Friday, September 16, 2011

James Taranto: "Richard E. Coyote: The bumbling paranoia of the Obama re-election campaign."

If there were a New Coke Award for fact-checking websites the all-time champion would have to be President Obama's

Image from Twitter

The website itself has gotten much more publicity for conservative mockery than it has any actual debunking. But what does this have to do with PolitiFact?

As it turns out one of its "sources" for getting out the facts is none other than our Pulitzer-possessing pals:

Image from (with magnification added)

Being a part of Obama's quest to right the wrongs of political dishonesty is certainly a noteworthy claim. And who is PolitiFact sharing such rarefied status with? None other than those stalwarts of objectivity, Talking Points Memo and former PolitiFact source Media Matters for America. The Three Musketeers of fact-checking indeed.

AttackWatch's source list wasn't lost on the capable James Taranto, who wrote a piece about AttackWatch in the Wall Street Journal:

And the site's substance is no less marvelously mockable than its style. The "News Feed" page rebuts three "smears" by linking to exceedingly weak left-liberal defenses.

Taranto goes on to flay the MMFA and TPM "facts" with ease, and are themselves worth a read. But for our purposes we'll stick to his review of our factastic friends. Specifically, AttackWatch highlighted PolitiFact's rating of Rick Perry's claim that the stimulus "created zero jobs":

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AttackWatch sums up the key points of the PolitiFact piece:

At the most recent GOP debate, Rick Perry said President Obama “had $800 billion worth of stimulus” and “created zero jobs.”

“We say pants on fire,” reports The site refers to four independent analyses by the Congressional Budget Office and three private assessments of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to determine that anywhere between 1.3 million and 3.6 million jobs were created or saved by the stimulus—“but certainly more than zero.”

Of course, like most PolitiFact articles, there's more to story, and Taranto quickly fills in the missing details:

What both sites omit is that, as we noted Sept. 2, the way these estimates are arrived at is not by counting actual jobs--of which, as the Romney chart points out, there are actually fewer than before the stimulus--but by assuming that so-called stimulus spending created jobs. That assumption may be accurate--it is possible that, as Obama and his supporters claim, even more jobs would have been lost absent the stimulus--but these estimates do not demonstrate it.

Ah, but PolitiFact does have proof that Perry's statement was false:
We even found Billy Weston, a Florida Republican who personally credited the stimulus for his new job with a private Riviera Beach pharmaceutical manufacturer.
PolitiFact lists the various estimates, then wraps up as follows:
Note the language "created or saved," which means not every one of those more than a million jobs count [sic] as "created," as Perry said.

But certainly more than zero. Ask Billy Weston.

Perry said "the first round of stimulus . . . created zero jobs." We say Pants on Fire.
Take that, Gov. Perry! The stimulus created one job!

While being listed as a source on AttackWatch doesn't itself indicate a bias, the proximity to two unabashedly liberal outfits, as well as being considered safe enough to be listed in the first place should certainly raise eyebrows. And it's not surprising that a talented writer like Taranto so easily destroys PolitiFact's flimsy defense of the stimulus. As we've seen time and again PolitiFact's ratings simply can't stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.

The rest of Taranto's piece is well worth reading, so go do that now.

You can also check out our previous review of Taranto's work here.

Edit: Added PF/Perry rating image, and quoted AW's summary directly. 9/17/11- Jeff

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