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...


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.

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