Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#Partisanship

David:
Has the political climate become too partisan too actually allow for anything productive to be accomplished in Washington anymore? Do you think social media has made this much worse than it has been in the past? What can be done to improve the partisan climate?

Doug:
Things should get done in Washington when a majority of people agree on an agenda. One would think that when one party controls the Presidency, the House, and the Senate, that that would imply that they could implement their agenda. But they haven't been able to. I believe that is because they really don't have a common agenda that their constituents understand. For example, the Republican party platform is "Obamacare is bad" but most Americans want affordable healthcare. It is impossible to reconcile (literally) these two positions.

David:
Perhaps you should just stick with your own party's platform which states you must be pro-choice to be a Democrat, and God is dead.

Doug:
Since it is National Brother Day, I'll just let that slide. And Happy National Brother Day!

David:
Ditto. It's also National Asparagus Day and International Tiara Day. Perhaps you could wear a tiara made out of asparagus. Tasty and good looking.

The Republican platform is much more involved, and won the Presidency. People want affordable health insurance, which is why Republicans won with the promise to repeal Obamacare. The new health insurance bill is just a start, and hopefully will get some Democrats on board as it moves forward. Bipartisanship is needed to reach a bill that is structured to benefit the most Americans. Obamacare is not sustainable. Democrats should be sitting at the table.

Doug:
I think we are seeing a new kind of partisanship, but it isn't between Left and Right. It is between Right and Far Right. The problem is that gerrymandering has created safe seats where extreme Far Right views have been able to have a larger impact than their numbers of constituents would allow. Therefore, the frozen Republican party is attempting to represent all of their members, but can't. Does social media and the rise of fake news make the situation worse? Absolutely. But the problem is bigger than that.

David:
So your definition of bipartisanship is to cooperate with only your own political party? Bipartisanship means working across the aisle. No wonder Democrats aren't cooperating. They don't think people are talking about them when they say we need bipartisanship.

As to your gerrymandering-is-the-reason-Republicans-have-control argument, many districts across the country voted for Clinton for POTUS and a Republican for Congress, or they voted for Trump, but a Democrat for Congress. There are over 1000 seats across the country that were held by Democrats when Obama entered the White House and now are Republican. Did Democrats gerrymander those districts to put Republicans in their place? There are "safe seats" for both the extreme right and the extreme left because people who live in those districts are more extreme than in the past. Politicians must still get elected by majorities within their districts. The country is becoming more polarized, and social media is amplifying the voices of the extreme partisans.

Although Democrats began the Obama years with control of all of the government, they also had a supermajority in the Senate. And they forced through Obamacare along strictly party lines. There was no bipartisanship there. Currently, Republicans have a very narrow majority, and Democrats have made it their goal to oppose anything that Republicans do in Washington. As we have seen, a handful of Democrats can block just about anything from moving forward. Have we entered a new era in government where the only things that can happen are by Presidential fiat through executive orders or supermajorities? Has Congress, through its inability to work together, become a stagnant pool in the swamp?


My question is: have things become so partisan that common ground cannot be found? How has social media made the partisanship within Washington toxic? If a Democrat joins with Republicans to vote on a better health-care plan, would he be instantly branded a traitor to the cause and vilified? Would a Republican joining with Democrats suffer the same fate? What do you think can be done to promote bipartisanship and cooperation?

Doug:
When the Republican party wants to eliminate government, or greatly lessen its use, then there isn't much to agree with. We need to get back to electing people that know what government is, and how to make it work for us.

David:
So your answer is Democrats are not interested in bipartisanship or cooperation. Government must get bigger. Government must have more control. If you're not for that, then we won't work with you. Apparently, you believe that only Democrats even know what government is. That seems to me to be a foolish thing to say. Republicans and Democrats have different philosophies of what role government should have. That difference of opinion has been there since our founding, between those who supported a strong, central federal government, and those that favored a weaker federal government and more state control. Both Hamilton and Adams on the one side, and men like Jefferson on the other, understood what government was and how it should be used. You apparently believe Thomas Jefferson should never have been elected.

Here's an interesting TED Talk about partisanship:

Can a Divided America Heal Itself?

Doug:
If you have never spoken to an academic elite, this is what it sounds like. Jonathan Haidt is a typical professor. Whether the topic is climate science, computer science, or social psychologist, you will often find sound, rational comments. That is not to say that all academics agree. In fact there are some that find Haidt's framing of the issue problematic. "Social psychologist John Jost wrote that Haidt 'mocks the liberal vision of a tolerant, pluralistic, civil society, but, ironically, this is precisely where he wants to end up.'" But Haidt makes some good points, and most of his comments are a cogent, straightforward understanding of social psychology. Note that these comments were right before the election when Clinton was expected to win. I wonder what he might say now?

What he says can be considered useful throughout time and place. The idea of tribalism is relevant now, 1,000 years ago, and probably in the future. It was relevant during the rise of Hitler, and after WWII. But that doesn't give us a clue as to what we should do, what actions we can take. However, I believe that there are also people studying this same topics attempting to take advantage of us. There are people attempting to use the facts of human nature against us. They want to make us distrust one another, and the press. They want us to dislike the government. They want us to fear those that aren't like us.

David:
Or to ban those who aren't like us from speaking their ideology on campuses. We must all think alike. Fear and hate those that think differently. Diversity of skin color and gender, but not of ideas, right?

