look, again, Isaac, the President may have been a little too flip, but at the end of the day, the President and Leader Reid were talking about the challenges they face this coming fall. I’ve listed a few instances of Republicans taking steps that we consider unwise.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Could you just clarify -- the crazies are who? The crazies are the people who are opposed to him on which things? And are they only Republicans?

SCHULTZ: Look, I think if you look at some of the things being proposed by Republicans in Washington -- for example, watering down Wall Street Reform, which is something that has built in the safeguards to our capital markets at a time where we’re seeing wild gyrations in global markets, we do find that irresponsible.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Does the President wish he hadn’t said that?


QUESTIONER [unidentified]: But he thinks there’s a logical, rational case for the infrastructure bill, for the budget bill, and you’ve said that those people who disagree with that case would count among the crazies. He’s made a logical, rational case, in his mind, for the Iran deal. Nobody who’s opposed to the Iran deal counts as the crazies? Can a Democrat be crazy, I guess is the question.

SCHULTZ: Present company excluded? The answer is, Isaac, he wasn’t talking about Iran when he made that remark.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: More on the crazies thing. So if you’re opposed to the Iran deal, you’re not crazy, in the President’s mind?

SCHULTZ: I honestly think you’re just conflating two different pieces.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: In his mind, aside from what he said last night and your explanation of it, are you crazy if you oppose the Iran deal?

SCHULTZ: Let me try it another way, Isaac. President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, said the following about the idea of opposing the Iran nuclear deal because you could get a better deal. This is a claim we hear frequently from both Democrats and Republicans who oppose this deal. He says this is somewhere between -- the idea that we can get a better deal is somewhere “between naïve and unrealistic.” So you can judge for yourself what language to use. But the President believes that, yes, this is the best way to cut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, and that those claiming they can get a better deal somehow are indeed, to paraphrase the former Treasury Secretary under President George W. Bush, somewhere “between naïve and unrealistic.”

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Are the Koch brothers the “crazies”?

SCHULTZ: I think the President mentioned them yesterday because they are part of the entrenched interests spending large sums of money trying to impede the progress that we’re making as a country.
-- Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz, August 25, 2015. Schultz was fielding questions regarding comments President Barack Obama had made August 24, 2015, in which he referred to some of his political opponents as "crazies".

Comment: First, Obama was resorting to name-calling of the "stupid" variety. Second, Schultz engages in a number of efforts to avoid answering the question of what justifies someone being amongst the "crazies". Schultz points out that many of Obama's opponents have behaved (in Obama's view) in ways that are reckless, irresponsible, naive, unrealistic, etc., but does that justify calling them "crazies"? Schultz says we should "judge for yourself what language to use", but note that while Schultz says Obama's rhetoric was "a little flip", he insists it was not something that Obama regretted or would retract. That is, Obama regards the rhetoric as appropriate. So, is it OK to use the same term to describe Obama if we think his policies are reckless, irresponsible, etc.?

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz clashed with Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Tuesday night over whether the Texas senator would deport immigrants who came to the United States illegally if their children were born in the country.

When Kelly pressed the Texas senator on what he would do as president, Cruz said that he’s “not playing the game” and declined to answer the question.

“What would President Cruz do? Do American citizen children of two illegal immigrants, who are born here, the children, get deported under a President Cruz?” Kelly asked.

Donald Trump, she said, “has answered that question explicitly.”

“Megyn, I get that that’s the question you want to ask,” Cruz said. “That’s also the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask.”

Asked whether it is an unfair question, Cruz said that it is “a distraction” from solving the issue.

“You know, it’s also the question that Barack Obama wants to focus on,” Cruz retorted.

“Why is it so hard? Why don’t you just say yes or no?” Kelly asked.

Cruz’s response: “Because, Megyn, we need to solve the problem. And the way you solve the problem is you focus where there’s bipartisan agreement first. Once we’ve secured the border, once we’ve proven we can do this, once we’ve stopped the Obama administration’s policy of releasing 104,000 violent criminal illegal aliens in one year. Once we’ve solved that problem, then we can have a debate, then we can have a conversation.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), August 25, 2015, as related in a story by Nick Gass of Politico.

Comment: Cruz is evading the question, and he never actually answers it. He insists that we should first focus on areas of "bipartisan" agreement before we decide what would happen to the children of illegal immigrants who are U.S. citizens. But that doesn't mean he can't state what his preference would be to deal with that situation, even if his preference doesn't have bipartisan support. More, Cruz engages in "distraction" rhetoric. Finally, he tries to undermine Kelly's question (using guilt by association) by noting that "liberal" journalists want to ask the same question. This is ad hominem, however: just because liberals are posing the question, too, doesn't mean it's an unfair question.

"Crazy Uncle Joe".
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, August 24, 2015, referring to Vice President Joe Biden.

Comment: This is "out of touch with reality" rhetoric.

Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore accused Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker of “literally” tightening the noose around African-Americans Monday.

Moore, who is black and represents the city of Milwaukee, Wisc., made the comments during a conference call with reporters timed to coincide with the Wisconsin Governor’s arrival in South Carolina.

According to a local Fox affiliate, the policies Moore believe are comparable to lynching are “Walker’s opposition to raising the minimum wage, requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, and requiring drug testing for public aid recipient…”
-- Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), August 24, 2015, as related in a story by Alex Griswold of Mediaite. Her remarks referred to Republican presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).

Comment: Moore is demonizing Walker with language that invokes racism. She is using violent rhetoric, likening (or "comparing") Walker's political positions to a racist lynching.

"@mstanish53: @realDonaldTrump @megynkelly The bimbo back in town . I hope not for long ."
-- A message retweeted by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 24, 2015. It referred to Fox News' Megyn Kelly.

Comment: "Bimbo" is rhetoric intended to disparage someone in sexual terms.

