Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dear Media: Do Your Job!

I have been commenting on quite a few political articles recently because they fail to question anything a politician says, reporting all statements as fact. By reporting on a Romney speech, repeating his words that “Obama apologizes for America,” and not following up that comment by stating how the statement a lie, an article is actually endorsing that position. By not calling out the candidate, the article misinforms its readers.

The NYT public editor addressed this with a question to its readers today, asking if they think political speech demands fact checking. He didn't like the responses. (The NYT also responded, comments on all these articles are amazing)The NYT wants to seem unbiased, but by allowing liars to lie, they are, in actuality, taking a side. Paul Krugman likes to joke about political journalists by stating (and I’m paraphrasing b/c I don’t remember exactly) that if a republican candidate said “The Earth is flat,” a journalist would write an article titled “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.” Obviously, there is a right and there is a wrong… and there should be with all political speech about economics, politics and anything else.

While I was watching Romney speak following his New Hampshire primary victory, I couldn’t help but notice all of the lies, distortions and straw man arguments he makes. So, I went through his speech and ran some calculations; obviously some offenses are worse than others. Here’s what I found:

Total sentences: 91
Complete Lies: 18
Distortions: 20
Straw Man Arguments: 28
Total Misleading Statements: 66

This should be front page news! Right under the “Romney Wins NH” should be an article titled “Romney lies and distorts on Obama and facts in Victory Speech.” Romney's lies and straw man arguments should be front page headlines, not editorials or blog posts. Seventy five percent of his speech was misleading. These are not misstatements, they are deliberate.

Straw Man Sidebar: For those of you who don’t know what a straw man argument is, it’s when someone says something true, falsely implying that the other does not believe it. ie, if Romney said “I believe America is the greatest place on earth,” during a speech about Obama’s policy, he would be implying that Obama does not believe that.

Here's Romney's speech: (explanations below)
1) Thank you, New Hampshire! Tonight, we made history! – (Distortion)
2) This state has always been a special place for our family. Ann and I made a home here and we’ve filled it with great memories of our children and grandchildren. And this Granite State moment is one we will always remember.
3) Tonight, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we go back to work.
4) We remember when Barack Obama came to New Hampshire four years ago.
5) He promised to bring people together. (Straw Man)(Distortion)
6) He promised to change the broken system in Washington. (Straw Man)
7) He promised to improve our nation. (Straw Man)(Distortion)
8) Those were the days of lofty promises made by a hopeful candidate. Today, we are faced with the disappointing record of a failed President. The last three years have held a lot of change, but they haven’t offered much hope.
9) The middle class has been crushed. Nearly 24 million of our fellow Americans are still out of work, struggling to find work, or have just stopped looking. (Distortion)
10) The median income has dropped 10% in four years. Soldiers returning from the front lines are waiting in unemployment lines.
11) Our debt is too high and our opportunities too few. (Distortion)
12) And this President wakes up every morning, looks out across America and is proud to announce, “It could be worse.” (Lie)
13) It could be worse? Is that what it means to be an American? It could be worse? Of course not. (Straw Man)
14) What defines us as Americans is our unwavering conviction that we know it must be better.
15) That conviction guides our campaign. It has rallied millions of Americans in every corner of this country to our cause.
16) Over the last six months, I’ve listened to anxious voices in town meetings and visited with students and soldiers. In break rooms and living rooms, I’ve heard stories of families getting by on less, of carefully planned retirements now replaced by jobs at minimum wage. But even now, amidst the worst economy since the Great Depression, I’ve rarely heard a refrain of hopelessness.
17) Americans know that our future is brighter and better than these troubled times. We still believe in the hope, the promise, and the dream of America. (Straw Man)
18) We still believe in that shining city on a hill. (Straw Man)
19) We know that the future of this country is better than 8 or 9% unemployment.
20) It is better than $15 trillion in debt.(Distortion)
21) It is better than the misguided policies and broken promises of the last three years – and the failed leadership of one man. (Distortion)
22) The President has run out of ideas. (Lie)
23) Now, he’s running out of excuses. And tonight, we are asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire and make 2012 the year he runs out of time.
24) President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. (Lie)
25) In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him. (Distortion)
26) This is such a mistake for our Party and for our nation. This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. (Distortion)
27) We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success. (Straw Man)
28) In these difficult times, we cannot abandon the core values that define us as unique -- We are One Nation, Under God. (Straw Man)
29) Make no mistake, in this campaign, I will offer the American ideals of economic freedom a clear and unapologetic defense. (Lie, Distortion & Straw Man)
30) Our campaign is about more than replacing a President; it is about saving the soul of America. This election is a choice between two very different destinies.
31) President Obama wants to “fundamentally transform” America. (Lie)
32) We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country great. (Distortion, Straw Man)
33) He wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society. (Lie)
34) We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity. (Straw Man)
35) This President takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe; (Lie) we look to the cities and small towns of America. (Straw Man)
36) This President puts his faith in government. (Lie)
37) We put our faith in the American people. (Straw Man)
38) He is making the federal government bigger, burdensome, and bloated. (Lie, Distortion)
39) I will make it simpler, smaller, and smarter.(Distortion)
40) He raised the national debt. I will cut, cap, and balance the budget. (Distortion, Lie)
41) He enacted job-killing regulations; I’ll eliminate them. (Lie)
42) He lost our AAA credit rating; I’ll restore it. (Lie, Distortion, Lie)
43) He passed Obamacare; I’ll repeal it. (Distortion)
44) When it comes to the economy, my highest priority as President will be worrying about your job, not saving my own. (Straw Man)
45) Internationally, President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy. (Lie)
46) He believes America’s role as leader in the world is a thing of the past. (Lie) I believe a strong America must – and will – lead the future. (Straw Man)
47) He doesn’t see the need for overwhelming American military superiority. (Lie) I will insist on a military so powerful no one would think of challenging it. (Straw Man)
48) He chastises friends like Israel; (Distortion) I’ll stand with our friends. (Straw Man, Lie)
49) He apologizes for America; (Lie) I will never apologize for the greatest nation in the history of the Earth. (Straw Man)
50) Our plans protect freedom and opportunity, and our blueprint is the Constitution of the United States. (Straw Man)
51) The path I lay out is not one paved with ever increasing government checks and cradle-to-grave assurances that government will always be the solution. (Straw Man)
52) If this election is a bidding war for who can promise more benefits, then I’m not your President. You have that President today. (Distortion)
53) But if you want to make this election about restoring American greatness, then I hope you will join us. (Straw Man)
54) If you believe the disappointments of the last few years are a detour, not our destiny, then I am asking for your vote.
55) I’m asking each of you to remember how special it is to be an American.
56) I want you to remember what it was like to be hopeful and excited about the future, not to dread each new headline. (Straw Man)
57) I want you to remember when you spent more time dreaming about where to send your kids to college than wondering how to make it to the next paycheck. (Straw Man)
58) I want you to remember when you weren’t afraid to look at your retirement savings or the price at the pump. (Straw Man)
59) I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become. (Distortion, Straw Man)
60) That America is still out there. We still believe in that America. (Straw Man)
61) We still believe in the America that is a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom. (Straw Man, Distortion)
62) We believe in the America that challenges each of us to be better and bigger than ourselves. (Straw Man)
63) This election, let’s fight for the America we love. We believe in America.
64) Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”
The Straw Man arguments are obvious, so I won’t describe them below. Here are the explanations of the distortions and lies.

