What Fresh Hell Is This?

October 23, 2012

Yes, But Is It TRUE?

I realize the conservative paper in town has to do something to try to put the best spin on last night's awful Romney debate performance, but this piece by Mike Wereschagin and Salena Zito shows the problem with the "he said/he said" school of "objective" journalism.

In not doing any real fact checking, Mike and Salena let Romney off the hook.  Perhaps that was the point.

The wrote:
“I think (Iran’s leaders) saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength,” Romney said. He revived his charge that Obama embarked on “an apology tour” around the world.

“Nothing Gov. Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing,” Obama said.
Yes, but is it true?  They don't say.

Did the President go on an "apology tour" or not?  Nothing is gained by going "he said/he said" - those who think he did will disagree with Obama and those who think he didn't will disagree with Romney.

In reality, there was no apology tour.

From CNN:
Romney's claim is false. The president has mentioned past U.S. mistakes and flaws during speeches about the larger issues of building bridges to other countries. But he has never apologized or gone on an "apology tour."
Washington Post:
The claim that Obama repeatedly has apologized for the United States is not borne out by the facts, especially if his full quotes are viewed in context.

Obama often was trying to draw a rhetorical distinction between his policies and that of President Bush, a common practice when the presidency changes parties. The shift in policies, in fact, might have been more dramatic from Clinton to Bush than from Bush to Obama, given how Obama has largely maintained Bush's approach to fighting terrorism.

In other cases, Obama's quotes have been selectively trimmed for political purposes. Or they were not much different than sentiments expressed by Bush or his secretary of state. Republicans may certainly disagree with Obama's handling of foreign policy or particular policies he has pursued, but they should not invent a storyline that does not appear to exist.
But let's move on to something else they wrote:
The candidates sparred over defense spending, with Romney accusing Obama of presiding over a shrinking Navy and aging Air Force.

“Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time” since its founding, Romney said.

“We also have fewer horses and bayonets,” Obama shot back. The modern military includes aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, he said. “The question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities.”
Yes, but is it true?  They don't say.

Politifact has already debunked this one:
This is a great example of a politician using more or less accurate statistics to make a meaningless claim. Judging by the numbers alone, Romney was close to accurate. In recent years, the number of Navy and Air Force assets has sunk to levels not seen in decades, although the number of ships has risen slightly under Obama.

However, a wide range of experts told us it’s wrong to assume that a decline in the number of ships or aircraft automatically means a weaker military. Quite the contrary: The United States is the world’s unquestioned military leader today, not just because of the number of ships and aircraft in its arsenal but also because each is stocked with top-of-the-line technology and highly trained personnel.
But guess what I found for the sources of Romney's meaninglessness?  Politifact, again:
The Navy numbers

The Romney campaign didn’t get back to us, but we found their likely sourcing when we contacted the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

In January 2010, Heritage published a report titled, "The State of the U.S. Military." Citing data from the Naval History and Heritage Command, a part of the Defense Department, the report said that "the U.S. Navy’s fleet today contains the smallest number of ships since 1916. The total number of active ships in the Navy declined from 592 to 283 between 1989 and 2009." [Emphasis added.]
While it's not clear in the text, Politifact also cites that same Heritage Foundation report (you can read it here) in explaining Romney's Air Force claim.

And they add some context:
But what do those numbers mean? Not much, a variety of experts told us.

Counting the number of ships or aircraft is not a good measurement of defense strength because their capabilities have increased dramatically in recent decades. Romney’s comparison "doesn’t pass ‘the giggle test,’ " said William W. Stueck, a historian at the University of Georgia.
The context of the numbers makes Romney's claim ridiculous.

I think I see why Wereschagin and Zito would be reluctant to debunk these two myths.  They work at the Tribune-Review where their boss is Richard Mellon Scaife.  At one of their boss's other pet projects (the Trib being one, the Heritage Foundation another) these myths (the "apology tour" and "the shrunken military") have been around for years.

No one wants to be an EOD at the Trib, I suppose.


Heir to the Throne said...

Politifalse on the size of the Navy.
The statement is true but we don't like the narrative it advances so we will rate it Pants on Fire lie.

Like saying the accuser lied in the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax is a Pants on Fire lie because women don't lie about rape

Dayvoe said...

Yet another non sequitur from HTTT