Name-Calling and Caricature: "Sexual Deviant"

Accusing opponents of being sexually promiscuous or deviant is a unique kind of name-calling. It could be understood as demonizing them, but it could also be seen as invoking the language of disgust; I’m putting it in it’s own category.

The language is pretty familiar: “slut”, “whore”, “prostitute” and similar terms are often used. It can frequently be understood to be misogynistic. Sometimes this rhetoric is used in the context of “comparing” rhetoric, where an opponent’s behavior isn’t literally being called, say, prostitution, but is being likened to it.

(This leaves unaddressed the issue of whether prostitution should be seen as morally wrong or offensive at all. Libertarians, for instance, typically argue for it to be legalized.)

The rhetoric of “sexual deviancy” is somewhat in a class by itself, but it’s clearly intended to to be demeaning and disparaging.

"Now Secretary Clinton has said Medicare for all will never happen. … Medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma and the private insurance industry instead of us".
-- Activist Paul Song, April 13, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Comment: In addition to using "sexual deviant" name-calling, Song is using "special interests" rhetoric.

U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday escalated a fight with Fox News, using the word "bimbo" in a derogatory tweet about anchorwoman Megyn Kelly after pulling out of a debate only days before the first nominating contest of the 2016 campaign.

Trump on Tuesday withdrew from the televised encounter, scheduled for Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa, in irritation at host Fox News for allowing Kelly to moderate after her questioning angered him in a debate last year.

The real estate magnate, who is the Republican front-runner to win the nomination for the Nov. 8 presidential election, followed up with a thinly veiled insult on Wednesday.

"I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct," he wrote on Twitter. "Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!"
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, January 27, 2016, as related in a Reuters story by Megan Cassella, Susan Heavey and Dustin Volz. Trump was referring to Megyn Kelly of Fox News.

Comment: "Bimbo" is intended to be derisive in sexual terms. Despite the fact that Trump says he won't use the word because it wouldn't be politically correct, he's repeatedly declared that he's not bound by political correctness.

HAYES: Michael [Brendan Dougherty], writing about the Trump campaign, says, "What so frightens the conservative movement about Trump's success is he reveals just how thin the support for their ideas really is. His campaign is a rebuke to their institutions. It says the Republican Party doesn't need all these think tanks, all this supposed policy expertise. It says look at these people calling themselves libertarians and conservatives, the ones in tassel-loafers and bow ties. Have they made you more free? Have their endless policy papers and studies and books conserved anything for you? These people are worthless. They are defunct. You don't need them, and you're better off without them." What do you think of that, Rick?

WILSON: Well, look, first off, I think that`s absurd. I think that there is definitely still a very significant portion of the party that is a limited government conservatism based faction of the overall coalition. Now, the screamers and the crazy people on the alt-right as they call it, you know, who love Donald Trump, who have plenty of Hitler iconography in their Twitter icons –

HAYES: They sure do. I can back that up.

WILSON: Who think Donald Trump is the greatest thing, oh, it`s something. But the fact of the matter is, most of them are childless single men who masturbate to anime. They`re not real and political players. These are not people who matter in the overall course of humanity.
-- Republican strategist Rick Wilson, January 19, 2016, being interviewed by Chris Hayes of MSNBC. At issue was an article written by pundit Michael Brendan Dougherty, discussing Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Wilson is name-calling, deriding Trump supporters as being inconsequential and sexually deviant.

Women who walk around drunk and provocatively dressed should expect to be sexually assaulted, Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders, has suggested.

The former chart topper claimed in a Sunday newspaper interview that scantily clad women were likely to “entice a rapist” and that it is their “fault” if they are attacked.

She discloses in a new memoir how she was abducted and sexually assaulted by a motorcycle gang in Ohio in the early 1970s – but concludes it was “all my doing” because of the way she was dressed and the fact that she was under the influence of drugs.

She also claimed that pop stars who call themselves feminists but use their sex appeal to sell records were effectively just “prostitutes”.

Charities said her remarks highlighted how victims of sexual assault wrongly blame themselves for their ordeals.

Her comments came in an interview with The Sunday Times, which published extracts from her autobiography entitled “Reckless”.

The book details an incident when she was 21 when she was picked up by a motorcycle gang who promised to take her to a party but instead took her to an empty house and sexually assaulted her.

But she said: “If I'm walking around in my underwear and I'm drunk? Who else's fault can it be? – Er, the guy who attacks you?

“Oh, come on! That's just silly.

“If I'm walking around and I'm very modestly dressed and I'm keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I'd say that's his fault.

“But if I'm being very lairy and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who's already unhinged — don't do that.”

She added: “You know, if you don't want to entice a rapist, don't wear high heels so you can't run from him. If you're wearing something that says 'Come and ---- me', you'd better be good on your feet… I don't think I'm saying anything controversial am I?"

She went on to argue that many women who describe themselves as feminists were anything but in practice.

Asked whom she meant, she said: “Women who sell what their product is by using sex – that's prostitution.

“A pop star who's walking around, parading themselves as a porn star and saying they're feminists.

“They're prostitutes.

“I'm not making a value judgment on prostitutes, but just say what you are.”
-- Entertainer Chrissie Hynde, as related in an August 30, 2015, story by John Bingham in The Telegraph.

Comment: "Prostitutes" is sexual rhetoric, though Hynde leaves open as to whether or not it should be taken as derisive. She is saying that the victim is to blame in many cases of rape.

"@mstanish53: @realDonaldTrump @megynkelly The bimbo back in town . I hope not for long ."
-- A message retweeted by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 24, 2015. It referred to Fox News' Megyn Kelly.

Comment: "Bimbo" is rhetoric intended to disparage someone in sexual terms.

@AnnCoulter Does Trump pay you more for anal?
-- Republican consultant Rick Wilson, August 18, 2015. The tweet was directed at pundit Ann Coulter, and referred to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Wilson is name-calling by saying that Coulter is a prostitute paid for by Trump.

