Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 27, 2016, Rush Limbaugh

"The story's at Mediaite. They conclude this with this paragraph: "Posner, an influential jurist who has served as a federal judge for thirty-five years, has previously voiced his disregard for the Constitution. "'I'm not particularly interested in the 18th Century, nor am I particularly interested in the text of the Constitution. I don't believe that any document drafted in the 18th century can guide our behavior today,' he said during a 2015 colloquium." He's not a dumb guy by any stretch, but this presents a total misunderstanding of what the Constitution is. It's a profound distortion of what the Constitution is. This is stunning. The Constitution planted the roots of American exceptionalism -- again, defined by the fact that America was the "exception" to the way and the rule of life for humanity centuries before. The Constitution... Well, Magna Carta. Magna Carta. I guess we'd have to say Magna Carta was first, but the US Constitution was the first document to ever limit the government. And that is why the opponents want to get rid of it, because it limits the government. It does not empower government. It empowers citizens. It empowers individuals. The Constitution spends all of its time, the Bill of Rights, defining what the government cannot do. And that just irritates people who think the government ought to be able to do anything and everything, because other people -- average people -- are not competent or qualified to make their own decisions. Or, it's worse than that. It's just people that are totally power mad and power hungry who doesn't believe in representative government, do not believe in republics."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, June 27, 2016, referring to a story that day about 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing people – he doesn't name precisely who, except that they are of a similar mind to Posner – accusing them of craving power for power's sake and of believing "average people" are too stupid to run their own lives.

Civility Watchdog: June 27, 2016, Elizabeth Warren

"When Donald Trump says he'll make America great he means make it even greater for rich guys just like Donald Trump. Great for the guys who don't care how much they've already squeezed from everyone else. Great for the guys who always want more. Because that's who Donald Trump is: the guy who wants it all for himself. And watch out, because he will crush you into the dirt to get whatever he wants. That's who he is."
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), June 27, 2016.

Comment: Warren is demonizing Trump – as well as other unnamed "rich guys" – saying they don't care about other people and will "crush you into the dirt" – presumably metaphorical violent rhetoric meaning that they'll do anything – in order to satisfy their selfishness.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 24, 2016, Paul Begala

MAHER: I thought it was so typical of the paralysis in our government that Louie Gohmert got up there at one point and he was screaming, "radical Islam, radical Islam!" to the people who were trying to pass a bill to stop radical Islam. Because the bill that they were talking about was "No Fly, No Buy". People on the "No Fly" list don't get to buy a gun.

BEGALA: You shouldn't make fun of the mentally challenged. Louie is a dope. He's an idiot. No, he's a first-class idiot. He's from my state of Texas. And he's just a fool and an idiot.
-- Pundit Paul Begala, June 24, 2016, during a discussion with Bill Maher of HBO. Begala was referring to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Comment: This is "stupid" name-calling.

Civility Watchdog: June 26, 2016, Newt Gingrich

"If she can't absolutely destroy Trump as a legitimate candidate, she is just going to lose. There is nothing she can do on the positive side to win, because the country is going to say, "enough". You know, enough lying about your emails, enough accepting thousands of more Syrian refugees, enough having a failed foreign policy, enough telling us that we're too stupid to run our own lives."
-- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), June 26, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: Gingrich is accusing Clinton of believing Americans – some, all, or most? – are stupid. What is his evidence for this?

Civility Watchdog: June 26, 2016, Mitch McConnell

STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard those new poll numbers, 64 percent of Americans don’t think that Donald Trump is qualified to be president. Do you believe he’s qualified? And how do you convince all those voters who think he isn’t?

MCCONNELL: Well, look, I think there’s no question that he’s made a number of mistakes over the last few weeks. I think they’re beginning to right the ship, it’s a long time until November. And the burden, obviously, will be on him, to convince people that he can handle this job. And I think – a good step in the right direction with the changes he’s made in the campaign. He’s beginning to use a prepared script more often, which I think is absolutely appropriate for any candidate, whether you’re a long-time politician like Hillary Clinton or whether you’re new to the game like Donald Trump.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I didn’t hear you say whether you thought he was qualified.

MCCONNELL: Look, I leave that to the American people to decide. You know, he won the Republican nomination fair and square, he got more votes than anybody else against a lot of well-qualified candidates. And so our primary voters have made their decision as to who they want to be the nominee. The American people will be able to make that decision in the Fall.
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), June 26, 2016, being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

Comment: This is an evasion, as McConnell never answers the question. In particular, he uses the "it's for the voters to decide" evasion. Of course it's true that voters will have to assess whether they believe Trump is qualified to be president, but that doesn't mean McConnell can't give his opinion on the matter. After all, McConnell already said many of Trump's GOP rivals were "well-qualified"; what's stopping him from expressing his view on whether Trump himself is? Plus, McConnell has endorsed Trump; would he endorse someone who wasn't qualified?

Civility Watchdog: June 25, 2016, Barack Obama

"That’s the choice you face this November -- between dividing ourselves up, looking for scapegoats, ignoring the evidence -- or realizing that we are all stronger together. If we turn against each other -- whether it's divisions of race or religion -- we're not going to build on the progress we started. If we get cynical and just vote our fears -- or we don’t vote at all -- we won’t build on the progress we’ve started. America has been a story of progress, but has not gone in a straight line. There have been times where we've gone forward, there have been times where we've gone backwards. And what’s made the difference each and every time is citizens voting, and caring, and committing to our better selves. Coming together around our common values, and our faith in hard work and our faith in each other, and the belief in opportunity for everybody, and assuming the best in each other, and not the worst."
-- President Barack Obama, June 25, 2016.

Comment: Obama is calling for setting a higher standard of debate, but at the same time he's demonizing his opponents as not caring about evidence. As a result, his remarks imply that it's mostly his opponents who resort to unfair rhetoric. Also, Obama is using "uniting, not dividing" rhetoric – though, how do you unify with people you accuse of ignoring evidence? – as well as "appealing to fear" rhetoric.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 23, 2016, Van Jones

