Sunday, May 29, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: May 29, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
TODD: Yesterday's State Department IG report was pretty scathing, and it seemed to contradict many of the things you said about the emails. Do you accept everything that the State Department IG report said about your practices as fact?

CLINTON: Well, Chuck, the report makes clear that personal email use was the practice under other secretaries of state. And, the rules were not clarified until after I had left. But, I said this many times, it was still a mistake. If I could go back I would do it differently. And, I understand people have concerns about this, but I hope and expect voters to look at the full picture of everything I've done and stand for.
-- Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, May 26, 2016, during an interview with Chuck Todd of MSNBC. The discussion concerned a report by the Inspector General (IG) regarding her use of a private email server while she was head of the State Department.

Comment: This is an evasion, as Clinton never addresses whether she agrees with all the findings of the IG report, including those that contradict her previous statements.

OBAMA: I'm going to take one more question. Go ahead.

QUESTIONER [unidentified]: Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned some tactical differences between the two Democratic candidates. But when you hear Bernie Sanders speak, it seems like he's talking more about the issue of trustability and the need for a political revolution. And just yesterday we saw that the State Department's inspector general put out a report about Secretary Clinton's emails, and it basically undermined some of what she said about her email practices. I'm wondering if you think that undermines her trustworthiness with the American people, and if you agree with Bernie Sanders that she should release the transcripts of her highly paid speeches to Wall Street.

OBAMA: Okay. You know what, I take it back. I'm not taking another question. We're in Japan. Don't we have something on Asia that we want to talk about? I'll be talking about this in Washington the whole time. Look, I've already said a lot about those issues. I think those are better directed to the campaign. As I said before, during the course of a primary people say what they think might help them get some votes. And once the campaign is over, then they move on, and they make an assessment in terms of how they can make sure that the vision they care most deeply about has the best chance of passing a Congress and getting signed by a President, and that Supreme Court nominees are confirmed, and all the things that make for a functioning, effective government. So I think that the noise that is going on back and forth between the candidates at this point, if you want insights into how they’re thinking about it, those should be directed to them.
-- President Barack Obama, May 26, 2016, while in Japan. The question referred to Democratic presidential contenders former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Comment: This is an evasion. There's no good reason Obama can't discuss issues related to the U.S.A. while he's in Japan, just like he often discusses relating to Japan (and other countries) while he's in the U.S.A. More, Obama is using the "not my decision" evasion: it's true that people in the Clinton and Sanders campaigns are going to have to decide what strategy they're going to use to win the primary; just because Obama isn't part of either of those campaigns doesn't mean he can't express his opinion on which strategy is more effective.

"As an independent, we gotta use equal standards on both sides. And, for example, the protests last night that degenerated into violence, that is a bad move for the Democratic party and Trump opponents. Because if they degenerate into violence – imagine what would have happened if the folks on the right had protested so violently and danced on police cars. There would be a totally different tone of conversation today."
-- Pundit John Avlon, May 25, 2016, referring to protests against Republican presidential contender Donald Trump that turned violent.

Comment: Avlon is saying that – had supporters of Trump resorted to the same behavior of as the opponents of Trump did – the criticism would have been much worse. In other words, he is saying the criticism has been hypocritical (though it's not clear if he's using this as an ad hominem argument to dismiss the criticism).

"All of this has been a political hit job from the beginning … Whether it’s the report being written in the State Department’s Office of Inspector General with the help of a former confidante of Chuck Grassley, at the same time Senator Grassley has been on a political crusade to hurt Hillary Clinton, or the final report of the discredited House Benghazi Committee, we will do as we have from the beginning: preempt, debunk and push back on these partisan lies."
-- Political operative David Brock, as related in a May 25, 2016, story by Josh Gerstein in Politico. Brock's comments regarded the investigations surrounding the use of a private email server by Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her time as head of the State Department.

Comment: Brock is using ad hominem reasoning. Even if it's true there are partisan motives behind the criticisms of Clinton, that doesn't mean the criticisms are false. What if we used the same reasoning against Clinton: "there are partisan motives behind the defense of Clinton, therefore the defense is false"?