[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.

"What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex."
-- Radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 29, 2012.

Comment: "Slut" and "prostitute" is "sexual deviancy" name-calling.

(The list above is not intended to be a comprehensive record of all relevant examples.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 23, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley apologized “like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby” for his remark that “all lives matter,” Donald Trump said in an excerpt of a new interview aired Friday on Fox News.

In an interview with Jeanine Pirro for her program “Justice” set to air Saturday night, Trump said that the former Maryland governor did not need to say he was sorry.

“And then he apologized like a little baby, like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby. And that’s the problem with our country,” Trump said, according to a clip aired on “Fox and Friends.”

O’Malley, in fact was “politically incorrect” with his apology, Trump remarked.

“How can you apologize when you say black lives matter — which is true — white lives matter, which is true — all lives [matter] — which is true. And then they get angry because you said white and all…we don’t want you to mention that. What’s he need to apologize for?” Trump asked.
-- Presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 21, 2015, as related by a story in Politico by Nick Gass.

Comment: Trump can criticize O'Malley's behavior without resorting to the language of disgust.

HARWOOOD: So do people misunderstand you're actually not for ending birthright citizenship?

WALKER: I'm not taking a position on it one way or the other. I'm saying that until you secure the border and enforce the laws, any discussion about anything else is really looking past the very things we have to do.
-- Repubilcan presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), from an interview released August 21, 2015, with CNBC’s John Harwood.

Comment: This seems like an evasion. Why can't Walker take a position on whether birthright citizenship should be continued or stopped? Other candidates have taken a position on the issue, either saying, for instance, that ending birthright citizenship would end an incentive for illegal immigration and thus help secure the border, or saying that birthright citizenship should be kept in place regardless of other changes to our immigration policy. It's not clear why Walker can't do the same. Is he saying the issue is a distraction, or involves too many hypotheticals?

Hillary Clinton’s campaign, under fire over the ongoing emails controversy, is pointing a finger at House Republican Benghazi investigators, accusing the panel of having classified documents on an unsecured system just like Clinton did.

On a phone call Friday afternoon, campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said the House Select Committee on Benghazi had on an unsecured computer system at least one Clinton email that State did not consider classified — but which the intelligence community now considers classified.

“[Benghazi Chairman] Trey Gowdy treated emails, in this case, in the same way Hillary Clinton did, considering them unclassified and … storing them on unclassified computer systems,” Fallon said. “So in light of this I don’t really see what leg Congressman Gowdy has to stand on in his criticisms of Secretary Clinton on this point.”
-- From an August 21, 2015, story in Politico by Rachael Bade.

Comment: Clinton's campaign, through Fallon, is accusing Gowdy of hypocrisy. This is essentially a "Tu quoque" – or, "you too" – argument in this case. But it is ad hominem reasoning: just because Gowdy may be doing the same thing as Clinton with emails doesn't mean that what Clinton is doing is acceptable.

"Jerrold Nadler is a Marxist, he is a complete puke. Party before country."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, August 21, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. Levin was criticizing Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) for supporting the nuclear deal with Iran.

Comment: First, Levin is deriding Nadler as disgusting. Second, while Nadler is a liberal, what is the evidence that he is a Marxist? This sounds like an exaggeration to the point of demonizing. Lastly, in saying that Nadler puts party before country, Levin is demonizing Nadler by questioning his patriotism.

"So they do this poll. And in the poll, I score really high marks on almost anything. Other than they thought I wasn't a nice person. They said who's the nicest, and I was like pretty low on that part. And I'm a nice person. But who cares. A woman came up to me, she said "I'm not sure that you're nice enough to be president." And I said, "You know what, this is not going to be an election based on a nice person. It's going to be based on a competent person. We're tired of the nice people.""
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 21, 2015.

Comment: It's not clear precisely what Trump means by being "nice", but this could be either "get tough and hit back" rhetoric, or an assertion that civility is bogus.

For those reflexive Trump supporters who believe that he must understand economics because he’s made a lot of money, I ask if you would support George Soros’s economic policy proposals for the same reason.
-- Pundit Ross Kaminsky, August 18, 2015. Kaminsky was referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Soros is a billionaire whose views on economics are often opposed to Trump's.

Comment: Kaminsky is pointing out that the argument for Trump's expertise is a flawed appeal to authority. In a sense, this is also "comparing" rhetoric: the argument that supports Trump's expertise equally supports Soros' (often opposed) expertise.

While the recognition of these problems is welcome — even for those of us who do not follow Mr. Trump further down his anti-immigration path — the rest of Trump’s “plan” is a bitter stew served up by a man pandering to Angry White People with ideas both fanciful and harmful.
-- Pundit Ross Kaminsky, August 18, 2015. Kaminsky was referring to the immigration proposal of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Kaminsky is demonizing, saying Trump's policies are bigoted and are intended to appeal to people who are bigoted.

Pathetic turd FrankLuntz begged @realDonaldTrump for corporate polling work - trashes Trump only after Trump declines
-- Pundit Roger Stone, August 18, 2015. Stone's tweet referred to Republican pollster Frank Luntz.

Comment: "Turd" is Stone's way of saying Luntz is disgusting.

.@HillaryClinton Wrong. Being more-anti energy than Obama is extreme. We should embrace energy revolution to lower prices & create US jobs.
-- Republican presidential candidate former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), August 18, 2015. Bush's tweet was referring to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's opposition to drilling for oil in the Arctic, a policy that President Barack Obama had supported.

Comment: Just because Clinton opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic doesn't mean she is opposed to energy, that's a straw man. Even allowing for the brevity required on Twitter, "anti-energy" is demonizing. Bush is also using "extremist" rhetoric.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 16, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
WALLACE: Question: Barack Obama, “anti-Semitic”?