Doug:
I liked his comments on empathy. Even in the age of Trump, we are seeing some empathy spread. Over just the last couple of weeks, we have finally seen the removal of some southern civil war statues removed. Here is a beautiful speech by Mayor Landrieu on their removal.

On a humorous note on empathy, last night I was at the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and he had this to say: "Dear President Trump, your tweeting has affected me in the following ways: my ratings are up... ". President Trump needs to think about his actions affect others, like Colbert! See the whole bit at the link.



Haidt is right about one thing: Democrats will attempt to paint all Republicans the same color that they paint Trump. It will be up to Republicans to distance themselves from the President. We will see if they value their tribe over country.

David:
Again, you are exhibiting exactly the tribalism Haidt comments on. According to you and the Democrats, it's up to Republicans to change. They are wrong, and we are right. Democrats are just fine the way they are. Republicans must bend to the will of Democrats and see things their way, or we don't need to even talk to them. They are ignorant anyway, and don't even know what government is. So much for sound, rational arguments or discussion.

But to solve the problems that face the nation, we need compromise. Both sides need to come together. Right now, Republicans have been elected by American voters to a majority of both houses of Congress and the presidency. That gives them an edge as far as how far they need to bend. Is there anything that you could bend on within the Republican agenda? Or are you and Democrats just planning to obstruct, resist, and make your platform "anti-anything-Trump" to try to hurt the other side for political gain?

Doug:
There are many things I think Democrats could work towards. The question is: should they work together the way that Republicans did, or wait for the next election.

David:
Which brings me right back to my original question. And again you have taken the stance that there are things Democrats should work towards, but you make no mention of things that Democrats can work towards with Republicans. There is no cooperation mentioned in any of your words, but more of a they-didn't-work-with-us-so-we're-not-gonna-work-with-them attitude. Of course, you fail to mention that Republicans had the exact same reason you mention to pursue such a course after Democrats rammed Obamacare through over the concerns of Republicans. But what about national security? What about the economy? What about bringing down the costs of health insurance (which Obamacare has failed to do). What about improving the education system for our children? What about bringing down the cost of college? What about improving training for blue-collar jobs? What about improving opportunities for the middle class? What about coming to grips with the Debt?

So what comes next? It appears we will face a future of wall building between the parties, if Democrats refuse to even sit at the same table with Republicans to do their jobs. Voters may hold Republicans responsible and vote for Democrats in 2018, which is what Democrats are hoping for, but as long as President Trump stays off of Twitter, and maintains the bully pulpit, the blame may rest with the obstructionists and lead to a super-majority for Senate Republicans.

I'm sure we'll have lots of angst, gnashing of teeth, and more protesting when that happens.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In The News: Comey, Obamacare, and Omaha

This week's blog contains adult language that may not be suitable for children. It also probably contains misspellings, improper grammar, lapses in judgement, and irrational arguments. As we said: not suitable for children.

David:
A lot has been going on lately. I thought we might touch on several issues, and hope I'm not biting off more than we can chew in a single blog.

FBI Director James Comey was finally fired after months of mismanagement and irregular behavior. The brand new Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, the majority of Senators and Congresspersons, and the vast majority of Americans (85%) felt he was doing the job poorly. Rosenstein, who is the FBI Director's immediate superior, met with Comey, and recommended to the President that he be fired.

The first steps in reforming the debacle known as Obamacare has finally passed the House. The House blueprint promises to change the basic, mortally-flawed structure of Obamacare. The bill now moves on to the Senate. Although Democrats have blamed Republicans for years for not "fixing" their flawed bill, this new ACHC does just that. It isn't a repeal, as that cannot be done through reconciliation. It does put all of the problems inherent in Obamacare on a more financially-stable platform. Yet Democrats are still screaming that Republicans are trying to kill children.

A Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, had his campaign severely damaged by the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the foul-mouthed Tom Perez, over the objections of Bernie Sanders. The DNC has taken the stance that if you are not pro-choice, you are not welcomed in the Democratic party. From the polling in Omaha, it looks like Perez stole a victory from a Democrat and handed it to the trailing incumbent Republican. That doesn't seem very smart to me.

I'm tying these three episodes together as examples that in each and every case, the Democratic leadership has taken the most far-left, extreme position it could possibly take. They have unleashed a barrage of bizarre and foul-mouthed talking points that don't follow a majority of American's opinions or make any attempt to tone down the rhetoric in Washington. Why is that?

Doug:
Why in the world would you believe the President's narrative of these events? The White House has zero credibility when it comes to reality. Do you really believe that Trump decided that Comey was mean to Hillary, and thus needed to be fired right now? Actually, a different narrative is emerging:

David:
Sorry to interrupt, but before you carry on with this line of "thoughtful" questioning, I might point out that only you and hard-core Democrats believe every Republican administration has zero credibility when it comes to reality. I find your comment most alarming coming from someone who accepted everything Obama said as absolute truth. (If you like your doctor...) But please, carry on.

Doug:
You are defending Trump's credibility? You dare to compare what Trump says on a daily basis to one statement by Obama? Do you not worry about your own credibility when you say such things?

1. It appears that Trump was angry that Comey kept talking about Russia.

David:
If you are the President, and have agenda items that you wish to keep moving forward (such as tax reform and efforts to improve the economy), and you believe that you have done nothing wrong in regards to the collusion assertions (for which everyone involved with this case has continually said there is no evidence for), you also might be frustrated that Democrats and others in the media keep pushing that narrative.

Doug:
2. It appears that Trump, not Rosenstein, decided that Comey should be fired. And Sessions had recused himself from the Russian investigation. Why was he involved at all?