"The UK just voted to leave the European Union – so-called “Brexit”. … This is the end of the world as we know it, OK? Please take this seriously. What happened? What happened was, you have this complete right-wing, crazy, racist, xenophobic horror show breaks out in the UK. They don’t want no immigrants – sound familiar? They don’t want multi-culturalism – does that sound familiar? The don’t want to have nothing to do with nobody, period, except for people who look just like them – basically, white folks – in Britain. They say they can’t even deal with white folks in Europe, they just want to be on their own. So everybody goes, “No way, who cares? These people are crazy. If you vote for Brexit, if you vote to leave the European Union, you’re going to destroy the economy. You’re gonna be doing crazy stuff. You’re gonna crash your stock market.” Does any of this sound familiar? You’ve got a movement of crazy people that are going for power, making lunatic arguments, and then you have good, thoughtful, liberal people saying, “Oh, that wouldn’t be prudent. That wouldn’t work out. The policies seem irrational.” … Crazy, hard-right lunatics just led the UK off a cliff into the vast abyss of stupidity and foolishness and soon-to-be economic chaos. Does this sound familiar? The same people in the United States will give you the same argument and tell you it is impossible that Trump can win. … The pollsters don't get it. The pollsters call reasonable people and ask them reasonable questions and get reasonable answers and put you to sleep. And they tell you that Trump can't win. And they told the people in Britain that these Brexit people couldn't win. … And the people in the UK who pushed this insane idea are the worst people ever born in the UK. These are not good people. These are not smart people. These are not kind people. These are racist, hateful people. Some of them are neo-Nazis. And people said they would never be able to get any traction. Well, look at the news. They got a ton of traction. If you don't want this nonsense to happen in the United States, quit tell – slap your friends upside the head who are watching NPR, eating their tofu, and telling you how wonderful it is that Trump is horrible. It is not wonderful that he is horrible. It is horrible that he is horrible. … This hate-wave that just tore Europe apart? Coming soon to a voting booth near you. And we need to have every single person we know doing every possible thing to stop it. Thank you."
-- Pundit and CNN correspondent Van Jones, June 23, 2016, referring to the Brexit vote and how it relates to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Jones is demonizing Trump and Brexit supporters – in part, accusing them of anti-immigrant bigotry – as well as calling them stupid. Are there no non-bigoted, sensible reasons to support Trump or Brexit? Also, Jones says people should "do anything to win", though I imagine he's being emphatic, not literal (though, much of the rest of what he said seems to be meant literally).

Civility Watchdog: June 24, 2016, Donald Trump

"I see a big parallel. I think people really see a big parallel, a lot of people are talking about that. Not only in the United States but other countries. People want to take their country back. They want to have independence in a sense and you see it with Europe, all over Europe."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 24, 2016, referring to the Brexit vote.

Comment: This is "take back the country" rhetoric, which is routinely used in U.S. politics, and Trump is applying it to European politics, as well.

Civility Watchdog: June 23, 2016, Charles Krauthammer

"This is the culmination of a string of decisions from the courts, rebuking the president and his administration for time after time exceeding its authority and stepping over the authority of the other branches. … That's exactly what's happened now with the amnesty case. It happened with the recess appointment case. The president is a chronic – he's a recidivist on this issue. And he needed to be slapped down again."
-- Pundit Charles Krauthammer, June 23, 2016, referring the the Supreme Court ruling on President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration enforcement.

Comment: "Slapped down" is violent rhetoric, though it's clearly meant to be metaphorical, here.

Civility Watchdog: June 24, 2016, Hillary Clinton

We respect the choice the people of the United Kingdom have made. … This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House to protect Americans’ pocketbooks and livelihoods, to support our friends and allies, to stand up to our adversaries, and to defend our interests. It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down.
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 24, 2016, in a statement regarding the Brexit vote.

Comment: "Pull together" is "unify the country" rhetoric. How are we supposed to pull together? On what should we be unified? Who is it that has been tearing other Americans down? Has Clinton been doing it, or does she believe that it's only her opponents who have resorted to that behavior?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 23, 2016, Rush Limbaugh

"The effort to combine the general population of this country with the current burgeoning numbers of illegal immigrants is outrageous, simply outrageous. For Obama to try to tell people that you and I are no different than the current crop of illegals. Well, the difference is, back then people obeyed the law for the most part. I mean, people always break the law, but for the most part the rule of law triumphed and illegal immigrants were found and deported. The case was not made for them to stay. But that's not even the worst of it. The idea that all of us here are no different. We were all illegal at one point and we were all unwanted at one point. Somebody in our family, if not us, was undesirable, and yet here we are. And this moral equivalence that this president makes is part and parcel of his effort to tear down the greatness and the uniqueness of this country. Make no mistake."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, June 23, 2016, referring to remarks made earlier that day by President Barack Obama.

Comment: This is demonizing. It's fine to disagree with Obama's proposals on immigration, but to suggest that it's part of some plan to ruin the country is unacceptable.

Civility Watchdog: June 22, 2016, Hillary Clinton

"I know Donald hates it when anyone points out how hollow his sales pitch really is. And I guess my speech yesterday must have gotten under his skin because right away he lashed out on Twitter with outlandish lies and conspiracy theories and he did the same in his speech today. Now think about it. He's going after me personally because he has no answers on the substance. In fact, he doubled down on being the king of debt, so all he can do is try to distract us. That's even why he's attacking my faith. Sigh. And, of course, attacking a philanthropic foundation that saves and improves lives around the world. It's no surprise that he doesn't understand these things. The Clinton Foundation helps poor people around the world get access to life-saving AIDS medicine. Donald Trump uses poor people around the world to produce his line of suits and ties. "
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 22, 2016, referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: The fact that Clinton may have "struck a nerve" (i.e., got under his skin) in what she said about Trump in no way proves that he has "no answers on substance"; that's a point she has to prove by other means. It may be unfair when Trump says, for instance, that "there's nothing out there" when it comes to Clinton's religious affiliation, but that doesn't prove his policy positions are baseless. Do we get to conclude the same thing about Clinton whenever she says something false or otherwise out-of-bounds? That she has no sound arguments to defend her policies? Second, Clinton is using "distractions" rhetoric. Last, Clinton is deriding Trump, suggesting that he doesn't understand philanthropy, or that he is somehow exploiting or abusing foreign workers.

Civility Watchdog: June 22, 2016, Hillary Clinton

"Now we have to overcome some big challenges, I will admit that. First, too many of our representatives in Washington are in the grips of a failed economic theory called trickle down economics. Now, I do not doubt their sincerity. But it has been proven wrong again and again. But there still are people in Congress who insist on cutting taxes for the wealthy instead of investing in our future. They careen from one self- inflicted crisis to another. Shutting down the government, threatening to default on our national debt, refusing to make the common-sense investments that used to have broad bipartisan support, like rebuilding our roads and our bridges, our tunnels, our highways, our airports. Or investing in better education from zero through high school and college. … And if the evidence were there to support this ideology, I would have to acknowledge that. But we have seen the results. Twice now in the past 30 years, a Republican president has caused an economic mess and a Democratic president has had to come in and clean it up."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 22, 2016.

Comment: There are lots of things going on here. Where has it been proven that so-called "trickle-down economics" is a failed policy? Where has this policy been tested rigorously – that is, against an otherwise-identical control group? Such experiments are difficult to craft, and almost never occur on a large scale. It may be true that there have been cases where trickle-down economics has been implemented and bad economic news has followed, but it's propter hoc reasoning to jump to the conclusion that the former caused the latter. Correlation isn't necessarily causation. (Perhaps the bad economic news would have been even worse without the trickle-down policies, it's impossible to know unless you set up a control group for comparison.) Also, who has proposed not investing in our future? Perhaps people have proposed tax cuts for the wealthy along with spending less on investment than Clinton supports, but is there anyone who has said we shouldn't spend any money on education or infrastructure? This sounds like a straw man she's setting up to knock over. Finally, Clinton also resorts to "common sense" rhetoric, as well as "bipartisan" rhetoric (if the Republicans aren't supporting common-sense investments, then how can they have bipartisan support?).

