Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: September 27, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
CLINTON: I'm not going to sit here and tell people that I make up my mind – that's the Republicans. They make up their mind, they're never bothered by evidence.

TODD: Bernie Sanders has been on the – sort of, where you are on these issues, Bernie Sanders was there, when it came to marriage, 20 years ago. Do you think one of the reasons he's doing well right now is some progressives think, well, you know what, he was there when it wasn't popular?

CLINTON: Well, he can speak for himself, and I certainly respect his views. I can just tell you that I am not someone who stakes out a position and holds it regardless of the evidence, or regardless of the way that I perceive what's happening in the world around me. And, as I was saying, that's where the Republicans are. You know, they're still believing in trickle down economics, even though it was a disaster not once, but twice for our country.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), September 27, 2015, during an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News. Clinton was questioned on her change of position on certain issues, in comparison to the positions of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Clinton is defending herself for flip-flopping on various issues. She doesn't answer the question of whether or not Sanders' constancy is causing his rise in the polls. Clinton also accuses Republicans of not caring about truth, and of "failed policies".

***
ZAKARIA: There are a lot of people who are very fierce supporters of Israel, both in Israel and in the United States, who think President Obama has not been sufficiently supportive of Israel and that there are unnecessary tensions that have been created between Israel and the United States. What is your view?

CLINTON: Well, he's certainly maintained their qualitative military superiority. And there's certainly been some very public squabbles not all of which are his fault. Mr. Netanyahu's trip to the Congress was rather unprecedented. On the other hand --

ZAKARIA: And unwise?

CLINTON: Well, you can ask him that. But here's what I think. I think that the most important thing is we'll have a new president, like, in January of 1917 -- I mean, 2017. And I believe the nuclear agreement with Iran is on balance the right thing to do because I don't believe that an Iranian nuclear capacity now would be just Iran. I think there'd be one to four other states that would get nuclear power in the Middle East.
-- Former President Bill Clinton, from an interview released September 27, 2015, with Fareed Zakaria of CNN. The remarks referred to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's speech to Congress in opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal earlier that year.

Comment: Clinton doesn't answer the question. If he can weigh in on whether the Iranian nuclear deal is a good idea, why can't he also voice an opinion on whether Netanyahu's speech to Congress was a good idea?

***
Secretary General of the Shitte paramilitary Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said on Friday, that the U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategy in fighting ISIS has failed.

Nasrallah stated in a television interview, “The failure of the U.S. attempts to defeat ISIS has pushed Russia to intervene directly in the conflict,” pointing out that, “The Russian militarily presence in Syria includes advanced and very accurate weapons as well as fighter jets and helicopters,” welcoming this presence which supports the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
-- Hassan Nasrallah, September 25, 2015, as related in a story by Amre Sarhan of Iraqi News.

Comment: This is "failed policies" rhetoric.

***
EARNEST: Dr. Carson in many of the polls ranks second or third, so at least in the last few months he's been quite successful in elevating his status in the Republican Party. And we've seen a willingness on the part of many of those candidates to countenance offensive views, all in pursuit of political support. And in the case of the Republican primary, in pursuit of votes. And I think what's particularly disappointing to many observers, including me, is that we haven't seen a significant outcry from all of the other candidates in the Republican race.

RUSH: See, this is how they do it. Did you notice the first thing he said in this answer? He puts up here, "A willingness on the part of many of those candidates to countenance offensive views." You know, I can't tell you how this ticks me off. This presumption that nothing the left ever says is offensive. Nothing they ever say is controversial. That's just normal, it's free flowing, it's everything's kind and decent and tolerant and all that. And these are some of the most intolerant bigots among us, people on the left. … So, anyway, that's how the White House is dealing with it. "We just don't like these offensive views, particularly disappointing to many observers, including me, that we haven't seen a significant outcry from all the other candidates." This is how they do it. A Republican stands up, says something not politically correct, it then becomes incumbent on every other Republican to denounce the guilty party. This is the one-way street, this false premise, these narratives here that the left creates that I'm telling Republicans ought have nothing to do with, just nuke and just ignore these narratives out of the box.
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, September 21, 2015, responding to remarks made earlier that day by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

Comment: Limbaugh is complaining that there is a double standard in how Democrats enforce civil debate, and seems to be arguing that there's no point advocating civility. Limbaugh leaves out that – like Democrats – Republicans are also self-servingly inconsistent in enforcing civil debate.

***
"I think what is clear is that -- and this goes to something that we talked about in this room quite a bit on Friday -- which is that we have seen not just a tendency but a willingness on the part of some successful Republican politicians -- and, let’s face, Dr. Carson, in many of the polls, ranks second or third so at least in the last few months he has been quite successful in elevating his status in the Republican Party -- and we’ve seen a willingness on the part of many of those candidate to countenance offensive views, all in pursuit of political support and, in the case of the Republican primary, in the pursuit of votes. And I think what’s particularly disappointing to many observers, including me, is that we haven’t seen a significant outcry from all of the other candidates in the Republican race. And it’s for the same reason, because they’re chasing for the same votes. And the fact is this is not something that’s consistent with the values of the vast majority of Americans. And, ironically enough, I actually do think that the views articulated by Dr. Carson are entirely inconsistent with the Constitution that does actually guarantee the freedom of religion in this country. So, ultimately, there will be consequences. And certainly those views will be taken into account by voters, both in the primary but also in the general election."
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, September 21, 2015, responding to a question about remarks made by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who said he would not want a Muslim as president.

Comment: This is the "only my opponent" caricature, as Earnest is making it sound as if Democrats don't also indulge in offensive rhetoric, and then refuse to condemn it.

***
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pope Francis coming to the United States this week, his first visit to the United States, the first pope ever to speak to the Congress. I know you agree with the pope on the issues of abortion and marriage. Many conservatives have criticized him for his views on climate change, income inequality. Rush Limbaugh even suggested he's a Marxist. One, do you agree with that criticism? And what do you hope to hear from the pope this week?

RUBIO: Well, I'm a Roman Catholic. For me, the pope is the successor of Peter he's the spiritual head of the church, who has authority to speak on matters, doctrinal matters and a -- and theological matters. And I follow him 100 percent on those issues, otherwise I wouldn't be a Roman Catholic. And so I believe that deeply. The pope, as an individual, an important figure in the world, also has political opinions. And those, of course, we are free to disagree with. He obviously opines about this views of the church's role or the -- what we should be doing with the climate or things of this nature, on the economics. Those are issues that -- that the church talks about as regards to their social teachings, or their j sorry, the -- the way you balance government with society. On the social teachings, essential issues, like the sanctity of life and things of this nature, those go deep to the theology of this -- of the faith. And I do believe -- those are binding and I believe strongly in them. On the economic issues, the geopolitical issues, the pope is just trying to bring people together. That's his role as a spiritual leader. And I respect that very much. I have a job as a United States senator to act in the best interests of the United States and of our people. And from time to time, they -- that may lead to different opinions about different things. But I have no problem with the pope and I wish he would meet with dissidents in Cuba when he's there this week, but I would reserve judgment to see what he says when given the chance to address the public there. My hope is that he will discuss human rights and freedoms.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Rubio, thanks for joining us this morning.

RUBIO: Thank you.
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), September 20, 2015, during an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: Rubio doesn't answer the question of whether he agrees that the Pope is a Marxist.

***
STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Donald Trump. He's not going to weigh on whether President Obama was born in the United States, whether or not he's not a Muslim. I see you shaking your head.

RUBIO: Well, I'm just tired of the -- this has nothing to do with the future of our country. These issues have been discussed ad nauseum over the last few years. It's a big waste of time. Barack Obama will not be president in a year and a half. It's time to start talking about the future of America and the people that are at home. And every time we spend -- I mean I'm more than happy to answer your question, but every time that we discuss these sorts of things, we're not talking about the family who's out there trying to make it. They don't know if they're going to make it to Friday before a check bounces because they don't have enough money in the -- in the checking account. I mean those are the issues I hope we'd focus on. But I'm sorry, go ahead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no, so I take it from your question you accept that President Obama was born in the United States and is not a Muslim?

