Are We Entering A New Era of Politics In Which Facts No Longer Matter?

Are We Entering A New Era of Politics In Which Facts No Longer Matter? August 31, 2012

There’s an interesting article by Michael Cooper in the NYTimes today about the way the candidates are twisting and distorting reality. Does truth really matter anymore? Cooper seems to suggest that lies only matter if you reach the tipping point and people start to think that lying is your defining characteristic. What do you think?

Representative Paul D. Ryan used his convention speech on Wednesday to fault President Obama for failing to act on a deficit-reduction plan that he himself had helped kill. He chided Democrats for seeking $716 billion in Medicare cuts that he too had sought. And he lamented the nation’s credit rating — which was downgraded after a debt-ceiling standoff that he and other House Republicans helped instigate.

And Mitt Romney, in his acceptance speech on Thursday night, asserted that President Obama’s policies had “not helped create jobs” and that Mr. Obama had gone on an “apology tour” for America. He also warned that the president’s Medicare cuts would “hurt today’s seniors,” claims that have already been labeled false or misleading.

The two speeches — peppered with statements that were incorrect or incomplete — seemed to signal the arrival of a new kind of presidential campaign, one in which concerns about fact-checking have been largely set aside.

In recent weeks, the Romney campaign has broadcast television advertisements leveling the widely debunked assertion that Mr. Obama had gutted the work requirements for welfare recipients. The Obama campaign, for its part, ran a deceptive ad saying that Mitt Romney had “backed a bill that outlaws all abortion, even in case of rape and incest,” although he currently supports exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

Cooper digs a little more into the facts behind each issue. What makes it interesting is that it is possible that the primary and pointed attacks made by Ryan are rooted in false statements.

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  • scott stone

    I’m sorry but I have to take you to task on this one. I’m going to be very specific and not deal in side issues. Your title suggests that facts are missing from a particular statement from Paul Ryan. The NYT writer states that “Representative Paul D. Ryan used his convention speech on Wednesday to fault President Obama for failing to act on a deficit-reduction plan that he himself had helped kill”. Where are the missing facts? The statement by Paul Ryan is factually correct. Yes Paul Ryan did not vote for the Simpson/Bowles plan because he thought the “grand bargain” was not large enough. The President, who initiated the committee, the guy who is suppose to be the leader, the one who is to lead, never submitted or initiated another plan.
    Sense the topic is regarding facts, the fact is he walked away. There was no follow up, no alternative proposal, no attempt to find another path. He did not lead, and that is his job.

    • Damo Tobin

      “The statement by Paul Ryan is factually correct.”
      And when used in the context of accusing the President of ignoring good advice, utterly dishonest. Disinformation through leaving out extremely pertinent facts is still disinformation. He condemned the President for not embracing a proposal that he himself secretly felt was bad. That is jaw-droppingly dishonest, and it’s shocking that people are defending it the way they are. I haven’t seen the like since Clinton’s attempt to define “is”.

      Why did the President not propose something himself? Well, for one thing, because any proposal he made would be blocked by Republicans simply because it was Obama making it. The health care plan that Republicans have spent the last few years demonizing was endorsed by the likes of the Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, and Mitt Romney himself, but when it got Obama’s approval it instantly became something they all hated. Moreover, at the moment it doesn’t look like a plan that would satisfy both sides and work is possible. The Democrats want a mix of taxes and cuts. Meanwhile 276 of the 289 Republicans in Congress have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to oppose “any and all attempts” to raise taxes on individuals or businesses. How in the world is the President meant to come up with a workable plan under those conditions? Until more Republicans distance themselves from that ridiculous (and frankly borderline unconstitutional) promise, not a whole lot can be done.

  • scott stone

    One of these days I’m going to learn the discipline of proof reading.
    Here is a short but accurate look at a few facts.

    • Damo Tobin

      A highly dishonest article for a highly dishonest politician.
      It begins with attacking wp’s statement that Ryan “appeared to suggest” that the plant closing was Obama’s fault. Okay, if you would prefer a rephrasing, Ryan suggested that Obama promised to keep the plant open, and then didn’t. But the plant was closed (or “idled”) before Obama was even in office. It took a while for the plant to wind down production completely, and people would have loved to stop moving along the checklist turning everything off and instead start turning things on, but the plant’s fate was sealed before Obama was sworn in. Shutdown commenced in June 2008, in November 2008 Congress failed to give GM money it needed to keep things open, GM officially idled the plant in Dec 2008 and started shutting everything down

      Next the article attacks “cuts” in Medicare that don’t exist. We had a budget laid out for what to give providers, and found good ways to reduce the money they would be receiving. Ways that were embraced by Ryan himself in his plans. We found ways to make things more effective, to reduce unnecessary spending, and Romney is promising to undo those cuts just because they were endorsed by the Obama administration and he feels he can make political hay out of them. Dishonest!

    • Alan Conwell

      Interesting article. It will also be interesting to see what standard the NY Times uses to measure the speakers at the Democratic Convention.