CARSON: Well, all you have to do, Chris, is – like I have – go to Israel, and talk to average people, you know, on all ends of that spectrum. And I couldn’t find a single person there who didn’t feel that this administration had turned their back on Israel. And I think, you know, the position of President of the United States should be one where you begin to draw people together behind a vision, not one where you castigate those who believe differently from you. I think it’s a possibility for great healing, if it used in a correct way.

WALLACE: But, you know, it’s one thing, one could argue, your policy difference from Israel, but you say in your article – and you’re talking about his domestic critics here in this country – that there is anti-Semitic themes there. What, specifically anti-Semitic in what the President is saying?

CARSON: I think anything is anti-Semitic that is against the survival of a state that is surrounded by enemies and by people who want to destroy them. And to sort of ignore that, and to act like, you know, everything is normal there, and that these people are paranoid, I think that’s anti-Semitic.
-- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, August 16, 2015, during an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Carson questioned about his August 13, 2015, accusation that President Barack Obama had issued a “diatribe … replete with coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes.”

Comment: First, Carson evades Wallace’s question about Carson’s accusation that Obama engaged in bigoted behavior. When Carson does answer, he makes it sound as if Obama is unconcerned with the survival of Israel, rather than having a legitimate disagreement about what steps (for instance, the nuclear deal with Iran) are best for securing Israel’s security. Second, where has Obama said that everything is normal in the Middle East or Israel, and that Israeli opponents of the Iran deal are needlessly paranoid? It seems like Carson is knocking over a straw man. Third, Carson accuses Obama of “dividing” the nation. Finally, Carson calls for us to set a higher standard of debate and not to castigate those with different beliefs, but it seems he is doing precisely that: he is demonizing Obama as being anti-Semitic on the basis of having a different view about the merits of the Iran nuclear deal.

"If you look at their policies, most of the other candidates are just Trump without the pizzaz or the hair. Yes, Mr. Trump says outrageous and hateful things about immigrants, but how many of the other candidates disagree with his platform? None of the leading candidates support a real path to citizenship. When they talk about legal status, that's code for second-class status. It's the same when it comes to women's health and women's rights: Mr. Trump's words are appalling, but so are the policies of other candidates."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 14, 2015.

Comment: Clinton is accusing Republicans of using "code words". It also seems like she is saying that, since the other Republican presidential candidates have the same immigration position as Trump, they are therefore guilty by association of Trump’s derisive remarks about Mexican illegal immigrants. In fact, many of the GOP candidates criticized Trump’s remarks.

During Iowa’s famous Wing Ding dinner here, the 2016 Democratic front-runner dismissed Republican concerns about the transparency of her email arrangement as secretary of state, and said she’s been exonerated by earlier investigations into the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

“Benghazi was a tragedy where four Americans died … but let’s be clear: Seven exhaustive investigations … have already debunked all of the conspiracy theories,” she said. “It’s not about email servers either. It’s about politics.”
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 14, 2015, as related by a Politico story by Rachael Bade.

Comment: Clinton is accusing Republicans of "playing politics" or "politicizing".

But just as shocking as the decision to actually agree to such a flawed deal are the lengths to which the administration is going today to tar and feather those who dare speak out against it. By playing politics with a critical national security issue, President Obama is cementing his well-earned legacy as the Divider in Chief. In a speech at American University defending the deal Obama stooped to new lows far beneath the dignity of the office of the presidency, savaging deal opponents as warmongers and saying that “those hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’” in Iran were “making common cause with the Republican caucus.” Shockingly, his diatribe also was replete with coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes involving implied disloyalty and nefarious influences related to money and power. One can only imagine the sting of his words on members of his own Democratic party, especially those Jewish Members of Congress who have publicly stated their opposition to this deal based on its merits or lack thereof. … It is clear that the president and his team are in full campaign mode, demonstrating a steely resolve to jam through this misguided Iran deal at all costs. They are smearing those who dare to raise questions and employing a take no prisoners approach complete with bigoted dog whistles and malicious whisper campaigns that cynically divide our country.
-- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, August 13, 2015.

Comment: Carson is accusing Obama of using “code words” to express bigotry. He is also accusing Obama of “playing politics” and “dividing the country”.

So how could we maneuver Akin into the GOP driver’s seat? Using the guidance of my campaign staff and consultants, we came up with the idea for a “dog whistle” ad, a message that was pitched in such a way that it would be heard only by a certain group of people. I told my team we needed to put Akin’s uber-conservative bona fides in an ad—and then, using reverse psychology, tell voters not to vote for him. And we needed to run the hell out of that ad.
-- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), August 11, 2015. McCaskill is referring to her attempt to use political advertising to establish Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) as her Republican opponent in the 2012 Senate race.

Comment: McCaskill is saying that her ads used "code words".

Trump made his initial mark in this campaign with demagoguery about illegal immigration. But with the exception of Jeb Bush, the other GOP contenders have basically the same position: Seal off the border with Mexico, if necessary by erecting a physical barrier.
-- Pundit Eugene Robinson, August 11, 2015.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

Imagine if Congress voted on whether or not to teach evolution and climate change in school. And imagine that 73% of Republicans voted against it. The backlash would be easy to predict: The national media, and science journalists in particular, would spend a week making somber declarations of impending educational and scientific collapse that would reverberate across the cosmos. As it so happens, Congress did just vote on something of tremendous scientific importance: Biotechnology. And, as it so happens, 73% of Democrats voted against the bill. Yet, the national media remained deafeningly and hypocritically silent. On July 23, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, H.R. 1599, that, among other things, would block states from requiring foods containing genetically modified ingredients to carry special labels. From a scientific viewpoint, this is the correct policy. Yet, the Democratic Party, which has branded itself the "pro-science" party over the last two decades, overwhelmingly opposed it. Why? Well, it's hard to say, though the fact that places like the GMO-hating Whole Foods tending to be located in counties that voted for Barack Obama might have something to do with it. In the final vote tally, 94% of House Republicans supported the bill, while a stunning 73% of Democrats voted against it. Even Democrats who represent districts with a large biotechnology constituency voted against the bill: Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Mike Honda (CA-17), and Anna Eshoo (CA-18) -- all from the Bay Area -- as well as Boston's Michael Capuano (MA-7) and Stephen Lynch (MA-8) and Seattle's Jim McDermott (WA-7). The vote pattern made it abundantly clear: On the needlessly hot-button issue of genetic modification, Democrats sided with fearmongers and organic foodies, while Republicans sided with the medical and scientific mainstream. And yes, just like vaccines, evolution, and anthropogenic climate change, GMOs are mainstream and non-controversial in the scientific community. Indeed, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (PDF) -- organizations that represent our nation's finest doctors and scientists -- reject GMO labels.
-- Pundit Alex B. Berezow, August 10, 2015.

