Please write and send praise, critique, interesting links or random musings to

Friday, December 23, 2011

Politifact's Problem with... Facts

Dec 23rd, 2011

What's in a name?

Let's say I present a plan to eventually replace every car in America with a donkey. Then, let's say that my plan requires that donkeys are no longer to be referred to as "donkeys." From the moment the plan is completed, all donkeys must be referred to as "cars."

I think it's reasonable to call such a scheme, "the end of cars." Not so. Apparently, calling a donkey a "car" actually makes that donkey... a "car."

It was just this line of reasoning that PolitiFact used in launching the great "Lie of The Year" kerfuffle with their claim that the Paul Ryan plan would not end Medicare. You see, implementation of the Ryan scheme would end the entire structure of the Medicare program within roughly twenty years and put a completely different system in place. But, they would still call it "Medicare." With me?

Dave Weigel has a field day:

"After this week, plenty of pundits are well and done with the national version of PolitiFact. The local versions? They're great. I was actually pretty fond of how one of them debunked an ad that misued one of my quotes, attributing it to a candidate, in 2010. Alas, PolitiFact Editor Bill Adair has committed the main site to a factually dubious "Lie of the Year" claim. PolitiFact claims that it's a "lie" to say that the Path to Prosperity ends Medicare. ActualFacts tell us that this is not a lie."

One of Adair's big mistakes in defending this absurdity has been to portray critics of the choice as "liberal."

"In reality, it is an end to Medicare as we know it. Let's be fair -- as Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out the other day, any substantive change to a program "ends the program as we know it." When you're fundamentally changing a program from the way it was designed 45 years ago, you're ending it as people know it.
We've read the critiques and see nothing that changes our findings. We stand by our story and our conclusion that the claim was the most significant falsehood of 2011. We made no judgments on the merits of the Ryan plan; we just said that the characterization by the Democrats was false.
This is false, because Democrats weren't the first to make this characterization. The Wall Street Journal's reporter Naftali Bendavid did, writing that the Ryan plan "essentially ends Medicare." Democrats, in their ads and attacks, cited that story to make their claim. I covered the NY-26 race on the ground, and I remember seeing it in the mailers and ads, but anyone can check it. The Bendavid story has never been corrected -- corrections are what editors typically do if facts have been misstated."

Even the National Review's Robert VerBruggen, a supporter of the Ryan Plan, portrays PolitiFact's choice as dubious:

"The Ryan plan is a deep, serious reform — it ends some of the program’s major features, and if traditional-Medicare supporters see those features as the core of the program, it’s fair for them to say it ends the program."

As for PolitiFact's glib posturing over Democratic and progressive pushback...

" Matthew Yglesias points out, only the elderly are eligible for Medicare, so it makes sense to use the elderly in ads, even if today’s elderly aren’t the ones affected."

Again, more appalling than the claim is Politifact's defense of it:

"It’s true enough that Democratic ads are a bad place to go for a clear, unbiased account of what the Ryan plan would do. But I don’t think any of these examples rise to the level of "lie," much less "Lie of the Year."

Tommy Christopher over at Mediate is seriously pissed:

"What Politifact doesn’t seem to realize is that this wasn’t just a wrong decision, it was an irresponsible one that undercuts their own, and journalism's, duty to serve the public.

After their announcement, Politifact editor Bill Adairwent on CBS’ The Early Show to propagandize, and even lie, about the Paul Ryan budget plan, while the site’s Twitter feed blithely retweeted cherry-picked criticism of their decision (notably not that National Review post, nor Mediaite’s calling out of their editor), and retweeting people who cast the blowback as a left/right issue."

1 comment:

  1. Politifact can call shit Shinola too but I wouldn't use (sh)it on my shoes.