      • Tim Suttle

        Oh it will be the exact same cast of characters. Politifact is already gearing up.

  • scott stone

    Two quick thoughts. 1) Your assertion is that the federal government does not receive enough money from current tax payers. I’m curious as to why you feel that way. 2) “Why did the President not propose something himself? Well, for one thing, because any proposal he made would be blocked by Republicans simply because it was Obama making it”. Now that’s leadership for you. The debt commission recommendation was voted down 11-7. The no votes were 4 D’s and 3 R’s. Obama should have went back for another bight at the apple. More republicans voted for it than against it. It is to easy and convenient to say Obama couldn’t do anything because of the republicans. The facts do not support your position.

    • Damo Tobin

      1) We are in debt, and while cutting “fat” from programs is unequivocally necessary, it is not enough. While Obama and Regan presided under extremely different recessions, it is worth noting that taxes under Reagan were higher than they are under Obama. This is an absurd situation. Poll after poll after poll after poll for years has shown that a majority of Americans believe the way forward is a mix of both spending cuts and tax increases. The Norquist pledge is extreme to the point of being extremely dangerous, and has been signed by almost every Republican in congress.

      2) On the subject of leadership, I direct your attention to the remark from Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority leader (Majority Leader at the time of these words): “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”. Strong words from a leader of the Republican party, and the party as a whole seems to have shared his priorities. The greatest success of the Obama administration was the passing of a health care plan. It wasn’t the single payer plan he really wanted, it was a compromise. Specifically, it was a compromise that had its roots in a plan by Nixon (who imagined an employer mandate, not an individual mandate), and which was modified by the Heritage Foundation and held up as an acceptable compromise by the likes of George Bush (the first one), Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, and Governor Mitt Romney, the latter of whom felt so strongly about the model that he adopted it as the health care plan for his own state. Once Obama showed support for it, however, we entered into a several-year period of the Republican party attacking the very plan they had come up with, characterizing it as a monstrous government takeover of medicine that would have grandma killed by Death Panels. Simply hearing that Obama was in favor of the mandate was all it took for the Republican party to turn against their own creation. The idea that Republicans would have been MORE likely to approve of the S&B plan had it gotten support from Obama is about as absurd as a fish denying the existence of water.

  • Scott Stone

    I’m sorry but your argument is absurd. More D’s voted against S/B but it’s the Republicans who would never compromise. You are dealing in pure speculation. There are no fact behind your argument.

  • Jay Saldana

    Ok, the thing I hate most about all this is the unwillingness to see and deal with the truth. To argue and call each other, or at least imply the other person is a “bad” person is silly. The truth is the the political system is playing games with us and you need to check it out yourself.
    Link one: is the GM press release on the plant not closing but going on standby.
    Link two : is the Local paper saying the plant lost most of their employees in Dec 2008
    Kink three: is a Janeville local and Ryan supporter who was interviewed and explains the problem we are having and how Mr. Ryan is in error.
    Bottom line: Mr Ryan was playing fast and loose with the facts to score points. He seems to have become as facile with the truth as his teammate.

    Excuse me Mr. Stone, but it seems you have missed a vital political point. Politics is a team blood sport. It is not unusual for a politician to vote in the positive when he knows that the negative will pass. That way the pol wins on both accounts. When a member knows he is in a safe district he will take turns to vote for the “off message” or unpopular vote sparing his endangered brothers from doing that. They can then have it both ways. That is why you have a “whip” position in congress (remember Tom Delay). He makes those designations. The president knew the deck was stacked against him on the commission. He also knew that “low information voters” (that is you Mr. Stone) would pick up the line from the “plum line” (that is the PR machine) of the republicans and blame the president for not leading. The president’s goose was cooked either way. So the President saved his energy for bigger fights or another time with the “public line” (the poles) were in his favor and he had some leverage to get something done.
    I have no idea how old you are but I remember this same sort of attack used by minorities in the civil rights era (the idea that the press is against you). At that time the Republicans were on the other side and teased the minorities about them always yelling about being victimized by the majorities prejudiced. You have already implied that the N.Y. Times will not report in a “way” that will be fair. How victimized can you get? (y9ou see that is what they mean by low information voter. They point and you run with it – facts are not necessary. But it seems as the links above prove and your failure to really understand the politics of the commission and how they work, that you are your own worst enemy.
    Never let the FACTS get in the way of man who wants to feel victimized.
    Have a God filled day,

