Sunday, February 7, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: February 7, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
MUIR: Mr. Trump, thank you. I want to bring this to Senator Cruz, then. Because Senator, you did said of Trump's behavior this week, that's not the temperament of a leader to keep this country safe. Why not?

CRUZ: Well, you know, David, the assessment the voters are making here in New Hampshire and across the country is they are evaluating each and every one of us. They are looking to our experience. They are looking to our knowledge. They are looking to our temperament and judgment. They are looking to our clarity of vision and our strength of resolve. The world is getting much more dangerous. We've had seven years with Barack Obama in the oval office, a commander-in-chief that is unwilling even to acknowledge the enemy we're facing. This is a president who, in the wake of Paris, in the wake of San Bernardino, will not even use the words radical Islamic terrorism, much less focus on defeating the enemy. I am convinced every individual standing on this stage, would make a much better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. And the primary voters are making the assessment for each of us, who is best prepared to keep this country safe, to rebuild the military, to rebuild our Navy, our Air Force, our Army, our Marines, and to ensure that we keep America safe.

MUIR: Senator Cruz, I did ask about Mr. Trump. You said he doesn't have the temperament to be commander-in-chief. Do you stand by those words?

CRUZ: I think that is an assessment the voters are going to make. And they are going to make it of each and everyone of us. They are going to assess who is level-headed, who has clear vision, who has judgment, who can confront our enemies, who can confront the threats we face in this country, and who can have the judgment when to engage and when not to engage -- both are incredibly important for a commander-in-chief, knowing how to go after our enemies. In the case of Iran, for example, who has the clarity of vision to understand that the Ayatollah Khamenei, when he chants, "Death to America," he means it. We need a president with the judgment and resolve to keep this country safe from radical Islamic terrorists.

MUIR: Senator Cruz, thank you. We're going to continue on this notion of readiness and experience. I'm going to come back.

TRUMP: Am I allowed to respond? I have to respond.

MUIR: If you would like to respond, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: First of all, I respect what Ted just said, but if you noticed, he didn't answer your question.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz, February 6, 2016, during the GOP presidential debate hosted by ABC News. David Muir was among the hosts, and Republican presidential contender Donald Trump one of the participants.

Comment: Trump is correct that Cruz evaded the question. In particular, he used the "voters must decide" evasion. As Muir noted, Cruz has previously expressed his opinion on whether Trump is suited to be president; why can't he repeat it, rather than saying it's "for the voters to decide"?

When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) last month mocked Donald Trump’s “New York values,” it wasn’t entirely clear what he was implying. This week we got a clue: For Cruz, “New York” is another way of saying “Jewish.” At an event in New Hampshire, Cruz, the Republican Iowa caucuses winner, was asked about campaign money he and his wife borrowed from Goldman Sachs. Cruz, asserting that Trump had “upward of $480 million of loans from giant Wall Street banks,” said: “For him to make this attack, to use a New York term, it’s the height of chutzpah.” Cruz, pausing for laughter after the phrase “New York term,” exaggerated the guttural “ch” to more laughter and applause. But “chutzpah,” of course, is not a “New York” term. It’s a Yiddish — a Jewish — one. And using “New York” as a euphemism for “Jewish” has long been an anti-Semitic dog whistle.
-- Pundit Dana Milbank, February 5, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Comment: Milbank is accusing Cruz of using code words, and bigoted ones, at that. Is the fact that Cruz criticizes "New York values" and then later uses the word "chutzpah" really a sound argument for claiming he's anti-Semitic? Yes, "chutzpah" is a "New York" word in the sense that it's Yiddish, and New York – having a large Jewish community – was the place for a lot of Yiddish words to enter the vocabulary of the U.S. But "bodega" and "deli" are similarly "New York" terms, stemming from Puerto Rican Spanish and German, respectively: does that mean "New York" is synonymous with "Puerto Rican" or "German"? It seems like Milbank is demonizing Cruz with a flimsy argument.

On Wednesday, Rep. Steve King summoned Ben Carson to a meeting at Carson's Washington hotel to express regret for his role in spreading the rumor just before the Iowa caucuses began that Carson was withdrawing from the presidential race.

"There was no malice on my part," King, a prominent surrogate for Iowa winner Ted Cruz, said in a phone interview. "We shook hands and we're done. We don’t have to discuss it again."

But that sentiment has become wishful thinking for the Cruz campaign.

Four days after winning the Iowa caucuses, Cruz's team is still struggling to answer questions about whether it relied on trickery to pad its lead by convincing Iowans that Carson — a rival for evangelical votes — was dropping out of the race. What the Cruz campaign initially called a knee-jerk response to ambiguous news reports has been revealed to be a more coordinated effort to steer Carson voters to the Cruz camp amid the chaotic caucus atmosphere.

Cruz's surrogates and staff are exasperated by all the attention.