Comment: This is "scare tactics" rhetoric. Berezow is also suggesting that opponents of GMO are anti-science, or at least that it is hypocritical not to use that epithet against GMO opponents when it is regularly used against opponents of evolution or climate change.

HOROWITZ: In your speech yesterday, you seem to compare Republicans who are against this deal to some of the hardliners in Iran, who are chanting “death to America” in the streets. But I think many people want to know, there’s also Democrats you know who are on the fence about this deal. And what would you say to them?

OBAMA: Well, I’m talking to them all the time. And first of all, remember what I said was, that, it’s the hardliners in Iran who are most opposed to this deal. And I said in that sense, they’re making common cause with those who were opposed to this deal here. I didn’t say that they were equivalent. And I think that what you see are people who are assuming confrontation is inevitable and are unwilling to seize the possibility that we could shape an agreement that doesn’t solve all conflicts, but that does solve a very serious problem without resort to war. And what I have said to Democrats who are still trying to figure things out is, just read what’s in the text. Listen to the arguments. See what counter arguments exist on the other side. There are going to be some Democrats who end up opposing this deal, partly because as I said yesterday in the speech, the affinity that we all feel towards the state of Israel is profound, it’s deep. And you know when Israel is opposed to something a lot of Democrats, as well as Republicans, pay attention. The difference though, is that most of the Democratic senators have taken the time to actually read the bill and listen to the arguments. A sizeable proportion of the Republicans were opposed before the ink was even dry on the deal before it was even posted, and that gives you sense of the degree to which this is driven by partisan politics or ideology as opposed to analysis.
-- President Barack Obama, from an interview with Mic's Jake Horowitz released on August 10, 2015.

Comment: Obama is trying to qualify his "comparing" rhetoric, saying he doesn't mean to imply that Republicans and Iranian hardliners are "equivalent". So, would it be fair to say Obama has made "common cause" with Ayatollah Khamenei (in supporting the Iranian nuclear deal, or at least the negotiations) and Saddam Hussein (in opposing the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq), so long as it's understood we don't mean Obama is "equivalent" to Khamenei and Hussein? Or would that still be demonizing?

Demagogues like Donald Trump exhaust the patience of the political press corps because reporters fundamentally misunderstand the candidates' appeal. Reporters like to think that logic and reason hold sway, so they believe a demagogue can be easily disarmed by exposing his crimes against logic, his pandering to the uninformed and his manipulative emotionalism. They’re entirely wrong—as the last month of The Donald’s unlikely rise to the top of the Republican presidential heap has demonstrated day after day.
-- Pundit Jack Shafer, August 10, 2015.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

Apparently, he thinks there’s nothing amiss in suggesting that the only thing standing between the present moment and the broad, sunlit uplands of a denuclearized Iran is the Jewish state and its warmongering Beltway lobbyists. That slur in particular was the loudest dog whistle heard in Washington since Pat Buchanan said in 1990 that the Gulf War —advocated by columnists like Abe Rosenthal and Charles Krauthammer—would be fought by “American kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Leroy Brown.” Then again, Mr. Buchanan wasn’t the president. It says something about the crassness of Mr. Obama’s approach that the New York Times noted that allies of the president fear he “has gone overboard in criticizing” opponents of the deal. But it also says something about the weakness of his deal.
-- Pundit Bret Stephens, August 10, 2015. Stephens' remarks refer to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Stephens is accusing Obama of using "code words". He is also arguing that, since even Obama's allies (who are Stephens' adversaries) are criticizing Obama's rhetoric, therefore the criticism is credible, which is flawed "even my opponents" reasoning.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 9, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Sunday that he will strongly defend himself from critics, regardless of gender.

Trump rejected claims that he treats females who disagree with him unfairly.

“When I’m attacked, I fight back,” Trump told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I was attacked very viciously by those women,” he said of female opponents his detractors say he has demeaned.

“What they said about me is far worse than what I said about them,” Trump added. “Am I allowed to defend myself? I want to get back to the country. We have such problems.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 9, 2015, during an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd, as related by an article in The Hill by Mark Hensch.

Comment: First, this is "get tough and hit back" rhetoric. Second, Trump is claiming to be a victim – but not a perpetrator – of invective, which is the "only my opponents" caricature. Finally, Trump is saying that the criticisms of him are a distraction from the issues America faces.

On the day of the first Republican presidential debate, Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday she's often left in a "state of disbelief" from what she hears from some of her 2016 rivals.

Speaking in Los Angeles, where she met with home-care aides who often struggle with lower wages and difficult working conditions, Clinton expressed dismay with those who would oppose improvements for those workers, including better training and bigger paychecks.

"When people in the political world … oppose these programs, I would like them to just walk in your shoes for a week," she told a group of workers seated around her, who provide in-home care for the elderly, sick and disabled.

"We've got people, well let's just say we've got people running for president, who I don't know what world they live in. I don't understand it. It's truly amazing to me," the front-runner for the Democratic nomination said.

"I'm constantly in a state of disbelief," she added. "They said what?"
-- Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, August 6, 2015, from an Associated Press story by Michael R. Blood.

