Monday, January 11, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: January 10, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Chris Christie on Wednesday conceded that he changed his mind on guns.

Fox News host Sean Hannity pressed the New Jersey governor on his gun stance, noting that he supported an assault weapons ban in 1995, called GOP opponents who wanted to repeal it “dangerous,” “crazy” and “radical,” and ran against opposition to concealed carry laws in 2009.

“Well listen, in 1995, Sean, I was 32 years old and I’ve changed my mind,” Christie said. “And the biggest reason that I changed my mind was my seven years as a federal prosecutor. What I learned in those seven years was that we were spending much too much time talking about gun laws against law-abiding citizens and not nearly enough time talking about enforcing the gun laws strongly against criminals.”
-- Republican presidential contender Gov. Chris Christie, January 6, 2016, as related in a story by Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico.

Comment: Christie is acknowledging that (and explaining why) he flip-flopped on gun policy.

Ted Cruz has a strong ground game in Iowa
-- Pundit Alexander Nazaryan, January 6, 2016, in a tweet including a photo of Nazis.

Comment: Nazaryan is demonizing Cruz, accusing him of being bigoted (or comparing him to bigots, perhaps comically) .

Few things are sadder or more treacherous than closing the door to immigrants who came after us, which is what some U.S. presidential candidates want to do. … Of course, most incomprehensible for many Hispanics is that the two Latino candidates, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have taken such a harsh stance against immigrants who are here simply because they’re doing the jobs that Americans won’t do. Both Rubio and Cruz have broken a decadeslong tradition in which Hispanic politicians, no matter their family origins or political affiliations, tended to defend the most vulnerable immigrants in this country. … Apparently that legacy no longer applies. “No one running for president knows more about immigration than me,” Rubio recently said during a speech in New Hampshire. Yet Rubio and Cruz are struggling to see who can demonstrate the harshest opposition to offering undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Simply put: Rubio and Cruz don’t want new immigrants to have the same opportunities that their own parents had. … There is no greater disloyalty than the children of immigrants forgetting their own roots. That’s a betrayal.
-- Pundit Jorge Ramos, January 5, 2016.

Comment: Ramos is demonizing Cruz and Rubio, suggesting they are anti-immigrant. They have not blocked off opportunities for all immigrants whatsoever; rather, they have refused to support certain reforms directed at immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

"We have listened to liberals all of our lives. We know exactly what they want to do. And those of us who've been paying attention know exactly how they go about it. We know how they go about getting everything they want. If they have to deflect, if they have to lie, if they have to distract, if they have to state that exactly what they want is not what, whatever. We know what they want. They want ultimate power and control. We know why. They have contempt for average, ordinary Americans and every other type person, don't think they're capable of leading their own lives responsibly and don't even want to give them the chance to. It's just an unquenchable thirst that they have for power and control over people. And getting guns out of the hands of people would represent the pinnacle of wresting control, wresting freedom and liberty away from people and gaining control over them. … Don't be fooled. He's not worried about the criminals getting guns; that's not his focus. His target is on the innocent. Everybody, every liberal Democrat, every gun control advocate wherever you find them, in order to succeed, they have to take guns away from the law-abiding. … Don't be fooled. He's not worried about the criminals getting guns; that's not his focus. His target is on the innocent. Everybody, every liberal Democrat, every gun control advocate wherever you find them, in order to succeed, they have to take guns away from the law-abiding."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, January 5, 2016, responding to President Barack Obama's gun policy speech that day.

Comment: Limbaugh is demonizing Obama and liberals, claiming they don't support gun control with the goal of protecting people, but that they instead seek to control people and take away their freedom. This is also the "they'll say anything" caricature, as well as "distraction" rhetoric.

"What he’s proposing would not have prevented any past mass shooting. So why would it prevent the next one? So you’ve got a president indulging in an illusion. … And that’s why the issue of guns is such an insight into liberalism. Because what happens here is – what matters should be the results. … We’ve got this moral posturing, feel-good politics, it doesn’t matter to the left, what they propose will not stop gun violence, it just makes them feel good like they are doing something positive. They think it looks good, they think it sounds good, and the fact that no lives are going to be saved by what the President’s proposing doesn’t matter. That shows you how shallow modern liberalism is, and how it’s all about emotion rather than reason, and the appearance rather than reality. … But I’m watching him cry with tears streaming down his cheeks, now maybe it was genuine, to him – I can’t read the guy’s heart. … You’ve got an Alinskyite, master politician and a demagogue attempting to use emotion to counter reason."
-- Pundit Sean Hannity, January 5, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama's gun policy speech that day, during which Obama cried while referring the the Newtown school shooting.