RUBIO: Yes, this is -- of course it...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.

RUBIO: -- he's born in the United States. He's a Christian. He's the president of the United States for the next year and a half and we're going to move on. This country is going to turn the page and this election needs to be about what comes next...
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), September 20, 2015, during an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: Rubio is saying that the issues of Obama's birthplace and religious affiliation are distractions, though he's not avoiding answering questions about them.

***
the obamagang is the enemy within intentionally destroying America



obama is a Christian [and] Im a gay vegetarian pirate
-- Singer Ted Nugent, September 19, 2015, on his Twitter account.

Comment: Nugent is demonizing, saying President Barack Obama (and his allies) want to destroy the country. Also, why is it not believable that Obama is a Christian? Should we not believe Nugent when he says he is a Christian?

***
QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Talking about the comments that came up last night, the statements by this questioner talking about President Obama being a Muslim, talking about Muslims being a problem in this country. You just said that question is offensive to the press, is it not also perhaps offensive to the millions of Muslims in America?

SANTORUM: Here's what I have to say about that. People are entitled to their opinions. We have a First Amendment for a reason. People can just stand up and say what they want. You don't have to agree with it, you don't have to like it. I have a lot of events where people get up and say things that I don't like. I have a lot people say things about me that I don't like. Read my Twitter feed. But I'm going to defend your right to say it. Whether I disagree with it or agree with it really isn't the point. The point is, do they have the right to say it, and do we have an obligation to correct it? And my answer is yes, they have a right to say it, and no, we don't have an obligation at a town hall meeting to correct everything that someone says that we disagree with. … I'm not playing this game that you guys want to play. The President can defend himself, he doesn't need Rick Santorum to defend him. He's got you doing that very, very well. So cut it out. … It’s not my job, it’s not Donald Trump’s job, it’s not anybody’s job to police a question. The questioner can say whatever he wants, it’s a free country.
-- Republican presidential candidate former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), September 18, 2015, responding to a question concerning remarks made at a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. At Trump's event, an attendee said Muslims were the problem with the country, and Trump did not challenge the remarks.

Comment: Santorum is knocking over a straw man: no one has suggested that the remarks made at the Trump event should be illegal. Freedom of speech – as enshrined in the First Amendment – allows people to make remarks like the attendee at Trump's event, but it also allows people to criticize those remarks. Santorum (like Trump) is free to do so, but declines. We are free to think less of Trump for not criticizing bigoted remarks (which they were), and to think less of Santorum for not criticizing Trump's silence. The point of debate is to arrive at the truth, so of course people should challenge falsehoods. Santorum is evading the question of whether the remarks in question were offensive to American Muslims, using "right to their opinion" and "not my job to police civility" rhetoric.

***
Heritage Action Presidential Forum: Take Back America
-- The slogan for a September 18, 2015, event held by the conservative group the Heritage Foundation.

Comment: Just like the liberal group Campaign for America's Future in 2007, Heritage is using "take back America" rhetoric.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: September 20, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
TODD: Should a president’s faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?

CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.

TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?

CARSON: No, I don't, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

TODD: And would you ever consider voting for a Muslim for Congress?

CARSON: Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are, just as it depends on what anybody else says, you know. And, you know, if there's somebody who's of any faith, but they say things, and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed, and bring peace and harmony, then I'm with them.
-- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, September 20, 2015, during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd.

Comment: It sounds like Carson is saying that Islam is un-American, though his position might be inconsistent: if Islam is incompatible with the Constitution, why should Muslims be kept out of the presidency, but not also Congress?

***
"This is the first time in my life that I have caused controversy by not saying something. I didn't say anything. By not saying something. … So I started by saying, am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don't think so! … Then I said, if someone made nasty statements or controversial statements about me to the president, do you think he would come to my rescue? I say, no chance."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, September 19, 2015. Days before, Trump had not corrected a town hall questioner who claimed that President Barack Obama was not American and was Muslim rather than Christian.

Comment: Trump is saying that it’s not his job to police civility, on the grounds that others would not police civility for his sake.

***
"Over the past five and a half years, our businesses have created more than 13 million new jobs. The unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in over seven years. Manufacturing is growing. Housing is bouncing back. We’ve reduced our deficits by two-thirds. And 16 million more Americans now know the security of health insurance. This is your progress. It’s because of your hard work and sacrifice that America has come back from crisis faster than almost every other advanced nation on Earth. We remain the safest, strongest bet in the world. Of course, you might not know all that if you only listened to the bluster of political season, when it’s in the interest of some politicians to paint America as dark and depressing as possible. … There’s nothing patriotic about denying the progress you’ve worked so hard to make."
-- President Barack Obama, September 19, 2015.

Comment: In saying that it's "the interest of some politicians to paint America as dark and depressing as possible", Obama sounds like he's accusing his critics (Republicans) of rooting for failure. If Obama is trying to dismiss the criticism on the basis of the motive he says the critics have, then he's also engaging in ad hominem reasoning. Last, Obama suggests his critics are unpatriotic.

***
KROFT: I’m sure you realize that it is difficult for many Americans to get past the fact that President Obama has signed an agreement with a country that says “Death to America”, “Death to Israel”. How do you explain this? What are they to make of it? Are they to take it literally? Is this for domestic, internal, Iranian political consumption? What are Americans to make of it, the language?

ROUHANI [as translated]: This slogan that is chanted is not a slogan against the American people. Our people respect the American people. The Iranian people are not looking for war with any country. But, at the same time, the policies of the United States have been against the national interests of Iranian people. It’s understandable that people will demonstrate sensitivity to this issue.
-- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during an interview with CBS News’ Steve Kroft, released September 18, 2015.

Comment: Rouhani is saying that this violent rhetoric is not meant to be taken literally. Rouhani also uses “hate the policies, not the people” rhetoric. If Americans were to chant “Death to Iran”, would Iranians interpret it similarly, as being directed at Iran’s policies?

***
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush reacted Friday to the latest controversy roiling the GOP race by identifying President Barack Obama as "an American" and "Christian," and calling for a return to civility in national politics.

Bush was alluding to an episode Thursday in which rival Donald Trump declined to correct a questioner who called Obama "Muslim" and "not even an American."

Bush told roughly 2,000 Michigan Republican activists, "I will commit to you that I will never violate my conservative principles. But I will assume that someone that doesn't agree with me isn't a bad person.

"We need to begin to get back to that degree of civility before it's too late in this country," Bush said.
-- Republican presidential candidate former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), September 18, 2015, as related in an Associated Press story by Thomas Beaumont. Bush was referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who the day before had not corrected a town hall questioner who claimed that President Barack Obama was not American and was Muslim rather than Christian.

Comment: Bush is calling for civil debate, and using "hate the policies, not the person" rhetoric.

***
I would argue that all of the G.O.P. candidates are calling for policies that would be deeply destructive at home, abroad, or both. But even if you like the broad thrust of modern Republican policies, it should worry you that the men and woman on that stage are clearly living in a world of fantasies and fictions. And some seem willing to advance their ambitions with outright lies. Let’s start at the shallow end, with the fantasy economics of the establishment candidates. You’re probably tired of hearing this, but modern G.O.P. economic discourse is completely dominated by an economic doctrine — the sovereign importance of low taxes on the rich — that has failed completely and utterly in practice over the past generation. … If the discussion of economics was alarming, the discussion of foreign policy was practically demented. Almost all the candidates seem to believe that American military strength can shock-and-awe other countries into doing what we want without any need for negotiations, and that we shouldn’t even talk with foreign leaders we don’t like. … I began writing for The Times during the 2000 election campaign, and what I remember above all from that campaign is the way the conventions of “evenhanded” reporting allowed then-candidate George W. Bush to make clearly false assertions — about his tax cuts, about Social Security — without paying any price. As I wrote at the time, if Mr. Bush said the earth was flat, we’d see headlines along the lines of “Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.” Now we have presidential candidates who make Mr. Bush look like Abe Lincoln. But who will tell the people?
-- Pundit Paul Krugman, September 18, 2015.

