It occurs to me that two of the developments of the last 24 hours or so — the new NRCC ad hitting Dems from the left on Medicare, and Mitt Romney’s constant claim that Obama made the recession “worse” — are related.
First, let me direct you to two good posts on these topics. Here’s Dave Weigel on the new NRCC ad attacking Dems for having the “most extreme” Medicare plan, i.e., no plan at all, which guarantees Medicare will eventually go bankrupt. Weigel makes the incredibly controversial argument that one side is acting in bad faith, and the other isn’t:
This isn’t a new story, but the amount of bad faith on display in the Medicare debate is breathtaking. And it really is on one side. Democrats attack Republicans over their version of Medicare reform because they want to keep the existing system as a guaranteed entitlement. Republicans attack Democrats over their Medicare reform because it’s politically dangerous to be the party that takes away guaranteed Medicare spending.
And here’s Steve Benen, offering some very simple advice to reporters on how to fact check Romney’s repeated claim that Obama made the recession “worse”:
Let me make this easy for Romney and the reporters who cover his campaign. It’s a surprisingly straightforward exercise, consisting of two short questions:
1. When Obama took office, the economy was shrinking. Now it’s growing. In what way is that “worse”?
2. When Obama took office, the economy was hemorrhaging jobs. Now it’s gaining jobs. In what way is that “worse”?
I hope every reporter covering the Romney campaign reads Benen’s post.
The connection here is that in both these cases, the claims that are being made can be empirically evaluated by those who are reporting on them. Yet that just isn’t happening. The NRCC claims Dems don’t have a plan on Medicare. Romney claims Obama made the recession “worse.” These statements can be judged to be true or false. Yet only a few die-hard fact checkers are digging into these claims. The result is that the vast, vast majority of people who read these assertions in their newspapers or hear them being made on their TVs aren’t being given any meaningful way of evaluating them, and the waters get muddier and muddier. I know this is an old story, and that I’m not making a particularly original point, but it’s just depressing to see it reassert itself so early in the cycle.