Civility Watchdog: June 23, 2016, Barack Obama

"For more than two decades now, our immigration system, everybody acknowledges, has been broken. And the fact that the Supreme Court wasn’t able to issue a decision today doesn’t just set the system back even further, it takes us further from the country that we aspire to be. … Nearly 70 Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a smart, common-sense bill that would have doubled the border patrol, and offered undocumented immigrants a pathway to earn citizenship if they paid a fine, paid their taxes, and played by the rules. Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to allow a simple yes or no vote on that bill. So I was left with little choice but to take steps within my existing authority to make our immigration system smarter, fairer, and more just. … But today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them. … So where do we go from here? Most Americans -- including business leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement, Democrats and Republicans and independents -- still agree that the single best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass common-sense, bipartisan immigration reform. … This is an election year. And during election years, politicians tend to use the immigration issue to scare people with words like “amnesty” in hopes that it will whip up votes. Keep in mind that millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking effort to become citizens. And we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. But here’s the thing. Millions of people who have come forward and worked to get right with the law under this policy, they’ve been living here for years, too -- in some cases, even decades. So leaving the broken system the way it is, that’s not a solution. In fact, that's the real amnesty. Pretending we can deport 11 million people, or build a wall without spending tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money is abetting what is really just factually incorrect. It's not going to work. It's not good for this country. It's a fantasy that offers nothing to help the middle class, and demeans our tradition of being both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. In the end, it is my firm belief that immigration is not something to fear. We don’t have to wall ourselves off from those who may not look like us right now, or pray like we do, or have a different last name. Because being an American is about something more than that. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal that all of us are created equal, all of us have a chance to make of our lives what we will. And every study shows that whether it was the Irish or the Poles, or the Germans, or the Italians, or the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Mexicans, or the Kenyans -- whoever showed up, over time, by a second generation, third generation, those kids are Americans. They do look like us -- because we don't look one way. We don't all have the same last names, but we all share a creed and we all share a commitment to the values that founded this nation. That's who we are. And that is what I believe most Americans recognize. … And now we've got a choice about who we’re going to be as a country, what we want to teach our kids, and how we want to be represented in Congress and in the White House. … We get these spasms of politics around immigration and fear-mongering, and then our traditions and our history and our better impulses kick in. That's how we all ended up here. Because I guarantee you, at some point, every one of us has somebody in our background who people didn’t want coming here, and yet here we are."
-- President Barack Obama, June 23, 2016, referring to the Supreme Court decision that day on Obama's executive actions on immigration enforcement.

Comment: Much of this is demonizing and distortion, as Obama's speech doesn't recognize that different people have different reasons for opposing his actions on immigration, and propose different paths for dealing with the current state of immigration policy. First, Obama's remarks leave the impression that, if we don't support his executive actions on immigration enforcement, we therefore are opposed to immigration in itself – likely for reasons of bigotry (i.e., wanting to keep out people who "look different") – which is demonizing. Some people oppose Obama's actions on procedural grounds (i.e., that they're not consistent with the presidential powers laid out in the Constitution); some object to the actions because they believe it is unfair to reduce the penalties on immigrants who broke the law, even to the point of giving them an advantage over immigrants who are obeying immigration law; some object to that the reduced immigration enforcement encourages further illegal immigration, and so on. It's false and derisive to treat opponents to his executive actions as being motivated by "fear-mongering" against immigrants. Second, those who oppose Obama's proposed immigration reforms (legislative or executive) don't necessarily support leaving the system as is, or deporting the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally, or building a wall to keep out those who "don't look like us". That's just a distortion. Finally, Obama's opponents on immigration policy aren't somehow standing in opposition to "rationality" and "common sense" – is he saying they're stupid? – and they aren't necessarily out of step with America's traditions; that's just more demonizing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 22, 2016, Ben Carson

CARSON: It’s something that I strongly advocate: open conversation, civil discussion, as opposed to the way we’ve gotten used to doing things, which is letting other people interpret to us, and then getting in our separate corners and demonizing each other. … Of course we’re all interested in seeing everybody be more civil. Again, I don’t want to make it just about Donald Trump. This is a problem that permeates our entire political system. And we should – and particularly you guys in the media should be encouraging people to be more civil rather than, you know, focusing on the fight and the carnage.

BARNICLE: Dr. Carson, demonization – you spoke about it a couple of times this morning – has been widely, widely consumed in our culture, it’s widely affected our politics, certainly for many, many years. So, unfortunately, today’s conversation and much of what the conversation is about here on a daily basis has to do with Donald Trump. You’ve endorsed him. So we can’t avoid talking about Donald Trump and his campaign, and the issues and the language about his campaign. So my question to you is, demonization – I think we all here at the table agree about the dangers of demonization – but isn’t “Lyin’ Ted”, “Crooked Hillary” – isn’t that a form of demonization, and what do you say to your candidate about the employment of such demonization in the language?

CARSON: Well, I would have to disagree with you that he’s the only one who’s doing it. It’s being done –

BARNICLE: I didn’t say he was the only one. I said he was the one that you endorsed.

CARSON: So, I think what we ought to all be encouraging everybody to do is to talk about the issues. That includes Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, whoever is in the mix, because that is what is going to help us get to the ultimate solution, which is: how do we solve our problems? And we’re trying to make it about personalities. It’s not about personalities. It’s about something so much bigger than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. This is about America. This is about the direction we are taking and what kind of nation are we going to be and what are we going to hand down to our children and our grandchildren.
-- Former Republican presidential contender Ben Carson, June 22, 2016, during interview with Mike Barnicle of MSNBC.

Comment: First, Carson is calling for us to set a higher standard of political debate. Second, however, he is evading the question when it comes to whether or not Trump's rhetoric counts as incivility. Granted, Trump isn't the only one who has resorted to demonizing, but that doesn't mean Carson can't state whether the rhetoric raised by Barnicle also counts as demonizing. Really, how are we supposed to encourage people to good behavior if we don't identify what counts as bad behavior?

Civility Watchdog: June 22, 2016, Donald Trump

So when people ask me why I am running, I quickly answer: I am running to give back to this country which has been so good to me. When I see the crumbling roads and bridges, or the dilapidated airports, or the factories moving overseas to Mexico, or to other countries, I know these problems can all be fixed, but not by Hillary Clinton – only by me. The fact is, we can come back bigger and better and stronger than ever before --Jobs, jobs, jobs! Everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what our country could be. But we can’t solve any of these problems by relying on the politicians who created them.
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 22, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: First of all, what is Trump's evidence that Clinton created the problems that America faces, and that only Trump and no one else can solve them? Isn't that an exaggeration? Second, since when can't problems be fixed by the people who created them? Haven't you ever broken something and then fixed it?

