Saturday, September 1

Our Politics In A Nutshell, Where It Belongs, Part MCCCLXXVI

Glenn Kessler, "The Truth? C'mon, this is a political convention". September 1

READER, it's from a column called The Fact Checker:
For all the outrage (on the left) about misrepresentations and misinformation in Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for vice president, my reaction was: par for the course. 
We are, of course, talking about a political convention. The whole point is for the party to put its best foot forward to the American people. By its very nature, that means downplaying unpleasant facts, highlighting the positive and knocking down the opposing team.
So Lies are understandable, expected, and all in the nature of confrérie; reaction (on the left) is tiresome and unrealistic, a wetter of blankets and a pooper of parties.

This is from a column called The Fact Checker.
In fact, until Ryan showed up, in the traditional role of a vice president attack dog, my impression was that, given the nasty, brutish attacks by both sides in this campaign, the Republicans were generally on good behavior. 
The first night was a bit odd, since it was devoted to the political exploitation of a single Obama gaffe — “You didn’t build that” — the Republicans blatantly misrepresent. The theme was so overdone, with virtually every speaker making reference to it, that it may have actually diluted the impact of the attack.
Y'know, so long as it's still referred to as a "gaffe" by what is referred to as "political journalists" then it's not dilute enough. In fact, so long as there are yet-undrowned Republicans floating on it not nearly enough water's been added.
Ryan was so quickly labeled a fibber by the Obama campaign that one suspects it was a deliberate effort to tear down his reputation as a policy expert, similar to using attacks on Romney’s Bain Capital record to undermine his reputation as a skilled business executive.

Oh, yes, one does suspect that. Just as one suspects the only people who actually believe that Ryan is a "policy expert" are members of the press corps too bored by policy to bother looking.
But worst convention speech ever? Please.

The Obama campaign said that? Facts, please.
Palin, for instance, gave a self-serving account of her support for the “Bridge to Nowhere”— claiming she said “thanks but no thanks”— when in fact she had supported it until it was largely killed by Congress. This is a bigger failure to tell the whole story than Ryan criticizing Obama for doing nothing with the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction recommendation, without noting that he himself voted against the commission report .

No. It isn't. Not unless we're voting for who we want to be best friends with in third grade, and those are the only two choices.

Palin's comments underlined a personal dishonesty so thorough that no one would trust her to make the proper change. This was a subject the Press, naturally, stayed the hell away from; her wardrobe grifting got some play, but also the required faux-balance pushback. When she told Katie Couric she read "all" newspapers it was taken as evidence that she couldn't name any (possibly true, extemporaneously, anyway), but not so much as evidence that she'd lie to anyone about breakfast, if she felt she needed to ("C'mon. She's a politician!").

Ryan, on the other hand, simply misrepresents inconvenient facts in order to push his apodictic Randian certainties on the rest of us, and those certainties collapse the moment facts are applied. That's an exponentially greater lie than Palin's fictional bio (or Marco Rubio's), and several orders of magnitude more consequential.
For all the tough ads on television, this cycle’s GOP convention was largely a kinder, gentler affair.

C'mon, it's a political convention. Romney wasn't gonna break out the Birther routine again. Besides, they save Full Crackpot Mode for incumbents (Buchanan '92; Zell Miller '04).
In his acceptance speech, Mitt Romney toned down his rhetoric. He repeated some claims that have earned him Four Pinocchios (such as Obama going on an “apology tour” overseas) but he passed up many others, such as reprising an attack on an Obama administration change in welfare rules that his campaign claims is his most effective ad.

Yeah, now you point it out, "Traitor" does sound a lot nicer than "Shiftless Negro". Probably more popular with primetime advertisers, too.
Romney’s speech had none of that angry, dismissive tone.

Look, how does one become a Fact Checker without understanding that this PR shit is the biggest lie of all? The tone of Romney's speech had nothing to do with anything other than the roomful of expensive consultants who decided what tone he needed to take.
Ultimately, convention speeches are about making the argument for your team. We should fully expect politicians to make their case using facts and figures that either tilt positive about their accomplishment — or negative about their opponents.

Yes. Using facts and figures. If you can't make your case without lying outright, then you can't do it at all.
As the fact checking business has blossomed in the news media, it has been increasingly hard for politicians to get away with such truth-shading without someone noticing.

Though not at the WaPo Fact Checker column, apparently.


R. Porrofatto said...

Kessler: The first night was a bit odd, since it was devoted to ... attacks on Romney’s Bain Capital record to undermine his reputation as a skilled business executive.

That's a section of Kessler's article edited in the same dishonest manner as the GOP edit of Obama's "gaffe," resulting in a statement that the author simply never said or implied, just like the one on which the GOP based the theme for their entire convention. To Kessler, the only problem with this technique is that Republicans may have diluted the effect of the "attack" by repetition; that it's a flagrant lie to begin with is simply a fact not worth his checking. And yeah, this is from a column called The Fact Checker. It is to marvel.

synykyl said...