Comment: Hannity is accusing Obama (and liberals more generally) of being divorced from reality, intentionally rejecting reason and facts. He is also using "demagogue" rhetoric.

MATTHEWS: I want to try to help you for this audience tonight, our audience, locate yourself politically in this country. Now, we have Trump out there and we have Bernie out here. Now, Bernie calls himself a socialist. Nobody uses [it as] a derogatory term anymore. He loves to have that label. He's never ran as a Democrat, he runs against Democrats up there in Vermont. You're a Democrat. I would say you're a pretty typical Democrat, in the traditional Democratic Party. And [Hubert] Humphry and the rest of them. Scoop [Jackson], not even Scoop, I’d say Mondale, you’re somewhere in there. What's the difference between a socialist and a Democrat? Is that a question you want to answer or you’d rather not, politically.

CLINTON: Well, you’d have to ask –

MATTHEWS: Well, see, I'm asking you. You're a Democrat, he's a socialist. Would you like somebody to call you a socialist? I wouldn’t like somebody calling me a socialist.

CLINTON: But I'm not one. I mean, I’m not one.

MATTHEWS: OK, what's the difference between a socialist and a Democrat? That’s the question.

CLINTON: I can tell you what I am. I am a Progressive Democrat.

MATTHEWS: How is that different than a socialist?

CLINTON: I'm a Progressive Democrat who likes to get things done and who believes that we are better off in this country when we're trying to solve problems together. Getting people to work together. There will always be strong feelings and I respect that, from, you know, the far right, the far left, libertarians, whoever it might be. We need to get people working together. We've got to get the economy fixed, we’ve got to get all of our problems, you know, really tackled and that's what I want to do.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 5, 2016, being interviewed by Chris Matthews of MSNBC, discussing Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: Clinton never answers Matthews' question. How is a Progressive Democrat different from a socialist? Is the difference in goals, or do they have the same goals but different strategies to reach them? What is it about socialism that Clinton disagrees with such that she won't call herself a socialist? Clinton never clarifies that issue, which is the essence of Matthews' question. If someone heard her description of what it means to be a Progressive Democrat and said, "Oh, that's socialism!", how would she respond? How would she rebut that claim? Also, don't socialists also believe we should try to solve problems, and to do so together? Isn't Clinton caricaturing them?

So I can just imagine Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s inner voice giving him advice in his usual fact-free zone — the same voice that told him he “watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down” — though we now know there was no such scene. None.
-- Pundit Lanny Davis, January 5, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Davis is accusing Trump of not caring about facts.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: I'm interested in your response to Donald's comment that you and President Obama created ISIS.

CLINTON: I've adopted a New Year's resolution: I'm going to let him live in his alternative reality and I'm not going to respond.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 4, 2016, answering a question at a campaign event concerning remarks by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump. Trump said Clinton and President Barack Obama were responsible for the existence of The Islamic State.

Comment: Clinton is accusing Trump of being divorced from reality, while also evading the question (on the grounds that she's not going to dignify such a falsely presumptuous question with a response).

BASH: OK. Donald Trump says that Bill Clinton's sexual history is fair game. Do you agree?

SANDERS: I think that Donald Trump might want to concern himself with the fact that he's dead wrong when he says we should not raise the minimum wage, he's dead wrong when he says that wages in America are too high, he's dead wrong when he thinks we should give huge tax breaks to billionaires like himself, and he's dead wrong when he thinks that climate change is a hoax, when the entire -- virtually an entire scientific community thinks it's the great environmental crisis that we face.

BASH: Senator...

SANDERS: Maybe Trump should worry about those issues, rather than Bill Clinton's sex life.

BASH: Only Bernie Sanders can segue from Bill Clinton's sex life to climate change. That was impressive.

SANDERS: All right.

BASH: But what is the answer to the question? Is it fair game or not?

SANDERS: No. I think we have got more important things to worry about in this country than Bill Clinton's sex life.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), January 3, 2016, being interviewed by Dana Bash of CNN.

Comment: Sanders initially evades the question. His eventual answer doesn't really say whether Clinton's sexual history is a relevant topic of discussion, he only says that there are more important topics.

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