Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Which Party Will Win the Deceit Contest?

There’s nothing new about politicians making deceptive or downright false statements. And neither Democrats nor Republicans have a corner on deceit.  But when those who traditionally go all out in support of one party or the other publish criticism of their own standard bearers, we’ve come a long way downward.

That happened in the wake of the Republican National Convention.  Not once, but twice.

The Chicago Tribune, our family newspaper while I was growing up, rarely has a good word to say about a Democrat and has staunchly supported Republicans in every election within memory.  Yet, Clarence Page, a member of the Tribune editorial board, took Republican campaign managers to task in a post-convention story titled “Team Romney’s War against Facts.”

The author said, “There’s no excuse for the fantasies repeated by myth-building politicians, like the evening’s star speaker, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, even after nonpartisan media fact checkers have found the statements to be untrue.

“For example, Romney grandly promised, ‘I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.’ Ah there goes the ‘apology tour’ again. The line lives in Republican stump speeches, despite its winning ‘four Pinocchios’ months ago from the Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler, among others.

“In fact, the president has never apologized for anything on his foreign trips, although previous presidents have.”
Both parties are being watched. Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler recently gave the Obama campaign four Pinocchios for a 30-second ad attacking Mitt Romney as a "corporate raider" and for outsourcing jobs. Kessler said, "On just about every level, this ad is misleading, unfair, and untrue."

Page also singled out a Republican ad concerning welfare as a particularly blatant lie:

“When the welfare ad,  for example, says the Obama administration has ended the work requirement in the landmark 1996 welfare reform law, that’s simply false. The administration is offering states a chance to apply for more flexibility in determining their own work requirements, if they agree to actually raise the number of people they move from welfare to work.”

Fox News, perhaps the ultimate conservative medium, posted a column by Sally Kohn, a contributor and writer, which came down hard on Rep. Paul Ryan for statements in his speech accepting the vice-presidential nomination.

Kohn said, “To anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.

“The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.”

The Fox writer then listed as examples four specific lies Ryan told to the cheering convention audience and millions of television viewers:

1. While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United State’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating actually was downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

2.  While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant actually closed while George W. Bush was in office.

3. Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government that is not what the president said on the subject.

4.  Though Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates, which should also save Medicare recipients some out-of-pocket costs.

Kohn concluded with a statement that any caring American would endorse:

“Elections should be about competing based on your record in the past and your vision for the future, not competing to see who can get away with the most lies and distortions without voters noticing or bothering to care. Both parties should hold themselves to that standard.”

This week the Democratic National Convention holds the spotlight.  Will the speakers stick to facts, thus raising the bar for discourse during the balance of the campaign?  Or will they try to better the GOP’s convention performances with a barrage of lies and distortions?

We’ll know when the fact checkers issue their analyses after the speechmaking is over.


schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

Too bad all your focus is on the Republicans. Glen Kessler has pointed out many lies told by the Obama folks too. As for Ryan's "lies", those who criticized him were not listening very carefully. He has cogently explained what he said in context, and further fact checking bears this out. The whole rush to judgement last week led to a scathing article in the Post criticizing the "fact checkers" who are often way off (Who made them God?? I read many sources including the NYTimes, trying to cut through the obfuscation, I believe it was the Herschberger woman who from the Post who wrote this piece).

Having once been put in Tony Blankly's "hall of fame" or whatever obnoxious thing he called it (I forgot), for having said something about immigration that completely distorted by the press during the Clinton administration, I have come to rely on my own fact checking. I was also misquoted by the Wall Street Journal at one time, and almost lost my job because of it. These experiences gave me great reservations about the media.

As for the welfare comments, they were exaggerated by the press, but some states will get rid of the requirement, which as Wisconsin has shown made a huge difference in the lives of some people. This topic could be argued both ways, especially as the first person to offer criticism at the change was Bill Clinton.

No, I don't think Ryan is a liar, but I do think the Republicans will do everything they can to distort and destroy him. He scares them.

When the Republicans rein in Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the congresswoman from Florida who tells lie after lie, then I might be impressed by Obama. As of now I who voted Democrat 6 times in the past presidential elections, am leaning Republican, but I will listen to Bill Clinton's speech on Wednesday night.

I am totally disgusted.


PS, Years ago, my mother said, you can believe half of what you see, a third of what you hear, and a fourth of what you read in the newspaper. I think its even worse these days.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

PPS, thanks for fixing the comment section.

Also, I voted Democrat 6 of the last 8 elections for president. Before that I was solid Democrat way back to the 1960s. For goodness sake, I worked in Shirley Chisholm's campaign in the 1970s. I want to vote Democrat but can't stomach this current crop. Put me in the disgruntled Hillary supporter now voting Republican category. D.

Dick Klade said...

The post is about the Republican Convention, so of course, the focus is on Republican statements. "All" the focus? Looks to me like there's a piece of art with caption devoted to Kessler calling out lies by Dems.

I was an extreme conservative for many years, voting straight Republican tickets. Nixon and George W. Bush made me an independent.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

OMG maybe we could meet in the middle somewhere?? How about Hillary in 2016??

Dick Klade said...

Why not? Hillary Clinton, I think, is doing an excellent job as Secretary of State. She would be a fine candidate for president in 2016.

Anonymous said...

I don't trust any politician any farther than I can throw him or her. Ditto the media. It's absolutely appalling what passes for "journalism" these days.

I, too, was a Republican until George Bush was nominated. I tried the Dems for a few years and that was just as bad. Now I'm just an unhappy independent wandering in the wilderness.

joared said...

Look forward to your piece on this current convention in progress.

I soured on aligning with any one political party, but had to do so here in Cslif. in order to have some influence in the Primary elections. Now we have more leeway due to legislation passed last year. Actually voting a straight party ticket was never for me long before this, anyway.

All the lies aside from either Party, I cannot accept this Republican Party Platform, so that roadblock, coupled with their approach to resolving this nation's problems in a manner proven elsewhere to be counter-productive pretty much doesn't leave any voting options if I want to see this nation best prosper.

I'm upset, too, with all the lies -- disgusted with those who stoop to telling them directly or indirectly. Members of the Fourth Estate should be called to task whenever they fail to do their job fairly. Discerning those who make every honest effort to report accurately has always been a citizen's challenge, but increasingly so the past fifty years. Certainly the advent of the tabloid approach to news has done nothing to enhance the credibility and reliability of the media.

JHawk23 said...

I just wrote a long comment and lost it by picking "google" as my ID. Oh well; maybe I can be briefer.

Poltiicians have for decades shaded the truth; we're all used to that. But it has by now reached a much different level; and both parties, as you and Glenn Kessler point out, are guilty (even though my survey of the field suggests to me the GOP is lying harder, deeper, and more often). To me that suggests desperation on their part.

What do we do about it? Don't know. The problem is, like negative campaign ads, people say they don't like them, yet statistics show that they work.