David:
Um, the President is the only one who has the authority to fire the FBI director. It is his decision, and his alone. The Congress can impeach a director if it chooses, overriding the President if needed. This has been the case since 1968. Jeff Sessions was involved because Comey's firing has nothing to do with the Russia investigation, but everything to do with how he handled himself during the prior election. Why fire him now? Comey just gave testimony last week in which he admitted he inserted himself into the election, admitted that he overstepped his bounds, and then stated that if he had it all to do over again, with what he knows now, he'd still do all of the same things! He has not learned anything from the experience. He has no apologies. He'd still jump out in front of ongoing investigations and act as investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury. The time for his firing was at hand.

Doug:
3. "Rosenstein threatened to resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation". One can try to claim that Comey was fired for other things, such as "irregular behavior." But why would Rosenstein be so upset then?

David:
How long are these points of yours going to go on? Now you're quoting a single, unnamed source in a single article that says Rosenstein threatened to resign. Rosenstein himself denies that claim. Sounds like you'll believe just about anything if it fits your "narrative that's emerging".

Doug:
4. The interim head of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, is the same fellow that secretly (and improperly because, of the investigation) met with Reince Priebus on Feb 15th and told him that the then-reporting by the New York Times was "bullshit."

David:
Goodness gracious! Now you're eating your own. McCabe is a hard-core Democrat whose wife ran as a candidate for the Virginia State Senate.

"His wife Jill McCabe ran for a Virginia State Senate seat as a Democrat in 2015, during when she received nearly $500,000 in campaign donations from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe — a close Clinton family ally."

$500,000 for a State Senate seat?!?!!? Are you saying that you, as a Democrat, don't trust this guy to lead the FBI? Is there anyone who can possibly meet your standards? If Andrew McCabe believes the investigation into collusion between the Trump administration and the Russians is bogus, then it is truly bogus.

Doug:
There are people that meet my standards. But not these: Jared Kushner may be a Democrat. Trump claimed that he was a Democrat. What is your point? That I must trust anyone who claims they are a Democrat, or whose spouse is a Democrat, regardless of their behavior? No.

5. The White House then instructed the heads of the investigations in the House (Devin Nunes) and Senate (Richard Burr) to call reporters and discredit the NYT article. They did. Since then, the NYT article has been found to be true, and has been confirmed by all other reporting.

David:
Let me quote your own link:

"The (unnamed, anonymous) officials broadly dismissed Trump associates’ contacts with Russia as infrequent and inconsequential. But the officials would not answer substantive questions about the issue, and their comments were not published by The Post and do not appear to have been reported elsewhere."

That equals bogus, fake news. Parts of the story were true, but both of these men have denied this portion of your conspiracy tale. That's two more dots in your connect-the-dots conspiracy theory that don't exist. 

Doug:
6. Nunes has since stepped down from his head of the House investigation. That was weird. Part of the backstory was just revealed: Trump had asked for veto power over Yates' testimony. Yates rejected that idea as “overbroad, incorrect, and inconsistent with the department’s historical approach to the congressional testimony of current and former officials.” Her testimony was quickly cancelled by Nunes.

David:
You think it's weird? That's one of the dots you're trying to connect? That's weird. Nunes was the one who invited Yates to testify. Now, your argument is he cancelled her testimony to somehow protect the President. If that were the case, he wouldn't have invited her in the first place.

As to the executive privilege matter, it isn't as simple as it seems. While Yates attorney makes the case she could testify, there is certainly a mound of precedent that argues she couldn't.

"The Trump administration is probably correct that Yates’s testimony would touch on conversations traditionally covered by the presidential communications component of executive privilege. United States v. Nixon is most famous for ordering production of the Nixon tapes and hastening Nixon’s resignation. But the Supreme Court held that presidential communications are subject to claims of executive privilege that flow from the very structure of the Constitution."

In the end, the White House decided to allow Yates to testify. But it was an issue that could have spent some time in the courts, and in this instance, the White House may have been on proper grounds. But the optics would have been terrible. It would surely look like they were trying to hide something. Better to forfeit your executive privilege at this time than to give Democrats something else to harp on.

Doug:
7. Why, then, was Comey fired now? It appears that he had just asked for expanded resources for the Russian investigation. The investigation into Trump and Russia is just getting started.

David:
There is no evidence or paper trail that Comey actually requested any further resources from anyone, and McCabe, under oath, has said no such request was made. Who, exactly, would the director of the FBI need to make this request to? Congress. Not the White House. This is an example of shameless fake news being propagated by Democrats in Congress who know the request was never made.

Doug:
8. Sarah Huckabee Sanders claims that it is "time to move on" from these investigations. I don't think that is going to happen. The FBI has just centralized their Russia investigations. There are investigations into the people behind the election hacking, collusion, and the DNC email hack. All of these may be independent actions by Russia. Or there may be connections. Most people would, I think, want to know.

David:
Finally, you've come to a point (hopefully a final point) in your argument that makes about 1/3 of an once of sense. There are actually three different investigations going on. Are the Russians trying to influence elections? If they are, how much success are they having, and what should we be doing about it? At this point, there is circumstantial evidence to believe the Russians were behind the DNC hacks. But again, it matters less who was behind them and matters more what can we do about potential hackers from all sources, whether Russia, China, North Korea, or anyone else. The last question, about collusion between Trump and the Russians, has no evidence to support it. It seems that we may be able to put a lid on that assertion, but Democrats appear to want that to remain the issue as long as they can string it out, for political gain. The only portion of the investigation that has no evidence supporting it, is the only part Democrats care about.  This seems to back up my argument that the  Democrat Party leaders are going to take the most left-leaning and extreme position on any issues that come up in Washington. They have embraced a scorched-earth policy. Bipartisanship is dead.

