WAPO FACT-CHECKER: Obama’s 40 Percent No-Background-Check Claim Isn’t True, But We’ll Suspend Judgment. And it’s all the NRA’s fault anyway.
Related item from Tom Maguire.
WAPO FACT-CHECKER: Obama’s 40 Percent No-Background-Check Claim Isn’t True, But We’ll Suspend Judgment. And it’s all the NRA’s fault anyway.
Related item from Tom Maguire.
POLITIFACT, WRONG? THERE’S A SHOCK. Mike Riggs: Dear Politifact: Your Analysis of Obama’s Drug War Record Is Factually Wrong.
JONATHAN ADLER: When “Fact-Checkers” Have Problems With Facts.
Media fact checkers not only have a problem characterizing matters upon which reasonable people can disagree as questions of “fact,” they also have problems with facts. So, for instance, ABC’s fact checkers labeled indisputably true statements about energy production on federal lands as “not quite true.” Romney claimed that oil and gas production on federal land is down, even if overall domestic production is up. His statement was true. If ABC had sought to provide critical context for Romney’s remarks, it could have noted that marginal changes in domestic oil production have relatively little effect on retail gasoline prices, or that there’s little any President can do to lower gasoline prices in the short-to-medium term (other than, say, playing with the strategic petroleum reserve). Such commentary would have provided voters with information they could use to assess the relevance of Romney’s claims. Instead, ABC claimed Romney’s literally true statements were “not quite true.”
Another example of fact checkers having trouble with facts can be found in Politifact’s commentary on whether it was fair for President Obama to criticize Mitt Romney for failing to say whether he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In making its assessment Politifact totally bungled its description of the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., and in the process perpetuated a false claim about the decision oft repeated in political debate (including by Lilly Ledbetter herself).
It’s as if they’re really just a Democratic spin operation run out of media offices or something. “The bottom line is that if we can’t trust fact checkers to get their own facts right, how can we trust them to judge anyone else’s?”
EVEN LEFT-LEANING POLITIFACT SCORES IT “TRUE:” Reince Priebus says Mitt Romney ‘gave away his father’s inheritance.’
IS “POLITIFACT” MORE LIKE POLITIFICTION? It’s clear that the various “fact-checking” sites have squandered their reputation as honest brokers through repetitive partisanship.
HEY, GUESS WHAT POLITIFACT CALLS TRUE? Wonder why the press hasn’t picked up on this story more?
THEY’RE EVENHANDED, EXCEPT FOR THE HAND WITH THE THUMB ON THE SCALE: Is PolitiFact campaigning for Obama?
FACTCHECKING THE FACTCHECKERS: GOP truth squad targets bias in national PolitiFact units.
Well, Politifact Tennessee’s light-bulb debut wasn’t exactly brilliant.
JIM TREACHER: There are actual facts, and then there are PolitiFacts.
MATTHEW HOY: GOP Pledge-O-Meter: Promise Kept. “I’ve got a journalism degree. I’ve got a Pulitzer Prize on my shelf. I know how to fill out forms. So, on April 12, for the first time since I was a wee little reporter at The Lompoc Record, I filed a FOIA with the Air Force.” Plus this:
But this is only a little bit about Speaker Boehner and his promise. This is more about Politifact, which continues to tout its 2009 Pulitzer three years later. If you look back at the genesis of Boehner’s promise in the Pelosi scandal… If you look back and see how that malfeasance was uncovered… If you want to verify it’s not happening again…
You file a FOIA.
You don’t leave it to some guy in his pajamas to do it for you. [Clarification: I'm actually wearing jeans and a T-shirt.]
PolitiFact has been pretty sad this election cycle.
THE “OUTRAGEOUS LOOPHOLE” that let Scott Walker ”operate in lawless fashion”? Funny, when what you’re calling “lawless” is, well… a law.
“It’s offensive to say it’s a loophole. It’s a clear statute,” said Mike Wittenwyler, a Madison political law attorney. “If that’s a loophole, then the entire state statutes are a loophole.”
#POLITIFACTFAIL: “Although the heart of PolitiFact is the Truth-O-Meter, which they use to rate factual claims. author Louis Jacobson assigned no rating to the seemingly straightforward question of whether Obama ate dog.” That’s because they’d have to rate it “True,” and they don’t like to do that for things that might make Obama look bad. Plus this: “That this supposed Ministry of Truth is biased is not exactly news. A prior study by the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs found PolitiFact harbored a large bias against Republicans. But their double-standard is usually not so obvious and easily exposed.”
