Monday, January 18, 2016

Truthiness in American Political Theatre Part I - Trump, Cruz and Rubio

As most of us are (or should be) aware, politicians are quite capable of spouting "facts" to back their stances on various issues, particularly during campaign season.  A very interesting website, PolitiFact, checks and rates the accuracy of claims made by American politicians.  PolitiFact is operated by the editors and reporters of the Tampa Bay Times, a Florida independent newspaper.  Staff at PolitiFact research statements and claims made by politicians and ranks their accuracy on their "Truth-o Meter" ranking from True to False with the most egregious and erroneous statements receiving their "Pants on Fire" ranking as shown here:

"TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.

HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

MOSTLY FALSE – The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim."

To help them assess the plethora of political statements, they use the following criteria:

"Is the statement rooted in a fact that is verifiable? PolitiFact doesn't check opinions, and recognize that in the world of speechmaking and political rhetoric, there is license for hyperbole.

Is the statement leaving a particular impression that may be misleading?

Is the statement significant? PolitiFact avoids minor "gotchas" on claims that obviously represent a slip of the tongue.

Is the statement likely to be passed on and repeated by others?
Would a typical person hear or read the statement and wonder: Is that true?"

For the purposes of this posting, I would like to take a look at the overall ratings for the top three contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nominee (according to Real Clear Politics), Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Let's start with Donald Trump:

Here's an example of one of his "Pants on Fire" statements that is gleaned from his first television ad of the 2016 cycle:

That video of people flooding toward a wall that appears at the 21 second mark when the "Stop Illegal Immigration " text appears is not located along the U.S. - Mexican border, rather, it is located in Morocco and shows migrants crossing the border into Melilla, one of two Spanish enclaves on the Moroccan coast, located 5000 miles from the United States as shown here

Now, let's look at Ted Cruz's record:

Here's an example of one of his "Pants on Fire" statements on Chuck Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense from his op-ed piece on Politico in 2013:

"Hagel’s nomination has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government — surely an occurrence without precedent for a nominee for secretary of Defense. And Iran’s belief that Hagel will not stand against their acquiring nuclear weapons capacity makes it more likely they will charge ahead, which makes it more likely the United States will be drawn into military combat." (my bold)

Here's what was actually reported by Iran's Fars News Agency:

We hope that the U.S. officials will favor peace instead of warmongering and recognize the rights of nations instead of interfering in the countries’ internal affairs. If such a trend is adopted (by the American officials), hatred for the U.S. hostile policies will decrease, although, that assessment only can be made in action."

Other experts stated that Iran's response to Hagel's nomination was far from "celebratory".

Lastly, let's look at Marco Rubio's track record:

Here's an example of one of his more interesting "Pants on Fire" statements from his 2013 FoxNews op-ed pieces:

"If you are a small business with about 47, 48 or 49 employees and you want to hire more people, ObamaCare encourages you to hold back on hiring new workers or cut the hours of existing ones so that you don’t reach 50 employees. That is why 75% of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours." (my bold)

Marco Rubio sources his 75 percent claim from a survey released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its quarterly Small Business Outlook Study.  The survey polls 1300 small businesses with fewer than 500 employees and with annual revenue of less than $25 million.  The actual results of the study showed that, of all small businesses, only 5 to 9 percent would either cut back hours or replace full-time workers in response to the Obamacare changes.  If you are interested in the details of Mr. Rubio's erroneous assessment of the survey, please click here.

As we can quite clearly see, among the top three GOP presidential candidates, according to PolitiFact, Donald Trump's statements are least likely to be truthful while Marco Rubio's are most likely to be at least half true or better.  In total, Donald Trump's statements are likely to be Mostly False or worse 77 percent of the time, Ted Cruz's statements are likely to be Mostly False or worse 66 percent of the time and Marco Rubio's statements are likely to be Mostly False or worse 41 percent of the time.  On the truth side of the spectrum, Donald Trump's statements are likely to be Mostly True or better only 7 percent of the time, Ted Cruz's statements are likely to be Mostly True or better 22 percent of the time and Marco Rubio's statements are likely to be Mostly True or better 37 percent of the time.      

I think that's enough for this posting.  Unfortunately, in politics, what passes as the "truth" is fluid and public perception, whether misguided or not, often becomes the "truth".  In the next part of this posting, I will take a look at the "truthiness" of the two main Democrat presidential candidates; Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

1 comment:

  1. We are all in trouble, this is the worst bunch of candidates on either side I can remember.