Monday, October 12, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: October 11, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
MASON: Do you think it’s healthy for the system that so much money is coming out of a relatively small group of people?

KOCH: If I didn’t think it was healthy or fair, I wouldn’t do it. Because what we’re after is to fight against special interests.

MASON: Some people would look at you and say you’re a special interest.

KOCH: Yeah, but my interest is, just as it’s been in business, is what will help people improve their lives and to get rid of these special interests. That’s the whole thing that drives me.
-- Billionaire activist Charles Koch, during interview released October 11, 2015, with Anthony Mason of CBS News.

Comment: This is "special interests" rhetoric.

"I believe that any one of our candidates will stand in stark contrast when it comes to the priorities of the American people and how they're going to make the decisions on who they vote for for president to any of the Republican candidates. The Republicans have been trying to out right wing one another. Look, between the 15 Republican candidates that are left, all of whom are trying to out-trump Donald Trump by saying, yes, let's kick women -- let's kick immigrants out of this country. Let's take away health care from women."
-- Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), October 11, 2015.

Comment: Wasserman Schultz is demonizing Republicans, distorting their positions: Republicans aren't xenophobes who want to deport all immigrants; rather, Republicans (but not even all of them) want all illegal immigrants deported. Also, Republicans don't want women to be refused health care; rather, Republicans (again, not even all of them) don't want government money being used to support one health care provider – Planned Parenthood – so long as it also provides abortion services.

KROFT: Do you think if you ran again, could run again, and did run again, you would be elected?


KROFT: You do.

OBAMA: I do.
-- President Barack Obama, during interview released October 11, 2015, with Steve Kroft of CBS News.

Comment: Obama is answering a hypothetical question.

KROFT: What do you think of Donald Trump?

OBAMA: Well, I think that he is a great publicity-seeker and at a time when the Republican party hasn't really figured out what it's for, as opposed to what it's against. I think that he is tapped into something that exists in the Republican party that's real. I think there is genuine anti-immigrant sentiment in the large portion of at least Republican primary voters. I don't think it's uniform. He knows how to get attention. He is, you know, the classic reality TV character and, at this early stage, it's not surprising that he's gotten a lot of attention.
-- President Barack Obama, during interview released October 11, 2015, with Steve Kroft of CBS News.

Comment: Obama is accusing a segment of the Republican party of bigotry.

Obama described himself as not intrinsically partisan and said some members of his party have faulted him for not being partisan enough.

"But I will tell you at this moment in history, the choices are stark. And facts, evidence and values are on our side. And the other side has gone off the deep end," Obama said.

Obama added: "And what you're witnessing in the House fight right now is that even deeply conservative folks are not considered ideologically pure enough and we would rather burn the House down than admit the possibility of democratic process that requires compromise."
-- President Barack Obama, October 10, 2015, as told by an AFP story.

Comment: Obama is contrasting himself with Republicans by saying that he is not partisan, and apparently saying that Republicans don't care about facts and evidence or values (which would be demonizing).

"Why are all these Republicans so down on America?" Obama said. "Listening to them is really depressing and it doesn't match up with the truth."

Obama urged those attending a fundraiser for Washington Sen. Patty Murray to get involved in local, state and national politics.

"Our system is only as good as what we put into it," he said, criticizing the "false prophets who spout things that under examination don't really make any sense, but feed your biases and your fears."

"I'm proud of the fact that we are not just the party that is against everything," Obama said.
-- President Barack Obama, October 9, 2015, as related by a Politico story by Jennifer Shutt.

Comment: Obama is demonizing Republicans, saying they are fear-mongering and simply being obstructionists. Obama may also be accusing them of rooting for failure.

"This Benghazi committee was only created for one purpose: to find the truth on behalf of the families for the four dead Americans. I should not be a distraction from that."
-- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), October 8, 2015, announcing that he will not run for the position of House Speaker. McCarthy referred to remarks he made on September 29, 2015, in which he noted how the Benghazi committee's investigation had caused Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's poll numbers to drop.

Comment: This is "distractions" rhetoric.

"You know, what he's trying to do is show people he's strong on gun rights. Years ago he came out to say that he could understand why you would want to limit assault rifles in inner cities like the one he grew up in Detroit. And people freaked out and they said, that's not a policy that a Republican contender can go with. So he's trying really hard to show these people that he has something to say. And while the rest of the party largely says that every 2.6 weeks we have a mass shooting, that “stuff happens”, this is something that Carson can say without offending sort of the gun lobby and pro-gun Republicans. By saying, look, you should be fighting back. It sounds sort of brave, even if it's largely victim blaming."
-- Jane Timm of MSNBC, October 7, 2015. Timm was commenting on remarks made by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson about the Umpqua Community College shooting. On, October 6, 2015, Carson said he "would not just stand there and let him shoot me … I would say, 'Hey guys, everybody attack him'".

Comment: Timm is accusing Carson of saying the victims at Umpqua "brought it on themselves". While it might be difficult to get people to rush an armed gunman, isn't it true that it would have resulted in fewer lives lost? Is it "blaming the victim" to say that?

GUTHRIE: [Reading question] Hypothetically speaking, would you consider a vice president position?

CLINTON: Hypothetically speaking, no.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 5, 2015, during town hall event hosted by Savannah Guthrie of NBC News.

Comment: Clinton is answering a hypothetical question.

GUTHRIE: You mentioned your Republican rivals making hay of this.


GUTHRIE: I have to ask you, if the tables were turned and it was Dick Cheney or Karl Rove who had a private e-mail account and a private server on which they conducted all their government business, would you be as understanding?

CLINTON: I would never have done that. Look at the situation they chose to exploit to go after me for political reasons, the death of four Americans in Benghazi. I knew the ambassador. I identified him. I asked him to go there. I asked the President to nominate him. There have been seven investigations led mostly by Republicans in the Congress, and they were non-partisan and they reached conclusions that, first of all, I and nobody did anything wrong, but there were changes we could make. This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans. I would have never done that, and if I were president and there were Republicans or Democrats who were thinking about that, I would have done everything to shut it down.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 5, 2015, during town hall event hosted by Savannah Guthrie of NBC News.

Comment: First, notice that Clinton is answering a hypothetical question. Second, she is accusing Republicans of being partisan and exploiting the attack in Benghazi. She is doing this on the basis of remarks by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), on September 29, 2015. But, just because McCarthy says the investigation had a certain motive doesn't mean everyone else supporting the investigation had that same motive. More, just because there are sinister reasons for a certain course of action (e.g., investigating Clinton) doesn't mean there are no legitimate reasons for performing the same action; to suggest otherwise (as Clinton seems to be doing) is ad hominem reasoning.

"There’s still those shrill voices in the national political arena, trying to undo what has already been done. But they’re not going to succeed. Don’t worry about it – no really. The American people have moved so far beyond them, and their appeals to prejudice and fear and homophobia. And because of how far you’ve moved the American people, the remainder of the work, and much work has to be done, I promise you, will come much more quickly and more surely. It will increase in its rapidity the change that we need. … The American people are already with you. There’s homophobes still left. Most of them are running for President, I think."
-- Vice President Joe Biden, October 3, 2015, speaking at the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner.

Comment: Biden is (perhaps in the spirit of comedy) accusing someone – he doesn't say who, but likely means Republicans – of bigotry. Isn't this demonizing?

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