UPDATE: More on PolitiFact’s hackery:
The president ate dog when he lived in Indonesia, or at least there’s a passage in his book that says he did. It turns out, eating dog is not a common custom in Indonesia. You have to go out of your way to fetch a Scooby snack. A genuinely inquisitive media might whistle up a question or two to bring this question to heel.
This whole dog-eared story is a can of worms for Obama now. For PolitiFact, Barack Bites Dog represents a nasty dilemma: Rule “True” and confirm that POTUS ate Chow Chow Mein, rule “False” and suggest that he either embellished or didn’t even write his own book. Rule somewhere in between and you just muddy up the water bowl. So PolitiFact put its tail between its legs and didn’t chew on the Truth-O-Meter at all.
Politifact=Lapdog. Be careful guys. You don’t want to look too tasty . . . .
HARVARD LAWPROF EINER ELHAUGE EMAILS A LINK TO HIS PIECE IN THE NEW REPUBLIC: If Health Insurance Mandates Are Unconstitutional, Why Did the Founding Fathers Back Them? But I don’t find it as convincing has he does. He cites two “mandates” — the Militia Act of 1792 and a requirement that ship owners insure their seamen’s health.
The Militia Act argument doesn’t work at all. First, as Elhauge admits, it’s justifiable under the Militia Clause, not the Commerce Clause. The Militia Clause empowers Congress to provide for arming, training, and disciplining the militia, and the cash-strapped first Congress chose to “provide for” arming them by requiring adult males to own guns. This method of arming the miltia existed under the common law and, indeed, in Anglo-Saxon history going back at least as far as the seventh century, so it was hardly a stretch.
At any rate, Elhauge sets up something of a straw man here: “This precedent (like the others) disproves the challengers’ claim that the framers had some general unspoken understanding against purchase mandates.” I don’t think the Framers had so much a general unspoken understanding against purchase mandates, as a general — spoken — understanding that Congress’s powers should be “few and defined.”
As for the seamen, I’m not sure — but I seem to recall Charlie Black rooting that in the Admiralty power, and that would make sense, as the obligation of shipowners to provide “maintenance and cure” for their seamen was a part of Admiralty law and an obligation that also predated the Constitution. There is certainly no question that the Congress and the courts could do things under Admiralty that could not be done via the commerce power. But even under the commerce clause, it seems clear that seamen are already in commerce and so are the owners of the ships they sail on. This doesn’t apply at all to the health-insurance mandate, unless your argument is that everyone in America, just by living, is already in commerce, which of course removes any suggestion that Congress’s powers are limited. This, I believe, is what troubled the Justices at oral argument.
Anyway, read the whole thing and make up your own mind, but this does not seem to me to be nearly as strong an argument as Elhauge thinks it is.
UPDATE: Reader Andrew Simpson writes:
While I agree with you about the Admiralty grounds as the source of constitutional authority for Congress’s treatment of merchant seamen, there is a more fundamental flaw in Professor Elhauge’s analysis. You would think (well actually, you probably know better) that The New Republic would have exercised some editorial fact checking before they printed the claims made by Professor Elhauge. The fact that he does not provide a citation for the statutes he is referencing should have been a huge red flag for any competent editor.
The 1790 Act required ships of 150 or more tons belonging to US citizens to be equipped with a medicine chest. So, it did not require ship owners to “buy medical insurance for their seamen” as Professor Elhauge claims. You can find the Act here.
The 1798 Act did not require “seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves” as Professor Elhauge claims. It taxed seamen, required ship owners to collect the tax, and then gave seamen access to medical programs that the tax funded. You can read that Act here.
Eugene Volokh fisked the 1798 Act claim pretty thoroughly here.
One last comment: Between Harvard Law graduate Obama’s knowledge of constitutional law and Harvard Law professor Elhauge’s poor legal research/analytical skills, I’m beginning to really doubt the value of a Harvard Law education.
Well, it’s advocacy, not scholarship, and presented as such. Meanwhile, Randy Barnett is also less than impressed with Elhauge’s argument.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Eugene Volokh emails to note that the Fisking above is by Dave Kopel, not by him.