We all do want answers to the questions of hacking and electioneering. Will Democrats actually help to find the answers to those questions, or are they too bent only on destroying Trump to focus the investigation on the things that there actually is evidence for?

Doug:
9. Trump admits that he fired Comey because of the Trump-Russia investigation. He admits that he was going to fire Comey regardless of what McCabe and Sessions said, and it was because Comey would not pledge his allegiance to Trump.

10. On top of all of this, it is revealed that Trump disclosed highly sensitive information to the Russians when they met in the oval office. Can he survive all of this? I don't think so.

David:
Once again, you are parroting stories with unnamed, anonymous sources that were not there at the meetings where Trump allegedly did horrible, terrible things. Everyone who was actually there, at the meeting, denies these claims.

"During President Trump's meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov a broad range of subjects were discussed among which were common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism.  - Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Stae

"The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation.  At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly." -H R McMaster

From what I've seen from the articles about this new breaking story: CNN is citing HuffPo, who is  citing Rachel Maddow, who is citing CNBC, who is citing ABC, who is citing the Washington Post citing anonymous sources citing rumors that they heard from some guy in a parking garage.

Doug:
You can stop defending him: Trump just admitted it. But one thing that does appear from the last 100+ days: Trump appears to have considerable persuasive abilities to get Republicans to do what he asks. This may be his biggest strength, and will also be seen as his biggest weakness. Politicians know that there should be independence between the executive branch and those performing investigations. They need to operate independently. Following directions from the White House will bring the entire Republican party to its knees.

David:
Right. His powers certainly orchestrated a smooth pathway for the ACHC health-insurance bill, money for the border wall, a decrease in government spending, and getting a tax overhaul signed in his first 100 days. Republicans are trying to keep Trump focused on the things they want to accomplish. They need his bully-pulpit to help make the case, not his tweets, which continue to derail the agenda.

Doug:
Frankly, I think this may be more than the Trump administration can handle. I'm not claiming that there is collusion. Trump's Meeting with the Russians the day after firing Comey doesn't make for good optics. But Trump doesn't care. He is the President, right? But that gets right to the heart of the issue. Legally, Trump can fire Comey. But he can also be legally impeached if congress believes that he did it to stop the investigation, even if there is no collusion.

White House claims it was "tricked" by the Russians when they took, and then published, these pictures. American press was not allowed to take pictures, or to even be in the room.

David:
Why would Trump dump Comey and have a staunch Democrat (and good friend of McAuliffe) now be the one left in charge of the FBI if there was collusion?  And if there is no collusion, as you just said, and the President knows there is no collusion, why would he stop the investigation?  The only thing that makes sense is that Trump made a poor decision to fire Comey now instead of some other time, and there is no collusion. The investigations have not slowed even for an instant. Firing Comey was the right move.

But to the Democrats, this is Watergate, and treason, and impeachment, and scandal, and so on and so on. Comey was the Devil until last week. Now he's a saint and a martyr. That seems a bit inconsistent. Have you noticed how the same exact words and headlines are coming from all sorts of Democrats and all of the left-leaning mainstream media? I'll refer you back to our blog on talking points.

"People will die in the streets if the ACHC passes". (Even though another big carrier, Aetna, has pulled completely out of Obamacare, and all health-insurance rates have gone up an average of 39% since 2014.). "If you are not pro-choice, you are not welcomed to be a Democrat". Those are certainly words that imply the Democrats are only interested in obstruction and ideology.

And I'll also reiterate my theory that Democrats are going to continue to take the most extreme positions as long as they are out of power. Hillary Clinton even announced that she's forming a new super PAC, not to benefit progressives, not to help Democrats win offices, not to make the party more inclusive, but just to resist Trump in all of his efforts. Oh, and she's back on the multi-million dollar lecture-circuit again, along with former President Obama. Raking in the big dollars from Wall Street, while funding resistance to the duly-elected president. The bad news for Democrats? Americans are not stupid, nor are they sheep.

Doug:
But Hillary's making money! Trump is using the Presidency to make money for himself, and you are worried about a private citizen making money and creating jobs. Something doesn't add up...

David:
How is Trump using the Presidency to enrich himself? How? That's nonsense.

As I said before, after 8 long years of talk about bringing the country together, due to the new extreme words and actions of Democrats,  bipartisanship, compromise, and pragmatism are dead.

Doug:
Obama done it. You mentioned some other things that are somehow linked in your mind, but this phrase of yours caught my eye: "the foul-mouthed Tom Perez." What did Tom say to be forever labeled as "foul-mouthed"? He said, and I quote to be absolutely clear:
Perez told an audience in Las Vegas this weekend that Trump "doesn't give a shit about health care." - CNN, April 24, 2017
It appears that he has repeated this claim. I can't find any other evidence of swearing, other than this one phrase. That isn't that bad of a swear word, is it? It means "poop", right?

