Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Monday, October 29, 2012

Who can you trust in the Presidential race?

There are several tools that a person can use to verify the truth of statements made by politicians - or PACs. One of the most unbiased sites I've found online is PolitiFact.  PolitiFact will look at a statement made by a candidate and rate the truthfulness of the statement on a scale.  The scale runs from True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire.

Now, I expect that a candidate for office might tell some half truths. After all, candidates for office are really salespeople, aren't  they?  The product they're hawking just happens to be themselves.  A good salesperson will tell you the positive aspects of a product but won't linger on the things you might not like about it, right? We see the same thing with candidates running for office.

PolitiFact has a nice feature where they've put all the rated statements from Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on individual pages and tallied up how many of each rating they earned. You can look at them by clicking the candidates name in the previous sentence as I've linked their pages.

Let's take a look at Obama's page.  72% of his rated statements received a rating of True, Mostly True and Half True. 28% were rated Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire.  Note that only 2% of his statements were rated Pants on Fire.

Now on Mitt Romney's page, we see that only 58% of his rated statements were rated True, Mostly True and Half True.  42% of his statements were rated Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire - with 9% of them receiving the Pants on Fire rating.

I was curious to know what statements received the Pants on Fire ratings for each candidate so I clicked the link next to the Pants on Fire ratio which takes me to a page showing the specific statements made by each that received this rating..

The first thing I notice on Obama's page is that Obama's ratings go back to when he ran for President the first time against John McCain.  Two of the Pants on Fire ratings are from statements made in 2008.  Another one is made in 2009, one in 2011 and the remaining 3 have occurred since January 2012.  I'll let you take a look yourself at what earned the rating but I will tell you that one of them is the statement that Romney plans to "fire" Big Bird.

On Romney's Pants on Fire page, I see he also has a rating from a statement made 2008 but the rest are from 2011 and 2012.  Many of them are repeats of the same lies. He said that America is moving away from a free market economy three times and that Obama went on an apology tour 4 times.  Someone might want to tell Mitt Romney that repeating a lie over and over again does not make it true. I'll let you take a look at the rest of them.

It's also interesting to take a look at the overall ratings for Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.  I'm quite a bit concerned to see that Ryan's evaluated statements show more Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire ratings than the True, Mostly True or Half True. I should also point out that there are fewer ratings for Ryan as he hasn't been in the national spotlight for quite as long as the others.

What I've taken away from this are several things.

  1. All politicians tell untruths at one point or another.  I think that some of them realize that they were less than honest and don't repeat the same misstatements and some seem to hunker down and repeat them over and over as if that will make them true. I'm encouraged by the former but not at all impressed by the latter.  
  2. We need to listen carefully to a candidate's statements and ask ourselves what they might be leaving out when they say something.  We need to be critical thinkers when it comes to politician's promises and statements.
  3. If it sounds too good to be true, then you should fact-check it.  It probably isn't true - or not entirely. This one should be applied to any statement made by anyone who is trying to sell something, as well.
Finally, I have to say that I feel like I'm getting more of a truthful campaign from Barack Obama and Joe Biden than I am from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Now, admittedly, I am biased as I'm a long-time Obama supporter, but I think that my opinion can be backed up by facts. Not only does it appear that the Obama campaign is more truthful, but Obama hasn't radically changed his views over the past 10 years and he doesn't waffle back and forth depending on who he is talking to.  Romney?  Not so much.


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