Earlier this week, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse declared, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”
He’s right and they shouldn’t, especially if the slipshod “fact checking” of Paul Ryan’s speech last night is any indication.
Let’s start with the Simpson-Bowles debt commission. Ryan said:
[President Obama] created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing.
But for their proposal to be adopted as official recommendations to Congress, the Bowles-Simpson commission needed 14 of the 18 votes. It failed on an 11-7 vote, with four Democrats and three Republicans, including Ryan, voting no.
First, the onus of Simpson-Bowles wasn’t on Ryan; it was on Obama who set it up. Ryan did vote against Simpson-Bowles, but only because he had his own books-balancing Path to Prosperity that passed the House. The president’s halfhearted 2012 budget, meanwhile, was voted down 0-97 in the Senate. And Obama’s 2013 budget is a foot-dislocating punt on debt reduction of any kind.
If that’s not doing “exactly nothing,” then it’s pretty close.
Next up is Ryan’s account of a shuttered GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin:
A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that G.M. plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you… this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.
Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.
The wizards at Politifact rated this “False” (along with many other fact-checkers) because the plant closed before Obama was inaugurated. That does nothing to undermine anything Ryan said. His point wasn’t that the president personally flew out to Wisconsin on Air Force One and nailed an eviction notice to the door. It was that the Obama economic recovery never materialized, as shown by the closings “in so many towns today.”
Finally my personal favorite: the stimulus. Here’s Paul Ryan:
The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst.
As Time’s Michael Grunwald, who has just published a new book about the stimulus, points out, “Experts had warned that 5 percent of the stimulus could be lost to fraud, but investigators have documented less than $10 million in losses — about 0.001 percent.” Solyndra has been the exception, not the rule.
In other news, Paul Ryan said apples when, in fact, oranges. Ryan wasn’t talking about fraud. He was talking about “political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism.” The stimulus tossed money at companies hand-picked by the government, many of which had political connections. General Electric is the most popular of numerous examples.
And even if we are talking about fraud, the verdict is still out. The Justice Department is investigating the possibility of significant fraud in the stimulus’ transportation funding.
A baseline requirement for all fact checkers should be that they check facts. Instead when it comes to Republicans, they prefer to make eye-poking little jabs that have nothing to do with the truth.
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