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Lie-orama

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We have never experienced a Presidential campaign with more fact-checking than what we are seeing during the current cycle.  The well-timed release of a popular new book by Janine Driver entitled, You Can’t Lie to Me might be one of the reasons why this is happening.  Fact-checking websites such as PolitiFact and FactCheck have been overflowing with reports of exaggerations, half-truths and flat-out lies by the candidates and their surrogates.

PolitiFact’s roots at the Tampa Bay Times made it particularly well-situated to expose the false claims made during speeches at the Republican Convention.  One good example was the “Pants on Fire” rating given to a remark by South Dakota Senator John Thune, who claimed that the Obama administration proposed banning farm kids from doing basic chores.

Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech drew instant criticism from a number of news outlets.  I quickly felt vindicated for my last posting, which asserted that Romney made a mistake by selecting Ryan, rather than Ohio Senator Rob Portman, as his running mate.  FactCheck provided this breakdown of the misrepresentations in Ryan’s speech:

Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention contained several false claims and misleading statements.  Delegates cheered as the vice presidential nominee:

  • Accused President Obama’s health care law of funneling money away from Medicare “at the expense of the elderly.”  In fact, Medicare’s chief actuary says the law “substantially improves” the system’s finances, and Ryan himself has embraced the same savings.
  • Accused Obama of doing “exactly nothing” about recommendations of a bipartisan deficit commission — which Ryan himself helped scuttle.
  • Claimed the American people were “cut out” of stimulus spending.  Actually, more than a quarter of all stimulus dollars went for tax relief for workers.
  • Faulted Obama for failing to deliver a 2008 campaign promise to keep a Wisconsin plant open.  It closed less than a month before Obama took office.
  • Blamed Obama for the loss of a AAA credit rating for the U.S.  Actually, Standard & Poor’s blamed the downgrade on the uncompromising stands of both Republicans and Democrats.

If the widespread criticism of the veracity of Ryan’s speech had not been bad enough, Runner’s World saw fit to bust Ryan for making a false claim that he once ran a marathon in less than three hours.  In reality, it took him just over four hours.

At the conclusion of FoxNewsapalooza, the Media Matters website posted an analysis of how Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech was a smorgasbord of falsehoods concocted by bloviators from the right-wing media.

Glenn Kessler, who writes The Fact Checker blog for The Washington Post, suggested that the Left has been overreacting to the rhetoric from the Republican Convention:

Ultimately, convention speeches are about making the argument for your team.  We should fully expect politicians to make their case using facts and figures that either tilt positive about their accomplishment – or negative about their opponents.  As the fact-checking business has blossomed in the news media, it has been increasingly hard for politicians to get away with such truth-shading without someone noticing.

Both political parties will stretch the truth if they believe it will advance their political interests.  It’s been a rough campaign so far, but the GOP convention that just ended was strictly in the mainstream for such party celebrations.

As the Democratic Convention approaches, a good deal of attention has been focused on PolitiFact’s Obameter, which measures how well Obama has delivered on his campaign promises.  PolitiFact’s most recent status report offered this analysis:

Our scorecard shows Obama kept 37 percent of his promises.  He brought the war in Iraq to a close and finally achieved the Democratic dream of a universal health care program.  When the United States had Osama bin Laden in its sights, Obama issued the order to kill.

Sixteen percent are rated Broken, often because they hit a brick wall in Congress.  Global warming legislation passed the House but died in the Senate.  He didn’t even push for comprehensive immigration reform.  His program to help homeowners facing foreclosure didn’t even meet its own benchmarks. (PolitiFact rates campaign promises based on outcomes, not intentions.)

With four months left in Obama’s term, PolitiFact has rated Obama’s remaining promises Compromise (14 percent), Stalled (10 percent) or In the Works (22 percent).

One of the Obama campaign’s negative ads concerning Romney’s economic record as Governor of Massachusetts drew some criticism from FactCheck:

The ad claims that Romney raised taxes on the middle class.  It’s true that Romney imposed a number of fees, but none of them targeted middle-income persons.  Also, Romney proposed cutting the state income tax three times – a measure that would have resulted in tax cuts for all taxpayers – but he was rebuffed every time by the state’s Democratic Legislature.

