Sunday, November 1, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: November 1, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Fresh on the heels of the House’s vote Tuesday to revive the Export-Import Bank, Hillary Clinton urged the Senate to follow suit, calling the decision a “no-brainer."

“It became a political football. Whether for ideological or political reasons, there are people in Washington against it, and that makes absolutely no sense,” she said Wednesday at a “Politics & Eggs” lunch at Saint Anselm College, criticizing opponents of the bank — like her primary rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand the arguments,” she said, pointing out how the bank helps New Hampshire businesses. “The Export-Import Bank’s sole purpose is to support United States business abroad."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, October 28, 2015, as related in a Politico story by Gabriel DeBenedetti.

Comment: Clinton is saying that it is common-sense to support the Export-Import Bank, and deriding opponents of it as stupid.

AGUILAR: If there’s somebody who is a hard worker when he goes to Washington, it’s Paul Ryan. Not only works with the Republicans but Democrats. You know very well that I work on the immigration issue, trying to get Republicans to support immigration reform. Paul Ryan is somebody who has supported immigration reform, has worked with somebody like Luis Gutierrez. Luis Gutierrez is very respectful, speaks highly of Paul Ryan. This is somebody who’s trying to govern.

HARRIS-PERRY: Alfonso, I feel you, but I just want to pause on one thing because I don’t disagree with you that I actually think Mr. Ryan is a great choice for this role, but I want us to be super careful when we use the language “hard worker,” because I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall, because it is a reminder about what hard work looks like. So, I feel you that he’s a hard worker. I do, but in the context of relative privilege, and I just want to point out that when you talk about work-life balance and being a hard worker, the moms who don’t have health care who are working —

AGUILAR: I understand that.

HARRIS-PERRY: But, we don’t call them hard workers. We call them failures. We call them people who are sucking off the system.

AGUILAR: No, no, no, no.

HARRIS-PERRY: No, no. Really, ya’ll do. That is really what you guys do as a party.

AGUILAR: That is very unfair. I think we cannot generalize about the Republican Party.

HARRIS-PERRY: That’s true. Not all Republicans. That is certainly true.
-- Pundits Melissa Harris-Perry and Alfonso Aguilar, October 26, 2015, discussing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his prospects to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Comment: First, Harris-Perry is accusing Republicans of deriding people for leeching off the system (I assume when talking about welfare and related programs). Harris-Perry says she's not generalizing about all Republicans, but she still says that Republicans "as a party" engage in this sort of demonizing – which they don't – and as such Harris-Perry herself is demonizing Republicans. Second, Harris-Perry is pointing out an ambiguity in what counts as being a hard worker: however hard you work, there's probably someone else who works harder, and maybe even a whole segment of the population – past, present, even future – that works much harder than you. So, who are you supposed to compare yourself to in order to determine whether you're a hard worker? To slaves from the 1850s? Or to the other people working in your industry today? It's arguable, but it's unfair for Harris-Perry to suggest there is some sort of bigotry (or even code words?) at work in Aguilar's use of the term to describe Ryan. Who does Harris-Perry believe is a hard worker? Anyone in the U.S.A.? Herself?

""The rise of new media outlets in the Internet age has allowed regular Americans to get access to information that the mainstream press," conceals. You know, it's just as important what isn't reported as what is. It is my contention that busting up the Democrat Party monopoly and the mainstream media -- I do believe it's led to divisiveness, but it's not because of us. The divisiveness and the reason there is so much partisanship and mean-spirited, extreme rancor is all on the Democrats, if you ask me, and the media. They're the ones who have the monopoly. They're the ones that had their way. They're the ones that were in charge of everything the people of this country learned, and they were in charge of everything that was hidden from the American people."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, October 26, 2015, reading from an October 20, 2015, Breitbart story on former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Comment: Limbaugh is citing divisiveness and partisanship, explaining that they are bad because they amount to "mean-spirited, extreme rancor". He is resorting to the "only my opponent" caricature by saying that only Democrats – and not Republicans – are responsible for that rancor.

FINEMAN: The House needs a dictatorial leader, or nothing will ever happen. And the Tea Party people understandably don’t like that if the person in charge is a moderate that doesn’t agree with them politically. So, Paul Ryan has enough conservative chops that he can sort of try to unify the whole party. But, he’s going to be spending all his time trying to deal with these Tea Party people. What he’s probably going to have to do, if in fact he gets in, is stage some kind of fight with them and defeat them, or take away their power, or go after them. I don’t know if he’s got the guts to do that. I don’t know if he’s got the numbers to do it.

KORNHEISER: Are they like ISIS trying to establish a Caliphate here?

FINEMAN: Yes! Yes! That’s a very good analogy! Without the violence obviously, but they are, yes, they are a rejectionist front. They don't want to legislate. They think legislation is capitulation.
-- Sportscaster Tony Kornheiser and pundit Howard Fineman, October 23, 2015, discussing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his prospects to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Comment: Fineman is demonizing the Tea Party members of Congress by comparing them to ISIS (or even the House Speaker to a dictator). The Tea Party members aren't trying to set up anything like what ISIS wants – with or without violence – and they don't reject all legislating, they just don't like certain legislation that others are supporting. They aren't obstructionists who simply want to stop everything. When a president vetoes legislation, does that make them a "rejectionist"? Much of what Fineman is saying sounds exaggerated.

No comments: