Monday, August 25, 2014

Unearthing a truth PolitiFact buried,


We've often reminded readers that we only scratch the surface of PolitiFact's mountain of journalistic malfeasance. Reminding us of that point, we have an item from way back on Sept 15, 2009, when PolitiFact was still connected to Congressional Quarterly.

The issue? Economist Thomas Sowell wrote that President Obama let the economic stimulus bill sit on Obama's desk for three days before the president signed it.

In a recent column in Investor's Business Daily, economist and political commentator Thomas Sowell said that President Barack Obama was trying to rush his health care bill through Congress. Sowell cited the quick passage of the economic stimulus bill in February 2009 as proof that Obama is too hasty in passing major legislation.

Sowell wrote that "the administration was successful in rushing a massive spending bill through Congress in just two days — after which it sat on the president's desk for three days, while he was away on vacation."
In truth, Sowell wasn't trying to prove Obama was too hasty in passing major legislation. He was arguing Obama passes legislation hastily when there's no apparent reason to rush the legislation.

"Allow five days of public comment before signing bills"

A PolitiFact item from earlier that same year, on January 29, 2009, helps provide some context for Sowell's complaint:
"Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them," Obama's campaign Web site states . "As president, Obama will not sign any nonemergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House Web site for five days."

But the first bill Obama signed into law as president — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — got no such vetting.
So, Obama promised he would wait at least five days before signing non-emergency legislation.  The three-day wait for the stimulus bill implies it qualified as an emergency bill. But not such an emergency that Obama couldn't wait a few days before signing it.

The key to PolitiFact's argument? The ultra-literal reading of "sat on the president's desk." In PolitiFact's judgment, since the bill wasn't literally sitting on the desk waiting for the president's signature therefore the case won't support Sowell's point.

Sowell expresses his point:
The only reasonable alternative seems to be that he wanted to get this massive government takeover of medical care passed into law before the public understood what was in it.

Moreover, he wanted to get re-elected in 2012 before the public experienced what its actual consequences would be.

Unfortunately, this way of doing things is all too typical of the way this administration has acted on a wide range of issues.
The example using the stimulus bill followed. Sowell points out spending from the stimulus bill took place over an extended period, making a joke of the notion the stimulus was intended as a strong short-term Keynesian stimulus.

Sowell's point with his example remains: If the stimulus bill was an emergency, then why not sign it as soon as possible?

How did PolitiFact miss Sowell's point? Maybe PolitiFact wasn't interested in Sowell's point. How did PolitiFact miss the context of President Obama ignoring his broken pledge of transparency on legislative action? Maybe PolitiFact wasn't interested in that context.

Correction 8-25-2014:  Referred to the Affordable Care Act in one instance where the stimulus bill was intended.

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