Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Civility Watchdog Digest: November 22, 2015

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
HILLYARD: Mr. Trump, why would Muslim databases not be the same thing as requiring Jews to register in Nazi Germany? What would be the difference? Is there a difference between the two?

TRUMP: Who are you with?

HILLYARD: I’m with NBC News. Is there a difference between requiring Muslims to register and Jews in Nazi Germany?

TRUMP: You tell me. You tell me.

HILLYARD: Do you believe –

TRUMP: Why don’t you tell me?

HILLYARD: Do you believe there is?

TRUMP: You tell me.

HILLYARD: Should Muslims be, I mean, fearful? Will there be consequences if they don’t register?
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, November 20, 2015, being questioned by Vaughn Hillyard of NBC News. Trump had faced several questions in the preceding days about whether he thought American Muslims should be registered with the government.

Comment: Hillyard is proposing whether registering American Muslims is comparable to what Jews had to do in Nazi Germany, with the understanding that millions Jews in Nazi Germany were eventually sent to concentration camps, victims of the Holocaust. Trump likely finds the implication of genocide unfair – which is probably why he ultimately ignores Hillyard – but Trump doesn't reject the idea of a database. Despite several discussions on the topic – and despite Trump's insistence that other people (not Trump himself) were raising the idea of a database for registering American Muslims – Trump passed up on plenty of opportunities to reject the idea by simply saying, "No, I won't register Muslims" or to accept it by saying, "Yes, I would register Muslims." In other words, Trump simply evades the question and doesn't answer it.

At the moment, Republican rhetoric is spiraling out of control. Donald Trump, for example, is open to a “database system” to track Muslims. “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases,” he said. And in an interview with Yahoo News, Trump said that “we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” with regards to surveillance of Muslims. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, likewise, wants a religious test for refugees: We’ll accept the Christians and reject the Muslims. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t as extreme — although he’s open to monitoring any place that spreads “radicalism” — but he believes the Western world is in a fight against “radical Islam,” and is bewildered by those who don’t follow his labeling. “I don’t understand it,” said Rubio when asked about Hillary Clinton’s pointed refusal to use the term in the last Democratic presidential debate. “That would be like saying we weren’t at war with the Nazis, because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi Party but weren’t violent themselves,” he said, comparing Islam — a vast religion with 1.6 billion adherents — to Nazism.
-- Pundit Jamelle Bouie, November 20, 2015, criticizing Republican presidential contenders Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Donald Trump for their remarks on Syrian refugees.

Comment: Bouie is accusing Cruz and Trump of being "extreme". He is also accusing Rubio of comparing Islam to Nazism, but this is a distortion: Rubio is saying radical Islam stands to Muslims as Nazism stands to Germans. As such, he is comparing Nazism to radical Islam, not to Muslims in general.

"Politics in the United States increasingly is defined by personal attacks and saying very sensational things in the media. Now, that's true for politics everywhere to some degree. But I think that for young leaders like you, as you get into politics, trying to focus on issues, and trying to debate people you disagree with without saying that they're a terrible person -- I think that's something that you always have to watch out for."
-- President Barack Obama, November 20, 2015.

Comment: Obama is calling for us to set a higher standard of political debate, though as usual, he doesn't mention how he has often described his opponents as being terrible people.

Ben Carson likened Syrian refugees fleeing the country’s bloody civil war and Islamic State violence to dogs on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters following a campaign stop in Mobile, Alabama, Carson stressed that the United States wants smart leaders who care about people, but noted there should always be a balance between safety and humanitarian concerns.

“For instance, you know, if there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you’re probably gonna put your children out of the way,” Carson said. “Doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs by any stretch of the imagination.”

Continuing his analogy, the Republican presidential candidate said that screening refugees is like questioning how you protect your children, even though you love dogs and will call the Humane Society to take the dog away to reestablish a safe environment.

“By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly,” he added. “Who are the people who wanna come in here and hurt us and wanna destroy us? Until we know how to do that, just like it would be foolish to put your child out in the neighborhood knowing that that was going on, it’s foolish for us to accept people if we cannot have the appropriate type of screening.”
-- Republican presidential contender Ben Carson, November 19, 2015, as related in a story by Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico.

Comment: McCaskill is using "comparing" rhetoric, but Carson isn't comparing dogs and refugees in an unfavorable way: he's merely saying that, in the same way you want to screen dogs to make sure they don't have rabies, you want to screen refugees to make sure there aren't any terrorists hiding among them; and that, just as you wouldn't treat all dogs the same way you treat a dog with rabies, you wouldn't think of all refugees the same way you treat terrorists who might be hiding among them.

