Thursday, January 26, 2012

Trying to Ignore the State of the Union Address Because That’s What the Public Will Do A Day After It Was Given

But the Washington Post’s Fact Checker Has to Make His Partisan Points

The State of the Union Address has become something that must be endured, because it is largely irrelevant, like the People’s Choice Awards Show, but something that is thrust upon us every year.  This year was no exception, and as soon as the next issue in national and international affairs comes up the State of the Union speech will be largely forgotten.

It is impossible to leave the issue though without commenting on how the Fact Checker at the Washington Post has used his position to attack the President.  Unbiased Fact Checkers provide a useful function, but lack of bias in a Fact Checker is very difficult.  In order to try to be seen as fair, a Fact Checker has to be seen as critiquing each side, even if one side has not engaged in very much political hyperbole.

Furthermore in the case of the Washington Post, which is trying to curry favor with Republicans and Conservatives, their Fact Checker must criticize Mr. Obama even when there is no basis for that criticism.  So the Fact Checker takes the form of the “yes that is true but . . .” structure to create the false impression that something the President said that was true really was not true.

Consider these comments from the WaPo Fact Checker on the State of the Union Address.

“For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. . . .

The killing of bin Laden, which Obama used to open and close his speech, is an achievement that few partisans would quibble with. But the story about Iraq and Afghanistan is much more muddled.

Yes, U.S. troops have left Iraq, in part because the Obama administration was unwilling or unable — take your pick — to extend a security agreement with Iraq. Since the U.S. departure, Iraq has descended into violence as the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has targeted Sunni opposition figures. The country at times appears to teeter on the edge of a new outbreak of sectarian violence.

Notice what is going on here.  The President made the entirely true statement that there are now no longer Americans fighting in Iraq.  But this simple truth cannot be allowed to stand by the Fact Checker, it might cast a positive light on Mr. Obama, so he brings up true but unrelated events.  A simple admission that, yes, it is true that Americans are no longer fighting in Iraq is beyond him.

On the economy we have this parroting of Republican talking points.

As Obama noted, some 4 million jobs were lost at the start of his administration, putting him in a deep hole if he wants to show positive job growth in his presidency. But the nearly $1 trillion stimulus was passed into law in February, and so the carefully phrased claim of “we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect” is a stretch. . . .

Trying to change the focus from his overall job-creation record, the president focuses on private-sector jobs created since the recession ended. Those numbers are largely right, but they are relatively anemic given the depths of the recession. (Note that he describes a loss of 8 million jobs and then mentions a gain of only three million.)

The Fact Checker, apparently totally ignorant of the principles of economics holds Mr. Obama accountable for job losses that occurred after he took office but before the Stimulus spending took full effect.  And when he does say the President was right, he has to qualify it with his own ignorant value judgment.  As for the focusing on private sector jobs, does anyone except the partisan Fact Checker believe the President is responsible for state and local governments cutting employment, particularly when the Stimulus package included money to prevent even more cuts.

The rest of it is pretty much the same, a Fact Check process that finds what the President said is correct, but . . .

Oh, as is now traditional, there was a Republican response to the President’s address.  Any Fact Checking on that?  No.   Didn’t think so, wouldn’t be fair.

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