Patterico's Pontifications


If You’re Going to Fact-Check in the Middle of a Debate, Big Media, You Damn Well Better Get It Right

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:42 pm

Mitt Romney did OK in this debate. Probably Big Media will award Obama the victory. Obama channeled his inner Biden, and interrupted Romney repeatedly while whining about time (even as he got three more minutes thanks to Candy Crowley cutting off Mitt Romney every time he was making a point). If the New Wisdom is that rudeness is strength, then Obama was stronger.

But for conservatives, the lesson of this debate was tat the American people got to see the blatant bias of a moderator stepping in to side with a candidate — even as she stepped all over herself trying to articulate her point.

Crowley screwed up in three ways — one that you’re reading about everywhere, and another two ways that I haven’t seen anyone else complain about.

The obvious point that you’re reading everywhere is that it’s not at all clear Obama called Benghazi an act of terror:

At most, he may have implied it was an act of terror. But then he specifically refused to call it terrorism when asked on multiple occasions, on the View and on Univision. And he sent out Ambassador Rice to bleat about the YouTube video (the “tape”) on five Sunday yakkers. And he brought up the YouTube video six times in his U.N. speech.

Sheesh kabob.

At the very least, Candy, this issue was debatable. Let me say that again: it was debatable.

Which is why you let the candidates debate this debatable issue, in their debate.


WHAT YOU HAVE NOT READ ELSEWHERE: On to point two, which is more obscure. Here is Candy Crowley admitting that Mitt Romney was right “in the main”:

20 seconds in, she says:

Right after that, I did turn around and say: “But you were totally correct that they spent two weeks telling us this was about a tape, and that there was, you know, this riot outside the Benghazi consultate, which there wasn’t.” So, he was right in the main. I just think he picked the wrong word.

(Keep that in mind: that she is critical of Romney for using the wrong words.)

So Crowley claims that she communicated that the administration spent two weeks claiming the killings occurred because of the YouTube video. Lest there be any mistake, later in the clip she repeats the claim:

Half the crowd claps for that, and the other half claps for: but they kept telling us this was caused by a tape.

Here’s the problem. That’s not what she actually said. In fact, she said the complete opposite: that it took the administration two weeks to come out with the story about the tape. Here’s the transcript:

ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That’s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He — he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

So, far from making it clear that the Administration had claimed for two weeks that the violence was a reaction to the “tape” (the movie and the YouTube trailer), Crowley actually said the opposite: that it took two weeks for that idea to “come out.”

What was that about using the wrong words again?

Now, to be fair, she said Romney was correct, and then (after the above quote) agreed with his statement that “the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.” But her quick “it did” agreement did not necessarily make up for the misimpression caused by her garbled statement.

Of course, we now have the above video, in which she says Romney was right “in the main.” And, as Allahpundit says: “Upwards of 60 million people likely watched her side with Obama on Libya during the debate. How many saw this clip on CNN’s post-game show? One million, maybe?”

I was prescient in my open thread post — the one about how the candidates have to be the fact checkers because Big Media will screw up the job. Romney slipped up because this point about Obama calling it an “act of terror” had been a lefty talking point already — I knew Obama had said it — and Romney should have been prepared for that spin. Big Media mangles the fact checks on these things all the time. The candidate has to do the job.

But it is the height of outrage for the moderator to attempt a fact check right in the middle of the debate — and then to screw it up so badly.

If Crowley had any shame, she would feel it now. I think in that clip above, she is trying to minimize the importance of it, and to recharacterize what she said to make it sound more evenhanded. But it wasn’t. 60 million people saw her side with Obama. Here is how the L.A. Times put it:

But Romney’s attack went off course as he tried to insist that Obama had not referred to the attack as an act of “terror” until two weeks after it took place.

Obama responded that he used the word “terror” to describe the attack the day after it occurred, in an address from the Rose Garden. When Romney attempted to dispute that, Crowley stepped in to say that Obama was correct.

This is the simple takeaway, thanks to Crowley’s bias: Romney screwed up and the referee put him in his place.

ANOTHER OBSERVATION YOU’RE NOT SEEING ELSEWHERE: Crowley also let Obama off the hook on Libya with her “let’s move on” shtick that she employed every time Romney tried to make a point. Romney did try to follow up with the issue of the U.N. Ambassador misrepresenting things on the Sunday shows, but Obama suddenly became very concerned about moving on so all these wonderful folks can have their questions answered.

And Candy obligingly helped him dodge the bullet:

ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest — am I incorrect in that regard, on Sunday, the — your secretary –

OBAMA: Candy?

ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador of the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how –

OBAMA: Candy, I’m –

ROMNEY: — this was a spontaneous –

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me –

OBAMA: I’m happy to have a longer conversation –

CROWLEY: I know you –

OBAMA: — about foreign policy.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. But I want to — I want to move you on and also –

OBAMA: OK. I’m happy to do that, too.

CROWLEY: — the transcripts and –

OBAMA: I just want to make sure that –

CROWLEY: — figure out what we –

OBAMA: — all of these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.

CROWLEY: Because what I — what I want to do, Mr. President, stand there a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd.

All she had to do was say: Isn’t that right, Mr. President? Didn’t Ambassador Rice tell the world for days that this was all about the “tape”?