RUBIO: We need to get rid of all these illegal executive orders the President’s put in place. [TEXT: April 14, 2015]

CRUZ: I think amnesty is wrong. [TEXT: August 09, 2015]

RUBIO: DACA’s going to end. [TEXT: November 04, 2015]

TRUMP: They have to go. [TEXT: August 18, 2015]

NARRATOR: These candidates may be different, but their messages are all the same. [images of Trump, Bush, Cruz, and Rubio appear] “No” to DAPA, “no” to DACA. “No” to immigrant families. Now it’s time for our community to say “no”. We will not accept hate, we will not allow anti-immigrant attacks, we will not support the status quo. Because if they win, we lose. SEIU COPE is responsible for the content of this advertising.
-- Political ad released by SEIU COPE (the Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education), November 18, 2015, criticizing Republican presidential contenders former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Donald Trump for their opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

Comment: The SEIU is demonizing Bush, Cruz, Rubio, and Trump as being bigoted. Opposing illegal immigration is not the same as being anti-immigrant, any more than being opposed to corrupt police officers is same as being opposed to all police.

Obama is an "apologist for Islamic terrorism".
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), November 18, 2015, on the 2nd hour of the Mark Levin Show, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Cruz is demonizing Obama, accusing him of defending terrorism.

"But we are not well-served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don't make good decisions if it's based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks. I think the refugee debate is an example of us not being well-served by some of the commentary that’s been taking place by officials back home and in the media. … And so if there are concrete, actual suggestions to enhance this extraordinary screening process that’s already in place, we’re welcome -- we’re open to hearing actual ideas. But that’s not really what’s been going on in this debate. When candidates say, we wouldn't admit three-year-old orphans -- that’s political posturing. When individuals say that we should have a religious test and that only Christians -- proven Christians -- should be admitted -- that’s offensive and contrary to American values. I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate. ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there is a war between Islam and the West. And when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility, suggesting that Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop. And I would add, by the way, these are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL, or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there. But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion. First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me. … They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns. And it’s irresponsible. And it’s contrary to who we are. And it needs to stop, because the world is watching. I was proud, when the attacks in Boston took place, and we did not resort to fear and to panic. Boston Strong. People went to the ballgame that same week, and sang the National Anthem, and went back to the stores and went back to the streets. That’s how you defeat ISIL. Not by trying to divide the country, or suggest somehow that our tradition of compassion should stop now."
-- President Barack Obama, November 17, 2015. He was remarking on objections (frequently from Republicans) to allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, based in part on concerns that some might be terrorist infiltrators from the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq.

Comment: Perhaps Republicans are wrong to object to taking in Syrian refugees, but that doesn't mean their objections amount to politicizing and fear-mongering, as Obama says. They certainly aren't afraid of widows and three-year-old children; that's a straw man Obama has concocted to make Republicans seem ridiculous.

FORBES: Wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude if you took terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and located them in the city that it could very well enhance that city’s being on one of these targeted lists? Yes or no? That's a pretty easy question. If you disagree with that, you can say "no". If you agree with it, "yes".

LYNCH: Well, Congressman, I thought you were referring to the service members who were on the –

FORBES: I'm making it clear, any list that targets a city or state in the United States, if you bring terrorists from Guantanamo Bay wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that that can enhance that city's ability to be on one of those targeted lists?

LYNCH: I think there are any number of factors –

FORBES: Would you not agree that that would be a factor that would enhance that ability?

LYNCH: I think there are any number of factors –

FORBES: Would that be a factor?

LYNCH: There are any number of factors –

FORBES: But you would disagree that that would be one of those many number of factors?

LYNCH: Congressman, I don't agree or disagree. I said that there would be any –

FORBES: So you, as the attorney general of the United States, you do not have an opinion on whether or not bringing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and locating them in a city would have any capability at all of putting that city on a hit list by ISIS? You don't even have an opinion on that?

LYNCH: Congressman, I think there are any number of factors –

FORBES: I'm asking you would that be one of those factors.

LYNCH: I believe I've indicated there'd be any number of –

FORBES: No, you indicated you wouldn't answer the question, and Madam Attorney General, I think that's atrocious that you don't even have an opinion of that.
-- Attorney General Loretta Lynch during a congressional hearing, November 17, 2015, being questioned by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA).

Comment: Lynch is evading the question, refusing to say that the presence of Guantanamo Bay terrorists would or wouldn't – or even if she's unsure whether they would or wouldn't – incite attacks by ISIS (aka, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) on the city housing the terrorists. If you were to ask your doctor, "Will this medicine I heard about help my illness?" and your doctor routinely answered, "There are a number of factors that will influence your illness", your doctor would be evading the question just as Lynch is. She (and the doctor) could simply say, "yes", "no", or "I'm not sure" instead of withholding any answer whatsoever. I doubt this form of evasion in a court of law would be allowed.

No comments: