by Clarence Page
It's hard to tell who had a looser grip on reality as the
Who thought it would be a brilliant idea to put the "Dirty Harry" star, his hair reminiscent of the wild-eyed scientist from "Back to the Future," on live TV without notes? As much as it pains some of President Barack Obama's critics to acknowledge it, sometimes a TelePrompTer is a good idea.
I'll give Eastwood a break, but there's no excuse for the fantasies repeated by myth-building politicians like the evening's star speaker, 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 "apology tour" again. The line lives in Republican stump speeches, despite having won "four Pinocchios" months ago from the
In fact, the president never has apologized for anything on his foreign trips, although previous presidents have. George W. Bush, for example, in a news conference with Jordan's King Abdullah apologized for the humiliation suffered by Iraqi prisoners. But apologies were not such a big issue then.
Both parties spin some whoppers, of course. But the most significant quote of the week, in my view, came from Romney pollster Neil Newhouse at an
He was speaking about the Romney ad and stump speech lines that attack Obama's welfare waiver process, an attack that a variety of media fact-checkers have found to be bogus.
Funny thing, but I thought the credibility of a fact-checker should be judged by the accuracy of their fact-checking, not on what we think might be going on in their heads at the time. Newhouse, I believe, is blurring the line between spin and outright lies.
Spin, by its nature, is a view of reality that depends on the eye of the beholder. Lies are a willfully false reconstruction of reality.
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 thy move from welfare to work.
Critics argue that states might weaken the work requirements by assigning activities that are not really "work." But that arguable possibility, which always has been present and deserves sensible monitoring, does not change the reality that Obama has not ended the work requirement.
Yet, fact-checkers could hardly catch up with that remark before Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, unleashed a few more fibs and convenient omissions in his own convention speech.
For example, he had the audacity to poke at the "
I'm sure the Democrats will have plenty more to say about such omissions and other matters in the weeks to come, just as Republicans will attack shadings of truth from the left. But the pushback by the Romney campaign sounds like they're unveiling a new morality: In some minds, you don't need facts when you have SuperPACs.
It is against such Machiavellian cynicism that independent fact-checking has become a healthy and necessary development in today's information explosion. Fact-checkers give voters a little more of a fighting chance against the well-funded propaganda wars waged by both political sides.
Sure, both sides shade the truth. But that means we, the voters, should be more watchful, not less. After all, If you can't trust a campaign to tell you the truth in their speeches and ads, do you really want to trust them with your
Team Romney's War Against Facts | Politics
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