Civility Watchdog: June 21, 2016, Chris Murphy, Elizabeth Warren, and Josh Earnest

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: And on the topic of tweets today, there was a tweet last night from Senator Warren saying that she agreed with Chris Murphy that Republicans have decided to sell weapons to ISIS. Do you think that goes too far?

EARNEST: Well, I didn’t see the tweet, but what I could say about this is simply the situation that is created by Republicans blocking the Feinstein amendment is simply that individuals who are suspected of having ties to terrorism are able to buy a gun with impunity, because Republicans are protecting that loophole at the simple request of the NRA. Those are the facts of the situation. And again, I’ll leave it to Republicans to try to defend that position. I don’t think it's a position that many Americans are going to have sympathy for.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Are you saying that you agree with that sentiment that it's essentially deciding to sell weapons to ISIS?

EARNEST: I think what is -- again, I'll let Senator Murphy and Senator Warren describe the situation as they see it. As we see it, it is without question possible for suspected terrorists to buy guns because Republicans are protecting their ability to do so.
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, June 21, 2016, remarking on comments made by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Murphy and Warren had said that the GOP, by blocking certain Senate legislation on gun control, had "decided to sell weapons to ISIS".

Comment: First, Murphy and Warren's remark amounts to demonizing. There are concerns about whether people should lose their right to travel by plane or own a gun merely because they have been placed on a terror watch list without having been convicted of any actual acts of terrorism. They didn't simply decide to sell guns to The Islamic State. Second, Earnest is evading the question about whether the White House approves of Murphy and Warren's remark is acceptable. He says that it's their job to defend their remarks, which is true, but it often falls on us to evaluate the remarks of others. The White House has routinely criticized remarks made by Donald Trump; they seldom say, "No comment, we'll leave it to Mr. Trump to defend his own remarks."

Civility Watchdog: June 21, 2016, Mark Cuban

"You know what? It’s rare that you see someone get stupider before your eyes, but he’s really working at it".
-- Mark Cuban, June 21, 2016, referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "stupid" rhetoric.

Civility Watchdog: June 21, 2016, AFAUSSS v Gary Byrne

The author of a new tell-all book about Hillary Clinton could never have seen any of what he claims — he was too low-ranking — say several high-level members of Secret Service presidential details, including the president of the Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service.

On Tuesday, AFAUSSS, which is strictly nonpartisan, is set to release a statement blasting Gary Byrne author of “Crisis in Character,” saying members “strongly denounce” the book, which they add has made security harder by eroding the trust between agents and the people they protect.

“There is no place for any self-moralizing narratives, particularly those with an underlying motive,” reads the statement from the group’s board of directors, which says Byrne has politics and profit on his mind.

Vanessa Oblinger, Byrne’s publicist for the book, said the claim he didn’t witness the events he describes in the book was “a nonsense charge.”

“He was posted directly outside the Oval Office for three years,” she said.

She cited Byrne’s performance awards and positive evaluations, as well as a letter of appreciation he received from the Secret Service in 1996 for his “commitment, dedication and professional performance.”

“The Clintons always trash the messenger,” Oblinger said, adding later, “This is the first of many Clinton-directed media attempts at character assassination.”
-- From a June 21, 2016, story in Politico by Edward-Isaac Dovere.

Comment: First, what is the importance of AFAUSSS being "nonpartisan"? Is this supposed to make them more credible? Isn't that an appeal to false authority? Second, both the AFAUSSS and Byrne's publicist seem to be making ad hominem arguments: even if it's true that Byrne has some sinister "underlying motive", that doesn't prove anything he's said is false; and even if it's true that the Clintons always "trash the messenger", it doesn't prove that none of their criticisms of Byrne's statements are valid.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 21, 2016, Josh Earnest

"The truth of the matter is the individuals who spend their time talking about radical Islamic terrorism are individuals like Republicans in the Senate who voted against legislation that would prevent those individuals from being able to buy a gun. And those are individuals who not actually put forward their own strategy for keeping the country safe. Using the term "radical Islamic extremism" is not a counterterrorism policy. It is a political talking point plain and simple. And what the president of the United States has done has put forward a comprehensive strategy to squeeze the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to inhibit their ability to recruit and radicalize people around the globe."
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, June 21, 2016.

Comment: First of all, is it true that everyone who uses the term "radical Islamic terrorism" is somehow in league with Senate Republicans? And, even if they are, so what? That doesn't prove anything about whether use of the term is appropriate. Second, this is "talking points" rhetoric. Telling us that some article of rhetoric is a talking point tells us nothing about whether the rhetoric is relevant and true. Earnest's attempt to dismiss the criticism by using the term "talking point" accomplishes nothing.

Civility Watchdog: June 20, 2016, Donald Trump

"I think I have to be who I am. I don't want to be a phony, like a Hillary Clinton, where she reads stuff that's written up by high-priced talent. I don't want to be that."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 20, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: This is "talking points" rhetoric. Why should it matter if Clinton's speeches are written by others? That doesn't mean she has no input on the speeches or disagrees with the points made in them.

Civility Watchdog: June 20, 2016, Justice Department and FBI

The purpose of releasing the partial transcript of the shooter's interaction with 911 operators was to provide transparency, while remaining sensitive to the interests of the surviving victims, their families, and the integrity of the ongoing investigation. We also did not want to provide the killer or terrorist organizations with a publicity platform for hateful propaganda. Unfortunately, the unreleased portions of the transcript that named the terrorist organizations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have been doing to investigate this heinous crime. As much of this information had been previously reported, we have re-issued the complete transcript to include these references in order to provide the highest level of transparency possible under the circumstances.
-- Joint statement, June 20, 2016, from the Justice Department and the FBI regarding the transcript related to the Orlando terror attack.

Comment: This is "distractions" rhetoric. Notice, the Justice Department and FBI are changing their behavior – they are releasing an unedited transcript, in contrast to the edited one they previously released – but they are not admitting that their previous behavior was in error. They are not taking accountability for any mistake.

Civility Watchdog: June 20, 2016, Cody in Fayetteville

LIMBAUGH: Okay. Let's start on the phones. It's Cody in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Glad you called, sir. You're up first. Welcome to the program.

CALLER: Yes. Hello. Thank you.

LIMBAUGH: You bet.