MORE: Elhauge emails:
Some have suggested that federal medical insurance mandates are distinguishable because they reflect Congress’ power to enact maritime law rather than to regulate commerce. However, Article I of the Constitution has no maritime clause that gives Congress the power to enact maritime statutes. Instead, the early Supreme Court cases all held that Congress had power to enact maritime law because of the Commerce Clause, and that further stated that it was under this commerce clause power that Congress had enacted statutes that determined “the rights and duties of seamen” and “the limitations of the responsibility of shipowners.” The Lottawanna, 88 U.S. 558, 577 (1875); see also The Daniel Ball, 77 U.S. 557, 564 (1871)(the fact that waters are navigable means “it forms a continued highway for commerce, both with other States and with foreign countries, and is thus brought under the direct control of Congress in the exercise of its commercial power. That power authorizes all appropriate legislation for the protection or advancement of either interstate or foreign commerce …”); Gilman v. Philadelphia, 70 U.S. 713, 717 (1865); Providence & N.Y. S.S. Co. v. Hill Mfg. Co., 109 U.S. 578, 589 (1883).
Later cases held that, in addition to Congress’s power to enact maritime law under the commerce clause, Congress also had power to go beyond this to modify any judicial maritime common law, on the notion that such Congressional power is necessary and proper to regulate judge’s Article III power to decide maritime cases. See In re Garnett, 141 U.S. 1, 12, 14 (1891); Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205, 214-215 (1917); Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 55 n.18 (1932). But these later cases do not alter the fact that the early federal maritime statutes were based on the Commerce Clause and that this commerce clause power was understood to be what allowed Congress to determine the duties of shipowners and seamen. Further, while these later cases allow Congress to also modify judicial maritime common law, that common law power was to adjudicate maritime disputes and thus do not seem to fit statutes that imposed affirmative regulatory duties to provide insurance, which has nothing to do with maritime common law. In any event, even if one thought these early federal insurance mandates could also be based on the necessary and proper clause, these early insurance mandates still show these laws were “proper” and thus rebut the challenger’s claim that the current insurance mandate fails the “proper” part of the necessary and proper clause.
I’m still not persuaded, because — as mentioned above — ships (and seamen?) are instrumentalities of commerce, and I don’t think you can translate this to ordinary citizens without violating the “non-infinity principle.”
STILL MORE: Einer Elhauge emails:
I have responded to Randy Barnett’s critique, and my analysis also rebuts your similar claim that the ships and seamen examples are different because they are in commerce. See Link.
Andrew Simpson claims the statutes did not provide what I stated. My claims have already been vetted and confirmed to be accurate by the independent PolitiFact, which quote the relevant provisions.
My response to the Volokh critique that my third example involved a tax rather than a mandate can be found at the end of this post.
Noted. I have to say, though, that the PolitFact rendering isn’t at all persuasive. But there’s a reason why PolitiFact’s brand has suffered. In this case, PolitiFact merely reiterates the statutes and says they sound like mandatory health insurance to it.
INSTAVISION: Catherine Crier Is Afraid That We Are Losing Our Democracy. She has a book out: Patriot Acts: What Americans Must Do to Save the Republic.
I have to say, I don’t agree with her at all about Citizens United, and I think that if you’re worried about corporate entanglement in politics you need to look at how thoroughly the corporate media have been in the tank for Democrats over the past several election cycles, from RatherGate to the latest PolitiFact scandal.
“I hope you will agree that this rating was inappropriate and that the piece does not reflect the journalistic standards to which your organization intends to hold itself. Please retract the piece and issue a correction as soon as possible,” Romney adviser Lanhee Chen wrote in a letter obtained by The Huffington Post.
Chen wrote to PolitiFact that their “analysis in this instance was so inadequate that the piece ended up being little more than Obama for Americaspin.”
PolitiFact is headed by Bill Adair, Washington Bureau Chief for the Tampa Bay Times, and the item in question was edited by by Martha M. Hamilton, a former reporter and editor at the Washington Post.
Chen’s letter is a detailed and lengthy take down of PolitiFact’s analysis. He said that PolitiFact has in the past given credit to President Reagan for jobs gained from the beginning of his presidency to the end, and so their judgment that it was inaccurate to measure job losses from Obama’s first month in office was inconsistent.
Chen also took issue with the context, cited by PolitiFact, that men had lost the majority of jobs cut in the economy in the year before Obama took office. Because of this, PolitiFact declared that the Romney claim was “misleading.”
