Friday, December 14, 2012

The 2012 Lie of the Year

It seemed to me that the Romney campaign was all lies, pretty much from beginning to end. And the Republican Party in general has been lying pretty much non-stop. Am I wrong?

These aren't just minor incidents in the campaign, either. They didn't just misspeak once or twice. They based their whole campaign on these lies. They pushed them, over and over and over again. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign ads pushing these lies. Heck, they even built the Republican Party convention on the "you didn't build that" lie.

And I have to wonder why you'd lie like that if the truth would back you up. True, all politicians shade the truth, to some extent. The Democratic Party lies sometimes, too. But nothing like this. Well, you be the judge.

Note that PolitiFact bends over backward to be 'balanced.' The right-wing constantly screams "liberal bias" at all of these independent fact-checking organizations (as well as all media outlets that aren't actually Republican propaganda mills). And that seems to be an effective tactic, because these places seem to bend over backwards to give Republicans every benefit of the doubt.

For 2012, in fact, they were careful to choose ten lies balanced precisely between the Republican and Democratic Parties. Do you think that was just coincidence? And read the details. A couple of the Democratic lies are pretty blatant, but others are mere exaggerations. And which politician doesn't exaggerate? (I'm still not defending such things, I assure you.)

For example, look at the "lie" that the increasing deficit is 90% attributable to George W. Bush and just 10% to Barack Obama. PolitiFact says that it should be more like 83% and 17% because Obama's figures were compiled over ten years, starting when Bush took office, not just the past four years.

Their analysis also says, "And it would rise much higher if Obama were to take some responsibility for the Bush tax cuts, the Medicare drug program and the wars, as we believe he should."

Now, think about that. Barack Obama does favor continuing the Bush tax cuts on the middle class, but keep in mind that raising taxes tends to be political suicide. And what in the heck is he supposed to do when America is already at war when he takes office?

All presidents - all of us, too - must live with the consequences of past decisions. Sometimes - such as with the war in Afghanistan or the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression - a president who had nothing to do with those things is left with no good options moving forward.

I don't have a clue, myself, what we should do in Afghanistan, unless we can build a time machine and avoid such a ridiculously stupid move in the first place. At this point, all of our options seem bad. And taking office when the economy is crashing big-time pretty well forces your hand, too.

So, is this that big of a lie? I have to think, as I said before, that PolitiFact is just bending over backward trying to appease Republicans. Well, I thought the same thing last year, too, when their Lie of the Year was that "Republicans voted to end Medicare."

Basically, their problem seemed to be that Democrats should have added "as we know it" to that claim. After all, the Ryan plan was going to exempt people 55 and older, so they were only planning to end Medicare for everyone else, right?
At times, Democrats and liberal groups were careful to characterize the Republican plan more accurately. Another claim in the ad from the Agenda Project said the plan would "privatize" Medicare, which received a Mostly True rating from PolitiFact. President Barack Obama was also more precise with his words, saying the Medicare proposal "would voucherize the program and you potentially have senior citizens paying $6,000 more."

But more often, Democrats and liberals overreached:

They ignored the fact that the Ryan plan would not affect people currently in Medicare -- or even the people 55 to 65 who would join the program in the next 10 years.

They used harsh terms such as "end" and "kill" when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.

They used pictures and video of elderly people who clearly were too old to be affected by the Ryan plan.

I'm sorry, but that's a "lie of the year"? Wow, everyone else must have been really, really truthful in 2011, huh?

There was a storm of protest about that decision by PolitiFact, and rightly so, I'd say. But, well, the previous two years had featured Republican lies, and it wouldn't look right to have three in a row (four, including this year), would it?

Am I being unfair? Maybe. I'm certainly biased, I know that. But I think I have good reason to be biased. (Then again, I would think that, wouldn't I?) So you can decide for yourself. I think the top five lies on this year's list deserve their infamy, and I wouldn't have had a problem with choosing any of the five for "Lie of the Year."

My own pick would have been the "you didn't build that" lie, which was not only disgracefully (and obviously) dishonest but was repeated by Republicans over and over and over again, squeezing the lie for every bit of political benefit they could.

As I say, they even built the Republican Party convention around it. In fact, one night's theme was all about that particular lie. This wasn't an off-hand comment, it wasn't just an exaggeration, and it certainly wasn't an honest mistake. It was a blatant, bald-faced lie, created on Fox 'News' and hammered into American minds for political advantage.

I don't excuse any lies, and I was very angry at Democratic claims that Romney "likes to fire people" (they knew that wasn't what he meant) and at ridiculous Super PAC ads.  But in other cases, there are degrees of untruthfulness. Mitt Romney may have meant a different Arizona law, when he called it "a model for the nation," but he was replying to a question about their 2010 immigration law and he actually supports that law, so how big of a 'lie' could it be?

PolitiFact does a good job if you read the details of each 'lie.' But their headlines can be misleading. As I say, they bend over backward to be nonpartisan. And that's fine, but does it have to mean balancing lies exactly, with one 'lie' from each side,... especially when only one political party lies - not exaggerates, not overstates, but flat-out lies - pretty much nonstop?

As Cenk Uygur says, the Republican Party is untethered from reality, and I'd believe almost anything when it comes to their lunatic base. But GOP leaders know they're lying. They're deliberately lying.

Well, to give them their due, they might be crazy, too. :)


Bryan White said...

PolitiFact probably picks equal numbers of Republican and Democrat claims for its top 10 lie list because that levels the playing field for voting.

Think about it. Suppose you've got one Democrat falsehood next to nine Republican falsehoods. The Democrat one is going to draw the partisan vote, for the most part. On that basis alone it will have a chance to defeat the winner of a split vote among the Republican falsehoods.

But of course the whole LOTY thing is subjective anyway. PolitiFact editor Bill Adair has admitted as much.

WCG said...

Thanks, Bryan. I hadn't thought of that. However, I don't know why the voting is important. They choose the Lie of the Year themselves (after all, this year's LOTY only came in third in the voting).

So if that's the reason, I don't think it's a good one. They should pick the worst lies, and if there's only one Democratic lie to draw a partisan vote from Republicans, so be it. I really don't see the problem with that.

And yes, the choice is subjective. I don't know how it could be anything else. But that means I can criticize it. :)

Thanks for the comment.