CALLER: Basically, I just wanted to say, as a gay Millennial, I don't see why the gay community is backing Hillary and the Obama administration as much as they are after what happened, because it really does feel like they do not care about any Americans, period. And they'd rather defend the Islamic terrorists than defend their own people in their own country.
-- A caller to the Rush Limbaugh Show, June 20, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing Clinton and Obama of not caring about protecting Americans, which likely also questions their patriotism.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 17, 2016, Sarah Palin

OBAMA IS A SPECIAL KIND OF STUPID Enough is enough, Mr. President. There's no "due respect" due you after pulling this stunt. Exploiting a sick, evil, ideological-driven attack on Americans to further your twisted anti-Second Amendment mission is disgusting. Today you're demanding an "explanation" from law abiding gun owners, but not demanding the same from followers of Islam, the religion behind this terror? If the demented Orlando terrorist doesn't represent all Islamic followers, then why do you insinuate he represents all gun owners? And why, after any shooting, do you always want to take away firearms from the innocent people who didn't do it? Forget your asinine gun control, do your job and engage in Islamic terrorist control. Yes, it's a special kind of stupid to demand we explain ourselves.
-- Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), June 17, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: First, Palin is resorting to "stupid" name-calling. Second, she is accusing Obama of exploiting the shooting in Orlando, but according to what standard? Granted, Palin disagrees that gun control is a solution to mass shootings, but why is it "exploiting" to suggest gun control after a mass shooting? If, after the shooting, someone says, "this is an argument for gun rights, because if more people in the club had had guns, they could have stopped the shooter", would that count as exploiting, too? Third, where has Obama proposed taking guns away from everyone? This sounds like a distortion. Lastly, Palin is accusing Obama of hypocrisy, for making generalizations about gun owners while saying it's wrong to do the same about Muslims.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 16, 2016, Barack Obama

"The notion that the answer to this tragedy would be to make sure that more people in a nightclub are similarly armed to the killer defies common sense."
-- President Barack Obama, June 16, 2016, referring to the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Comment: Perhaps having other people similarly armed isn't the right solution – that point is certainly arguable – but how does it defy common-sense? If it does go against common-sense, are the people who support this position stupid?

Civility Watchdog: June 15, 2016, Sean Hannity

"He cannot bring himself to confront truth and reality as he lives in the Obama fantasy-land."
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, June 15, 2016, during the 1st hour of his radio show, referring to President Barack Obama.

Comment: Hannity said this in the midst of criticizing Obama's policies on the Middle East and terrorism. If we find that Hannity has taken positions that are difficult to defend, can we accuse him – using a form of "stupid" name-calling – of being unable to confront facts, and of living in a "Hannity fantasy-land"?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 14, 2016, Stephen Colbert

-- Stephen Colbert, June 14, 2016, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in a segment titled, "This Diagram Explains Trump's Response To Orlando", referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Colbert's remarks – to what degree they're supposed to be taken comically, it isn't always clear – involve several things. First, he knocks over a straw man when he says Trump believes that all Muslims know what all other Muslims are up to. Trump's point was that some Muslims know about terrorist plotting but don't report it (as, for instance, may be the case with the wife of Orlando shooter Omar Mir Seddique Mateen). Second, Colbert demonizes Trump as a Nazi. Finally, he resorts to vulgarity, calling Trump an "asshole".

Civility Watchdog: June 16, 2016, Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly on Thursday said he wanted to "slap" Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) for talking about gun control instead of terrorism in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub attack.

"It just angers me. There's two separate issues: There's the terrorism, and there's the gun control. But what was it, Congressman Clyburn, is that his name?" the Fox News host said on "Fox and Friends," according to Politico.

"It's not about terrorism; it's about gun control," O'Reilly said, imitating Clyburn 's comments. "I just want to slap him," O'Reilly said, "with all due respect."
-- Pundit Bill O'Reilly, June 16, 2016, as related in a story by Rebecca Savransky in The Hill.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric.

Civility Watchdog: June 15, 2016, "Trump That" T-shirt

As thousands of Donald Trump supporters streamed out of an evening rally here [in Greensboro, NC] this week, they walked past a handful of vendors from Ohio selling simple white T-shirts featuring Hillary Clinton, Monica Lewinsky and a vulgar joke. The back of the shirts read: “TRUMP THAT B----!”

One woman laughed and said to the man with her: “You have to get one!” A group of four middle-aged women pulled out their wallets and tried to bargain the vendors down from $20. One of the vendors shouted again and again: “Trump that b----! Trump that b----!” A guy walking past responded: “That’s right!”

The front of the shirt features images of Clinton and Lewinsky with the wording: “Hillary sucks but not like Monica.”
-- From a June 16, 2016, story in the Washington Post by Jenna Johnson. The T-shirts refer to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and are sold at rallies held by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: "Bitch" is vulgar language, and perhaps spans a few different kinds of name-calling, including sexual, "subhuman", and "disgusting".

Rhetoric: Vulgarity

Vulgar language – for instance, swear words; you can find a list here – often pops up in politics. It's arguable what words count as vulgarity, and whether (and why) vulgar language is wrong.

But we shouldn't have double-standards about vulgar language (e.g., my vulgarities are harmless, yours are unacceptable), and we should recognize how vulgar language often appears in various forms of name-calling.

Note that all vulgarity is name-calling; if I stub my toe, you're might hear vulgarity, even though it's not name-calling. And not all name-calling is vulgar; falsely demonizing someone as genocidal maniac is name-calling, but not vulgar.

But there is often an overlap. Vulgar language can be used as name-calling of the "disgusting", "sexually deviant", and "subhuman" variety.

-- Stephen Colbert, June 14, 2016, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in a segment titled, "This Diagram Explains Trump's Response To Orlando", referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: Colbert's remarks – to what degree they're supposed to be taken comically, it isn't always clear – involve several things. First, he knocks over a straw man when he says Trump believes that all Muslims know what all other Muslims are up to. Trump's point was that some Muslims know about terrorist plotting but don't report it (as, for instance, may be the case with the wife of Orlando shooter Omar Mir Seddique Mateen). Second, Colbert demonizes Trump as a Nazi. Finally, he resorts to vulgarity, calling Trump an "asshole".

As thousands of Donald Trump supporters streamed out of an evening rally here [in Greensboro, NC] this week, they walked past a handful of vendors from Ohio selling simple white T-shirts featuring Hillary Clinton, Monica Lewinsky and a vulgar joke. The back of the shirts read: “TRUMP THAT B----!”

One woman laughed and said to the man with her: “You have to get one!” A group of four middle-aged women pulled out their wallets and tried to bargain the vendors down from $20. One of the vendors shouted again and again: “Trump that b----! Trump that b----!” A guy walking past responded: “That’s right!”

The front of the shirt features images of Clinton and Lewinsky with the wording: “Hillary sucks but not like Monica.”
-- From a June 16, 2016, story in the Washington Post by Jenna Johnson. The T-shirts refer to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and are sold at rallies held by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: "Bitch" is vulgar language, and perhaps spans a few different kinds of name-calling, including sexual, "subhuman", and "disgusting".

Recalling Rep. Joe Wilson’s 2009 outburst during President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress, former Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t mince words regarding the South Carolina congressman.

“Somebody should have smacked his a--,” Holder told ESPN's The Undefeated in an interview. “They should have ... told him to sit the f--- down.”
-- Former Attorney General Eric Holder, as related in a June 2, 2016, story by Louis Nelson of Politico.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric, as well as vulgar.

1) Profited off of 9/11
2) Rooted for the housing crash
3) Ran a fraudulent university
4) Sued for tax dodging
5) Is a dick
-- Political consultant Jon Favreau, May 20, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Favreau's fifth point is name-calling, perhaps of the "disgusting" variety, but certainly vulgar.