CAMPBELL: If Donald Trump is the nominee, do you – Sen. Ted Cruz – think that he can win?

CRUZ: Well, that’s gonna be up to the voters. And that’s gonna be a decision for the voters.

CAMPBELL: Should a true conservative support Donald Trump if, in fact, he is the Republican nominee?

CRUZ: Well, you know, that’s a decision every voter's gonna have to make. And it's gonna be a decision that I think is gonna have to come from prayer and from careful examination as to whether he has demonstrated that he's earned your vote, whether he has demonstrated that he is standing for the principles that built this country.
-- Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), May 24, 2016, during an interview with pundit Pat Campbell. The discussion concerned Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: On the first question, Cruz employs the "not my decision" evasion. Of course it's true that voters are going to determine who wins the election, but that doesn't answer the question of who Cruz predicts voters will choose. Cruz uses it again on the second question: of course conservatives are going to have to decide whether they think Trump is close enough to their own political views to be worth voting for, but why can't Cruz express his own opinion on the matter? For instance, if the question was, "Should conservatives support Bernie Sanders?", would Cruz reply, "Well, voters are going to have decide that for themselves.", or would he say, "No, Sanders isn't very conservative."?

"The parties are completely out of control and completely out of touch. And Hillary Clinton doesn't realize that the game has entirely changed. She is playing the old main line politician that will say whatever they have to say to get elected. Donald Trump, I think also says whatever he has to say to get elected, but in a completely different way."
-- Pundit Glenn Beck, May 24, 2016, referring to Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Beck is accusing Clinton and Trump of being willing to "say anything" in order to get elected.

"Muslims who support Trump is like chickens for Colonel Sanders, you know what I mean?"
-- Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), May 24, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump. Trump had previously made comments to the effect that Muslims should briefly be barred from entering the country. Colonel Sanders was the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a fast food business.

Comment: Ellison is comparing Muslims to chickens – though not in the sense of dehumanizing Muslims – and Trump to Sanders – though (I'm assuming) not in the sense that Trump is going to do violence to Muslims. Ellison is simply making the point that – just like chickens wouldn't be a fan of Sanders – Muslims wouldn't or shouldn't be a fan of Trump.

"Now, I know the Republicans have been mean to her, and they say terrible things. You gotta respect them. They’re good at this. They delegitimize the people they don’t like."
-- Former President Bill Clinton, May 20, 2016, referring to his wife, Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: Bill Clinton is resorting to the "only my opponent" caricature, accusing Republicans of resorting to some form of negative politics (i.e., "delegitimizing") that he and his own side don't (in his view) resort to. Is it really true that Clinton and other Democrats don't say terrible things about Republicans in order to win elections? Aren't they "good at this", too?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Civility Watchdog Digest: May 23, 2016

A few examples of rhetoric worth looking at from the past week:
"They're just words. She reads off a teleprompter. You notice, she's reading off a teleprompter. She always does. She really doesn't have her own words."
-- Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, May 22, 2016, responding to criticism of him made by Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Comment: Trump is accusing Clinton of using talking points. It would be ad hominem reasoning, if he's trying to say Clinton's criticisms are false because they are read from a script.

In this year of political rage, one aspect that baffles me somewhat is the absolute, electrified, apoplectic, blurred-vision hatred of Hillary Clinton. Nor do I get the similar outrage expressed about President Barack Obama, who in Comment Section World makes Donald Trump look like a lovable Disney character. I can only ascribe this Rage Against the Clinton Machine to misogyny.
-- Political cartoonist Jack Ohman, May 22, 2016.

Comment: Ohman is accusing many of Clinton's critics of bigotry.

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.

@neeratanden @joanwalsh Scumbag Neera uses welfare when she needs it then takes away from others when they need it. Disgusting.
-- Blogger Matt Bruenig, May 19, 2016, referring to activist Neera Tanden.

Comment: Bruenig is using "disgusting" rhetoric.

In his first interview since accepting an invitation to be the running mate of former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, Mr. Weld assailed Donald J. Trump over his call to round up and deport the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

“I can hear the glass crunching on Kristallnacht in the ghettos of Warsaw and Vienna when I hear that, honest,” Mr. Weld said Thursday.
-- Former Gov. William Weld (R-MA), May 19, 2016, as related in a story by Maggie Haberman and Thomas Kaplan of The New York Times.

