Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Truthiness in American Political Theatre Part II - Clinton and Sanders

As I posted here, thanks to the editors and reporters at the Tampa Bay Times and their PolitiFact website, American voters have a quick way to assess the veracity of the "facts" that they are being fed by politicians at all levels of government and, in particular, the current crop of presidential candidates for both parties.  In this posting, I will take a look at the "truthiness track record" of the two key Democratic candidates for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  For fun, I will throw in the "truthiness" of another former candidate for president so you can compare his track record to the track record for those who desire to replace him.

Let's start with a bit of background.  Here is how PolitiFact assesses the statements made by politicians:

"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?"

Here's how they rank the "truthiness" of the statements and claims:

"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."data-blogger-escaped-comment-EndFragment

Let's get to the point of this posting; the "truthiness" of Hillary Clinton and her rival, Bernie Sanders.

Here is Hillary Clinton's track record:

Here's one of her more egregious "truth-stretchers" that she recalled about a trip that she made to Bosnia with her husband, President Bill Clinton, in 1996:

"I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

Here's the video of her speech given at George Washington University:

Here's what CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson had to say about her impressions of the landing:

"Due to the possibility of sniper fire, our pilots used what we were told are "assault take-offs and landings." In short, the climb and descent are very fast, and very steep to minimize exposure to hostile fire on the ground. 

It's exciting and frightening and, in the midst of it all, wearing our helmets and bulletproof vests, it's easy to imagine we may be narrowly escaping enemy bullets.

In reality, we had no known incidents of enemy fire on our aircraft. Mindful of the fact that we were with the First Lady, and that she was venturing farther inside Bosnia than her husband the President had ever gone, reporters kept a close eye to the crowds and never entirely went off-guard. 

However, the mood upon first landing at the Tuzla airport was light. Children were there on the tarmac to greet the first lady, Chelsea was by her side, Bosnian dignitaries had gathered: It felt safe."

Here's what Ms. Clinton's spokesman, Howard Wolfson, had to say about Ms. Clinton's recollection:

"Now, is it possible that in the most recent instance in which she discussed this that she misspoke, with regards to the exit from the plane, but there's no question that I hope everyone is clear about this in the reporting, there is no question if you look at these contemporaneous accounts that she was going to a potential combat zone, that it was by the front lines and the first person since Eleanore Roosevelt to do that and she was going into a hostile military environment."

Here is Bernie Sanders' track record:

Since he has no comments that earned a "Pants on Fire" ranking, here's one of his "False" statements that that was made during an interview in August 2015 on Meet the Press:

We spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country.

This is not the first time that Bernie Sanders has made this claim.  However, if we look at the facts, according to the OECD, here's what America's OECD peers are spending on per capita health care (2013 data):

While there is no doubt that the United States spends the most on health among OECD nations at $8713.3 per person, it is not double the spending of the next nation, Switzerland, which spends $6325.2 per person.

As we can see, when it comes to "truthiness", the two Democratic candidates are very nearly tied with Hillary Clinton's statements rating mostly false or worse 28 percent of the time compared to 29 percent of the time for Bernie Sanders.  On the truth side of the spectrum, Hillary Clinton's statements rate a Mostly True or better ranking 51 percent of the time compared to 53 percent for Bernie Sanders.

As I promised, to help you put the veracity of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders into perspective, here is the "truthiness" rating of President Barack Obama:

In total, 26 percent of President Obama's statements are considered to be Mostly False or worse and Mostly True or better 48 percent of the time.

As I said in Part I of this posting, truth in politics is in the eye of the beholder.  As our politicians know only too well, voters are not known for researching the statements made by politicians of both stripes, rather, they approach the concept of political "truthiness" with their preconceived notions firmly held, an approach that makes voters far more likely to believe the falsehoods that are propagated by their side of the political spectrum no matter how ridiculous they may be.


  1. Interesting the democratic side of the coin tells the truth more often then the republican side. I just hope more people feel the Bern, Hillary goes to jail and a plane crashes into the next republican debate minus. I see Sanders and Rand Paul as the only two decent candidates from this clearly broken two party system.

  2. and Hilary is an "entitled" megalomaniac.