"She was favored to win and she got schlonged, she lost."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, December 21, 2015, referring to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her failure to win the Democratic nomination in 2008.

Comment: I'm not sure what kind of name-calling this would amount to, though it's clear Trump's language ("schlong" is Yiddish for "penis") has a vulgar sexual connotation.

(The list above is not intended to be a comprehensive record of all relevant examples.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 15, 2016, Ron in Pennsylvania

CALLER: You know, it's funny, because that whole time yesterday with the president, he spent all this time talking about labels and it wasn't -- it was all simply a political points being made by his opponents. It really couldn't do anything (unintelligible) very unimportant stuff, yet he seems completely loath to use anything other than "ISIL" rather than "ISIS" to talk about them. The question is, why, what's the difference between ISIS and ISIL? Well, the big difference, and a big one it is, is that ISIL stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. And what's the difference between the Levant and Syria, which is part of ISIS? Well, the Levant goes from Turkey all the way down to the bottom of Egypt. And what's in the middle there? Israel.

RUSH: Right.

CALLER: So what he's basically giving them credit for is being the Islamic State that controls Israel as well as the rest of the Middle East.

RUSH: Well, you might look at it that way. I understand that, you know, Obama's anti-label and lives by them and dies by them. I think Obama insisting on using "ISIL" instead of "ISIS," I think it's a sign of respect.
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, June 15, 2016, talking to a caller – Ron in Pennsylvania – on Limbaugh's radio show. The were discussion President Barack Obama's remarks about the Islamic State the day before.

Comment: Ron is demonizing Obama. How does Obama's use of the term "ISIL" validate the group's claim to the land of Israel? Both "ISIS" and "ISIL" mention the land of Iraq (it's the second "I" in the acronym); so, if you use either term, are you validating their claim to ruling Iraq? No, of course not, so why should using the term "Levant" imply anything different? Plus, Obama has ordered air strikes that have killed any number of ISIS / ISIL fighters, so how does that fit with him validating their cause? Limbaugh is also derisively saying Obama is showing respect to the Islamic State, which also amounts to demonizing. (Obama likely uses the term "ISIL" simply because that's the term the U.S. military uses when it briefs him about the group; why the military uses that term is another question.)

Civility Watchdog: June 15, 2016, Rush Limbaugh

"[T]here's a news story out there today, and I first told you about this way back September of 2015, so not quite a year. Nine months, eight months ago. Here we go. … [The Iranian nuclear deal would end] the sanctions, which was going to make available to the Iranians $150 billion in frozen assets. And everybody said, "Why are we helping? Our ally is Israel. Why are we helping the Iranians nuke up?" Remember? This was last fall. So back to my program on September the 9th of 2015. "You know why the Corker Bill exists as it does, why there's never any serious effort to stop Obama in making the Iran deal? Do you have any idea? It was money. … [According to a story in Bloomberg], the Iranian national airline's a joke, the mullahs have ordered a number of replacement aircraft made by Boeing. Boeing wants the deal but in order to for the deal to happen, $150 billion in frozen Iranian assets has to be unfrozen. Now Boeing, Republican contributor, "the bottom line was that Republican politicians, elected officials basically had to please a very well-to-do donor or series of donors that were going to be able to engage in new --" In other words, the Republicans went along with this to satisfy Big Donor, is the bottom line."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, June 15, 2016, referring to a story the prior day about Iran buying jets from Boeing.

Comment: First, Limbaugh is accusing people of basing their position on the Iranian nuclear deal on money rather than foreign policy and national interests. Who, in particular, is he talking about – he doesn't name any particular member of Congress – and what is his evidence that they did this for Boeing? Without names and evidence, Limbaugh is demonizing Republicans. Second, the idea that the Iranian nuclear deal involved "helping" Iran get nuclear weapons is a straw man: Iran had to give up 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium, and give up building a nuclear reactor that would have provided weapons-grade plutonium. People can disagree about what will best stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon in the long-term, but in the short-term they have lost 97% of their fissile material.

Civility Watchdog: June 13, 2016, Donald Trump

CARR: I heard you this morning on "Fox and Friends" and I think I sort of have an idea what you were getting at, but you're getting ripped by the usual suspects in the mainstream media, your great friends at the Washington Post and elsewhere, they're pulling this quote out – and then you were asked about it on the "Today Show" again. You said this of Obama, quote: "He doesn't get it or he gets it better than anyone understands. It's one or the other and either one is unacceptable." Dot, dot, dot, "There's something going on." What did you mean by that?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I'm going to let people figure that out for themselves now, because, to be honest with you, there certainly doesn't seem to be a lot of anger or passion you know when we want to demand retribution for what happened over the weekend. There is certainly not a lot of passion, there is certainly not a lot of anger. So, we'll let people figure it out. But, it's a very sad situation when we had the kind of tragedy that we had, and we have a President who gave a press conference and he talked about gun control when this was a licensed person who could've had a gun anyway. And basically, he wants to take the guns away from people so that only the bad guys – I mean, one of the many problems with the gun control is that the bad guys will have the guns, the good guys won't. They'll turn [them] in because they're law-abiding, right? So they turn in their guns if you had gun control, but the bad guys aren't turning in any of the guns, that I can tell you.
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 13, 2016, being interviewed by Howie Carr of The Howie Carr Show. Trump was referring to President Barack Obama's remarks regarding the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Comment: This is an evasion, along the lines of the "voters get to decide" variety. Trump is clearly saying that Obama is doing something wrong, either as a matter of unacceptable ignorance or sinister intent. For him to refuse to clarify his allegation is amounts to there being no credible allegation. The fact that there may be problems with Obama's position on gun control in no way proves that Obama is "up to something". Consider: by not clarifying his allegation, would it be fair for us to non-specifically suggest that Trump is u"p to something", and that people should "figure out for themselves" what that means?

Civility Watchdog: June 15, 2016, Thomas Friedman

We need common-sense gun laws, common-sense gender equality and religious pluralism and common-sense privacy laws.
-- Pundit Thomas Friedman, June 15, 2016.

Comment: This is "common-sense" rhetoric. What counts as common sense on all these issues? And, if someone disagrees with the "common-sense" position, does that mean they're stupid?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 14, 2016, Sean Davis

It happens like clock work: as soon as there’s a mere whisper of a terrorist attack or a mass shooting, the usual suspects kick in to high gear. Their destination is always the same: a faraway land where a so-called assault weapons ban magically eliminates not only guns but also prevents guns from walking of their own volition, without need of human agency, into crowded places and killing people.
-- Pundit Sean Davis, June 14, 2016, in an article titled, "The Assault Weapons Ban Is A Stupid Idea Pushed By Stupid People".

Comment: This is name-calling of the "stupid" variety. Perhaps some advocates of assault weapons bans are mistaken about what counts as an automatic weapon (as opposed to a semi-automatic one), but that doesn't mean they believe guns kill by themselves (that's a straw man), and it doesn't justify name-calling.