I was wondering what it takes for someone to be labelled in your mind as "foul mouthed"? Because I have heard much more vulgar words and ideas come from politicians lately, but they did not draw your ire. For example, Candidate Trump said:
"You're going to have businesses coming back to New Hampshire. You can tell them to go fuck themselves."  - YouTube
He also said:
"Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything." - NYTimes
Trump also said that he was going to "bomb the shit out of ISIS." I think it was also Trump who said that he would begin negotiations with China like this: "Listen you motherfuckers! We're going to tax you 25%!" There are other f-bombs in that last one, but you get the picture.

But you never once called him "foul-mouthed Trump." But Tom Perez is foul mouthed for using the poop word? Really? Do you think that the "foul mouthed" insult will, ahem, stick? "Since the average American uses 80 to 90 curse words a day, perhaps [you] are overestimating the potential offense."

David:
Just a few things:

I don't approve of Trump using words like that as a candidate or in our political discourse. I don't believe anyone else does either. The reason you were able to find those quotes is they made headlines. They are outliers in the realm of political discourse. Yet Tom Perez, as the head of the DNC has made swearing the new standard of Democrats, who have followed that lead. Michelle Obama had a great quote during one of her speeches, "When they go low, we go high." I think the Democrats missed an opportunity to not use M. Obama much more during the campaign, and using this particular quote as a theme. But now, the Democrats seem to have embraced a new theme: "There is no point low enough for us". Surely you are not embracing the idea that swearing is a good way to elevate our political discourse in the country, when it is already at the low point that it is at? Or are you arguing that the Democrats should be more like Trump?

Doug:
We need to win elections. If talking like regular people helps, then so be it. When one third of Americans don't know that Obamacare and the Affordable Health Care bill are the same thing, it does seem that that would be enough to make a person curse. There are worse things than swearing. But even if you don't agree, Trump is worse, even in swearing.

David:
Good call. Democrats can't win elections with their ideas, so they'll talk like those deplorable fools to win them over. Maybe they can even start carrying Bibles and guns to fool them. Americans are too stupid to understand their big, important ideas.

Second, Perez is swearing at every one of his rallies.

"With children on stage behind him, Perez told an audience in Las Vegas this weekend that Trump "doesn't give a s***t  about health care."

"They call it a skinny budget, I call it a sh***y budget," Perez said in Portland, Maine."

Doug:
Clever... hadn't heard that one. He made a rhyme. 

David:
While you have pulled a few Trump quotes from 8-10 years ago, when he was not a candidate, Perez has made a conscious decision to insert swearing into the current political dialogue.

Doug:
Let's be specific: the "pussy" quote was from 2005 which was twelve years ago, not 8-10 (when Trump was 58 years old). All of the others are from the last year. And remember, Tom is saying "poopy." Look at the content of the things that Trump says. It is vulgar in its meaning. Some of these he actually is describing sexual assault. 

David:
Third, we don't swear at our house, and sometimes my children read the blog while I'm working on it. In my examples of Perez, I blanked out the actual swear words. It isn't that hard to do, and I'd prefer you do that as well within our blog. Even major media does this, or they insert a warning label before the story. The links you used above all have them. For someone who lives in a realm of "trigger warnings" and "safe spaces", you don't seem to be bothered by the thought of offending anyone.

WARNING: This post contains profanity and language readers might find offensive. -CNN 

Doug:
Isn't that weird? You claim that I live in the overprotective world, and yet you are the snowflake? We don't swear in my house either. What I object to is that you feel as if you can call Tom Perez "foul-mouthed" when in reality you ignore much worse from others. That is offensive. It offends logic and consistency. (And by the way, your comment indicates that you don't understand, at all, these phrases "trigger warnings" or "safe spaces".)

David:
You are defending your stance that it's okay for you to needlessly offend people? Why should that be okay?

I'm quoting from CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox News, and multiple other sources when I call Perez foul-mouthed. His swearing is an outlier. It's something different. I'm not ignoring anything. You are ignoring a new low in discourse, and trying to make it seem to be okay for Democrats to make it their policy to swear in their major speeches in a superficial way to act and talk like working-class people. "Hey, maybe we can dress up like hillbillies and swear a lot, and those dumb bumpkins will vote for us." Democratic leaders fail to recognize that Republicans have won big in the past 8 years without swearing. Americans are voting for what works. 

While you seem to be defending and embracing the new Democrat strategy, I find it disheartening. But it does continue to make my point. Democrats are out to destroy any chance at cooperation or bipartisanship. They'll go so far as to completely undermine polite discourse. They'll make arguments based on even the slightest innuendo.

This interview of Maxine Waters is a good representation of  the nonsensical arguments Democrats are making. Even the MSNBC reporter has trouble talking to her with a straight face. While claiming Comey was incompetent and had no credibility, she says it would still be better for him to stay in his job than to have Trump fire him. But, if Hillary Clinton were president, it would be fine if she fired Comey under the same circumstances. I hope and pray Maxine stays in office forever. For Republicans, she's the gift that just keeps on giving.


Doug:
You are just now disheartened?! Your self-identified "pussy grabbing" candidate is President, and is about to be impeached. And you are disheartened that Democrats are swearing, too? That is offensive.

David:
Why are you doubling down on using blue language in the blog, when I just asked you not to?

Doug:
If you are going to label people as "foul mouthed" then we will explore that fully and truthfully. You could remove that descriptor off of Tom Perez and we could remove the entire section. But I think it is rather informative about how the Republicans attempt to smear others without coming to terms with what they are actually saying. You can't have it both ways.