Comment: Clinton is saying that some of the Republican presidential candidates are divorced from reality.

"We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches, and someone who cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring."
-- Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, August 6, 2015.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric of the "get tough and hit back" sort.

CALLER: Well, first of all, he can't be bought, but he is not afraid to punch the media back in the mouth, and that's what a lot of people like about Donald Trump. He'll punch 'em in the mouth.

LIMBAUGH: And what if he doesn't do it tonight? You know, we've heard the observation that he's in a different mold now, a different mode. In the past week he's more presidential; he hasn't been calling anybody names. What happens if an opportunity like you want pops up tonight? What if Donald Trump does not do something like that? Are you gonna be disappointed and think, "Oh, no. Oh, no. Trump's not who he is, either." You gonna get that far down with it?

CALLER: I'll be a little surprised if he doesn't do it, but how do you treat bullies, Rush? You punch 'em twice as hard as what they punch you, right? That's how you get the respect. Well, that's what Trump did to the media person out there. I don't know where he was, but he said, "No, no, no. You're done. You're done," and he didn't take any further questions from them. The media, I think, is a little afraid of Trump. They're afraid to challenge him now 'cause he knows they will embarrass them. He will punch them right in the mouth, and they know it. That's how you treat bullies. You punch 'em back five times as hard as what they come after you.

LIMBAUGH: I'll tell you what: I'm sure you have people standing up there cheering with this. I don't doubt it all.
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, August 6, 2015, speaking with a caller, Jay in Columbia, SC. Their remarks concerned Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and the GOP debate taking place later that day.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric of the "get tough and hit back" sort.

There is no longer a Republican center-right that would have no problem raising the gas tax for something as fundamental as infrastructure. Sure, there are center-right candidates — like Jeb Bush and John Kasich. But can they run, win and govern from the center-right when the base of their party and so many of its billionaire donors reflect the angry anti-science, anti-tax, anti-government, anti-minorities, anti-gay rights and anti-immigration views of the Tea Party and its media enforcer, Fox News?
-- Thomas Friedman, August 5, 2015.

Comment: Friedman is demonizing the base of the Republican Party, saying they're anti-science and bigoted.

"I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran. It is offensive. It is incendiary. We do take it seriously. But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts, or even provocations that can be addressed short of war. Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. (Applause.) In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus. (Laughter and applause.)"
-- President Barack Obama, August 5, 2015, speaking on the proposed deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: First, Obama is knocking over a straw man: who has ever said that all Iranians want "Death to America"? Rather, the concern is that Iran's rulers chant it, or at the very least allow and encourage others to do so. Second, Obama is demonizing Republican opponents of the Iran deal via guilt by association or "comparing" rhetoric, saying that since Republicans and Iranian hardliners both oppose the nuclear deal, they have made "common cause". (Obama made the same assertion in March of the same year.) But just because GOP senators – like hardliners in Iran – are opposed to the nuclear deal currently in the works doesn't mean they agree with hardliners in Iran on everything. It doesn't even mean the GOP senators oppose the nuclear deal for the same reasons at the hardliners in Iran. Consider the same argument being turned on Obama: he, like Iran, is in favor of fighting the Islamic State (aka, ISIS). Does that mean he agrees with Iran on all other things, and supports Iran's position on terrorism or it's killing of US troops in Iraq in 2007-2008? Of course it doesn't. Did Obama make common cause with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, given that both of them opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq? Did Obama make common cause with Cuban dictators Fidel and Raul Castro when he agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba? Lastly, the audience seems to endorse Obama's rhetoric with their applause, though their laughter might indicate some of them think it is meant comedically.

"Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics where every foreign policy decision is viewed through a partisan prism, evaluated by headline-grabbing sound bites. And so before the ink was even dry on this deal -- before Congress even read it -- a majority of Republicans declared their virulent opposition. Lobbyists and pundits were suddenly transformed into arm-chair nuclear scientists, disputing the assessments of experts like Secretary Moniz, challenging his findings, offering multiple -- and sometimes contradictory -- arguments about why Congress should reject this deal. But if you repeat these arguments long enough, they can get some traction. So let me address just a few of the arguments that have been made so far in opposition to this deal."
-- President Barack Obama, August 5, 2015, speaking on the proposed deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: First, Obama is making it sound as if only opponents of the nuclear deal – and not supporters of it – had made up their minds ahead of time and were viewing the issue through a "partisan prism". That is, Obama is engaging in the "only my opponent" caricature. Second, Obama is making a flawed appeal to authority, dismissing the criticisms of people who aren't nuclear scientists. Just because a person isn't a nuclear expert doesn't mean they have no valid criticisms on nuclear topics. (Some of the criticism of the deal doesn't even rely on nuclear issues, it has to do with diplomatic matters, such as whether Iranian leaders are trustworthy.) Third, Obama says critics are offering "contradictory" arguments, suggesting hypocrisy. But, there's nothing hypocritical about one person offering one criticism, and a different person offering a logically contradictory one. Since Obama doesn't name who the critics are, how do we know they're being hypocritical and self-contradictory? Last, Obama is suggesting something akin to the "big lie" theory is at work with his critics, where repetition of a bad idea will give it credibility.

"Today, I want to speak to you about this deal, and the most consequential foreign policy debate that our country has had since the invasion of Iraq, as Congress decides whether to support this historic diplomatic breakthrough, or instead blocks it over the objection of the vast majority of the world. Between now and the congressional vote in September, you’re going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads, and the accompanying commentary, sounds familiar, it should -- for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal."
-- President Barack Obama, August 5, 2015, speaking on the proposed deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Comment: What is the point of noting that some of the same people who argued for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq are opposing the nuclear deal with Iran? If the argument is, "they were wrong then, therefore they're wrong now", that would be ad hominem reasoning.

