Thursday, November 19, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: November 15, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Before we knew all that much about what had happened, before many Americans had even caught word of it, before the ones who were aware had moved past horror and numbness, Paris wasn’t just a massacre. It was a megaphone to be used for whatever you yearned to shout. That’s how it works in this era of Internet preening, out-of-control partisanship and press-a-button punditry, when anything and everything becomes prompt for a plaint, a rant, a riff.
-- Pundit Frank Bruni, November 14, 2015, referring to the November 2015 attacks in Paris.

Comment: Bruni is accusing people of exploiting or politicizing the Paris attacks.

"I recognize that Barack Obama does not wish to defend this country, he may have been tired of war, but our enemies are not tired of killing us and they are getting stronger."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), November 14, 2015.

Comment: Cruz is demonizing Obama, saying he lacks the patriotism to defend his country.

"So I have a belt. Somebody hits me with the belt, it's going in because the belt moves this way! It moves this way! It moves that way! He hit the belt buckle! Anybody have a knife; they want to try it on me? Believe me, it ain't gonna work. You're gonna be successful. But he took the knife, he went like this. And he plunged it into the belt! And amazingly the belt stayed totally flat and the knife broke. How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?"
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, November 12, 2015, referring to Republican presidential contender Ben Carson's claim that, as a teenager, he stabbed a friend whose belt buckle deflected the blow.

Comment: Trump is saying that those who believe Carson's story are stupid (which is unfair; couldn't a large belt buckle stop a small knife?).

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've called Hillary Clinton a good friend, strong friend, one of America's finest secretaries of state and said she'd make a great president. So is it fair for Democrats to conclude she's your candidate?

OBAMA: George, I'm not going to make endorsements when, you know, I've said in the past it's important for the process to play itself out. I think Dem I think Hillary's doing great. I think, you know, Bernie Sanders is really adding to this debate--

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would he make a great president?

OBAMA: -- in a very serious way. You know, I think Bernie is capturing a sense among the American people that they want to know the government's on their side, that it's not bought and paid for, that you know, our focus has to be on hard working, middle class Americans not getting' a raw deal. And I think that is in in incredibly important. I think Martin O'Malley has important things to say. So we'll let this process play out. I am confident that we're going to have a good, strong Democratic candidate, and that they'll be able to win in November.
-- President Barack Obama, November 12, 2015, during interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Obama never answers who his favored candidate is. Many people have chosen a candidate, despite the fact that the nomination process is still underway, why can't Obama do the same?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say we're a nation of laws. On the issue of Guantanamo, one of your big promises, closing Guantanamo Speaker Ryan says you can't close it on your own, don't have the authority. He says the law is the law. Do you have the authority to close it on your own?

OBAMA: Well, here's what I know is that we need to close it. That's not just my opinion. If you take a survey of retired generals folks who are currently in uniform they will tell you that this is a consistent recruitment tool for jihadists. It is contrary to our values. It costs huge amounts of money. And it's not sustainable. So it is my--

STEPHANOPOULOS: did on your own.

OBAMA: So it is my job to, first and foremost, work with Congress to try to find a solution. And what we've been able to do during the course of this administration is to systematically transfer and draw down the numbers who are there. My hope is that by the end of this year we are seeing close to under 100 prisoners remaining and detainees remaining. And then my intention is to present to Congress a sensible, plausible plan that will meet our national security needs and be consistent with who are

STEPHANOPOULOS: And when they say no?

OBAMA: Well they I'm not going to one of the things that I've been consistently trying to do is to give Congress the chance to do the right thing before I then look at my next options. And Congress is going to have an opportunity, I think when they look at the numbers, when they look at how much it costs for us to detain these individuals, when they hear from both current and retired military officers who say this is not what we should be doing they're going to have the ability to make their own assumptions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're not ruling out doing it on your own?

