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Pinning down political facts

The Oct. 6 front-page article “Report deprives Romney of a magic number” unfortunately played into the apocryphal claim that President Obama promised that the unemployment rate would not go above 8 percent if his stimulus was put into place. He never made that promise.

The article gave short shrift to the disclaimers in Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein’s economic report, where the 8 percent figure originated, stating simply that the report had “caveats.” The article failed to note that the crucial caveats included, first, a warning that the data on which the report relied did not include the final quarter of George W. Bush’s presidency, which was unavailable at the time, and, second, the awareness that the unknown data might significantly change the projections.

Furthermore, the article’s assertion that the Obama team “had not understood” the economic debacle Bush left implies a misreading of the state of the economy. Obama’s circle had not “understood” that sad legacy because it was unknowable, since the crucial data from that legacy did not yet exist.

Skeptics might ask themselves: If the Republicans actually had a video of Barack Obama promising that the unemployment rate would not exceed 8 percent, wouldn’t they be plastering that video nonstop on commercials nationwide?

Steven Rebarber, Bethesda

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Glenn Kessler’s Oct. 7 Fact Checker column [“Is Obama correct in his assertion that tax cuts, ‘trickle-down policies’ led to the economic crisis?”] assessed two Obama campaign ads that slam “trickle-down policies” proposed by Mitt Romney as the same policies that led to the economic crisis. Since not enough facts are in the ads, Kessler researched, opined and inferred the meaning of words in the ads such as “led,” “trickle-down,” “crisis” and “policies.”

Although I don’t think Kessler reached unreasonable conclusions as to the meanings of these words, I disagree with some of them — particularly for “trickle-down policies,” which I think include several policy sets that increase wealth and income disparity. His analysis followed such a tortured path, focusing on broad, ambiguous and even ideological terms, that he should have abandoned it as “too hard” before assigning three Pinocchios.

This is not to say that the ads’ claims cannot be disputed, as they surely are by those from the opposite governing ideology. But the Fact Checker should stick to assessing stated facts that can be readily verified.

Jay Fadgen, Falls Church

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