Comment: Krugman is using "stupid" name-calling as well as the "they'll say anything" caricature. He's also accusing Republicans of failed policies. Finally, Krugman is using the "only my opponent" caricature, saying it is a false equivalence to say Republicans and Democrats are equally guilty of making false assertions.

***
LAUER: Does a candidate for president, in this case the Republican front-runner, have a responsibility to shut down a supporter when the supporter erroneously says that the President's not an American, that he's Muslim, and then goes on to say, “We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims.” Does Mr. Trump need to apologize to the President and to Muslims?

CHRISTIE: He's got to decide what he wants to do for himself but I would just tell you that if somebody at one of my town hall meetings said something like that I would correct them and say, “No, the President’s a Christian and he was born in this country.” I mean, I think those two things are self-evident.

LAUER: Do you think it would be right for Mr. Trump to apologize to Muslims this morning?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think it's – Donald Trump's got to decide, as we've seen – and I’ve said this all along – he's got to decide how serious a candidate he wants to be and how he handles different problems like this are going to determine that in the eyes of the American people. I'm not going to lecture him about what to do, I'll just tell you what I would do. And I wouldn’t have permitted that. If someone brought that up at a town hall meeting of mine, I would said, “No, listen, before we answer, let's clear some things up for the rest of the audience.” And I think you have an obligation as a leader to do that.
-- Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), September 18, 2015, during an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer. Christie was referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who the day before had not corrected a town hall questioner who claimed that President Barack Obama was not American and was Muslim rather than Christian.

Comment: Christie is evading the question, perhaps with “not my decision” or “not my job to police civility” rhetoric. On the one hand, he’s saying that a leader has an obligation to correct false assertions, but he’s also saying he’s not going to lecture Trump about it. But, if Trump has an obligation that he’s failing to fulfill, then why not say so, and detail how he should live up to the obligation? If there’s a good reason for Christie to correct the record, why isn’t there a good reason for Trump to do the same?

***
QUESTIONER [unidentified]: We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. We know our current president is one. He's not even an American.

TRUMP: [laughing] We need this question. This is the first question.

QUESTIONER: We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question. When can we get rid of them?

TRUMP: We are going to be looking at a lot of different things. A lot of people are saying bad things are happening out there. We are going to be looking at that and a lot of different things.
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, September 17, 2015, being questioned at a town hall event. The questioner was referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Obama is Christian, not Muslim, and he was born in the U.S., but Trump never corrected the questioner's distortion and demonizing (either about Islam being bad, or about Obama not being American). There is also an ambiguity in the dialogue: when the questioner asks about getting rid of them, does "them" refer to training camps or to Muslims? What is Trump agreeing to look into?

***
Peel back the boasting and insults, the lies and exaggerations common to any presidential campaign. What remains is a collection of assertions so untrue, so bizarre, that they form a vision as surreal as the Ronald Reagan jet looming behind the candidates’ lecterns. It felt at times as if the speakers were no longer living in a fact-based world where actions have consequences, programs take money and money has to come from somewhere. Where basic laws — like physics and the Constitution — constrain wishes. Where Congress and the public, allies and enemies, markets and militaries don’t just do what you want them to, just because you say they will.
-- The New York Times Editorial Board, September 17, 2015, referring to the Republican presidential candidates, who had debated the day before.

Comment: This is name-calling of the “stupid” sort.

***
It’s one thing to marvel at the unprecedented and stupefying levels of GOP know-nothingness on display this election season — the misstatements, the untruths, the exaggerations, the falsehoods, and the straight-up lies. But these vaccine comments represent a legitimate public health menace. And it’s indicative of the allergy to facts, data, and evidence that is the real story of the GOP debate, and indeed of the Republican nominating contest — and we need to be talking more about it. … You’re going to hear about how Marco Rubio sounds substantive and serious on foreign policy, even though his views on America’s role in the world are basically unhinged from reality. … We joke about this stuff, but after a while it’s no longer funny. The Republican Party is dominated by candidates who are proudly, even boastfully ignorant.
-- Pundit Michael Cohen, September 17, 2015.

Comment: Cohen is accusing Republicans of not caring about truth.

***
Our nation is faced with all manner of heartbreak and chaos that needs our urgent attention, so why are many of you focused on reopening resolved issues like a woman's right to choose, the reality of Obamacare as law and America's longstanding tradition on immigration? My question: If you must go back into these issues, what will you do to resolve the new problems caused by the destruction of settled law and on-the-ground reality?
-- Activist and actor Sharon Stone, from a September 15, 2015, list of questions posted on CNN for GOP presidential candidates.

Comment: Stone is accusing Republicans of rehashing old debates.

***
Several candidates have said part of their immigration plan would include stripping the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution to end birthright citizenship. My question is, why should voters not be concerned that such a casual approach to disregarding the nation's supreme law would extend past anti-immigrant sentiment and on to any other portion you chose, such as the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms?
-- Activist Jose Antonio Vargas, from a September 15, 2015, list of questions posted on CNN for GOP presidential candidates.

Comment: Vargas is saying that ending birthright citizenship is a bigoted position.

***
"This is what kills me, honestly. The media is making this look like they’re Tea Party people. I don’t think these are Tea Party people who are following him. Some of them may be. But I think – you can’t – if you are a Tea Party person, then you were lying, you were lying. It was about Barack Obama being black, it was about him being a Democrat, because this guy’s offering you many of the same things as shallow as the same way. If you said to me that it bothered you about his past, you said to me, hey, what about his relationship with Jeremiah Wright, what about what he’s done here, here, and here, you’re not bothered by this guy. And it’s exactly the same thing."
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, September 15, 2015. Beck was referring to supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Beck is arguing that Trump is offering some of the same rhetoric as President Barack Obama did when he ran for president. Given that, Beck is suggesting that people who support Trump but opposed Obama may have been motivated by racism.

***
"I agree that it's good for Sanders to go out and to address racial issues since he's never been identified with it … But what he's doing now is he's criticizing this idea of inequality. It's a great idea if you're the opposing party. His party, the Democrats, Obama has been in office for seven years. They own the economy. The idea that you're running against inequality, the whole middle class is being held back, nobody is advancing, It's all stacked against you. Well, they've had the power for seven years and done nothing."
-- Pundit Charles Krauthammer, September 14, 2015. His remarks referred to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Krauthammer is using “failed policies” rhetoric against Democrats.

***
"And this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that’s out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are. … But when I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids, or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care -- I think that’s un-American. I do not believe that. I think it is wrong. And I think we should do better. Because that’s how America was made -- by us caring about all our kids."
-- President Barack Obama, September 14, 2015.

Comment: Obama is accusing someone of being both bigoted and un-American. But he doesn't name who has said that immigrant children or the children of illegal immigrants are less worthy of respect, so is it a straw man?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: September 13, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"The core group of Trump supporters, frankly, often doesn't care about very basic things like facts and reason and logic."
-- Pundit Steve Hayes, September 13, 2015. Hayes was referring to supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Hayes is saying Trump supporters don't care about truth.

***
"Despite the best efforts of who knows how many people, the inexplicable has happened. On the day before the 14th anniversary of 9/11, the United States Senate sustained the Iranian Nuclear Deal, freeing Barack Hussein Obama to lift sanctions on the Iranian regime, which will for the most part immediately provide them with between $100 billion and $150 billion. … The whole thing is inexplicable. There is so much that doesn't make any sense anymore. So much in our politics that's happening every day doesn't make sense to people anymore. And no matter how artful you are at explaining it, it still doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense because it appears that we've lost patriots. It appears our government is not filled with patriots anymore. That's what's inexplicable. … Okay, so why would Obama want the Iranians to have a nuke? Well, you can answer the question in a number of ways, which I have. But it's not going to satisfy anybody. Because at the end of the day, they're still going to get nukes, and it doesn't make sense! It doesn't make any kind of common sense whatsoever if you come from a position where the United States has the moral authority to be the good guys. If you believe that, this doesn't make any sense."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, September 11, 2015.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing those who support the Iran deal as not being patriots. he's also saying that it's "common sense" to oppose the deal.

