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“PolitiFact” Panders, Loses All Credibility

The Tower of Lies

Here’s a  fact.

Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced a plan to eliminate Medicare as we know it, and replace it with a voucher system to purchase private insurance.

This is indisputable. It is the essence, the core of the Ryan Plan.

Yes, he still wants to call the new plan “Medicare”,  but in fact it is not the same system at all.

Enter PolitiFact.

PolitiFact is a website run by the St. Petersburg Times that purports to distill the truth from political rhetoric.

The site acknowledges that the Ryan plan replaces the current Medicare system with a voucher scheme, but then puts a semantic twist on their delivery. Referring to Democrats:

• They used harsh terms such as “end” and “kill” when the program would still exist, although in a privatized system.

Democrats, slowly standing from their normal posture of fetal cowering, challenged Ryan on the plan and ran several ads stating that Republicans are seeking to end Medicare as we know it.

Admittedly, some were hyperbolic — exuberance born of the realization that the GOP had handed them a gift, but exaggerations aside, the core of their argument was sound.

 Unfortunately, PolitiFact has gotten trapped in the wrong-headed media notion that balance means criticizing both political parties in equal proportion — regardless of whether one side is telling the truth less often, and in more material ways.

In many instances, they have consistently bent over backwards to nitpick  semantics when the essential truth of Democrat’s claims is undeniably true.

The nail in PolitiFact’s coffin is their “Lie Of the Year 2011”:

A complicated and wonky subject with life-or-death consequences, health care is fertile ground for falsehoods. The Democratic attack about “ending Medicare” was a pervasive line in 2011 that preyed on seniors’ worries about whether they could afford health care.

Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly dismantles this piece of hackery:

It’s unnerving that we have to explain this again, but since PolitiFact appears to be struggling with the relevant details, let’s set the record straight.

Medicare is a single-payer health care system offering guaranteed benefits to seniors. The House Republican budget plan intended to privatize the existing system and replace it with something very different — a voucher scheme. It would still be called “Medicare,” but it wouldn’t be Medicare.

It seems foolish to have to parse the meaning of the word “end,” but if there’s a program, and it’s replaced with a different program, proponents brought an end to the original program. That’s what the verb means.

I’ve been trying to think of the best analogy for this. How about this one: imagine someone owns a Ferrari. It’s expensive and drives beautifully, and the owner desperately wants to keep his car intact. Now imagine I took the car away, removed the metallic badge off the trunk that says “Ferrari,” I stuck it on a golf cart, and I handed the owner the keys.

“Where’s my Ferrari?” the owner would ask.

“It’s right here,” I’d respond. “This has four wheels, a steering wheel, and pedals, and it says ‘Ferrari’ right there on the back.”

By PolitiFact’s reasoning, I haven’t actually replaced the car — and if you disagree, you’re a pants-on-fire liar.

As Benen notes, this is a straight up semantics quibble. If this is the lie of the year, where has Politifact been?

Paul Krugman joins in, and shares my conclusion:

The answer is, of course, obvious: the people at PolitiFact are terrified of being considered partisan if they acknowledge the clear fact that there’s a lot more lying on one side of the political divide than on the other. So they’ve bent over backwards to appear “balanced” — and in the process made themselves useless and irrelevant.

Way to go, guys.

Exactly. Not a shred of credibility left.

Chris Mooney piles on:

PolitiFact’s move is especially remarkable when you survey some of the clear falsehoods that were almost lie of the year:

  • The economic stimulus created “zero jobs.” — The National Republican Senatorial Committee and other Republicans
  • Scientists are “questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. … (It is) more and more being put into question.” — Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry
  • President Obama “went around the world and apologized for America.” — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney
  • The vaccine to prevent HPV can cause mental retardation. — Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann

Notably, all of these big lies were uttered by Republicans. In fact, with the exception of the Bachmann example, they were uttered repeatedly by Republicans (albeit in varying forms).

All of this is a shame, because in the current heated political environment, a real straight shooter is needed to sift fact from fiction.

There appears to be an opening for that service.



December 22, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

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