Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Just the facts


Greek tragedian Aeschylus wrote, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” In politics, it’s pretty close behind.

Since his acceptance speech at last week’s Republican convention, vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan has been accused of playing a bit fast and loose with the facts. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s pollster, Neil Newhouse, flat out said, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers” or, it appears, by the facts either.

Ryan declared that President Barack Obama’s health care law funnels 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, according to FactCheck.org. The claim that Obama began his presidency “with an apology tour” gets a pants-on-fire rating from Politifact.com

Last week, Republicans laid out their reasons to be in power. This week, the tables will turn. Speakers will speak and fact-checkers will render judgment about the veracity of speakers at the Democratic convention. Campaign advisors will choose whether to inform or to inflame, to enlighten or to confuse. Voters will ultimately make their judgments.

Pollsters at The Gallup Organization report that Romney’s nomination acceptance speech received the lowest favorable reception from Americans of any of the eight speeches by party nominees since Gallup began polling in 1996. This result could be a real difficulty for political advisors like Newhouse. Maybe Americans really do want facts and not spin.




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