Civility Watchdog: June 14, 2016, Barack Obama

"For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle – have made in the fight against ISIL, is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam”. That’s the key, they tell us. We can’t beat ISIL unless we call them “radical Islamists”. What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is, “none of the above”. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction. Since before I was President, I’ve been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As President I have repeatedly called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions. There’s not been a moment in my seven-and-a-half years as President where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam”. Not once has an advisor of mine said, “Man, if we really used that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around.” Not once. … So there’s no magic to the phrase “radical Islam”. It’s a political talking point. It’s not a strategy. And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness, and everything to do with actually defeating extremism. Groups like ISIL and Al-Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them, by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda, that’s how they recruit? And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists work for them. Up until this point this argument about labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric. Sadly, we’ve all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups. And that kind of yapping has not prevented folks across government from doing their jobs, from sacrifice and working really hard to protect the American people. But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mindset and this kind of thinking can be. We’re starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we’re fighting, where this can lead us. We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America. You hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Where does this stop? … Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. … We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history."
-- President Barack Obama, June 14, 2016, referring to (among other people) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: There is a lot going on here, including "distractions", "talking points", "appealing to fear" and "Americans want" rhetoric. But the bigger issue is distortion. It's not clear who has ever said that using the term "radical Islam" is a necessary or a sufficient condition for defeating ISIS (i.e., that we can't defeat ISIS without using that term, or that using the term is all we need – a "silver bullet" – to defeat ISIS). Maybe some people have taken one or both of these positions – though, has it been their "main" contribution to the issue? – but they certainly haven't been adopted by Republicans in general. Obama needs to name who has advocated these positions, and when and where did so; otherwise it seems like he's knocking over a straw man (a position no one holds). More, if there is no "magic" in using the term "radical Islam", then why avoid it? Obama says that we shouldn't brand all Muslims as terrorists or radicals – and he's correct – but it's not at all clear that using the term does that. Lots of people refer to "Islamic terrorism" while at the same time acknowledging that not all terrorism is done by Muslims and that the vast majority of Muslims aren't terrorists. As I've argued before, you can call someone a "white supremacist" without saying all whites are supremacists, just like you can say Josef Stalin was an "violent socialist" without saying all socialists are violent. Why doesn't the same apply to "radical Islam"? If we support all of Obama's policies and actions on terrorism, but also use the term "Islamic terrorism", are we suddenly validating terrorists and helping them recruit members? Does the term have that much "magic"?

Civility Watchdog: June 14, 2016, Eli Stokols

The plan — to encourage fear by suggesting that Washington is actively promoting policies that endanger its citizens — plays directly to the base that rewarded him with the GOP nomination.
-- Pundit Eli Stokols, June 14, 2016, in an article entitled "Trump's Politics of Fear", referring to the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Comment: It's true that Trump is appealing to fear, but this is true of many political campaigns. Trump's opponents, for instance, are "encouraging" fear by claiming that Trump will support policies that are harmful. There's nothing wrong with appealing to fear, in principle; the issue is to prove which fears are well-founded, and which fears are worse than others.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 13, 2016, Donald Trump

"So she says the solution is to ban guns. They tried that in France, which has among the toughest gun laws anywhere in the world, and 130 people were brutally murdered by Islamic terrorists in cold blood. Her plan is to disarm law-abiding Americans, abolishing the Second Amendment and leaving only the bad guys and terrorists with guns. No good. Not going to happen, folks. Not going to happen. Not going to happen. She wants to take away Americans' guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come in to the country, we don't have guns, let them come in. Let them have all the fun they want."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 13, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: This is a distortion. While Clinton has called for restrictions on guns that Trump doesn't support, Clinton has not called for banning all guns. More, Trump is demonizing Clinton by claiming she intentionally wants to render Americans defenseless while at the same time introducing violent people into the country.

Civility Watchdog: June 13, 2016, Josh Earnest

When it comes to Hillary Clinton's pronouncement earlier Monday that "radical Islamism" and "radical jihadism" are "the same thing" in discussing the Orlando, Florida, terrorist attack, the White House is sticking with its current terminology.

"Listen, I think the president has been quite clear why we choose the language we use to define our enemy. And we have defined the enemy, our adversary in this war as a terrorist organization that perverts Islam," press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. "And the president's been blunt about that and the president has been blunt about why exactly we use the terminology that we do. And it is to make crystal clear we're not going to give those extremist organizations the legitimacy of claiming legitimate Islam."

President Barack Obama is "not going to give into them," Earnest said, because those groups and people "want that legitimacy."

"They want to further this narrative that they represent Islam in a war against the West. That narrative is false. It is empty. It is a myth. In fact, most of the victims of these terrorist organizations are in fact innocent Muslim men, women and children," Earnest continued, adding, "Many of the -- many of our most important partners in our counter-ISIL effort are our partners in the Muslim world."

That should suggest that the "extremist organizations do not represent the Muslim faith," Earnest said.
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, June 13, 2016, as related in a story by Nick Gass of Politico. Earnest was referring to the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Comment: Earnest is making the argument that Obama won't call the shooting "Islamic" because it would be saying that such violence is a legitimate part of Islam, which a derisive distortion of Islam and a false justification of the shooter's actions. But is that really what such language commits us to? If I call Adolf Hitler a "German supremacist" or a "white supremacist", does that mean I'm saying his rhetoric and violence is a legitimate part of what it is to be German or white? Or, if I say that Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong were socialists – or "radical socialists" – am I therefore saying their violent, oppressive behavior is an essential part of socialism, and that all socialists are committed to the same? The same question goes to phrases like "right-wing violence", "left-wing violence", 'environmental terrorism", "Christian militants", etc. Do they all amount to a false portrayal that demonizes these wider movements as being represented by extremists? Do these phrases all give unearned legitimacy for the people doing the violence?

Civility Watchdog: June 13, 2016, Hillary Clinton

"I want to echo something that I heard my friend and former colleague Peter King saying as I was listening here. This is a moment for Republicans, Democrats and Independents to work together as one team. The American team. And it’s a time for statesmanship, not partisanship. I think that our fellow American citizens expect that."
-- Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, June 13, 2016, referring to the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.

Comment: This is "unify the country" rhetoric, but what, exactly, are Americans supposed to unify on and not be partisan about? It's trivial to say that we should all be opposed to terrorism. Should we all unify on one plan to deal with terrorism, even if we don't all think it's the best plan? Without specifying this, how can she be sure that it's something all Americans want?

Civility Watchdog: June 12, 2016, Ted Cruz

We need a President who is serious – who will identify the enemy by name and do everything necessary to defeat it. The next few days will be sadly predictable. Democrats will try to use this attack to change the subject. As a matter of rigid ideology, far too many Democrats – from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton – will refuse to utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ They will claim this attack, like they claimed every previous attack, was isolated and had nothing to do with the vicious Islamist theology that is daily waging war on us across the globe. And they will try to exploit this terror attack to undermine the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms of law-abiding Americans. Enough is enough. What we need is for every American – Democrat and Republican – to come together, abandon political correctness, and unite in defeating radical Islamic terrorism.
-- Sen. Ted Cruz, June 12, 2016, referring to the Orlando nightclub shooting by Omar Mir Seddique Mateen earlier that day.