"It's a war on women's health, it's not about abortion. Planned Parenthood spends 97% of its dollars on non-abortion related services … They serve 2.7 million people in America every year, 500,000 of those happen to be Hispanic. It is a very important healthcare organization, and this attack started from the day Planned Parenthood was founded in 1916, when the founder of Planned Parenthood was arrested for trying to distribute birth control to poor women. So it's a constant battle here. I can't believe in this century we are still battling against women's health."
-- Sen. Barbara Boxer, August 4, 2015.

Comment: First, this is "war" rhetoric. Second, Boxer is demonizing opponents of Planned Parenthood, saying they don't care about abortion, they only want to prevent women from getting health services.

On Tuesday, Fox's Bill O'Reilly grilled the billionaire businessman on his claim that as president he will get Mexico to pay for a wall on the southern U.S. border to help prevent undocumented immigrants from crossing into the United States.

"Bill, they are making a fortune, Mexico is making a fortune off the United States, it's becoming the new China in terms of trade -- they're killing us at the border," Trump said after O'Reilly pressed him twice on the same question.

The third time O'Reilly asked, Trump said, "I'm gonna say, 'Mexico, this is not going to continue, you're going to pay for that wall,' and they will pay for the wall. And Bill, it's peanuts, what we're talking about."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, August 4, 2015, during an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, as related by an article in CNN by Rebekah Metzler.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Trump never answers how he is going to make Mexico pay for the proposed wall.

"Here we have Obama, this man is deadly serious about destroying America."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, August 3, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio program. His remarks referred to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Levin is demonizing Obama.

TAPPER: During your first term as governor, you were fond of saying that you can treat bullies in one of two ways -- quote -- "You can either sidle up to them or you can punch them in the face." You said, "I like to punch them in the face." At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?

CHRISTIE: Oh, the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election.


CHRISTIE: Because they're not for education for our children. They're for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I have got the scars to show it. But I'm never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes.
-- Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), August 2, 2015, being interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric. Christie is also demonizing teachers unions, saying that they don't care about educating children, only about their own selfish interests.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: August 2, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"Civility in the face of terrorism is a vice."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, July 30, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. His remarks came in response to an article by Craig Shirley, entitled "In Defense of Incivility".

Comment: Levin is dismissing civility, but in doing so he's merely knocking over a straw man. Who has ever said that civility is the same as pacifism, or that we should be civil to terrorists?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The difference between us and the Republicans, is that we really are a big tent party.

MATTHEWS: What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Socialist? I used to think there’s a big difference. What do you think it is?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The difference between…

MATTHEWS: Like Democrat Hillary Clinton and Socialist Bernie Sanders? … Well what’s the big difference between the Democrat Party and Socialist. You’re the chairman of the Democratic Party. Tell me the difference between you and a Socialist.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The relevant debate we will be having over the course of this campaign is what’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican.
-- DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, July 30, 2015, during a discussion on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews about whether Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) – who describes himself as a socialist – would speak at the Democratic Party presidential convention.

Comment: This is an evasion. Of course the difference between Republicans and Democrats is relevant to the 2016 presidential election. But, given that Sanders – a socialist who is running for the Democratic nomination – is being welcomed as a speaker at the Democratic convention, it's also relevant to ask what relationship his political and economic philosophy has to that of the Democratic Party, such that Sanders (but not, say, conservatives) are welcome under the Democratic Party's "big tent". That's a question that Wasserman Schultz avoids answering.

"I look at those people and I feel sad. That is really such a low common denominator. They're all Republicans, they're all not going to go vote for him but they all seem to see this wishful thinking. … They're really -- they really don't have a firm grasp on reality, on what it will take to solve the country's problems. … I don't think I'm better than them. No, I don't. But they're not thinking. They want to be entertained."
-- Pundit Joan Walsh, July 30, 2015. Walsh was referring to supporters of presidential candidate Donald Trump, video of whom had just been shown on MSNBC's "Hardball".

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric. Walsh can point out errors in what Trump supporters believe without using the term "low common denominator" or saying they "don't have a firm grasp on reality".

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says if he was president, he would use the same language when referring to potential deals with Iran — and that the response from Jewish people to his controversial comments has been "overwhelmingly positive."

"We need to use strong words when people make strong threats against an entire group of people as the Iranians have made toward the Jews," the former Arkansas governor said Tuesday in an interview with Matt Lauer.

Huckabee said he has received nothing but positive feedback from the group of people he supposedly has offended.

"The response from Jewish people have been overwhelming positive," he said, adding that he has even heard from Holocaust survivors and their children. He noted that at an event he attended Monday night, "I was probably one of four gentiles in the entire event — it was a Jewish event. People were overwhelmingly supportive."

A day earlier, Huckabee refused to apologize for criticizing President Obama's nuclear weapons deal with Iran by comparing it to the Holocaust.

"He would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven," he said in a recent interview about the plan.
-- Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), July 28, 2015, from a Today News story by Eun Kyung Kim.

Comment: This is "get tough and hit back" rhetoric.

