Patterico's Pontifications


Sockpuppet Friday (UAW Bailout Fact-Checking Edition)

Filed under: General — Karl @ 7:23 am

[Posted by Karl]

As usual, you are positively encouraged to engage in sockpuppetry in this thread. The usual rules apply.

Please, be sure to switch back to your regular handle when commenting on other threads. I have made that mistake myself.

And remember: the worst sin you can commit on this thread is not being funny.

Yesterday, WaPo “fact checker,” Glenn Kessler, evaluated Pres. Obama’s claim that “some wanted to let the auto industry die.”  After wryly noting that Obama has “a fondness for using rhetorical straw men in his speeches,” he awards the president a mere two Pinocchios. 

Kessler somehow manages to get through the column without mentioning the Ford Motor Company, which afaik is part of the auto industry.  Nor does he mention the other members of the auto industry aside from GM and Chrysler who manufacture and otherwise employ folks here in the US.  Granted, we tend to think of a company like Toyota as “foreign,” but Chrysler was sold to Fiat, so the nationalism card should not be in play from a fact-checking standpoint.

Indeed, Kessler also writes “a credible case can be made that an auto industry bankruptcy likely would not have been possible in November or December of 2008 (when Romney and other Republicans pushed for it) because there was no bank financing available.”  If we want to talk about “cases,” a case can be made that a regular bankruptcy would have yielded about the same number of continuing jobs at GM as the taxpayer-funded bankruptcy.  And a case easily could be made that a GOP administration could have come up with a bankruptcy deal that would have looked a lot more like a normal proceeding than a politicially-motivated bailout of the United Auto Workers.  But a “case” is not a fact. 

In short, it’s another example of Kessler, like other establishment media operations, pretending political debates are much simpler questions of fact. And this is a particularly bad example of the genre:

Okay, out of 300 million Americans, maybe there were “some folks” who felt the auto industry should die. But Obama appeared to be suggesting that GOP lawmakers were willing to let the auto industry collapse. On that basis, the evidence is not very strong. The quotes we received — and others we researched — were mostly questions of tactics.

As the administration’s internal debate suggests, the answers were not clear. Certainly, some top administration officials thought at least one car company should die.

From the left, I can argue that Kessler concedes the vague “some” is almost undoubtedly true, meriting no Pinocchios.  From the right, I can note that Kessler came up with zero examples of Obama’s GOP critics wanting the US auto industry to die, which is the politically salient claim.  Indeed, Kessler notes the GOP’s real problem was with the UAW, while largely avoiding the fact that the Obama adminsitration’s maneuver here was mostly about bailing out the UAW’s unsustainable pension and healthcare benefits.

As Kessler seems bent on keeping this up, it is again time to note  the WaPo fact-checker blog was on hiatus from the last day of the 2008 election campaign through January 9, 2011. When the federal government was run entirely by a supermajority of Democrats, there was no need for fact-checking.  In an election year, there is a demand for media spin of Obama’s rhetoric.


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