David:
The entire mainstream media has labeled him foul-mouthed. Yet you're going to hold our blog hostage because of it? Do you even listen to yourself? On the one hand, Democrats preach that they should not offend anyone (conservatives can't even be allowed to speak because their ideas are so offensive and hateful), but now you are actually going out of your way to be offensive and hateful in an effort to get your way. You can't have it both ways.

You seem to have the idea that I'm defending Trump. I'm not, to the extent that he says and does things that are outside of what would be considered normal for a politician. He does not follow the rules of protocol or decorum. He is oftentimes vulgar. His middle-of-the-night tweets are bizarre. But the narrative Democrats are pushing is mostly unsubstantiated, anonymous baloney. It may all turn out to have some truth to it, and investigations are ongoing, but for now, there is little to no evidence to support almost any of it. Presidents don't get impeached for being vulgar blowhards, yet that is the case Democrats are making. 

Doug:
No. But I like your new name for Trump, "Vulgar Blowhard." Sounds like a Bond villain. I see that you are started to waver in your support of the Republican administration. That is a very good sign.

David:
I call em like I see em. You seem to believe that all Republicans are sheep. Actually, it seems the Democratic leadership believes that all Americans are sheep. "Talk dirty and they'll just follow us blindly." You need to have a little more faith in Americans.

There is probably more evidence that Obama was not born in the US than there is that Trump colluded with the Russians, or gave classified information to the Russians, or interfered with any FBI investigations. 

Doug:
I think I will quote you for the rest of your life on that one! The sad thing is that I think you really believe it. Which is why I am not trying to change your mind. It can't be changed.

David:
Obama's literary agent listed him as being born in Kenya in Obama's first book. It was wrong, of course, but it is in print:




As Snopes says: "It is evidence — not of the President’s foreign origin, but that Barack Obama’s public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times." Now, before you have a conniption about the birther issue, I'm only presenting this as an example. Obama's literary agent has much more credibility than the anonymous unnamed sources in all of your examples above, yet we can all accept that the agent made a mistake. But the media and Democrats claim these sources in the news (whom they admit they cannot even quote because their information is so tenuous) are all accurate and unquestioned. But I digress.

 There is testimony (in some cases under oath) by the people who were there that none of these rumored  things happened. There is no evidence that these things did, in fact, happen. But Democrats don't care. 

Doug:
I think the more that you write this blog, the more that you believe your own propaganda. Democrats do care. They want an investigation. An investigation would reveal whether these things happened or not. That is all that matters. At that point, maybe things won't be so poopy. 

David:
Ha. For a minute I thought you were serious. Or are you? You're accusing me of being a propagandist after you printed all of those ridiculous, unsubstantiated points above? Perhaps you don't really believe all of that nonsense? I hope not. You'll lose credibility, Mr. Angry Poopyhead.

And the investigations are continuing as before. Nothing Trump has done has changed that. Nothing he has done is out of the purview of the POTUS. Yet Democrats are screaming "impeachment!!" That's exactly what I'm talking about. All of their ranting isn't for anything meaningful. It's just to lower the discourse.

The curious thing is that despite all of these stories in the news, Trumps poll numbers have not changed one bit. They were never stellar, to be sure, but they have not dipped, and remain right at about 45%. Americans know when they are being scammed, and too many anonymous sources are being relied on, and subsequently refuted, for Americans to buy into all of these stories. The danger in the current Democrat The-sky-is-falling-everyday strategy is  when something serious really does show up, and it may, no one will care. Hysterical hyperbole fatigue will set in. 

Doug:
Donald Trump's poll numbers should terrify Republicans, unless they just don't believe it. 



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Jon Stewart on Crossfire

Doug:
I was just re-watching the episode of Crossfire with guest Jon Stewart. If you haven't seen it, please take a look. It got me thinking: are we as bad as Crossfire was? Are we just partisan hacks spewing the political message? I don't think so, but I thought I'd ask your opinion about Jon Stewart, Crossfire, and Blank v. Blank.


David:
Re-watching episodes of Crossfire? You need to get a hobby.

Doug:
I think that this episode is historic and had at least a small impact on TV punditry.

David:
Sometimes, we probably are that bad. When we recently asked our readers to ask us questions, Elle requested we offer up more real discussion, and less "gotcha" type of responses. I've taken that to heart, and I think you have always had that attitude towards the blog. But sometimes, we're brothers and talk to each other like brothers. And sometimes, we digress to political talking points.

Doug:
Well, I don't think I fall back on talking points because I don't know what the Democratic talking points are. I try to come at each position through a consistent philosophy. And I don't even know what a "gotcha" response is... can you give an example?

David:
Talking points are the messaging that each party tries to put together to convey their side of an issue. If you are watching MSNBC then you are receiving Democratic talking points. If you get your news from the New York Times, you are receiving Democratic talking points. The reason for that is they interview top Democrats for their stories. Fox News relies more heavily on conservatives, and their stories reflect more of the Republican talking points. Talking points are very important in politics. You want to craft a narrative to fit the facts at hand, to benefit your party or to hurt the other.

Doug:
I read a lot of varied sources, therefore I must "receive" (your word) lots of different "talking points," some of which must be contradictory. But "talking points" are not the same as "framing" an issue. Framing is about understanding, and making analogies. Different people can come to the same frame without being told what the "talking points" for the day are.

But can you give an example of a "gotcha" response?