"Now, if you're asking me about the politics of Washington and the rhetoric that takes place there, that doesn’t always go great. The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are, I think, part of just a general pattern that we've seen that is -- would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad. We've had a sitting senator call John Kerry Pontius Pilate. We've had a sitting senator who also happens to be running for President suggest that I'm the leading state sponsor of terrorism. These are leaders in the Republican Party. And part of what historically has made America great is, particularly when it comes to foreign policy, there’s been a recognition that these issues are too serious, that issues of war and peace are of such grave concern and consequence that we don't play fast and loose that way. We have robust debates, we look at the facts, there are going to be disagreements. But we just don't fling out ad hominem attacks like that, because it doesn’t help inform the American people. I mean, this is a deal that has been endorsed by people like Brent Scowcroft and Sam Nunn -- right? -- historic Democratic and Republican leaders on arms control and on keeping America safe. And so when you get rhetoric like this, maybe it gets attention and maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it's not the kind of leadership that is needed for America right now. And I don't think that's what anybody -- Democratic, Republican, or independent -- is looking for out of their political leaders. In fact, it's been interesting when you look at what’s happened with Mr. Trump, when he’s made some of the remarks that, for example, challenged the heroism of Mr. McCain, somebody who endured torture and conducted himself with exemplary patriotism, the Republican Party is shocked. And yet, that arises out of a culture where those kinds of outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace and get circulated nonstop through the Internet and talk radio and news outlets. And I recognize when outrageous statements like that are made about me, that a lot of the same people who were outraged when they were made about Mr. McCain were pretty quiet. The point is we're creating a culture that is not conducive to good policy or good politics. The American people deserve better. Certainly, presidential debates deserve better. In 18 months, I'm turning over the keys -- I want to make sure I'm turning over the keys to somebody who is serious about the serious problems the country faces and the world faces. And that requires on both sides, Democrat and Republican, a sense of seriousness and decorum and honesty. And I think that's what the voters expect, as well."
-- President Barack Obama, July 27, 2015. Obama was referring to remarks made about the Iranian nuclear deal by Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). They described it respectively, as marching Israelis "to the door of the oven", a "jihadist stimulus bill", and as negotiated by someone who "acted like Pontius Pilate" (referring to Secretary of State John Kerry).

Comment: In the face of remarks that are exaggerations and/or demonizing, Obama is calling for setting a higher standard of political debate. However, by failing to note how he and fellow Democrats contribute to name-calling and incivility, Obama is engaging in the "only my opponent" caricature. Obama also conflates ad hominem reasoning and name-calling. Plus, aren't domestic issues too important to play "fast and loose" with rhetoric?

Ted Cruz on Monday defended his statement that Mitch McConnell told a “flat-out lie” about reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, doubling down on his assertion that the Senate majority leader conspired with Democrats to undermine the most conservative wing of the party.

“I gave a highly unusual floor speech,” Cruz said on “The Howie Carr Show” on WRKO in Boston, referring to his diatribe last Friday condemning the way the Senate ultimately passed funding for the Export-Import Bank.

“The 11th commandment doesn’t mean that you never disagree with another Republican on policy, on substance, on record,” Cruz said. “Remember, Ronald Reagan primaried Gerald Ford in ’76. But he didn’t attack him and say he’s a no-good, unethical person.”

“He said, ‘We need to stand for principle.’ So what I said about McConnell wasn’t attacking him personally, it was simply talking about his record,” the senator added. “He said this, he made this commitment to me, and then he broke it. And it was laying out the facts and it was very calm and orderly just walking through, telling the truth. You know there’s an old quote often wrongly attributed to George Orwell but it’s a powerful quote, which is: ‘In a time of universal deception, telling the truth can be a revolutionary act.’”
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), July 27, 2015, according to stories by Adam B. Lerner of Politico and Oliver Darcy of The Blaze.

Comment: Cruz is using "hate the policies, not the person" rhetoric. Cruz said that McConnell lied: how is that not a remark about McConnell personally? It's criticizing McConnell for something McConnell did. Plus, a personal remark is not necessarily false or unfair; it's only when we misrepresent and deride someone else that we've resorted to "negative politics".

"No other presidential candidate was secretary of state when this process started, and I put together a very thorough, deliberative, evidence-based process to evaluate the environmental impact and other considerations of Keystone. As such, I know that there is a very careful evaluation continuing and that the final decision is pending to be made by Secretary [John] Kerry and President Obama. Very simply, the evaluation is determined whether this pipeline is in our nation’s interest, and I’m confident that the pipeline’s impact on global greenhouse gas emissions will be a major factor in that decision, as the President has said. So I will refrain from commenting, because I had a leading role in getting that process started, and I think that we have to let it run its course."
-- Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, July 27, 2015. She was responding to a question about the proposed Keystone oil pipeline, which is being considered for construction.

Comment: This is an instance of the "not my decision" evasion (or perhaps the "under investigation" evasion). Yes, the federal government is in the midst of evaluating the costs and benefits of the Keystone pipeline, and Clinton played a role in inaugurating that evaluation. But she's not involved with it anymore, so she wouldn't be interfering with or undermining the evaluation to take a position on it now.  (As Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post points out, Clinton has taken a stance on the nuclear deal with Iran, despite the fact that the Senate has yet to vote on it.) Is she saying that she will simply endorse whatever decision is reached by the federal government investigation? If so, that, too, is a position she has decided to take, and she can be asked to defend.

Beyond the logistics of a comprehensive round-up are the political implications of such an effort. During a campaign stop in central Florida on Monday, Bush told a group of about 150 pastors and other religious leaders that America's immigration system is "broken" but that deporting 11 million people is not a solution.

"The idea of self-deportation, of rounding people up, is not an American value," Bush said. "Americans reject that idea."
-- Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), July 27, 2015, as reported by a July 30, 2015, Associated Press story by Jill Colvin and Alicia A. Caldwell.

Comment: First, Bush is suggesting that those who advocate self-deportation are somehow not American. Second, it's "Americans want" rhetoric for Bush to insist that Americans reject the idea of self-deportation.

"This president's foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."
-- Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), July 26, 2015. Huckabee was referring to the deal on Iran's nuclear program endorsed by President Barack Obama.

Comment: Huckabee is invoking the Holocaust, predicting that the Iranian nuclear deal will be as deadly to Jews (in this case, the ones living in Israel) as the massacres by the Nazis. This is a prediction, so it's technically unclear whether it's true or false, but it seems likely to be an exaggeration. If it's so obvious that the deal is apocalyptically bad, then why – according to Huckabee – would Obama endorse it? Because Obama is evil or stupid? Or is this instead a violent metaphor on Huckabee's part, a "comparing" of the Iranian deal with the Holocaust?