***
"This is what my friend who lost his son in 9/11 doesn't understand. He didn't understand when the State Department convened a seminar within the first month asking, "Why do they hate us? What have we done to make them so mad at us?" He doesn't understand. None of that matters! There's nothing we could have done that justified what they did, so why the hell have a seminar about it?"
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, September 11, 2015.

Comment: Limbaugh is conflating explanation and justification. Explaining someone's behavior is not the same as defending or justifying it.

***
U.S. foreign policy, once defined by a bipartisan spirit, has devolved into a game whose rules are plagued with loopholes and asterisks and the mistaken idea that political parties can "win" it. Today, on the anniversary of 9/11, Congress continues to play this winner-less game, more concerned with the political consequences of their Thursday vote (or non-vote, as it may be) than with national security itself. And this is where Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1947 and creator of the now famous phrase that "party politics must stop at the water's edge," would be so severely disappointed. The Iran nuclear deal is being used as a divisive political tool instead of grounds to unite these bitterly divided political parties.
-- Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R-UT) and former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), September 11, 2015, from an article they co-wrote together.

Comment: Huntsman and Lieberman are faulting people for being partisan, divisive, and for politicizing foreign policy, suggesting they don't care about national security (a suggestion which amounts to demonizing). The quote from Vandenberg is often noted, but why shouldn't people disagree about foreign policy? How is everyone supposed to unite on foreign policy if they legitimately have different ideas about how to secure the country's security and interests?

***
"I don't care what Sarah Palin says any more. Sarah Palin has become a clown. I'm embarrassed that I was once for Sarah Palin. Honestly, I'm embarrassed."
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, September 10, 2015. His remarks referred to former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK).

Comment: This is name-calling. Whatever disagreement or embarrassment Beck might have with Palin, he can express it without deriding her as a clown.

***
"There was a time when there was a tradition of Scoop Jackson Democrats, of JFK Democrats, of Joe Lieberman Democrats, of Democrats who were willing to defend national security. Sadly, that is becoming rarer and rarer in today's Congress. So, to every Democratic Senator, they are facing a choice: do you value the safety and security of the United Sates of America? Do you value standing with our friend and ally, the nation of Israel? Do you value the lives of millions of Americans, or do you value more party loyalty to the Obama White House?"
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), September 9, 2015, during a rally in opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, which was supported by President Barack Obama.

Comment: Cruz is demonizing Democrats who support the Iranian nuclear deal, suggesting that they don't care about their country.

***
"I think the fact that a majority of Republicans came out against the deal before it was even done, says something about the partisanship here that’s really at play. Look, we’re in an election year. We’re all well aware of that. But if you look at the undecided members of congress, the more they study it, the more they talk to experts, and scientists, secretary of energy Ernie Moniz, the more overwhelming support we get for this deal. So, look, the rally that’s about to take place on the Capitol speaks to the level of partisanship. They’re trying to score political points. What we’re focused on is implementing this deal, and preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon."
-- State Department Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications Marie Harf, September 9, 2015. Harf was referring to a rally being held by opponents (many of them Republicans) to the Iranian nuclear deal.

Comment: Harf is accusing Republicans of being partisan. But there's nothing wrong, necessarily, about opposing the Iranian nuclear deal, even before all the details have been finalized (for instance, on the belief that Iran will not abide by the deal). By mentioning the upcoming presidential election, and saying that Republicans are trying to "score political points", Harf is accusing them of politicizing the issue as opposed to being concerned about whether Iran gets a nuclear weapon. In saying this, she is demonizing opponents of the deal.

***
With his blue tie loosened and slung over his shoulder, Trump sits back to digest his meal and provide a running byplay to the news. Onscreen, they've cut away to a spot with Scott Walker, the creaky-robot governor of Wisconsin. Praised by the anchor for his "slow but steady" style, Walker is about to respond when Trump chimes in, "Yeah, he's slow, all right! That's what we got already: slowwww." His staffers at the conference table howl and hoot; their man, though, is just getting warm. When the anchor throws to Carly Fiorina for her reaction to Trump's momentum, Trump's expression sours in schoolboy disgust as the camera bores in on Fiorina. "Look at that face!" he cries. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!" The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. "I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
-- From a September 9, 2015, article on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Rolling Stone magazine. Trump was referring to rival Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

Comment: Trump is name-calling, deriding someone for how they look. His later defense that he was referring to Fiorina's "persona" is unconvincing.

***
"Kim Davis can not and will not violate her conscience."
-- Mat Staver, the lawyer representing Kim Davis, September 8, 2015. Davis was a county clerk from Rowan County, KY, who had been jailed on contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Upon her release from jail, Staver was being asked whether Davis would issue – or allow her deputies to issue – marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Staver is not saying how Davis would behave with respect to marriage licenses once she returned to her duties.

***
"Former Vice President Dick Cheney: Wrong Then, Wrong Now"
-- From a video released September 8, 2015, by The White House under President Barack Obama. The video was a response to Cheney's criticisms of the Iranian nuclear deal, supported by the Obama administration.

Comment: At no point does the video mention any details about the Iran nuclear deal, it only points out errors Cheney made with respect to the Iraq War. It is ad hominem reasoning: if the Iran deal is a good idea, that will be determined by the facts about the deal itself. If we're supposed to judge the Iran deal by whether people have been right or wrong about other foreign policy or military actions, then should we think less of the Iran deal, given that Obama (who supports the deal) was wrong about the Iraq Surge and about whether Iraq could manage its own security after the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011?

***
COLBERT: Do you think that you could bring people together? Because everybody says –

BUSH: Yeah.

COLBERT: – they want to bring people together. But when you get down to the campaigning, or get down to what passes for governing now, it often ends up being a – just a game of blood sport.

BUSH: It is.

COLBERT: Where you attack the other person, and the other side can’t possibly do, say, or have planned for anything good.

BUSH: So, I’m going to say something that’s heretic, I guess. I don’t think Barack Obama has bad motives. I just think he’s wrong on a lot of issues. … If you start with the premise that people have good motives, you can find common ground. … You can be friends with people that you don’t agree with on everything. I mean, we have to restore a degree of civility.
-- Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, September 8, 2015, during a debate with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.

Comment: Colbert is asking whether Bush (or anyone else) can “unify the country.” Bush is using “hate the policies, not the person” rhetoric, and calling for setting a higher standard of debate.

***
QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Has the email issue damaged your campaign? For example, in terms of morale among staff or in fundraising or getting your message to voters.

CLINTON: No. Not at all. It's a distraction, certainly. But it hasn't in any way affected the plan for our campaign, the efforts we're making to organize here in Iowa and elsewhere in the country. And I still feel very confident about the organization and the message that my campaign is putting out.



QUESTIONER: What has this distraction meant for you this summer?

CLINTON: As the person who has been at the center of it, not very much. I have worked really hard this summer, sticking to my game plan about how I wanted to sort of reintroduce myself to the American people. How I wanted to listen and learn what was on the minds of Iowans. And I feel very good.



QUESTIONER: You have been critical in the past of politically motivated investigations. Has the Select Committee on Benghazi devolved in such a way?

CLINTON: Well, the American public will have to determine that. There have been seven previous investigations that were conducted by congressional committees. Of course, there was the independent accountability review board that was conducted by leading Americans with expertise in intelligence, diplomacy (and) the military. They all said that there were changes that needed to be made, which I fully embraced as the outgoing secretary of state. And I testified before both the Senate and the House. This committee has now gone longer and spent, I'm told, more money than the Warren Commission on President Kennedy's assassination and many other investigations. I'll let the American people draw their own conclusion.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY), September 7, 2015, during an interview with the Associated Press.

Comment: First, this is "distractions" rhetoric. Second, Clinton avoids the question about whether the Benghazi investigation is “politicized” by using the “not my decision” evasion.

