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.?

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