Fact-checking, and its discontents, have been a big thing in this election cycle — it pops up mid-debate, campaigns outright disdain the concept, and the number of Pinocchios and flammable pants are more fiercely contested than ever before.
Dana Milbank’s 5,000-commented column today isolates a key, possibly unique moment so far in the campaign: when a candidate seems actually to have changed his claims based on what fact-checkers said and pundits’ willingness to call him on it.
This is not supposed to happen in the new, postmodern, passive-aggressive, ironic “in quotation marks” fact-checking of 2012. The new paradigm is that fact checkers say whether something is true or not, and everyone gets mad, and all then go about their business as before except with less respect for fact checkers, who are all clearly biased.
But look what happened in Milbank’s column: Mitt Romney said that three reports back up his prediction that he will add 12 million new jobs in four years, if elected; Glenn Kessler, The Post’s Fact Checker, gave this claim (that the studies support his assertion) four wooden puppets. But here’s the crazy part: An economist with the Romney campaign actually admitted the error! The campaign released a new statement! Aaaaand Romney changed his rhetoric, though not immediately (not in that evening’s debate).
Milbank cited a recent walk-back of the contested claim. It all warms the pig heart PostScript got surgically implanted in case something happens to the primary one. Fact-checking works, even in 2012!
Unfortunately the commenters’ various hearts are universally unwarmed. First, there is the complaint that it’s impossible to grade an economic prediction on a true/false scale.
You’ve pointed out that economics is an uncertain science. So who is Milbank to say Romney’s promises are wrong? Obama and his economic team claimed that if the stimulus was passed, the unemployment rate would never go above 8%, and of course, it did. I rather doubt Milbank remembers that, however.
No one can “prove” that a proposal will create x number or jobs. You miss the larger point. Romney’s top priority is to put policies in place to at least try to create jobs. So what if Romney’s plan only creates 11 million jobs or 10 million, or it takes four years or longer? At least he is promoting ideas that will create more jobs than Obama’s failed policies.
But Milbank and Kessler (and Romney’s adviser, Glenn Hubbard) were judging not the economic predictions but what Romney said the predictions were. The economists’ conclusions were not what Romney said they were.
Worried about creeping cynicism, PostScript went searching for heart warmth. Instead she found this:
All presidential candidates lie. Get over yourself.
Well, it’s unlikely PostScript will get over herself. Moving on.
So many so-called “reporters,” ESPECIALLY on broadcast, see their role and responsibility as being limited to simply reporting what candidates choose to say without ALSO stating, if applicable, that “The candidate once again failed to provide any explanation as to how (s)he would do this,” “This claim has been repeatedly debunked,” “other credible sources have indicated that the anticipated results would happen regardless of the candidate’s claims,” “this is inconsistent with what the candidate told the XXX group yesterday,” etc.
But, but, PostScript protests, that’s what happened right here in this article! That you are commenting on!
Jolt2 continues to go after the jugular:
You need to rely on comedians not reporters for those types of corrections. Reporters = parrots!
What, asks PostScript, makes you think Dana Milbank is a comed . . . oh, this.
PostScript sees your point. She’s fine. Its just . . . cools her pig heart a bit, that’s all. Luckily there’s a comment that makes no point at all but makes her laugh:
You know who else had a 5-point plan? Stalin.
Aw, Uncle Joe! Always there when PostScript needs a lift.