***
"Right now, Republicans in Washington have the chance to prove they really care about working families. Congress has to pass a budget by the end of this month, or they risk shutting down the government for the second time in two years. Now, everybody knows the world economy is pretty volatile right now. Our economy is a relative bright spot. We’re doing better than just about everybody else. So a shutdown would be completely irresponsible. … The point is, it doesn’t have to happen. Congress can pass a budget that does away with this so-called sequester that just lops things off whether it’s good or not for the economy, harms our military, hurts working people. We could instead invest in working families, invest in our military readiness, invest in our schools, rebuild our roads, rebuild our ports, rebuild our airports, put people back to work right now. I’ll sign that budget. I’m ready to work with them."
-- President Barack Obama, September 7, 2015.

Comment: It’s demonizing for Obama to say Republicans don’t care about working families unless they pass a budget along the lines he describes. People can disagree about which policies are best for working families. If Obama doesn’t pass a budget that Republicans wants, does it prove that Obama doesn’t care about what Republicans care about, like reducing debt, etc.?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: September 6, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Pundit Mark Steyn tells Glenn Beck that Iran will get $150 billion from “your listeners” as a result of the Iranian nuclear deal.
-- The Glenn Beck Show, September 4, 2015.

Comment: This is a straw man. Though $150 billion was the number often touted, the amount Iran would receive from the deal may be closer to $55 billion. But this money will not come from the U.S.; rather it's from Iranian financial assets that were seized by economic sanctions against Iran.

***
Congressional votes on the nuclear accord are still days away, but now is the time to focus on the damage that’s being done. Left unchecked, the effects could be lasting.

Witness evidence compiled by the New York Times:

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who opposes the deal, was lampooned on the Daily Kos Web site as a traitorous rodent.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), who also opposed the nuclear deal, said she has “been accused of being treacherous, treasonous, even disloyal to the United States.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who announced his support for the deal, was called, on his Facebook page, “a kapo: a Jew who collaborated with Nazis in the World War II death camps. One writer said Nadler had ‘blood on his hands.’ Another said he had ‘facilitated Obama’s holocaust,’ ” the Times’s Jonathan Weisman and Alexander Burns reported.

And it’s not just a matter of an apparent divide among American Jews or the gulf between major Jewish organizations opposing the Iran deal and the deal’s Jewish supporters. The collateral damage falls across religious and racial lines. As a deal supporter, I know.

In response to a recent column in which I cited senior House Democrat and Congressional Black Caucus member James E. Clyburn’s (S.C.) criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taking an end-run around the White House to flay the nuclear deal before a Republican-led Congress, I received this e-mail from a reader using the pseudonym “visitingthisplace”: “Black Jewish relations have always been a two way street. The Jews gave money to black causes, marched and died for civil rights, and in return, the black [sic] looted and burned the Jewish businesses to the ground. . . . In spite of your education and your opportunities, you are still just another anti-Semitic street nigger.”
-- Pundit Colbert King, September 4, 2015. His remarks concerned the Iranian nuclear deal.

Comment: "Traitorous", "treasonous", and "disloyal to the United States" is rhetoric that questions someone's patriotism. The rhetoric against Nadler is essentially accusing him of being a traitorous, anti-Semitic Jew. The email sent to King accuses him of being an anti-Semite, and is also racist.

***
Geraldo Rivera made unabashedly racist remarks about Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson — while accusing Republicans of racism.

The gist of it: they’re only saying they’ll vote for Carson because he’s black.

On Fox News’ “The Five” on Thursday, Rivera commented on a Monmouth County College poll showing Carson would defeat Donald Trump in a head-to-head match-up. The show’s resident liberal said he was reminded of the 1993 New York City mayoral election, in which African-American incumbent Mayor David Dinkins polled high and looked like he was going to win, only to be defeated by Rudy Giuliani.

“I think a lot of Republicans polled by Monmouth are giving the politically correct answer,” Rivera said. “I think it’s all about being the black neurosurgeon, brilliant guy.”

When co-host Greg Gutfeld asked whether people voted for Obama because he was black, Rivera again gave a racist response, saying, “Obama was the least black guy you could possibly find.”

If Carson were failing in the polls it would be because Republicans are racist, but if he’s winning it’s because Republicans are racist.

Got that?
-- Pundit Carmine Sabia of BizPac Review, September 4, 2015, regarding remarks made by pundit Geraldo Rivera on September 3, 2015.

Comment: Sabia is accusing Rivera of racism. He is also saying that some people (he doesn't name who) are going to hypocritically accuse Republicans of racism whether Republicans support Carson or not.

***
A few weeks ago, I predicted in a column that the Iran deal would become the foreign policy equivalent of Obamacare–Republicans would keep hammering it, even if they had no way to defeat it. This would be cynical and solipsistic; but I have absolutely no doubt that this is what the majority of Republicans will do. Next week, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and other Troglyditic all-stars will hold an anti-deal rally in Washington. Other circuses are sure to come. … Instead of standing with the demagogue Netanyahu–and the show-boating Republicans–AIPAC should consider standing with the Israeli intelligence and military establishment, some of whom favor the deal and some of whom don’t but all of whom agree that now that it’s a done deal, there is a need for coordinated strategy.
-- Pundit Joe Klein, September 3, 2015. His remarks concerned the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Iranian nuclear deal.

Comment: There's all sorts of rhetoric going on here: "cynical"; "subhuman" (in the form of "Troglyditic"); and "demagogue".

***
RUSH: A couple more audio sound bites. … During the Trump appearance there, it happened on Bloomberg TV today, Market Makers. Erik Schatzker is the host, and he's talking with the Bloomberg Wall Street reporter, Max Abelson about a recent Bloomberg story, how Trump invented Trump.

SCHATZKER: Trump seems to have learned the same lesson that folks like -- I don't want to equate them, I'm just drawing a comparison -- that Rush Limbaugh learned. The more you say something, even if it isn't true, the more people believe it is true.

ABELSON: Well, that's definitely probably a very profound American reality, but, on the other hand, I will say that Rush Limbaugh -- actually, I was just about to say Rush Limbaugh is not a businessman in the same sense Donald Trump is, but maybe the Excellence in Broadcasting, is that what Rush Limbaugh's company is called? I think it is.

SCHATZKER: He certainly is successful --

ABELSON: He probably has a real company. But Donald Trump, to be fair, though, has put up huge buildings.

RUSH: These guys are comparing me to Trump, "But Limbaugh doesn't have buildings and Trump has buildings. He's still an impresario, but Trump has learned what Limbaugh learned," and then they get this BS about say something often enough, it doesn't matter whether it's true. You in this audience know full well that everything said on this program is researched to be the truth, and if we screw it up, we correct it. Besides that, these guys forgot about the EIB building in Midtown Manhattan.
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, September 3, 2015, on remarks by Schatzker and Abelson made earlier that day about Limbaugh and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Schatzker and Abelson are comparing Trump and Limbaugh in at least one respect, accusing them of both indulging in "big lie" behavior.

***
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt found something Donald Trump doesn’t win at on Thursday — knowing his terrorists.

“I’m looking for the next commander-in-chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard, yet, Donald Trump?” Hewitt asked the 2016 Republican candidate, referring to the respective leaders of Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.

“No," Trump said.

"You know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed. They’ll be all gone,” he said. “I knew you were going to ask me things like this, and there’s no reason, because, No. 1, I’ll find, I will hopefully find Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the pack.”

Trump said asking him who the key players are was a type of “gotcha question.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and pundit Hugh Hewitt, as related by a September 3, 2015, Politico story by Eliza Collins.

Comment: Trump is accusing Hewitt of some form of unfair or "negative" politics. But there's nothing unfair about what Hewitt asked. Nor is it the undoing of a presidential candidate if they don't know the names of all the players in foreign policy. Hewitt might prefer that they do, but is it absolutely essential?

***
Kim Davis in federal custody removes all doubts about the criminalization of Christianity in this country. We must defend #ReligiousLiberty!
-- Republican presidential candidate former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), September 3, 2015. His remarks concerned a county clerk in Kentucky, Davis, who was charged with contempt of court for refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple.

Comment: Is all of Christianity or are all Christians really being criminalized? This sounds like an exaggeration.

***
The Washington Post ran a story last week about some 200 retired generals and admirals who sent a letter to Congress “urging lawmakers to reject the Iran nuclear agreement, which they say threatens national security.” There are legitimate arguments for and against this deal, but there was one argument expressed in this story that was so dangerously wrongheaded about the real threats to America from the Middle East, it needs to be called out. That argument was from Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, the retired former vice commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, who said of the nuclear accord: “What I don’t like about this is, the number one leading radical Islamic group in the world is the Iranians. They are purveyors of radical Islam throughout the region and throughout the world. And we are going to enable them to get nuclear weapons.” Sorry, General, but the title greatest “purveyors of radical Islam” does not belong to the Iranians. Not even close. That belongs to our putative ally Saudi Arabia. … Saudi Arabia has been an American ally on many issues and there are moderates there who detest its religious authorities. But the fact remains that Saudi Arabia’s export of Wahhabi puritanical Islam has been one of the worst things to happen to Muslim and Arab pluralism — pluralism of religious thought, gender and education — in the last century. Iran’s nuclear ambition is a real threat; it needs to be corralled. But don’t buy into the nonsense that it’s the only source of instability in this region.
-- Pundit Thomas Friedman, September 2, 2015.

Comment: Friedman is knocking over a straw man: at the end of his argument, he criticizes McInerney et al for believing Iran is the ONLY source of instability in the region. But they never said it was the only source, they said it was the GREATEST source. (At any rate, whether Iran or Saudi Arabia is a greater, let alone the greatest, troublemaker in the region would be a difficult thing to measure.)

***
“None of this moves this man.”
-- Pundit Mark Levin, September 2, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio program. His remarks concerned the picture of Aylan Kurdi, a 2-year-old who drowned while fleeing war-torn Syria with his family. Levin was criticizing President Barack Obama for not doing more militarily to stop the war.

Comment: Levin is demonizing Obama as having no empathy for the suffering of others. There are any number of places around the world where people (including children) are suffering unjustly. If we don't sent U.S. forces in to save them, is that because we have no empathy, or because we are wary of the complications of invading other countries?

***
Though AIPAC can generally count on bipartisan support on any issue it cares about, it never had a prayer of beating an administration that was prepared to do and say anything to get its way. Once the president made clear that he considered the nuclear deal to be the centerpiece of his foreign policy legacy, the chances that even the pull of the pro-Israel community could persuade enough Democrats to sustain a veto override were slim and none. In order to achieve that victory, Obama had to sink to the level of gutter politics by smearing his critics as warmongers and slam AIPAC with the same sort of language that earned President George H.W. Bush opprobrium.
-- Pundit Jonathan S. Tobin, September 2, 2015. His remarks concerned the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Iranian nuclear deal.

Comment: Where did President Barack Obama say that opponents of the deal were warmongers? Is that a distortion of Obama's position? Also, Tobin is accusing of "negative politics" and being willing to "say anything" in order to win. Lastly, it's the "only my opponent" caricature to suggest that Obama, but not his opponents, resorted to unfair tactics on the debate about the Iranian nuclear deal.

***
HANNITY: You were on my friend Laura Ingraham’s show earlier today, and she asked you a question about people claiming that you’re just in this to run for vice president. You took great offense to that.

FIORINA: Well, you know, it would be different, Sean, if all of the other candidates were asked that same question with the same regularity, but they're not. I'm the person who's asked that question over and over again, and so one can only conclude that I'm getting asked that question because I'm a woman, which is disappointing because I don't sense that with voters at all.
-- Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, September 2, 2015, during an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News.

Comment: Fiorina is saying that those who suggest she's vying to get picked as a vice-presidential running mate are being sexist.

***
It’s true that too many of the poorest of the poor in New Orleans are still slipping through the cracks and have not been properly accounted for when they drop out. Critics like Andrea Gabor in The New York Times are right to ask tough questions about every aspect of the RSD’s efforts. But Gabor, like many other critics, cites the prestigious Stanford Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) when it serves her arguments only to try to poke holes in CREDO research confirming huge improvements in inner-city education spearheaded by experienced charter operators. For these critics to call the successes in New Orleans “a myth,” as Gabor does, is preposterous.

“Some people seem to be rooting for us to fail,” says Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who lost her Senate seat last year and now devotes much of her time to pushing education reform in her hometown and beyond. (Her brother, Mitch, is the mayor of New Orleans.)

Those rooting for charters to fail certainly aren’t the African-American parents who in cities across the country enter charter school lotteries in disproportionate numbers.
-- From an article by pundit Jonathan Alter, September 1, 2015, concerning charter schools in New Orleans and the Recovery School District (RSD).

Comment: These are examples of "rooting for failure" rhetoric.

***
Mr. Bush called the video “a complete mischaracterization of my thinking.”

“It’s almost as though Donald Trump is acting like a Washington politician — that’s what they do,” he said.
-- Republican presidential candidate former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), September 1, 2015, as related in a Washington Times article by David Sherfinski. Bush's remarks concerned a video on immigration policy put out by the campaign of presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Bush is accusing Trump of distorting his position on immigration. Bush is also engaging in a variant of the "only my opponent" caricature, making it sound like only "Washington" politicians resort to distortion.

***
"I know you may not like facts and evidence presented in cases, but they do matter."
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, September 1, 2015, during the 3rd hour of his radio show. His remarks were made to a caller who disagreed with Hannity about the Black Lives Matter movement, and whether certain shootings of black men by police were justified.

Comment: Hannity is accusing the caller of not caring about facts.

***
“Carbon pollution … it’s the big lie, you repeat it enough … carbon dioxide is not a pollutant … our president is a moron”.
-- Pundit Mark Levin, September 1, 2015, during the 2nd hour of his radio show. His remarks concerned President Barack Obama's comments on climate change.

Comment: Levin is accusing Obama of indulging in "big lie" behavior,  and calling him stupid. As I've discussed earlier, Levin's argument on whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant fails to take account of the notion that the dose makes the poison.

***
OBAMA: There are legitimate questions and concerns that have been raised by critics of the deal. I have gone out of my way to say that I am prepared to stand there and answer every single one of them as long as it takes. We have thought this through carefully. But I think all of us have to steer away from incendiary language that suggests that either those who are in favor of the deal are appeasing Iran, or, conversely, that those who are opposed to the deal are not thinking about America’s interest. That kind of language we do have to shy away from.

EISNER: There are people, even some of your supporters, who feel that you have contributed to some of that incendiary language. Do you feel that?

OBAMA: Not at all. And I’d be interested in an example of that. … These are hard issues, and worthy of serious debate. But you don’t win the debate by suggesting that the other person has bad motives. That’s I think not just consistent with fair play; I think it’s consistent with the best of the Jewish tradition.
-- President Barack Obama during interview with Jane Eisner of Forward, conducted August 28, 2015 and released August 31, 2015. Their remarks concerned the Iran nuclear deal.

Comment: First, Obama is calling for setting a higher standard of debate. Second, he is saying that others, not he himself, are failing to live up to that standard when it comes to the debate on Iran's nuclear program. Obama has certainly failed to set a higher standard on other political topics, and his accusation that opponents of the Iran deal are making "common cause" with Iranian hardliners is a good candidate for unfair rhetoric on this topic.

***
BALDWIN: I applaud any kind of peaceful movement, absolutely. I have had a number of people on the show who absolutely support what you do, including people who founded Black Lives Matter. They have been on. But, again, back to the violent rhetoric, when you say pigs in a blanket, Rashad, I want you to tell me what that is supposed to me.

TURNER: I mean, it's an example of -- even with this case that we're seeing down in Houston, when people of color, black people are accused of killing a police officer, you don't see that man down there getting bail. But what we see on the flip side of that is when a police officer kills an unarmed black male, that the system still works in their favor that they are able to get bail. So, when we say fry them, we're not speaking of kill a police officer.

BALDWIN: You're not?