"As long as Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and, to a significantly lesser degree, Ben Carson can benefit from this, they will push it," King said. "It’s beyond the point where the facts matter. They’ll always continue to attack the credibility of Ted Cruz.” King added that he's not convinced that Carson actually did intend to drop out, suggesting that he might have reversed course after the Cruz issue erupted.
-- Rep. Steve King (R-IA), from a February 5, 2016, Politico story by Kyle Cheney.

Comment: King is accusing Cruz's critics of not caring about facts.

"Just got an e-mail here during the break. "Dear Rush: I'm missing something here in this outrage. I'm missing something in this outrage directed at Cruz. Trump, Palin, Carson all sound whiny to me. What in the world do they think they're doing? What business are they in, here?" Folks, maybe that describes some of you, the (crying) aspect of this. What it means, is Cruz is the front-runner. And this is apparently the only way they can go after him. I guess they don't think they can go after him on issues. I guess they don't see any other way to go at him. You know they're gonna go after the front-runner. I mean, it's part of the race. It's the name of the game here. Now, it does matter, I think, what you go after the front-runner on. You do run the risk of sounding -- I don't know -- whiny. I don't know what it is, but you gotta realize what business you're in here. But if there were a way to solidly attack Cruz on issues or substance, I think they would do that, too, and so far it's just about whatever his campaign did with Dr. Carson."
-- Pundit Rush Limbaugh, February 3, 2016, commenting on criticism of Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cruz was being criticized for his campaign's behavior during the Iowa Caucus, in which they spread the false word that Republican presidential contender Ben Carson was dropping out of the GOP nomination process.

Comment: The seems like ad hominem reasoning. Limbaugh is dismissing the criticisms of Cruz on the grounds that his critics are losing to Cruz. Perhaps they are motivated by "sour grapes", but that doesn't mean their criticism is false.

GUTHRIE: Some of your Democratic allies, Democratic leaders have said point blank that Bernie Sanders – a democratic socialist, as he describes himself – cannot win a general election, that Republicans cannot wait to have an ad that has the hammer and the sickle. You have kind of tiptoed around it. But this is crunch time. If you believe it, why not come right out and say it: "Bernie Sanders, you may love him, Iowa voters, but he cannot win a general election"?

CLINTON: Well I know, Savannah, that is exactly what a lot of Democrats are saying, a lot of elected Democrats, people who want to take back the Senate in the 2016 election, want to add to the numbers of Democrats in the House, and maybe make some progress –

GUTHRIE: Are you saying it?

CLINTON: – in governors and state legislatures. But I think it's fair to say that he has to run his campaign, and present his views. We have differences, and I've been pointing out those differences. I think that it's important for me to tell voters what I want to achieve, and how I will go about doing that. Because I want them to hold me accountable. Then it's going to be up to caucus goers tonight, primary voters next in New Hampshire, to decide who they think offers the best path forward to keep the progress that we've made going.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, February 1, 2016, during an interview with Savannah Guthrie of NBC News. The question concerned Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: This is an evasion. Clinton never answers the question of whether Sanders is electable in the general election, instead claiming that other Democrats believe Sanders is un-electable, and apparently saying the "voters must decide" whether they think Sanders can win. Of course, one of the ways for voters to decide whether they think voters can win is to consider the opinion of other Democrats, such as Clinton. Ironically, Clinton declares she wants to be "held accountable" even as she isn't answering the question that's been put to her.

TAPPER: You said – quote – "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e- mails." Should voters take from those comments that you think nothing was done was wrong when it comes to how Secretary Clinton handled classified information? Or is that not a fair –

SANDERS: No. No, that is not, I think, a fair assessment. I think this is a very serious issue. I think there is a legal process right now taking place. And what I have said -- and -- you know, and I get criticized. You know, Bernie, why don't you attack Hillary Clinton? There is a legal process taking place. I do not want to politicize that issue. It is not my style.
-- Democratic presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), January 31, 2016, during an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN. The question concerned Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the investigation of her use of a private email server during her time as head of the State Department.

Comment: How would it be "politicizing" for Sanders to express an opinion on whether he thinks Clinton's use of a private email server was appropriate? How would it be incompatible with the ongoing investigation (which sounds like an evasion)?

COSMOPOLITAN: Donald Trump has called your dad an abuser of women, and your mom his enabler. What do you think of his attacks on your parents?

CLINTON: I find what Donald Trump — and many of the Republicans, because it's not only Mr. Trump — say about Americans far more troubling than what he says about my parents.
-- Chelsea Clinton, from an interview with Cosmopolitan Magazine released January 31, 2016. The question concerned her parents: former President Bill Clinton, and Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: Does Clinton really answer the question? She says she finds Trump's rhetoric about Americans more troubling than the accusations about her father and mother, but that leaves open the matter of whether the accusations about her parents are true or troubling at all.

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