The Truth? C'mon, this is the Washington Post.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...


We have a post-truth campaign, why not a post-fact Fact Chucker?

gracie said...

This is tidy:

" As I have argued before, it may not be possible to assert or lie anymore in a presidential campaign. The trust required to support the existence of such speech acts is absent. The blatant falsehoods in Romney’s campaign are possible only under conditions in which the target audience will not hold Romney accountable for false statements. "

From Jason Stanley, Speech, Lies, and Apathy at

R. Porrofatto said...

I shouldn't be hogging Riley's commenting space but that is an insanely ridiculous column by Jason Stanley. The part you quoted is Stanley's justification for why it's unfair to accuse the Romney campaign of lying; apparently, since those blatant falsehoods are known to be so by "everyone" who "is not expected go believe the falsehoods, there is some other function of the Romney campaign's ads." Stanley deduces thus:

Romney has broadcast advertisements that accuse the president of attempting to weaken the work requirements on welfare. [more than just "attempting," the ads accuse the president of gutting the work requirements and just mailing the checks]
It seems likely that the architects of the ad campaign want to communicate to working class white voters the message that Romney shares their opposition to certain kinds of welfare programs, ones connected in their minds to African-Americans. [Ya fucking think?]
How would the Romney campaign deliver this message by making only true statements?
The Romney campaign is not at fault for making false statements. They are just astutely taking advantage of the political environment in which all campaigning now takes place.

This is like a David Brooks column as written by a philosophy professor at the Academy of Lagado (imagine Jeffrey Goldstein with a job). "You see gentlemen, just as the sun may seem to arise in the East but in actuality is sucked into a vacuum created by the departure of the moon, a lie is not a lie if everyone knows it's a lie and its only intent is to deceive and inflame, or something."

Chris Vosburg said...

Inevitable, isn't it?

The rise of "fact checking" is met by the rise of "fact checking, but without the well-known liberal bias fact checking is known to have".

It is so very disheartening for those of us who believed that technology could get us out of the mess that technology got us into.

By which I mean that I believed that the advent of the internet, with an Encyclopedia Galactica online, would make it impossible to broadcast the lies I was hearing on the television.

You could, in real time, look it up, and see the truth or false of what was being said on the telly.

Except you can't, and especially if you're looking for reinforcement of what you've already concluded, and google's searches will inevitably lead you to that reinforcement, based on the phrasing of your search query.

As I say, disheartening.

Chris Vosburg said...

And coming out of the down mode of my apparent bipolar disorder, I googled "Obama Citizen".

First two entries are Snopes and Wikipedia, both of which put the lie to the idea so dear to the heart of Donald Trump and that moron at Twirled News Daily or whatever it is, and I apologize to the good engineers at Google for my careless slander.

There may be hope for us after all, and by the way, it's lucky for me I had a robot handy to help me figure out the captcha puzzle required to post a comment. What would we do without them?

gracie said...

RP: Hey, I just said the excerpt was "tidy." The column in its entirety is messy.

R. Porrofatto said...

Sorry, gracie, I didn't mean to give the impression that I was dumping on you, just venting about that column, which reads like a parody of academic sophism and cluelessness.

Anonymous said...

Riley, I've run a marathon before and you can be sure that you wouldn't mistake the finish time by over an hour (Paul Ryan). In fact, I know my time to the hundredths of a second and it was more than 20 years ago! Thank goodness Runners World keeps good records.

Ebon Krieg said...

I love when minds melt,
uh, I mean meld.

Anonymous said...

I'd better go over to WaPo and bawl somebody out. Whoever hired Kessler is the real target. A nice, public lynching would be a good idea. Gawd, I can't stand this "both sides do it" rationale. Yeah, and German death camps = Japanese-American interment camps, right, Glenn?


prairie curmudgeon said...

No, no, no! The glove does not fit! By illusion, everyone is diverted from seeing the ugly assed shoes.
The fact checkers acquit while the plutocratic world view skips an indictment and prosecution.

Pops said...

Why did none of the viewers or press or pundits or whoever mention that with all the ridiculous amount of make up romney was either auditioning for FOX News or the Living Dead?

loretta said...

Most of us acquainted with the Narcissists' Handbook of Life should spot a preternaturally glib liar when we see one. It's not as though Romney or Ryan are good liars; in fact, they are lousy liars because their lies can so easily be disproved; however, they are natural liars - the lies just flow from their lips with ease. They don't flinch, they give few if any "tells", and this may confuse inexperienced viewers. Once you have the profound experience of being the victim of these types, you can spot the pathology from a mile off.