TURNER: But we're saying treat the police the same as you're going to treat a civilian who commits murder against a police officer.

BALDWIN: David Katz, sort of representing the law enforcement side, how do you hear that?

KATZ: It took a long time for him to answer that question. The fact of the matter is, you can't just simply say this is not representative of our movement. You have people holding that sign making those comments. You have protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge saying what do we want, dead cops, when do we want them, now. You have two dead cops in New York City. You have got Deputy Goforth shot in the head by a racist murderer because of what these guys are doing.

BALDWIN: We don't know his [the killer of Deputy Goforth's] motivation. Let's be clear.
-- David Katz of the Global Security Group and Rashad Anthony Turner, organizer of Black Lives Matter in Saint Paul, MN, August 31, 2015, during an interview with Brook Baldwin of CNN.

Comment: This discussion concerns whether the acts of a few can be attributed to the larger group that they're a part of. In other words is it a hasty generalization to accuse the larger group of guilt by association? If a few members of Black Lives Matter engage in violent rhetoric (i.e., "pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon"), how does that reflect on the group as a whole? If a few police officers wrongfully shoot unarmed black men, how does that reflect on police (or on a particular police department) as a whole?

***
Trump is America’s answer to Hugo Ch├ívez. … Republicans like to think of America as an exceptional nation. And it is, not least in its distaste for demagogues. Donald Trump’s candidacy puts the strength of that distaste to the test.
-- Pundit Bret Stephens, August 31, 2015, in an article entitled, "The Donald and the Demagogues".

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

***
CHENEY: I think his world view just doesn't reflect reality.

HANNITY: That sounds – when you say that, think about what you just said. We have a president of the United States, that his world view does not reflect reality, and he has his finger on the nuclear buttons. That's a little scary when you combine them, no?
-- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, August 31, 2015, during an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News. Their remarks concerned President Barack Obama.

Comment: Cheney and Hannity are accusing Obama of being out of touch with reality.

***
"You know, the truth, the fundamental truth that is unarguable, that the United States of America has been a greater force for good than any other nation in the history of mankind and that we've been responsible for the liberation of more people, protecting freedom, protecting peace around the globe in a way that no other nation ever has and no other nation can. And so you've got a progressive agenda, a liberal agenda out there that basically says, "America is bad;" that America is at fault, that you've gotta limit America, that you've gotta diminish the nation. You've gotta weaken us." And it's an agenda that we have seen for a long time on college campuses. We have seen it for a long time now in our schools, sadly. And President Obama represents that agenda in the White House more directly than any president before him has.
-- Pundit Liz Cheney, August 31, 2015, on The Rush Limbaugh Show.

Comment: This is demonizing – perhaps also questioning Obama's patriotism – saying that he believes America is bad and doesn't care about keeping it strong militarily, and in fact seeks to weaken it.

***
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's call for the mass deportation of millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally as well as their American-born children bears similarities to a large-scale removal that many Mexican-American families faced 85 years ago.
-- From an August 30, 2015, Associated Press article by Russell Contreras.

Comment: Contreras is comparing Trump's call to deport illegal immigrants with the Mexican Repatriation of 1929-36. Of course there are similarities between the two, but there are also differences (say, in terms of due process).

***
WALLACE: You're getting blowback this weekend because you suggested that we should track foreigners who were in this country on visas and they overstay them the same way that FedEx tracks packages. And critics are saying, "People aren't packages".

CHRISTIE: They're not, but what my point was this is once again a situation where the private sector laps us in the government with the use of technology. Let's use the same type of technology to make sure that 40 percent of the 11 million people here illegally don't overstay their visas. If FedEx can do it, why can't we use the same technology to do it?
-- Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), August 30, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News.

Comment: Wallace is pointing out that Christie is being accused of "comparing" human beings (i.e., immigrants) to packages. Christie is explaining that he only means that they can be treated alike in the sense that they can be tracked similarly upon entering the country. He is not dehumanizing them.

***
"Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon!"
-- A chant from Black Lives Matter protesters, August 30, 2015, near the fairgrounds in St. Paul, MN. "Pigs in a blanket" means police officers in body bags. On September 2, 2015, affiliated activist Trahern Crews explained that the chant was "playful" in character and intent.

Comment: This is violent (even dehumanizing) rhetoric, and it's difficult to see how it is meant "playfully".

Name-Calling and Caricature: "Subhuman"

People in politics often describe their opponents as being less than human. Frequently this is done by saying they're an animal of some sort.

Whatever the details, it's a form of name-calling that's intended to deride or dehumanize someone.


EXAMPLES AND ANALYSIS
"Muslims who support Trump is like chickens for Colonel Sanders, you know what I mean?"
-- Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), May 24, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump. Trump had previously made comments to the effect that Muslims should briefly be barred from entering the country. Colonel Sanders was the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a fast food business.

Comment: Ellison is comparing Muslims to chickens – though not in the sense of dehumanizing Muslims – and Trump to Sanders – though (I'm assuming) not in the sense that Trump is going to do violence to Muslims. Ellison is simply making the point that – just like chickens wouldn't be a fan of Sanders – Muslims wouldn't or shouldn't be a fan of Trump.

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"But everything was fine until these people start disrupting things. And, by the way, they are not the lovable, little peaceful fuzzballs. These are not people showing up hoping to be heard and protest and get their point of view out. They're trying to shut these events down and they jostle people around. They shove. These are not nice people, if I can just be as simplistic about it as possible. They're mean little angry troglodytes, these leftist protesters, and they have only one purpose, and that's to shut down these events and disrupt them for whatever reason. They get their jollies or they don't want the event to go on. They want to make it look like there are many more people opposed to whoever it is conducting the rally than there are supporters."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, March 14, 2016, referring to a rally held by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump held two days earlier, which was disrupted by protesters.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing – "these are not nice people" – and dehumanizing – "troglodytes" – the Trump protesters.

***
"He has a very, very highly developed lizard brain. … He has a feral intelligence. He reminds me of the Emperor Caligula who got his greatest pleasure from destroying his opponents and humiliating them, and he is brilliant at that. But he doesn't know anything about policy".
-- Pundit Joe Klein, February 18, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Klein is demonizing and dehumanizing Trump. Also, does Trump literally know nothing about policy?

***
"The thing about — there is a troll-like quality to Cruz. He operates below the level of human life. … Let me clarify it. I think he appeals — I think he appeals to people’s negativity rather than their joy. I don’t think people feel good about voting for Cruz, I think they feel — I don’t know what it is he appeals to. Now, people keep telling me he has inherited the libertarian crowd. I don’t see how. He doesn’t seem libertarian to me. He’s appealed to the Baptists up here, I don’t understand that. What is he, a theocrat? Maybe he is. I'm serious about the guy, there’s something enlivening about these other candidates that makes you feel good. There’s something about that guy – who’s always reminded me of Joe McCarthy – and there’s something about him that is negative and menacing. When I say below the level of human life, I mean the good nature of human life, not just being a person. Although –"
-- Pundit Chris Matthews, February 10, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Matthews was interrupted at the end of his remarks.

Comment: Matthews seems to pull back from using "subhuman" rhetoric to demonize Cruz (though it's not clear where he was about to go at the end of his statement), but he nonetheless does demonize Cruz as being somehow at odds with the "good nature of human life".

***
"You look at Trump supporters, and they're dehumanizing people. Donald Trump is doing it. They're dehumanizing anybody who stands against them." They're fat, they're pigs, they're losers, they're cry babies", whatever they are. And he talks about women, as you know, it's even worse. When you dehumanize people, you head for massive, massive trouble. Where is the press speaking out about the dehumanization of people by Donald Trump? All we heard, all we heard about the Tea Party is, how "this rhetoric is going to lead to violence". I'm telling you, when you dehumanize people, you are one step away from the jungle."
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, January 29, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Beck is accusing Trump and his supporters of dehumanizing their opponents. He is also accusing some critics of the Tea Party movement for being hypocritical in suggesting that the rhetoric of the Tea Party was inciting violence (e.g., the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ)), but not denouncing Trump's rhetoric on the same grounds. Is it true that dehumanizing rhetoric puts us "one step away from the jungle", or is that an exaggeration?