But Chen wrote: “Why should it matter that men had already lost millions of jobs? Was it now women’s ‘turn’? Is this part of the President’s conception of ‘fairness’ that he talks about so frequently?”
And Chen went after the two “experts” cited by PolitiFact in their article, Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution and Betsey Stevenson of Princeton University.
“As you may or may not know, Gary Burtless has already donated twice to President Obama’s campaign this cycle,” Chen wrote. “Much more inexplicably, Bestey [sic] Stevenson, who you identify simply as ‘a business and public policy professor at Princeton University,’ was until recently the chief economist for Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.”
That’s going to leave a mark. And don’t miss Ann Althouse’s PolitiFact takedown. PolitiFact has been a joke all along — more like a DNC spin operation than any sort of media watchdog. But this one — your number’s entirely accurate but we’re going to rate your comments as mostly false because they make Obama look bad — is just pathetic, even by PolitiFact’s low standards.
From the comments: “They’re too embarrassed to have a ‘true but damaging to our preferred candidate’ category.”
UPDATE: Reader Myk Zagorac writes:
Check out the grade they gave to Obama’s oil production claims here where they end with the bit “The suggestion of the ad, however, overstates the administration’s role in achieving these results. Much of the increase in production during under Obama has come from state and private lands that the president does not control.”. Yet they gave that claim a “mostly true” rating. How hypocritical!
Hacks. And another reader emails:
Not an unusual phenomenon lately. Take a look at what the did to Governor McDonnell. Half true after they say “he’s right on the numbers”
“McDonnell said Republican governors head seven out of 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates, providing proof that the GOP has a better record on jobs than Democrats.
He’s right on the numbers, but on shaky ground when he insists Republican stewardship has brought those results.”
It’s like they’re determined to make Democrats look good and Republicans look bad or something.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Prof. Stephen Clark writes: “Perhaps it should instead be called Politiflack.”
SOMEBODY ASK OBAMA HOW HE FEELS ABOUT THE COURTS OVERTURNING this democratically passed law.
UPDATE: No cover from PolitiFact: Obama Twice Wrong On Supreme Court.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Presser: Obama should know better on Supreme Court’s role. Actually, I think he does.
MORE: John Fund: President Petulant. Key quote: “Obama’s inner community organizer seems to be winning out over the law professor.”
IF YOUR FACEBOOK FRIENDS HAVE BEEN SHARING THIS DUMB CHART, YOU MIGHT WANT TO PASS THIS ON: A bogus chart on Obama and the debt gets a new lease on life. I’ve noticed it reappearing lately. From the WaPo:
This chart, originally created by the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is as phony as a three-dollar bill. Our friends at PolitiFact did a pretty thorough takedown of it in May, giving it their worst rating: “pants on fire.” They even caught the Pelosi people in a bad mathematical error, based on the fact that the Democrats calculated the numbers as if Obama took office a year later than he did.
But it still circulates. Note: If you’re passing this on, you can’t make fun of birthers. . . .
PUSHBACK: Lawmaker proposes measure to exempt Va. from incandescent light bulb phase-out. “Marshall is not alone in resisting the federal mandate to convert to CFLs and halogen lights, which also are more energy efficient than standard bulbs. Seven other states have legislation pending to deal with the issue, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and a Texas law took effect this month stating that incandescent bulbs manufactured in the state are not subject to federal law or regulations.”
Here’s a story on the phaseout. “$25 for a lightbulb? Yep. It may be hard to swallow, but the investment will pay off down the road.”
And although the phaseout is underway, it’s still not too late to stock up. Quite.
MORE ON the problems with PolitiFact.
JAMES TARANTO JOINS THOSE FACT-CHECKING POLITIFACT TENNESSEE:
Halogen bulbs are fine; we have several of them in fixtures in our apartment. We even have a few of the dreaded compact fluorescents, but only in the kitchen and one desk lamp. But we like traditional incandescents and have stockpiled enough of them to last the rest of our life.
The choice to purchase them is now gone, or will be, as even PolitiFact acknowledges, when “supplies run out.” By PolitiFact’s logic, people who think abortion should be outlawed are pro-choice because they would allow other choices (childbirth, adoption, avoiding pregnancy via abstinence or contraception).
