Sunday, March 6, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: March 6, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
Actor and activist Sean Penn told an audience of security geeks Friday that "the defecation on America that is the Republican debate" is making him nostalgic for President George W. Bush, something he finds amazing.

Penn spoke on the final day of the RSA computer security conference, an annual event that was especially newsy this year due to the ongoing battle between Apple and the FBI.

He was asked by RSA program chair Hugh Thompson who he backed in this year’s presidential election.

Penn grimaced, then said maybe he’s simply not being democratic enough in how he thinks about the election because he's clearly not taking into account "the true interests of my fellow Americans."

“So many of them truly want to hate each other, want to bottom out their community so they can rise up in it, want to really devastate the rest of the world and maybe get into a civil war,” he said.

If that is what the mass of Americans want, “I’m going to have to consider Trump-Cruz,” he said.
-- Actor and pundit Sean Penn, March 4, 2016, as related in a story by Elizabeth Weise of USA Today. Penn was referring to Republican presidential contenders Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Comment: Penn is demonizing, saying that Trump and Cruz (and/or their supporters) intentionally want to destroy their communities and start wars. He is also using "disgusting" rhetoric (i.e., "defecation on America").

"On the Democratic side, we agree on a number of things. But I don't think we can answer that question by re-fighting battles from 20 years ago," Clinton said in a nod to the fact she backed the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal that Sanders has cited to attack the former first lady.

Clinton added, "Anyone running for president owes it to you to come up with real ideas, not an ideology, not an old set of talking points, but a credible strategy designed for the world we live in now. And that is exactly what I am here today to do."
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, March 4, 2016, as related in a story by Dan Merica of CNN.

Comment: This is "rehashing old debates", "talking points", and "ideologue" rhetoric. If people disagree with the North American Free Trade Agreement, why can't they criticize Clinton for supporting it? Why should such criticism be dismissed as talking points or ideology?

"America’s workforce is growing at the fastest pace since the year 2000. It is showing the kind of strength and durability that makes America’s economy right now the envy of the world despite the enormous headwinds that it’s receiving because of weaknesses in other parts of the world. In other words, the numbers, the facts don’t lie. And I think it’s useful, given that there seems to be an alternative reality out there from some of the political folks that America is down in the dumps. It’s not. America is pretty darn great right now, and making strides right now. … And I don’t expect that these facts and this evidence will convince some of the politicians out there to change their doomsday rhetoric, talking about how terrible America is. … The fact of the matter is, is that the plans that we have put in place to grow the economy have worked. They would work even faster if we did not have the kind of obstruction that we’ve seen in this town to prevent additional policies that would make a difference. … That’s what we should be debating. That’s the debate that is worthy of the American people. Not fantasy. Not name-calling. Not trying to talk down the American economy, but looking at the facts, understanding that we’ve made extraordinary progress in job growth; how can we continue to advance that, how can we make sure that people are successful in climbing the ladder of wage and income growth over the coming years; how do we make sure that we make this economy grow even faster. … The notion that we would reverse the very policies that helped dig us out of a recession, reinstitute those that got us into a hole -- plans that are being currently proposed by Republicans in Congress and by some of the candidates for President -- that’s not the conversation we should be having."
-- President Barack Obama, March 4, 2016.

Comment: There are several things going on here. First, Obama is accusing opponents (in particular, Republicans) of being "out of touch with reality", or perhaps of not caring about facts. Second, it sounds like he's also accusing Republicans of rooting for failure on the economy. Third, he is accusing them of obstruction. Fourth, he is calling for a higher standard of debate. Finally, he is making claims about what caused the Financial Crisis – he says it was Republican policies – and the reversal of that crisis – he says it was his own economic policies. But his support for these claims seems to be flimsy post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning.

Facts may not matter to Trump’s fans, and he may have enough support to skate through to win the nomination.
-- Pundit Jonathan S. Tobin, March 4, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "they don't care about truth" rhetoric.

"Donald stressed flexibility, he kept saying he’d be flexible, in fact, on the stage, he said he agreed with Marco Rubio’s decision to be flexible and negotiate the Gang of Eight amnesty bill. Flexibility is Washington code word for he’s getting ready to stick it to the voters, and break his word".
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), March 3, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contenders Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Comment: Cruz is accusing Trump of using code words.

"What happened in Flint was a terrible thing. It was systemic breakdown at every level of government, at both the state and partially at the federal level as well. And by the way the politicizing of it, I think, is unfair, because I don't think that someone woke up one morning and said, let's figure out how to poison the water system and hurt someone."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), March 3, 2016, referring to the water supply crisis in Flint, MI.

Comment: This is "politicizing" rhetoric.

Donald Trump said Thursday he plans to "hit back" hard against rivals at the next Republican debate, despite recent pledges to tone down his brash style and attempts to act more dignified on the campaign trail.

"I can't act overly presidential because I'm going to have people attacking me from every side," he said on TODAY. Trump said he plans to defend himself against attacks he expects to come "from all different angles."

"I would have a very, very presidential demeanor when I win, but until such time you have to hit back. When you hit back, you're no longer presidential, unfortunately," he said.
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, March 3, 2016, as related in a story by Eun Kyung Kim of

Comment: This is "get tough and hit back" rhetoric.

Riding high off a string of Super Tuesday victories, Donald Trump warned the GOP about the consequences of propping up another candidate to run against him.

"They’ll just lose everything, that would be the work of a loser," Trump said about criticism over his candidacy from within his party.

"We’ve actually expanded the party," Trump said. “I am a unifier."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, March 1, 2016, as related in a story by Eliza Collins of Politico.

Comment: This is "unify the country" rhetoric.

"We’ve had seven years of President Obama dividing us on racial and ethnic lines. The last thing we need is a president who tries to inflame those."
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), February 29, 2016, referring to President Barack Obama and Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "unify the country" rhetoric.

Trump's rise is the return of the demagogue
-- Pundit Jill Abramson, February 29, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "demagogue" rhetoric.

"I'm not even sure he knows he's lying. I think he just doesn't care about what the truth is."
-- Pundit John Oliver, February 28, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: This is "they don't care about truth" rhetoric.

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