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Washington Post depicts Ted Cruz’s children as monkeys. And won’t apologize for it.
-- Pundit Moe Lane, December 23rd, 2015, referring to a Washington Post cartoon created by Ann Telnaes and published the previous day. The cartoon accused Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) of using his two daughters (aged 5 and 7) as "political props" by putting them in his campaign commercials. It did so with a drawing of Cruz as an organ grinder, and the children as monkeys held on leashes.

Comment: There are legitimate questions about whether children of politicians should be the target of political debate, or whether children should be involved in political campaigns; I leave those issues aside for now. Lane (and others, like Cruz himself) have accused Telnaes of denigrating Cruz's children, but I don't think that's correct. I think this is a case of mistaken "comparing" language. Telnaes wasn't saying that Cruz's children were literally monkeys – that would be a case of "subhuman" name-calling – rather, she said they were being used to garner attention for his political campaign, analogous (I imagine, "comically" exaggerated, as cartoonists' satire goes) to the way organ grinders would use monkeys to collect money.

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Given Trump's knack for stealing the spotlight, it's easy to think he's alone in his Islamophobic views. That would be a mistake. The other GOP presidential hopefuls may not share Trump's penchant for rabble-rousing, but they're complicit in creating a deeply troubling atmosphere. And I'm not talking about the typical stand-on-the-sidelines sort of complicity. No, these Republican candidates are actively -- and dangerously -- bringing us back to scarier times with their fear-based proposals and angry rhetoric: … Ben Carson compared some Syrian refugees to dogs -- with "mad dogs" among them. Comparing people to animals is textbook propaganda, and it often leads to some pretty nasty places (think: "vermin," "blight," "eradicate"). Just imagine Carson's words blown up on a 20-foot poster. Marco Rubio equated Muslims to "Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party, but weren't violent themselves." Shameful. It was only last century that our elected leaders lumped Japanese Americans alongside our overseas enemies. The end result was internment camps, a concept that Trump refused to dismiss.
-- Pundit Donna Brazile, December 9, 2015, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump's proposal to temporarily halt Muslims from entering the U.S., as well as to remarks by Republican presidential contenders Ben Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Comment: First, Brazile is accusing Trump of bigotry, and the Republican candidates more generally of fear-mongering. She also distorts what Carson and Rubio said: Carson did not "compare" Syrian refugees to dogs in the sense of dehumanizing them and saying they were no better than dogs. Rather, Carson said the fact that some terrorists might pose as refugees in order to enter and attack the U.S. shouldn't cause us to despise all refugees, in the same way that one dog with rabies shouldn't cause us to fear all dogs in general. More, Rubio did not "equate" Muslims with Nazis: rather, he said that there is a difference between violent and non-violent members of the Islamic faith, just as there is a difference between violent and non-violent members of any other religion or movement. 

***
Has Donald Trump gone too far this time?

The Republican presidential hopeful is under fire for mocking a New York Times reporter with an 'outrageous' impression of the journalist's physical handicap during a campaign speech on Wednesday.

Not only has the New York Times come to the defense of their reporter, Serge Kovaleski, but the journalist's colleagues and the public at large have taken to social media to register their disgust with the brash candidate.



In a campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Trump laid into the journalist, doing an impression that saw him flail his arms while putting on a strange voice.

Before the distasteful imitation, Trump said the story was 'written by a nice reporter'.

But he continued: 'Now the poor guy, you gotta see this guy: "Uh, I don’t know what I said. I don’t remember." He’s going, "I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said."'

Kovaleski, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, was born with arthrogryposis.

The condition can cause sufferers' joints to get stuck in one position and can also see people born with weaker or missing muscles.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, November 25, 2015, as related in a story by Ollie Gillman and Ashley Collman of the Daily Mail.

Comment: Trump was clearly mocking Kovaleski for being disabled. It's not clear exactly what type of name-calling this would be – "stupid" or "subhuman"? Something else? – but it's certainly derisive and unacceptable. Trump's later claim that he was not mocking Kovaleski's disability is simply dishonest.

***
Marco Rubio wants no part of Donald Trump’s “freak show,” the Florida senator said in an NPR interview aired Monday.

“I’m not interested in the back and forth — to be a member or a part of his freak show,” the Republican presidential candidate remarked. “I would just say this: He is a very sensitive person; he doesn’t like to be criticized. He responds to criticism very poorly.”
-- Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), September 28, 2015, as related in a Politico article by Nick Gass. Rubio was discussing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: It's one thing to say he doesn't want to get into a visceral back-and-forth with Trump, but the term "freak show" is derisive name-calling (perhaps an instance of "disgusting" or "subhuman" rhetoric?). Also, it seems like the rhetoric is going to incite exactly what Rubio says he wants to avoid.

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A few weeks ago, I predicted in a column that the Iran deal would become the foreign policy equivalent of Obamacare–Republicans would keep hammering it, even if they had no way to defeat it. This would be cynical and solipsistic; but I have absolutely no doubt that this is what the majority of Republicans will do. Next week, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and other Troglyditic all-stars will hold an anti-deal rally in Washington. Other circuses are sure to come. … Instead of standing with the demagogue Netanyahu–and the show-boating Republicans–AIPAC should consider standing with the Israeli intelligence and military establishment, some of whom favor the deal and some of whom don’t but all of whom agree that now that it’s a done deal, there is a need for coordinated strategy.
-- Pundit Joe Klein, September 3, 2015. His remarks concerned the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Iranian nuclear deal.

Comment: There's all sorts of rhetoric going on here: "cynical"; "subhuman" (in the form of "Troglyditic"); and "demagogue".

***
"Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon!"
-- A chant from Black Lives Matter protesters, August 30, 2015, near the fairgrounds in St. Paul, MN. "Pigs in a blanket" means police officers in body bags. On September 2, 2015, affiliated activist Trahern Crews explained that the chant was "playful" in character and intent.

Comment: This is violent (even dehumanizing) rhetoric, and it's difficult to see how it is meant "playfully".

***
WALLACE: You're getting blowback this weekend because you suggested that we should track foreigners who were in this country on visas and they overstay them the same way that FedEx tracks packages. And critics are saying, "People aren't packages".

CHRISTIE: They're not, but what my point was this is once again a situation where the private sector laps us in the government with the use of technology. Let's use the same type of technology to make sure that 40 percent of the 11 million people here illegally don't overstay their visas. If FedEx can do it, why can't we use the same technology to do it?
-- Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), August 30, 2015, during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News.

Comment: Wallace is pointing out that Christie is being accused of "comparing" human beings (i.e., immigrants) to packages. Christie is explaining that he only means that they can be treated alike in the sense that they can be tracked similarly upon entering the country. He is not dehumanizing them.

***
California Gov. Jerry Brown slammed global warming deniers in a keynote speech on Tuesday at a Vatican conference of environmentally friendly mayors. Politicians running for office who do not accept climate change as real are “troglodytes,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Deniers of climate change are spending “billions on trying to keep from office people such as yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science,” the Democratic governor said, according to the AP.



It’s not the first time Brown has hurled the “troglodyte” insult at political opponents.

In March, for example, he ripped the positions of Republican governors and attorneys general challenging President Barack Obama’s immigration executive actions as “at best troglodyte, and at worst, un-Christian.”

Speaking at a climate change conference in Toronto earlier this month, Brown said that “[w]e have a lot of troglodytes south of the border.”
-- Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA), July 21, 2015, from a story by Nick Gass of Politico.

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

***
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.

***
[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.

***
"One man, one vote. People are comin' in this country across the borders like rats and roaches in the wood pile. We've got a state like Minnesota that says it's not our business to check 'em out, we just register 'em. We've got to get control. That's what they need to know."
-- The mother-in-law of Citizens United president David Bossie, May 9, 2015, during a focus group at the South Carolina Freedom Summit.

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"I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America."
-- Singer Ted Nugent, January 2014.

Comment: This is name-calling, much of it demonizing.



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