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 Chávez. … 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".

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