OBAMA: My job right now is to make sure that Congress has a chance to look at a serious plan and look at all the facts and we'll take it from there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you rule out executive action?

OBAMA: We'll take it from there.
-- President Barack Obama, November 12, 2015, during interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Obama never answers whether he believes he has the authority to close Guantanamo on his own (though it seems clear that Obama has not ruled out doing so by executive order, which implies that Obama believes he does have the authority).

STEPHANOPOULOS: Lot of talk about immigration as well. Donald Trump is speaking about history. He wants to bring back Operation Wetback from President Eisenhower and deportation force. What would that mean?

OBAMA: Well, I think the name of the operation tells you something about the dangers of looking backwards. And the notion that we're going to deport 11, 12 million people from this country, first of all I have no idea where Mr. Trump thinks the money's going to come from. It would cost us hundreds of billions of dollars to execute that. Imagine the images on the screen flashed around the world as we were dragging parents away from their children and putting them in what, detention centers and then systematically sending them out. Nobody thinks that that is realistic, but more importantly, that's not who we are as Americans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you think when you hear people cheer for that?

OBAMA: Well, what I think is that there's always been a strain of anti-immigrant sentiment in America, ironically from folks who themselves two generations back or even one generation back were immigrants themselves. And it's the job of leaders not to play into that sentiment. Now, those sentiments get stronger when people feel insecure. And given what happened in 2007, 2008, given the fact that despite the recovery, I think people still have some post-traumatic stress and are still concerned about prospects for jobs and economic security in the future it's easy to play on those fears. But that's not that's not what you want from your president. And to their credit Republican and as well as Democratic senators and or presidents in the past, including Ronald Reagan, including George H.W. Bush, including George W. Bush have understood that we are a nation of laws, but we're also a nation of immigrants and that proposing radical and necessarily cruel solutions to a problem that can be solved by some good, old-fashioned legislation of the sort that passed on a bipartisan basis in the Senate and I would've been able to sign two years ago if the House Republicans had allowed it to come to the floor 'cause there was a majority on that floor to vote for it we don't want I think, a president or any person in a position of leadership to play on those kinds of fears.
-- President Barack Obama, November 12, 2015, during interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: Obama is demonizing those in favor of deporting illegal immigrants, accusing them of being anti-immigrant (i.e., being bigots). But being opposed to illegal immigrants is not the same as being opposed to all immigrants. Obama is also accusing Republicans of fear-mongering, and not being "real Americans".

"We obviously continue to believe strongly in the legal power of the arguments that we’ve been making for nearly a year now about the importance of giving our law enforcement officials the discretion to implement our immigration laws in a way that focuses on those who pose a genuine threat to our national security or to our communities. And the impact of Republican opposition, both to these executive actions and to broader, comprehensive immigration reform legislation is to only perpetuate a system in which our law enforcement resources are diffused, and it results in more families being torn apart. And that is clearly not in the best interest of our national security. It’s not in the best interest of public safety. It’s also not consistent with the values of this country."
-- White House press briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, November 10, 2015, referring to a Court of Appeals ruling blocking President Barack Obama's executive orders on illegal immigration.

Comment: Earnest is saying that opposing Obama's positions on immigration is somehow un-American, which amounts to demonizing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not growing a company when you absorb two other companies. And then she laid off over 40,000 people. And she says she's a great CEO. Every time I see her on TV, I want to reach through and strangle her.

[Audience, including Clinton, laughs.]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that doesn't sound very nice.

CLINTON: I wouldn't mess with you. [laughs]
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, November 10, 2015, in response to remarks from attendee at a political event.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric. Though it may be intended – and received – as comedic, shouldn't it still be denounced? What if someone jokingly said they'd like to strangle Clinton, would it be acceptable to simply laugh in response?

"We love our country, they don't."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, November 9, 2015, during the 1st hour of his radio show. Levin was referring to the "liberal media".

Comment: Levin is demonizing people as unpatriotic.

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