I suspect that the Obama campaign has a secret plan in the works to avoid the scrutiny of fact-checkers during their convention.  Their plan to have John Kerry speak is actually part of a plot to cause the fact-checkers to fall asleep.  Once “Operation Snoozeboat” is complete, the speakers who follow Kerry will be able to make the wildest claims imaginable – and get away with it!



 

A Base Hit

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September 4, 2008

Throughout John McCain’s Presidential campaign, he had been unable to enlist the support of the coveted Republican “base”.  His choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, appears to have been a big hit with those people.  At the Republican Convention, she received an adoring response from the audience.  Perhaps Jay Leno had it best when he said:  “As an Alaskan, she must have felt right at home there.  She could look out from the podium, over an endless sea of white.”

Sarah Palin has indeed won the hearts of the “hard right” Republican voters and politicians.  At this point, the only obstacle to the acceptance of her as the candidate, seems to be: getting everyone familiar with her name (literally).  Geriatric Jo Ann Davidson, Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee, referred to the Vice-Presidential candidate as “Sarah Pawlenty” before the Convention audience.  This provided Jon Stewart with yet another “Moment of Zen”.

As reported by Juliet Eilperin and Robert Barnes in the September 3 Washington Post, Palin’s acceptance speech was written by Matt Scully:

An initial version of the address, which speechwriter Matthew Scully started crafting a week ago for an unnamed male vice presidential pick, included plenty of attacks aimed at Democratic nominee Barack Obama along with ample praise for McCain, aides said.

It is ironic to observe that Matt Scully (a former speechwriter for George W. Bush) is an outspoken defender of the rights of those animals considered prey by human hunters.  The “Annie Oakley” image of Sarah Palin as a moose hunter, seems to make her the kind of person Scully wouldn’t @font-face { font-family: “Calisto MT”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }necessarily like.  She’s lucky Scully wrote that speech before he knew she would be the one delivering it.  Worse yet, Palin’s pleasant persona will likely result in the targeting of Scully for the factual misrepresentations contained in the speech (i.e. that Obama will raise taxes for all Americans).  Rather than “shoot” the charismatic messenger, critics may choose to level their attacks at Scully himself, as the author of the speech.  It would serve him right for not going along on the moose hunt!

It remains to be seen whether McCain’s secondary strategy in choosing Palin (to win the support of the disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton) will work.  Susan Page and Martha Moore of USA Today have been following this subject and how it is playing out in the polls.  Page and Moore reported:

In USA TODAY polls, McCain’s standing among women didn’t budge with the pick of Palin. He was backed by 42% of women in a poll taken before the convention, another on the day of her announcement and a third taken Saturday and Sunday.

Whether these numbers hold as the campaign progresses, will be another matter.  In the mean time, the Democrats cannot afford to be pulling their punches as Palin establishes her own style of pugilism on the stump.  Time will tell whether she can live up to the expectations and the enthusiasm of the Convention crowd, the Republican base and the McCain team itself.  Her most likely problems (aside from the “abuse of power” scandal) will result from the video clips of her saying things inconsistent with the message du jour.   There will be plenty of opportunities ahead for negative campaign ads, especially as Republican luminaries continue to get caught, on the record, disclosing their low regard for McCain’s selection of Palin.  Over an open microphone during a commercial break on MSNBC, Peggy Noonan expressed dismay that the McCain camp “…  went for this – excuse me – political bullshit about narratives.”  Noonan later defined the term “narrative” as:  “The story the campaign wishes to tell about itself and communicate to others.”  Is that really it?  Or, is the “narrative” in this case, Palin’s life story, which is supposed to endear her to us.  Noonan is promoting that bullshit herself, so it’s hard to imagine her objecting to it.  Peggy Noonan also complained about how Republican leaders believe that “whatever the base of the Republican Party thinks is what America thinks”.  At this point, Sarah Palin is doing fine with the Republican base.  Meanwhile, the rest of America will be reading about Palin’s track record on “earmarks”, the unfolding “abuse of power” saga, as well as whatever important information the McCain camp never read in the local Alaska newspapers.  Whether we admit it or not, we will all be anxious to see if the National Enquirer can outdo its John Edwards exclusive with its juicy tale involving this new darling of “the base”.