1) Starting off weak… while technically “everything” is history, there is nothing remotely "historical" about winning 39% of the vote in NH.
5) Obama appointed republicans in his administration, he searched for bipartisan solutions, and was forced to go w/o bipartisan support b/c of Republican obstructionism. To blame Obama for Romney’s party’s decision to draw battle lines and never negotiate is misleading.
7) By almost all accounts, our nation is better off due to Obama. More Americans have healthcare, jobs have been created, the auto industry was saved, OBL was killed, and financial regulation and consumer protections were enacted.
9) The number of people who have stopped looking for work is not reported, so assumptions are involved. Similarly, struggling to find work is an objective measure. Blaming Obama for unemployment is completely misleading.
11) This is a misleading opinion that many take as fact. Our debt is 3x higher than when Clinton was president, but rates are 3x lower, so the impact of that debt, or our ability to pay for it, is unchanged. Rates are low precisely because investors are not worried about the size of our debt.
12) I actually have no direct knowledge of this on, but I assume the President does not do this.
20) Similar to 11, debt is not a problem (it could be eventually, but it isn’t now)
21) Romney has yet to describe the misguided policies or broken promises, he needs more detail to describe how this statement is not misleading.
22) Every day I hear the president on TV/Radio/News discussing new ideas. Most are rejected by the House.
24) I have not heard or read of the President rejecting the idea of free enterprise.
25) I have not heard other Republican candidates discuss abolishing free enterprise. Nor did they say they were standing with Obama against Romney.
26) The “politics of envy” was invented by Romney. The reality is that while GDP per household & Income per household have gone up, most of it went to the top 1%. From 1979 to 2007, the income for the top 1% is up 275%, for the next 19%, up 50% and for the rest barely up on an annual basis. It isn’t envy, it is expanding inequality.
29) That Obama apologizes for America and our defense is one of the top lies of the year. The distortion is that republican ideals for economic freedom are America’s. Many in America believe in Democratic ideals of freedom (like no torture and no warrantless wiretaps).
31) Obama has never mentioned fundamentally changing America or pushed legislation to do so.
32) America still very much is governed by our founding principles. The constitution has not changed since the 90’s and the Supreme Court now leans conservative. No change needed.
33) Obama has never mentioned a European style entitlement society, and if Romney is referring to “Obamacare,” then technically Romney turned Massachusetts into a European style entitlement society.
35) The president does not take his inspiration from Europe and never has stated so. If Romney is referring to “Obamacare,” he got that inspiration from Romney and Conservatives.
36) He has never said this. I believe Obama is a monotheistic Christian.
38) The government is smaller and shrinking. In 2011, the government payroll dropped by the largest in history. “Burdensome” and “bloated” are opinions, but most would say he has streamlined many parts of the govt. If he is saying its bigger b/c of spending, that is correct but Obama is not to blame (most growing entitlements were enacted in the 40’s and 70’s and 2000’s).
39) The average Democrat has a higher IQ than the average Republican, so the Govt won’t likely be smarter. Obama vs Romney, head to head, would probably be close. The Govt will not likely be smaller if Romney is talking about expenditures, they will likely keep rising.
40) Obama did raise the national debt. Romney’s economic policies will not balance the budget, and will increase the deficit by $600M in 2015 according to the non partisan Tax Policy Center.
41) Regulations as job killers is a myth. Many businesses don’t want regulations, but the % of businesses complaining about regulations is unchanged in the last 20 years. Many regulations increase employment b/c of the cost of compliance. The energy company’s would have had to spend $20B to upgrade their power plants before that regulation was delayed. That $20B can now go to profits instead of new jobs. Most people blame the LACK of regulatory oversight for the housing and financial crash, which has cost the country millions and millions of jobs.
42) S&P lowered its rating mostly b/c of congress’s inability to act like adults. Read the report. Specifically, it was congressional republicans that wanted to go nuclear and force a default. As I said in #11, markets are not worried about US debt levels. Romney can do almost nothing to restore our AAA rating, unless the need for a US debt ceiling is abolished or inflation drives GDP up significantly.
43) No legislation called “Obamacare” was ever passed. The term is derogatory and misleading.
45) Obama’s “appeasement” is a lie to the highest order. Never happened. Those who believe it only do so b/c they were lied to by Romney’s and news sources quoting him.
46) Obama has never said or acted like America’s role of a leader is a thing of the past.
47) Obama has never said that he doesn’t see a need for military superiority, and though cuts may be enacted, they will not come close to making America anything but the most military superior country. Military spending has gone up under Obama.
48) The Israeli PM has said that Obama is Israel’s greatest friend (perhaps American Jews don’t think so, thus just a distortion). Romney says, “I’ll stand with our friends” after throwing Europe under the bus 4x in the speech previously.
49) Obama’s “apology” is a lie to the highest order. Never happened. Those who believe it only do so b/c they were lied to by Romney’s and news sources quoting him.
52) In many budget compromise discussions, the President has put entitlement cuts on the table.
61) In Romney’s tax plan, the majority of tax cuts go right to the upper classes. This would increase the inequality gap. It would also make the rich a forever elite class by eliminating estate taxes. The ability for Americans to go from the bottom up has never been worse, and his policies would continue that path. Thus, he does not support “American Opportunity.”