Like PolitiFact, abortion opponents favor laws taking away choices they don’t think are worth having. You can agree or not, but that’s a matter of opinion, not fact.
Well said. And it’s not (quite) too late to stock up — until supplies run out.
I MENTIONED POLITIFACT TENNESSEE EARLIER, and reader Tony Lynch isn’t impressed:
Jeez- Tennessee Politifact agrees the light bulb most Americans currently use will not be available after existing supplies are sold out. Yet it rates Marsha Blackburn’s claim that the law reduces our choices “mostly false”!! Are they trying to compete with The Onion?
Yeah, they blew it on that one. The fact that you remain free to choose the bulbs the government approves of doesn’t make Blackburn’s statement that the government is taking away consumer choice by banning incandescent bulbs even a little bit false.
Meanwhile, you can still get ‘em on Amazon, until they run out.
JUST OUT: PolitiFact Tennessee.
JAMES TARANTO (HE’S BACK!) Bad-Faith Journalism. “Regardless of PolitiFact’s motives, by practicing a style of journalism that centers on baselessly impugning the motives of others, it has managed to earn distrust across the political spectrum.”
MONORAIL . . . MONORAIL . . . MONORAIL! “What about us brain-dead slobs?” “You’ll all be given cushy jobs!”
MORE ON THAT 80% CLAIM: Hi, I’m Barack Obama, and I Just Make Stats Up Out of Nothing.
UPDATE: Reader Michael Harlow writes: “I dare PolitiFact to rate that one!”
MICKEY KAUS wants to kill off PolitiFact.
PROFESSOR JACOBSON: PolitiFact Has A Serious Problem, But I Repeat Myself.
MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL: No, Rachel Maddow, Wisconsin is not running a budget surplus this year. “Our conclusion: Maddow and the others are wrong. There is, indeed, a projected deficit that required attention, and Walker and GOP lawmakers did not create it.”
It’s like the people at MSNBC just make stuff up.
POLITIFACT TO OBAMA: YOU LIE! “During his Super Bowl pregame interview with Bill O’Reilly, President Obama flatly declared that he has not raised taxes as president. PolitiFact flatly declares that statement to be false.”
JAMES TARANTO: “Death Panels” Revisited: How Sarah Palin helped defeat ObamaCare’s deceptive advertising. “Obama ran for office on opposition to the individual mandate, then made it the centerpiece of his signature legislative initiative. Perhaps this should have been ‘lie of the year.’ At PolitiFact.com, it wasn’t even a runner-up.”
That’s because PolitiFact has mostly been about PoliticalCover.
DON SURBER WONDERS IF PolitiFact will weigh in on Steve Cohen’s charges.
POLITIFACT: Score One Promise Kept In The House.
MORE FLAK FOR POLITIFACT over its big lie of the year. “Somehow when picking their lie of the year, Politifact settled on a minority party exaggeration with elements of truth—and managed to ignore the near-continuous stream of full-blooded whoppers coming from the folks actually running things.”
WALL STREET JOURNAL: PolitiFact peddling “PolitiFiction.” “PolitiFact wants to define for everyone else what qualifies as a ‘fact,’ though in political debates the facts are often legitimately in dispute.”
POLITIFACT’S BIGGEST LIE: “PolitiFact exists largely as an attempt to deligitimize certain political opinions. We now know which political opinion most bothered the establishment in 2010. That is a valuable service to everyone.”
DON SURBER: “PolitiFact Lied.”
MARK HEMINGWAY: Just A Reminder: “Politifact” Is Often More Politics Than Facts.
MICHAEL SILENCE THINKS POLITIFACT is playing games with Obama’s promises. See the updates.
I can see both sides of this, but it certainly adds to the perception that Big Media folks are bending over backwards to cut him slack. Or, you know, just bending over . . . .
MICHAEL SILENCE: Obama Has Already Raised Taxes.
UPDATE: A commenter at Silence’s place says Politifact has backed off that claim.
FACT-CHECKING MIKE HUCKABEE: Shockingly, it turns out that most signers of the Declaration of Independence weren’t clergymen, as he claimed. What could he be thinking? How could anyone who knows anything about the signers of the Declaration of Independence think that?
I haven’t looked at the video to see if maybe he misspoke or was misquoted, but the sheer absurdity of this statement would argue in favor of that. Or, alternatively, in favor of voting for someone who knows something about the basics of American history. (Via The Corner).