David:
If all of your sources are from the left-leaning media, then you certainly are receiving Democratic talking points, and framing the story is exactly what talking points are about. It's about framing the facts to benefit a certain narrative. Party leaders will literally create a list of bullet points to promote their agenda. Any story, legislation, or set of facts will fall within this process. They will disseminate the list of points to their surrogates so they are all on the same page when they talk to the public or the media. This reinforces the narrative their side is selling. They may leave out key information if it doesn't fit, and promote other information that presents their narrative in a better light. Pick a big story and then go to CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, and any other liberal site of your choice. You'll likely find the same phrasing used. Often, you'll find reporters using exactly the same words verbatim at different sites. How can this be? Everyone they are interviewing for their stories have received talking point memos, and they are all repeating the exact, carefully worded narrative. Now go to FoxNews, The DrudgeReport, or some other conservative sites and you'll find the same thing. The more people that are out in public using the same language reinforces the message. Repetition is key.

Doug:
Right: "talking points" are often points produced by the party leaders, or a think tank. Framing is a more general understanding. I try to frame each issue myself, and so don't always agree with the Democratic leaders' talking points.

But what are these "gotcha" responses your friend Elle speaks of?

David:
You are misunderstanding a very important and key concept. If all of the news stories you read are using the exact same words, phrases, and ideas, how can you possibly come away with a different idea about any topic? You come away accepting that very narrative that has been framed for you. If every article you read, or every news item you watch includes the same information, and consistently leaves out other facts, you have nothing with which you even could form some alternate framing for the issue.

When I ran for office, all of the state house candidates and incumbents met with party leaders and discussed the phrasing and wording to use when talking about issues. It reinforces the party message, and also makes sure that everyone is on the same page. You are not required to use their language, but the talking points are carefully considered, and the phrasing itself may touch on several themes that are all woven together. On the national scale, there are many paid staff people whose only job is to analyze issues and to weave together talking points to further the entire political agenda. You and I, and all of America, are manipulated on a daily basis. Politicians and their surrogates get talking-point memos daily. They then discuss these points with as many people as they can, especially within the media (including social media), and the talking points get disseminated across the entire spectrum of society to frame the discussion. Remember Clinton's use of paid trolls during the last election? Her campaign spent an estimated $6 million to hire people to create multiple identities to spread Clinton talking points across social media, to give an appearance of populist support, and to attack those opposed to Hillary.

Right now, there are very smart people who do this for a living, studying all sorts of issues and putting together talking points based on focus groups. They are not only framing the debate about ongoing issues like the replacement of Obamacare, but also framing the debate using wording to help candidates running for Senate seats in 2018. The language may be tweaked to suit a certain region better, like Montana versus Mississippi for example.

Do you really think it's just an interesting coincidence that within a single week, multiple Democratic candidates across the country, along with the DNC chairman, have all taken to using swear words in their speeches? And at the same time, the DNC is selling shirts with swear words emblazoned across them? What once was taboo, and would itself make the news because it was so rare, is now the Democratic calling card. Democrats have decided swearing polls well, apparently. After haranguing Trump for a year about him being too vulgar to be President, Democrats have decided they need to be even more vulgar. And now, it seems to be overflowing to their surrogates in media.

Doug:
Hmmm... you may be right that some think tank just released some notes on the topic. I hadn't seen either of those articles. But this is also my point about "talking points" versus framing: I certainly didn't get the memo on talking in the kids' vernacular. I saw a third instance this weekend of such colorful language: Senator Kamala Harris asked a very direct question. I wondered about it, but you make a very good point about it probably being a think tank memo.

I guess if this is what it takes to win over some Trump voters, then they should talk dirty to them. I would not want them to degrade women, of course, like some of Trump's comments. But if they need to be a bit more free with their language, then so be it. And, apparently, smart people use more swear words. Win win!

David:
Right. Republicans are bad because they are vulgar. Democrats are good and smarter, when they are vulgar. I don't recall you claiming Trump was smart when he used swear words.

Doug:
I don't believe Republicans are vulgar because of their use of colorful language. I presume that is what the think tank found out about Democrats in general. Maybe they even like it. I have no idea.

David:
Of course, sometimes the talking points from either side resonate more because they are actually true points that don't need coloring. Separating the unvarnished truth, without political shading, can sometimes become very hard. Sometimes, only top political party leaders have the actual facts, and they release only the ones they need to tell their side of the story.

I don't think we would ever reach the low point shown in this episode of Crossfire, however.

Doug:
You'll have to say what you think is the "low point" in the Crossfire video is. Do we not reach the low point because I never criticize your choice of bow tie?

David:
Ha. I have no nerd ties, professor.

This entire episode of Crossfire is a low point for that show, I'm afraid. It doesn't get any more ridiculous, or pathetic, than that.

Doug:
Can you elaborate? Are you saying that you think Stewart had a point? Or are you saying that Stewart being on the show was a low point?

David:
I can guarantee that the producers of Crossfire rue the day they invited John Stewart to appear on the show. He makes Begala and Carlson look fairly ridiculous. But only because they refuse to listen to what he is saying, and continue to treat him like a trained monkey, when he appears to be more thoughtful and interested in dialogue than they are.

Doug:
Wow, I think I agree with you. Did you know that Crossfire was cancelled shortly after this segment? It came back briefly in 2013, but the show was never the same after Stewart's appearance. Of course, political Crossfire-like shows didn't go away. In fact, there may be more now than ever.

David:
And there should be.

