Top 5 Dying Facts That Endanger Obama’s Reelection

A brilliant and widely circulated Chicago Tribune obituary claims that Facts has died. If you haven’t read the whole thing, here is a flavor:

Through the 19th and 20th centuries, Facts reached adulthood as the world underwent a shift toward proving things true through the principles of physics and mathematical modeling. There was respect for scientists as arbiters of the truth, and Facts itself reached the peak of its power.

But those halcyon days would not last. People unable to understand how science works began to question Facts. And at the same time there was a rise in political partisanship and a growth in the number of media outlets that would disseminate information, rarely relying on feedback from Facts.

… Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion.

Services are alleged to be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that mourners make a donation to their favorite super PAC.

I’m a starry eyed optimist, so I choose to think Facts is still on life support hoping for a miracle recovery. But if the President and his team can’t successfully breathe life back into five key Facts that are currently on life support, it’s difficult to see how he can win in November.

Fact #1: Obama opted for a private health insurance reform model developed by Mitt Romney and other conservatives, rather than an insurance plan run by government.

Fact on life support.
• Fact on Life Support: Only 25% of people who took the Kaiser health reform quiz understood that Obama’s health reforms will not “create a new government run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans.”

• Implications of Death: GOP parrot trainer Frank Luntz has commanded his cockatiels to repeat the phrase “government takeover of health care” for a very sound political reason, because market research shows that is a compelling reason for moderate swing voters to oppose health care reform. The more swing voters believe that falsehood, the less they like Obamacare and Obama.

Fact on life support.
Fact #2: Bush policies and the economic downturn under Bush were the most powerful causes of the ballooning national debt, and Romney wants to extend those Bush policies.

• Fact on Life Support: Out of twelve issues, there is only one issue where voters say Romney would do a better job than Obama – handling the deficit. Voters currently believe Bush disciple Romney is the best person to tackle the debt that Bush policies largely created.

• Implications of Death: The size of the debt is especially concerning to moderate swing voters, so getting blamed for causing that problem badly hurts the President’s prospects of wooing that key constituency.

Fact #3: Obama’s stimulus package of tax cuts and investments helped ease the pain and damage done by the Great Recession.

Fact on life support.
• Fact on Life Support: Over half of independents (56%) believe the stimulus didn’t make any difference.

• Implications of Death: The central issue of the campaign is the economy, stupid. If swing voters don’t believe Obama was effective on the issue that concerns them the most, look out.

Fact #4: In terms of private sector job creation, things have gotten significantly better during Obama’s time in office than they were under Bush and the the Bush policies Romney proposes to resurrect.

Fact on life support.
• Fact on Life Support: Three-fourths (75%) of independents believe that the economy has gotten worse or stayed the same, and 77% of independents believe the economy is still in recession.

• Implications of Death: Even if most voters blame Bush for the economic meltdown, as most still do, according to polls, it’s difficult to see how swing voters who believe that things are still headed in the wrong direction will vote to rehire the incumbent President.

Fact #5: In the Obama years, taxes for the middle class were near historic lows.

Fact on life support.
• Fact on Life Support: Eighty-five percent of independent voters incorrectly believe taxes on the middle class either increased or have not changed.

• Implications of Death: Independent swing voters vote their pocketbooks, and oppose paying more in taxes. If they perceive that they were paying high taxes in the middle of a recession, the Democrat in charge will get the lion’s share of the blame, because Democrats are usually presumed to be advocating for higher taxes.

Of course, there are many other falsehoods hurting Obama. Little things like he is a foreigner, Muslim, socialist designing death panels to kill off your loved ones.

But in a year when the economy is the top issue, and with the health reform bill about to get hot again after the Supreme Court rules, these are the five dying Facts that are hurting Obama the most with swing voters. Team Obama needs to resuscitate good old Fact, or Obama’s political career will perish with him.

– Loveland

Journal (ists) and Lies, Part 2

Sarah Palin, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, exhumes the corpse of death panels again.

“Now look at one way Mr. Obama wants to eliminate inefficiency and waste: He’s asked Congress to create an Independent Medicare Advisory Council—an unelected, largely unaccountable group of experts charged with containing Medicare costs. In an interview with the New York Times in April, the president suggested that such a group, working outside of ‘normal political channels,’ should guide decisions regarding that ‘huge driver of cost . . . the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives . . . .’ Palin writes.

“Given such statements, is it any wonder that many of the sick and elderly are concerned that the Democrats’ proposals will ultimately lead to rationing of their health care by—dare I say it—death panels? Establishment voices dismissed that phrase, but it rang true for many Americans. Working through ‘normal political channels,’ they made themselves heard, and as a result Congress will likely reject a wrong-headed proposal to authorize end-of-life counseling in this cost-cutting context. But the fact remains that the Democrats’ proposals would still empower unelected bureaucrats to make decisions affecting life or death health-care matters.”

She dodges and dances a little. Instead of saying “There will be death panels,” she says people are afraid there will be death panels. Like saying in a debate, “Now I won’t bring up your wife’s alcoholism, because that isn’t really relevant to the campaign.” death

If I wrote an op-ed for the WSJ and said, “People are afraid John Boehner is an admirer of Adolf Hitler and dresses in an SS uniform at home. And many say he’s a registered sex offender, and they’re afraid that if he has an influence on legislation all adults will be required to hire registered sex offenders as baby sitters,” would the Journal publish it?

— Bruce Benidt

What’s a Journalist to Do? Pass on a Lie, or Call it a Lie?

What’s the media’s role when someone says something that’s not true? And how can we know what’s true or not?

I think the media is not doing its job. Media way too often just transmit what someone says, with no research done or assessment made about whether the statement is true or not. It’s harder to figure out what’s true — but journalism isn’t supposed to be easy. And journalists aren’t court reporters, just recording what’s said. They should be calling something untrue when they know, or can know with a little work, that is isn’t true.

People on either side of any issue can too easily get the media to parrot their positions, whether factual or not. And the “death panel” lie — and its unchallenged transmission by the media — is doing a good job of scuttling any chance of real change in our dysfunctional health care system.
On ABC’s This Week show Sunday, Sarah Palin was shown talking about death panels and how she doesn’t want the government deciding who will live and who will die, and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski was shown saying she was offended by such lies and that there are no death panels in the health care bills being considered in Congress. The ABC host asked his guest,Senator Orin Hatch, who’s right. I’m not going to judge that, Hatch said, and went on to talk about what people are afraid of in the bills. And the “death panel” crap was allowed to sit there, stinking in plain view. No way was Hatch going to do the right thing and flush that lie, because it’s serving his cause.

The ABC host didn’t stop the conversation and say “There are no death panels in the bills — that’s a canard started by a health industry advocate and repeated by opponents of the bills.” He should have. That’s his job — helping the public figure out what’s true and what’s going on in this superficial debate on a very complicated subject. It’s easy in this case to look at the bills and debunk this lie. ABC probably felt it did its job of fairness and objectivity by having Palin and Murkowski state the two sides. But are there two sides? There are no death panels. How is it fair and objective to not point that out, each time the media gives voice to that lie?

In a light-hearted Associated Press story today, about controversy over whether President Chester A. Arthur was born in the U.S. or Canada, the “birthers” claim that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. is repeated — without a statement that Obama’s birth certificate, or Hawaii’s equivalent, is on record. The lie is recounted as part of the news.

I wonder how politicians who spew this death panel nonsense can sleep at night. And I wonder how journalists who let this crap slip on through can sleep at night.

In a great Rick Perlstein piece posted by a regular TSRC reader, Raymond, as part of a comment on our previous post Health Reform Name Game, Perlstein mentions the role of the media:

It used to be different. You never heard the late Walter Cronkite taking time on the evening news to “debunk” claims that a proposed mental health clinic in Alaska is actually a dumping ground for right-wing critics of the president’s program, or giving the people who made those claims time to explain themselves on the air. The media didn’t adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American paranoia as a set of “conservative claims” to weigh, horse-race-style, against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as “extremist” — out of bounds.

Nothing is extremist now – except good journalism.

The New York Times, last Friday, did a good look at how the “death panel” canard got started and spread. A story like that is good, responsible journalism. But it can’t defeat the constant unchallenged repetition of the lie.

And lies repeated – weapons of mass destruction – are powerful and take on the weight of truth. Journalists shouldn’t be in the business of repeating unchallenged lies.

— Bruce Benidt