    • scott stone

      Hello Jay,
      Since you have no idea who I am or what my background is I will chalk up your insult (I’m a low knowledge voter) to sheer ignorance. That is not to be meant as an insult, you just lack the knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular, that being me.
      I’ll factually disagree with you on some of your assertions. My complaint regarding the media is factually based. I’m very particular about the words that are used and the narrative set. Fact: The AP and many other news organizations reported that the Janesville plant closed before President Obama was elected. Fact: The plant closed April 23, 2009. I’m not saying the president could have done anything about it, I just want an honest press corp.
      You state that the President was saving his political capital for a bigger fight. Just out of curiosity what would that bigger fight be? Leadership is process of influencing others, garnishing support, and even changing minds to accomplish something that you find to be truly important.
      I’m sorry to say that you make far to many assumptions in your post. You assume you know me and my level of information when in fact you haven’t a clue. Just as I have no clue as to who you are and your background.
      I’m not sure where the victimization comment comes from but I certainly don’t feel like a victim. I do have some concerns about how things are reported in the press (as does Chuck Todd and Jake Tapper, both who feel that the press was far to pro Obama the last election cycle) but that doesn’t mean I feel like a victim.
      As always I just want a little intellectual honesty. I’m not a Republican or Democrat. I’m conservative on some issues and extremely liberal on others. When I see something reported that I believe to be bias or inaccurate, I like to comment. You’ve raised this to a personal level by insulting me then ended with a closing salutation to have a God filled day. I’ll end with not insulting you but will hope that you too have a God filled day.

  • Frank

    Welcome to the Whitehouse President Romeny and Vice President Ryan! It’s good to have real leadership here at last!

  • Politics is mainly a popularity contest. Republicans lie, so do Democrats. This is not a new issue. However I would say recently that the Republican politicians have been putting their feet in their mouths lately. They seem to be intent on offending as many people as possible. They certainly don’t have the needs of the people in mind, that’s for sure.

    Frankly I hate politics. Maybe I should flip a coin this time.

  • Jay Saldana

    Ah Scott, you got me… I did assume way to much. I was going on the comments you made about the voting process for the “set-asides” and the assumptions you seem to make on the Presidents leadership skills based on that interaction. For that I deeply apologize.
    The victimization rap has to do with the constant winning about the press. While there are some well known channels that lean one way or the other, even on those channels you find committed journalists looking for the truth.
    According to GM the plant is not closed, if you call the GM public relation office they will so inform you. The plant is on Stand-by until the market for its line improves. The plant as regards to manufacturing – sorry to so disagree – shut down in December of 08 (that is let most of its labor force go – 96%, again, according to the Pr office). The rest of the year was letting go of production backlog due to the restructure of almost 1000 products. The date you report is the day the last worker left the plant to local security not the day the plant stopped manufacturing at least according to GM, unless you think you have some knowledge available to you that their PR office does not. So it could be argued that we are both correct in a finally sliced way.
    As you can see, we are slicing things pretty thin here. I don’t think getting into a discussion of what is the meaning of “closing” is really going to satisfy our different points of view. Nor will introducing a series of false equivalencies bring us to a greater understanding of one another’s point of view. So let me suggest this. Mr Ryan’s speech was designed to give a false impression of what the President did. In that, it did succeed. Mr Ryan gave a great speech. It was masterfully propagandist. But like the story line on Medicare or the one on welfare worker rules, it will feed the base but have very little effect on the voters it needed to sway. Saying that the media is “liberal” and against you is an example of the whimpering and victimization I mentioned before. Both Mr. Tapper and Mr. Todd’s comments had to do with the “last cycle” and not the comments on this particular speech as my DVR showed Mr. Todd expressing sentiments similar to my own. (Don’t watch enough of Mr. Tapper to comment).
    The problem I have ( and I admit it is all mine) with the cry for intellectual honesty, it is always made denying the obvious. It is obvious, that Mr Ryan was attempting to follow a plan of showing the so called swing voter that Mr. Obama could not be trusted (in marketing and speech writing you always go for three times to prove the point). That was why the other stories followed, all to “make real” the desired point. So you have asked for intellectual honesty while denying the obvious. Makes for an interesting conundrum. This does not make Mr. Ryan a bad man only a typical and highly gifted politician.
    The problem is that blaming Mr Obama for everything while exonerating or ignoring the republican congress and senate is so beyond the understanding of most rational observers that there is obviously something seriously neurotically wrong with our culture’s self perception. Why you are not outraged at the damage done to our country in the name of conservative politics is something I find very hard to understand. Why you are not outraged at having a Republican Candidate without that candidate stating a clear action plan but only a strong series of platitudes is beyond me. What I fear is what will happen when in all likelihood Mr Obama is re-elected. (Poly-sci people have it at a 74% chance at the moment). We cannot keep on lying to ourselves and having petty arguments like a group of theologians arguing the use of prepositions in Latin or Greek. I assumed you were a Low information voter when you used a reference with a particular leaning and ax to grind against the President as your source of last resort. When a check with a local source with real time knowledge of the issue was just as easy. This is what a low information voter does. And again, I do apologize for my error.
    There are many, many things to argue against the President and what he has done but the three mentioned here are just plain wrong. Mr Ryan is much smarter than this and should know better. He has damaged himself and this will come back to hurt him later when it is his turn to run for president.
    Scott, I do beg your forgiveness for my over stepping and assumptions.. truly.
    Have a God filled and safe holiday weekend.