Comment: Weld is comparing the policies of Trump to those of the Nazis. Both policies involve "rounding people up", but Trump has not advocated a pogrom against – i.e., killing – illegal immigrants, which is what Kristallnacht involved when it came to members of the Jewish faith (who were legal residents of Germany). In other words, Trump's policies are not the same as those of the Nazis when it comes to mass murder and ethnic cleansing.

Jon Stewart may no longer be hosting his show known for biting takedowns of political figures, but that didn’t stop him Monday from going on an epic rant against Donald Trump. The former “Daily Show” host told David Axelrod at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics that he isn’t even sure the presumptive Republican nominee is eligible for the presidency.

“I’m not a constitutional scholar, so I can’t necessarily say, but are you eligible to run if you are a man-baby, or a baby-man?” Stewart said during a taping of Axelrod’s podcast “The Axe Files.” “He has the physical countenance of a man and a baby’s temperament and hands.”
-- Comedian and activist Jon Stewart, as related in a May 9, 2016, story by Brianna Gurciullo of Politico.

Comment: Stewart is resorting to name-calling against Trump, and it's not clear how much of his rhetoric is intended to be taken as comedy.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a stern public rebuke to the military deputy chief of staff.

Maj-Gen Yair Golan said on the eve of Thursday's annual Holocaust Day that he detected trends in Israeli society suggestive of "nauseating processes" that occurred in 1930s Nazi Germany.

Mr Netanyahu said the comments were outrageous, cheapened the Holocaust and caused harm to Israel.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said he had "total confidence" in Gen Golan.

"If there's something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it's the recognition of the nauseating processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then - 70, 80 and 90 years ago - and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016," the deputy chief of staff said on Wednesday.

"There is, after all, nothing easier and simpler than hating the foreigner... arousing fears and terrifying."

But Mr Netanyahu said Gen Golan's remarks were "utterly mistaken and unacceptable to me".
-- As related in a May 8, 2016, story by the BBC.

Comment: Golan is comparing modern-day Israel to Nazi Germany of the 1930s. In what sense, though, is he saying the two are the same? If the claim is that there is xenophobia both of them, then that's true, but it's equally true of most every country today. What is it about Israel today that makes it more like 1930s Nazi Germany than today's Germany?

"Donald Trump is like the Republican's Frankenstein with orange hair. The Republican Party is reaping what it has sowed. There's all this nostalgia about Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of where three civil rights workers were killed by white supremacists. This is a party which has exploited what Trump is now exploiting. Dog-whistle racism, grievances, resentments. We need an inclusive populism, not the scapegoating populism. To speak to the real anxieties and fears and frustrations, but with hope, not demonization as Donald Trump is doing."
-- Katrina vanden Heuvel, May 8, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Vanden Heuvel is accusing Trump, Reagan, and much of the Republican party of being bigots who express their position using code words. She is also calling for a higher standard of debate in which we refrain from demonizing others, though isn't it demonizing to say Trump, Reagan, and the rest are racists?

GEIST: How do you explain the millions and millions of people who do not watch this show who actually like what they hear from Donald Trump, and they aren't taking messages and orders from us in the media, but they listen to what he says for themselves and vote for him, how do you explain that?

REINER: There are a lot of people who are racist.
-- Entertainer and activist Rob Reiner, May 5, 2016, responding to a question from Willie Geist of MSNBC concerning Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Reiner is accusing many of Trump's supporters of bigotry.

"Why don't you go to a really tall building and see if you can fly without a parachute?"
-- Pundit Mark Levin, May 4, 2016, during the 2nd hour of his radio show, referring to political strategist Steve Schmidt, who had accused Levin of harming the conservative movement.

Comment: This is violent rhetoric.

Donald Trump is a pathological liar, Ted Cruz said Tuesday in a forceful and passionate rebuke of the Republican presidential front-runner. Phoning into Fox News on Tuesday, the real-estate mogul parroted a National Enquirer report alleging that Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, was with John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, suggesting that the elder Cruz was somehow involved in JFK’s murder.

“This morning, Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father. Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK,” Cruz told reporters during a news conference in Evansville, Indiana. “Now, let’s be clear, this is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky.”

“And while I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard,” Cruz continued sarcastically.

Cruz defended his father, recalling the story of how came to America with just $100, and slammed the National Enquirer as “tabloid trash” that published an “idiotic story.” Cruz said the tabloid, which recently published a story alleging that the Texas senator has had multiple extramarital affairs, has become Trump’s hit piece to smear his targets.

“I’m gonna tell you what I really think of Donald Trump: This man is a pathological liar,” Cruz said. “He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth, and in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.”

Trump floated the conspiracy between the Cuban immigrant and Oswald in retaliation for Rafael Cruz using his pulpit to encourage evangelicals to support Cruz. “I mean, what was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?” Trump said on Fox News. “It’s horrible.”
-- Republican presidential contenders Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Donald Trump, as related in a May 3, 2016, story by Nolan D. McCaskill of Politico.

Comment: First, Trump is suggesting Rafael Cruz may have conspired with Oswald to kill JFK largely based on a picture in which Oswald appears with someone resembling Cruz. Even if the person is, in fact, Cruz, this is flimsy evidence at best; many other people appeared in the picture, are they therefore ALL conspirators? Trump's accusation against Cruz is derisive, and the burden of proof is on Trump to prove that it's true. Second, even if it were true that Rafael Cruz had played a role in assassinating JFK, what bearing would that have on his son, Ted Cruz? Is Trump accusing the younger Cruz of guilt by association? Last, Ted Cruz is accusing Trump of not caring about the truth. Granted, Trump is saying (or at least, has said) things that are false; is that enough to reach the conclusion that he's a pathological liar who doesn't care about facts? If we discover that Cruz has said things that are false, can we conclude the same about him?

When it comes to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, even a few months’ time out of Congress has done little to lessen former House Speaker John Boehner’s contempt for his former Capitol Hill colleague.

“Lucifer in the flesh,” Boehner told an audience at Stanford University on Wednesday night, according to the Stanford Daily. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

In fact, Wednesday night was not the first occasion that Boehner has compared Cruz to “Lucifer.” He used the epithet last month during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Futures Industry Association conference in Boca Raton, Florida.

Cruz is notorious for his toxic relationship with his congressional colleagues. It turned radioactive in 2013 when the Texas senator played a pivotal role in shutting down the federal government with his high-stakes attempt to defund Obamacare.

On Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) seized on Boehner’s comments and again showed he’s not letting bygones be bygones over the shutdown.

“Maybe he gives Lucifer a bad name by comparing him to Ted Cruz,” King said on CNN. “Listen, what John Boehner was most concerned about was Ted Cruz perpetrated a fraud and a hoax when he brought about the shutdown of the government on some kind of a vague promise that he was gonna be able to take Obamacare out of the budget or to end Obamacare.”
-- As related in an April 28, 2016, story by Nick Gass of Politico.

Comment: Boehner and King are demonizing Cruz.

"Look, people are only voting for Donald Trump, most of his supporters are only voting for him because he’s a white guy. And frankly, if he were a woman, or if he were, I don’t know, let’s pick, Latino, Muslim, any of the groups that he’s stoked hatred amongst his supporters, if he were any of those, I don’t think he’d be getting support either."
-- Pundit Sally Kohn, April 28, 2016, referring to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

Comment: Kohn is accusing the majority of Trump's supporters of bigotry.

"At the end of the day, this is a distraction because the American people are going to decide who they vote for, for president, based on who they believe is going to continue to move us forward and help everybody who wants to succeed have a fair shot to do so. And what they're not going to vote on is distractions like this one and they're certainly not going to choose any one of the Republican candidates who think that we should continue and go back to policies that focus on the wealthiest most fortunate Americans."
-- DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, April 24, 2016, referring to the investigation into Democratic presidential contender former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private server when she was the head of the State Department.

Comment: Wasserman Schultz is using "distractions" rhetoric.