I generally agree with what Stewart is saying about their particular brand of show, where they invite hacks to spar back and forth while spewing the talking points of the day. The discussion is predictable, and at the end, no one is any better off than before. However, I disagree that we don't need a show like Crossfire. We actually need more shows that follow the mold of Blank Versus Blank. Many issues don't have a definitive answer or solution, despite mounds of data or studies. A discussion (sometimes heated) about these issues, and presenting all of the information should be informative and help people navigate through all of the information. As we have both said at different times, about many different issues, "It's not that simple". Problems are often much more complicated than a meme, and there are usually many factors to consider. Details matter. Democrats and Republicans serving in office usually have the same motivations for serving in office. They differ in philosophy. Neither of them is evil. We can help to present competing philosophies to find solutions to big problems. Right?

Doug:
"It's not that simple" can always be (correctly) pointed out. Except that Trump ran on an opposite campaign strategy. I believe that he actually thought it would be easy.
"Nobody knew health care could be so complicated."  - Donald Trump
Really?! Trump can be educated quickly though:
"After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy." - Donald Trump 
Really?! So people may not want to hear that "it's not that simple". It appears that some Americans want to hear the opposite. In fact, it is even worse: many Americans don't even want to hear the otherside. I don't want to hear it like Crossfire did it, but I do want to understand the details in order to make informed decisions. We don't often get that from the party hacks.

David:
But running for office is a different animal all together than campaigning.

Doug:
I so wish that were true. Of course, Trump has started campaigning, blurring the line between those two animals.

David:
Hillary also framed things as being simple and uncomplicated.

"I have to admit that a good deal of what my husband and I have learned (about Islam) has come from my daughter. (As) some of you who are our friends know, she took a course last year in Islamic history." - Hillary Clinton

Doug:
That link is more political porn. Come on: a fictional piece on what Hillary would have done in her first 100 days?! I still find it hard to believe that Trump's first 100 days are not fictional. I am just so happy that he is so incompetent; that may be our saving grace. But I think you will admit that you can learn a lot of details about a subject in only one semester. And there is a lot of Islamic history that many Christians have never heard of. I teach many a topic to others that I only had a semester of training in.

David:
Defending the former First Lady and SOS for getting a good deal of her knowledge of Islam from her daughter's class, are we?

Doug:
Sure. I have learned a lot from my daughter.

David:
While these examples are ridiculous, all politicians simplify out of necessity. It takes too long to explain the nuances and vagaries of all of the variables, especially when the variables change. Candidates use talking points to hit big themes, and then hit them over and over and over if they resonate. Many Americans do want to know the details, but you're right, many could care less, and only want the cliff-notes, dumbed down version.

Doug:
Another aspect of Crossfire was that people never agreed, even on the facts. Of course, this has only escalated with the current Republican administration's "alternative facts." I'd rather hear those academic elites (non-politicians) that know a topic well, and can comment on the merits of an issue.

David:
There is a very nice article  this weekend from a Dickinson College philosophy professor, Crispin Sartwell, about what exactly is truth. It can vary based upon your belief system, or what you hear and see. "Truth" can be influenced by talking points, as not all truth is anything more than informed opinion. Rigid truths should ultimately prevail in the end.

Not all people who are experts on a topic are in academics. I'm biased that most academics are already biased in favor of a certain worldview that excludes certain possible solutions to questions, before the questions have even been asked. If you are biased in your beliefs, your comments on the merits of an issue may not be the same as someone with other beliefs.

 "Let us take for a moment the commonplace claim that left and right, or blue and red, live in “different realities”—each fed by different streams of information, each figuring out what to believe by feeling for the consensus of people they believe are like themselves.Far from suggesting that the truth is a matter of coherence within a set of beliefs, or the way they hang together, this suggests that nobody on either side thinks that at all. Each side thinks the other side’s version of reality is globally false, and that its own is globally true.That does not commit anyone to saying they are both right—though they may both be quite wrong—but it does commit each of them to saying that a belief system can hang together very well and not be true.That is, if you’re on the left, you probably think the right is getting its information from bad sources, believing whatever serves its agenda, producing a false worldview. If you’re on the right, you likely believe that the mainstream media is feeding people slanted information, a false narrative.But both sides agree the coherence of their opponent’s worldview is irrelevant to its truth. In some ways, the better it hangs together, the more dangerous and deluded it is."  -Crispin Sartwell
Doug:
It is ironic that you quote the most elite kind of academic expert (tenured Professor of Philosophy at a small liberal arts college in the east) in order to show that academic experts are biased. As our Granny would say: "Bless your little heart." But my point is that you can easily find another academic expert that would tease Sartwell's weak points apart. Most academics argue on the merits, not on "talking points" or with the use of colorful language. I want to see good debate. I want to participate in good debate.

David:
I have to say I find it just a tad ironic that you believe a tenured professor at a small liberal arts college in the East is the most elite of academics, and then say he is biased because of that fact.

I never did get around to explaining what a "gotcha" question is. It's the type of question one might ask to try to trap the respondent into a no-win type of answer. Like the old example of the prosecutor asking a witness,"Do you still beat your wife?" There is no yes or no answer that satisfies that question, if the respondent is not a wife-beater at all. Both answers are damning. If you say no, the prosecutor will come back with a follow up that you said that you once did beat your wife, then. The question requires some explaining to come up with an answer that makes sense. The question itself is designed to put the respondent on the defensive.

Doug:
I'm glad that Stewart went on Crossfire, and I am glad that Crossfire had a stake driven through its heart. It may be impossible to get to "truth" (let alone "rigid truth"), but as one of my good friends said, we can try to get it "less wrong."