The Republican War on Fact Checkers

Let me start by confessing to those of you who don’t know this about me--I’m a political junkie. It’s what forced me to watch the Republican Convention even though I knew the whole thing could lead me to fits of temper, homicidal thoughts, and copious wedges of lemon meringue pie. I now realize that normal people do not subject themselves to long days and evenings of rabid sound bites, toxic descriptions of policies that serve the needs of people without wealth, and above all else, virulent lies. Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster was even good enough to warn a pre-convention gathering in Tampa that “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” In other words, he was giving fair warning that veracity was off the table.

It seems that the party has once again become drenched in positions and language that I thought had been put to rest with phrases like “Welfare Queen” (which was thrown around freely by Ronald Reagan in his 1976 campaign, and which drove me crazy). When I looked up this phrase to determine when it dates from, I was reminded that Reagan used it while speaking on Chicago’s South Side, which was where I happened to live at the time. That Reagan has been canonized in the twisted lore of Republican history infuriates and saddens me, but doesn’t surprise me; it explains a lot. 

Maybe it’s the ghost of Reagan that generates the lies his heirs cast upon President Obama. In case you forgot, Reagan lied about Iran-Contra and claimed that: pollution came from trees or from Mount St. Helens-generated sulfur dioxide rather than from cars; apartheid leader P.W. Botha ended segregation in South Africa; the homeless "make it their own choice for staying out there," as he told The New York Times. I had almost forgotten Reaganomics, a lie that is currently touted as great shakes, but under which the nominal national debt rose from $900 billion to $2.8 trillion.

But the party’s current lies are more important. Over and over again they restate their lies, even after being corrected by the Democrats, by talking heads who interviews them, in articles covering their speeches, and by every intelligent person listening, watching or reading their lies. Here are a choice few, starting with my favorite: 

  • “President Obama’s plan does NOT wave the work requirement.”  This is a blatant lie. Read it. 
  • “I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began with an apology tour.” No he didn’t. 
  • Obama’s “…trillion-dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk.” This needs a word of explanation: it was the result of a 2011 budget deal between Obama and congressional Republicans that was necessary to avoid a default on the national debt. 
  • “Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.” Obama has called for raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year.
  • “His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance ObamaCare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation and jobs in medicine.” Republicans have repeatedly used variations of this line; it is not factually correct. 
  • “Gasoline prices have doubled.” Gasoline cost an average of $1.83 a gallon the day before Obama took the oath of office, but that was because of the economic crisis. Four years ago this month, the average price was $3.67--not much different than today’s price of $3.72
  • There's more, but I think you get the idea.

Beyond his lies Romney is also very cavalier about the health and wellbeing of his fellow Americans: “But no peril justifies the regulatory impact of ObamaCare on the practice of medicine, the Dodd-Frank Act on financial services, or the EPA’s and OSHA’s overreaching regulation agenda. A Republican Congress and President will repeal the first and second, and rein in the third.” Plus, his grasp of foreign policy is almost non-existent. He tipped his hand when he suggested that Cuba will always be his enemy and Russia will meet with what he called backbone and I call a grade school understanding of the real world. And though Romney has softened somewhat after the controversy that erupted around Missouri Representative Todd Aiken’s revolting use of the words “legitimate rape,” the platform includes choice words calling for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion even in cases of rape or incest, words borrowed from a bill co-sponsored by Todd Akin and Paul Ryan. Ugh! I remember once seeing a bumper sticker in Los Angeles that said, "If men could get pregnant Abortion would be a sacrament.”

And though I don’t even like to think of Ryan, I do think it should be noted that he too is a bold-faced liar who likes to see his tales in bold print: 
  • While Obama was campaigning for president he promised that a GM plant in Janesville Wisconsin would not shut down. Ryan said, "That plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day."  The plant effectively closed in December 2008--while George W. Bush was still president. 
  • He accused Obama of “raiding” Medicare by taking the exact same $716 billion that Ryan and the House GOP notoriously voted to slash. What ever happened to what’s good for the goose…?
  • He hit Obama for a credit-rating downgrade that S&P essentially blamed on GOP intransigence.
  • He claimed that all taxpayers got from the 2009 stimulus was “more debt,” when most got a tax cut (and the stimulus is known to have saved between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs).
  • He depicted ObamaCare as Socialism.
  • And just ‘cause it annoys me so, I have to mention that Ryan didn’t mention that he opposed legislation Obama wanted that would keep student loan rates from doubling.  
  • I could go on, but enough is already too much.
Two speakers deserve special mention. Ann Romney worked so hard to paint a picture of “her” Mitt as a fun-loving regular guy, a go-getter, someone you’d like to have as a neighbor, or on your church committee, or maybe join for a night of bowling. She left me feeling that if you love the 1950’s, Romney’s the guy for you. Then there’s Clint Eastwood, who I’ve always known was the Republican Mayor of Carmel, a right wing but cute town, for sure! Beyond that he’s come to be known for directing films that have a strong moral core. Okay, full disclosure: I’ve had a crush on Eastwood for 30 years. But I’m at a loss to describe his adlibbed meandering, so I’m going to quote Michael Moore, who nailed it: “Speaking to Invisible Obama last night, in a performance that seemed to have been written by Timothy Leary and performed by Cheech & Chong, Clint Eastwood was able to drive home to tens of millions of viewers the central message of this year's Republican National Convention: 'We Are Delusional and Detached from Reality. Vote for Us!'" Also I wondered when he derided Vice President Biden if his memory had failed and he’d forgotten that as Senator, Biden spent decades as either the chair or ranking minority member, depending on which party was in the majority, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Violence Against Women Act, for which I am ever grateful, was created in his office despite some Republican resistance to it, and he helped to save the Bosnian Muslims from genocide, along with a long list of other accomplishments.

Eastwood did say one thing that I agree with. “If someone isn’t doing the job, we have to let them go.” The problem I have with his logic is that if you clear away all of the vile rhetoric and pathological lies that bubbled forth from him, Romney, Ryan and a bevy of lesser trash-talkers, he might see that indeed President Obama has done a good solid job despite the Republicans' mission, which is expressed in a Republican TV commercial that cherry-picks some promises that the candidate Barack Obama made and has not yet been able to fulfill. As I watched, it occurred to me that if I were working for the campaign, I would make a series of counter ads that each featured one of those "promises" followed by a clip of Mitch McConnell saying "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Too bad Republicans no longer believe in the single most important thing Obama wanted to achieve, which was to serve the people of the United States of America, unfettered. Maybe President Obama hasn’t done everything he said he’d do, but unlike McConnell’s and Eastwood’s compadre GWB, he didn’t start two inexcusable, unnecessary, unjustifiable wars, destroy the economy, deny science in favor of religion, and revive a thriving disconnect between those who think America belongs to the rich and the rest of us. And so, because you disappoint me Mr. Eastwood (may I call you Clint?), I have to let you go.

What You Can Do:

Please sign this petition to have fact checkers at the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates:
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  2. If the two conventions that just passed were to reflect the way each one of the parties were to run the country who to vote for would be an easy choice