Comment: First, this is "distraction" rhetoric. Second, Cruz is accusing Democrats of exploiting the shooting, but how? What is the evidence that it is Democrats – as opposed to Cruz or Republicans – are exploiting the issue? Finally, this is "unify the country" rhetoric. What, exactly, are we to unify on? Stopping terrorism? That's a platitude. Uniting on Cruz's plan to fight terrorism is more informative, but what if some people think it's not the best plan? Are they supposed to just give up their convictions for the sake of agreeing with Cruz?

Civility Watchdog: June 13, 2016, Donald Trump

Donald Trump stepped up his criticism of President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday, pointedly questioning Obama's lack of willingness to call the act "radical Islamic terrorism" and insinuating that the president's sympathies might lie elsewhere.

"He doesn't get it or he gets it better than anybody understands. It's one or the other," Trump said of Obama on "Fox & Friends," speaking on the phone. "And either one is unacceptable, No. 1, and No. 2, calling on another gun ban, I mean, this man has no clue.”

Trump again implied that the president was not a trustworthy leader who failed to prevent Omar Mateen, an apparently radicalized 29-year-old Florida man, from going on a shooting rampage at an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning, killing 49 and injuring at least 53.

"We're led by a man who is a very — look, we're led by a man that either is, is not tough, not smart, or he's got something else in mind," Trump said. "And the something else in mind, you know, people can't believe it. People cannot — they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the ways he acts and can't even mention the words radical Islamic terrorism. There's something going on. It's inconceivable."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 13, 2016, as related in a story by Nick Gass of Politico.

Comment: Trump is demonizing Obama. Perhaps Obama is wrong not to use the term "radical Islamic terrorism" to refer to the shooting in Orlando, but does that mean is has to be the result of a sinister, conscious decision on Obama's part?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 11, 2016, Donald Trump

"Everything’s political correct. I mean, you watch what you say, you say something a little bit off, you end up with headlines. It’s like a bunch of babies. Like a bunch of dumb babies. And, believe me, folks: the world is laughing at us."
-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, June 11, 2016.

Comment: Trump is dismissing the idea of political correctness, which is perhaps the same as dismissing civility. And he is resorting to name-calling, belittling people who advocate being politically correct. Does this mean that we don't have to be politically correct in criticizing Trump himself? What sorts of things does that allow us to say about him? If Trump is called names, and he complains about it, does that mean he's being a "baby"?

Civility Watchdog: June 10, 2016, Stephen Moore

The greatest victims of Barack Obama’s litany of economic failures have been blacks and Hispanics. Obama’s no racist, but the impact of his policies is. Does it really matter that he means well?
-- Pundit Stephen Moore, June 10, 2016.

Comment: Moore is claiming that, although President Obama doesn't mean to harm minorities, his policies have that effect, and therefore he is hardly any better than a racist. Is that right? And is it true that Obama's policies hurt minorities? If it were discovered that Republican policies had that effect, would it be fair to accuse them of being little better than racists?

Civility Watchdog: June 12, 2016, David Remnick

Clinton will have to campaign with unwavering poise against the most dangerous and unpredictable variety of opponent—a demagogue who is willing to trespass every boundary of decency to win power.
-- Pundit David Remnick, retrieved June 12, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "demagogue" and "they'll say anything" rhetoric.

Civility Watchdog: June 9, 2016, Mark Levin

”But the Democrat Party is now an anti-Israel party. That’s not to say – by the way, just as elements of it are an anti-American party, totalitarian in their mindset. As I say, that’s not to say there aren’t some among them, obviously, who support Israel or support America. But the fact of the matter is, when you look at our college campuses, when you look at Obama’s policies, when you look at the Democrat Party – this pathetic Bernie Sanders, he is a Jew who despises Israel and is an American who despises America. And you typically find that sort of thing, a similar sort of thing, don’t you? Tends to be a parallel. But this administration, this grotesque – this President, Secretary of State, this administration is loaded with haters. And so is the Democrat Party."
-- Pundit Mark Levin, June 9, 2016, during the 1st hour of his radio show.

Comment: This is demonizing, accusing people of bigotry (e.g., anti-Semitism) and being unpatriotic. It's one thing to criticize people for supporting policies that don't believe are the best for Israel or America; it's another thing entirely to say that they hate those countries, and are actively trying to undermine them. Is it really the case that many or even most Democrats hold this view? That they want government to regulate every aspect of public and private life (i.e., that they're totalitarians)?

Civility Watchdog: June 10, 2016, Meg Whitman

During an exclusive Republican gathering here [Park City, UT] on Friday, billionaire mega-donor Meg Whitman challenged Paul Ryan over his endorsement of Donald Trump – and, in doing so, compared the presumptive GOP presidential nominee to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Whitman and Ryan are present for Experts and Enthusiasts, an annual summit convened here by Mitt Romney that brings together his top donors and major political figures. Part of the day’s program included a discussion session between Ryan and former broadcast journalist Campbell Brown.

At one point, according to two sources, during a question and answer session, Whitman, the billionaire chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard, challenged Ryan over his decision to support Trump. In framing the question, according to the sources, she compared Trump to past historical demagogues including Hitler and Mussolini.
-- Former gubernatorial candidate (R-CA) Meg Whitman, June 10, 2016, as related by Alex Isenstadt of Politico.

Comment: This is both "demagogue" and "comparing" rhetoric, though without direct quotes and context, it's hard to evaluate whether the rhetoric is appropriate.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Civility Watchdog: June 10, 2016, Donald Trump

Pocahontas is at it again! Goofy Elizabeth Warren, one of the least productive U.S. Senators, has a nasty mouth. Hope she is V.P. choice.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, June 10, 2016, referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Comment: This is name-calling, perhaps of the "stupid" variety.

Civility Watchdog: June 9, 2016, Elizabeth Warren

"Donald Trump is a loud, nasty, thin-skinned fraud who has never risked anything for anyone and serves nobody but himself. And that is just one of the many reasons why he will never be President of the United States. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell want Donald Trump to appoint the next generation of judges. They want those judges to tilt the law to favor big business and billionaires like Trump. They just want Donald to quit being so vulgar and obvious about it. Donald Trump chose racism as his weapon, but his aim is exactly the same as the rest of the Republicans. Pound the courts into submission to the rich and powerful. We will not allow a small, insecure, thin-skinned wannabe tyrant or his allies in the Senate to destroy the rule of law in the United States of America."
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), June 9, 2016.

Comment: This is demonizing. Whatever Trump has done wrong (and there's plenty), what evidence is there that he wants to be a tyrant and abolish democracy and the Constitution? More, what evidence is there that Republicans in general want to destroy the rule of law in favor of big business?