Fact check follies
Remember when Ezra agonized last week about how much he wanted to be even-handed and fair about Paul Ryan's speech?
The original pitch was for “the five biggest lies in Paul Ryan’s speech.” I said no. It’s not that the speech didn’t include some lies. It’s that I wanted us to bend over backward to be fair, to see it from Ryan’s perspective, to highlight its best arguments as well as its worst. So I suggested an alternative: The true, the false, and the misleading in Ryan’s speech. (Note here that we’re talking about political claims, not personal ones. Ryan’s biography isn’t what we’re examining here though, for the record, I found his story deeply moving.)I think that was a bridge too far, actually. He didn't need to bend over backwards to find some mitigating "truths" among the lies. But to their credit, he and Matthews did end up reporting the facts, which showed that the speech was filled with lies and very little truth.
An hour later, the draft came in — Dylan Matthews is a very fast writer. There was one item in the “true” section.
The AP obviously felt the same kind of pressure from their "fact-check" last week. And they made up for it by attacking Bill Clinton in the most puerile possible way:
CLINTON: "Their campaign pollster said, `We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.' Now that is true. I couldn't have said it better myself - I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad."That's not a fact check. It's not even a hypocrisy charge. They're basically saying that "but he lied too once!" This is one of the best examples of the power of playing the refs (which the Republicans did mercilessly last week) and the MSM insistence on equivalence even when it's completely daft we've ever seen.
THE FACTS: Clinton, who famously finger-wagged a denial on national television about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and was subsequently impeached in the House on a perjury charge, has had his own uncomfortable moments over telling the truth. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton told television viewers. Later, after he was forced to testify to a grand jury, Clinton said his statements were "legally accurate" but also allowed that he "misled people, including even my wife."
But that's not even the worst of it. Jamison Foser explains:
But it isn’t the worst part of the article.* The worst part is the first statement the AP pretends to fact-check:He goes on to show the volumes of proof backing up his case.
CLINTON: "When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics but in the real world, cooperation works better. ...Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn't see it that way. They think government is the enemy and compromise is weakness. One of the main reasons America should re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to cooperation."
THE FACTS: From Clinton's speech, voters would have no idea that the inflexibility of both parties is to blame for much of the gridlock. Right from the beginning Obama brought in as his first chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel [sic], a man known for his getting his way, not for getting along.
That purported statement of fact by the Associated Press may be the most rigidly ideological statement of the convention season, and the biggest whopper.
Barack Obama’s stimulus package was smaller than necessary, and laden with tax cuts, both in an effort to win Republican votes. Republicans opposed it anyway. His health care legislation was an approach long championed by Republicans and conservatives, and implemented years ago by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Republicans opposed it anyway. Obama has talked up deficit-reduction, which Republicans supposedly care about, at the expense of jobs, which they clearly do not. They’ve given him no credit for it. He’s made symbolic and substantive concessions to Republican anti-government fervor at a time when the economy desperately needs a helping hand from the government. Republicans call him a socialist anyway. Time and time again, Obama and Democrats extended a hand to Republicans, and Republicans extended a single finger in response. This isn’t any kind of secret: Republicans have explicitly said they won’t work with Obama because they don’t want to give him bipartisan victories.
This is the worst "fact-check" ever done and I think the reason it happened is for the reasons Ezra outlined earlier. Instead of just calling it like it is, they bent so far backwards to make Clinton equal to Ryan in mendacity that they fell on their heads. It was bound to happen at some point.