But you know what? Obama did say he would be happy to have a longer discussion about this. And the third debate is foreign policy. And Candy’s decision to flap her gums on this issue ensures that the issue will be front and center.

You’re going to get that longer discussion, Mr. Obama.

Me? I’m looking forward to it.


Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:53 pm

We here at have caught Mitt Romney in a blatant fabrication. In tonight’s debate, Mitt Romney stated:

I know what it takes to balance budgets. I’ve done it my entire life.

Mitt Romney has been alive 65 years. His “entire life” includes his years of infancy. Clearly, no matter how quickly he became a businessman, he could not have been balancing budgets at the age of 6 months. We rate this statement Four Pairs of Pinocchio’s Pants on Fire.

P.S. Immediately before this blatantly false statement, Romney said: “This puts us on a road to Greece.” There can be no road to Greece from America. The two countries are separated by the Atlantic Ocean.

Above: The Atlantic Ocean, apparently an unknown concept to Willard Mitt Romney, the infant budget balancer

Debate Open Thread: The Candidate Must Be the Fact-Checker

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:35 pm

I have railed against fact-checkers on this blog many times, so it especially irked me to see this on Hot Air Headlines yesterday:

Independent fact-checkers say their work informs voters and holds politicians accountable. “Campaigns are very aware that fact-checkers are watching them,” said Bill Adair, editor of PolitiFact. PolitiFact’s web traffic has shot up this year and “it’s just gone off the charts on debate nights,” Adair said.

It’s disgusting that these outfits are lionized as actual fact checkers. Let’s look at the respective organizations’ fact-check of the Vice Presidential debate:


Notice anything missing? The Free Beacon did:

Vice President Joe Biden accused Rep. Paul Ryan of putting two wars on the “credit card,” and then suggested he voted against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“By the way, they talk about this great recession like it fell out of the sky–like, ‘Oh my goodness, where did it come from?’” Biden said. “It came from this man voting to put two wars on a credit card, at the same time, put a prescription drug plan on the credit card, a trillion dollar tax cut for the very wealthy.”

“I was there, I voted against them,” Biden continued. “I said, no, we can’t afford that.”

Then Sen. Biden voted for the Afghanistan resolution on Sept. 14, 2001 which authorized “the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.”

And on Oct. 11, 2002, Biden voted for a resolution authorizing unilateral military action in Iraq, according to the Washington Post.

It’s nice that the Free Beacon picked this up. And shameful that PolitiFact and didn’t.

So forget them. But that leads me to a second point.

Paul Ryan should have been all over that. Instead, he just sat there and smiled. He did a good job in the debate generally, but he missed a chance to whack Biden on this issue.

You can’t miss too many of these chances.

Romney is leading by five in swing states, but he can’t get lazy. Tonight is important, and Romney has to be on his game. He has to call out Obama’s lies because Big Media and the Official Fact Checkers will not.

We’ll see what happens.

Obama Connection to Rev. Wright Goes Back to 1987

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:36 am

Nothing surprising here, really, but it’s stuff we should have known the first time around:

Letters signed by Barack Obama 25 years ago and obtained by The Daily Caller, show the future president approaching Chicago’s then-mayor Harold Washington in 1987 about a community organizing project whose advisory board would include his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright; the controversial leftist Catholic priest Father Michael Pfleger; and the brother of Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers.

When Obama later ran for president, he sought to distance himself from Rev. Wright, although the letters obtained by TheDC indicate a working relationship between the two men on a political level when the future president was just 26 years old.

They hint at a young Obama, before he entered Harvard Law School, growing in stature as a power broker among Chicago’s radical left and building an early example of a coalition that would grow in political power across the city.

None of this matters as much as the economy or tonight’s debate, and it won’t move the sainted Undecided Voter. It still seems worth noting, if only to note the facts we never fully learned in 2008.

Popehat: The Year in Blasphemy

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:33 am

A rich, link-filled roundup of how countries deal with blasphemy worldwide. Here is Ken’s reasoning for doing the roundup:

The incendiary film “”The Innocence of Muslims” was merely an unconvincing pretext for a terrorist attack, not the true cause of the attack. Yet the film has spurred new discussions of American free speech exceptionalism, and led some to question whether we should hew to the First Amendment in the face of worldwide demands for an international ban on blasphemy.

Eric Posner wrote in Slate that we ought to consider that other societies believe that “free speech must yield to other values and the need for order.” Anthea Butler, a professor at Penn, defended calls for the arrest of the man who made the film, suggesting that it had “inflamed” people across the globe, putting Americans at risk. Garrett Epps wrote that blasphemy is not the “essence of free speech” and that other nations understand freedom differently than we do. Professor Peter Spiro reacted to the film by suggesting that “international norms” about hate speech should prevail over our relatively absolutist free speech values.

We should address such views, not ignore them. But as we consider them — as we evaluate whether anti-blasphemy laws will ever be consistent with the modern American values embodied in our First Amendment precedents — we should examine what the competing values truly are. What are the “other values” which other societies believe outweigh free speech? What sorts of things “inflame” people in those societies? If other societies understand free expression differently than we do, how do they understand it? What “international norms” are emerging on blasphemy?

I decided to try to answer those questions by looking at how the nations of the world have treated blasphemy during one year: October 2011 through September 2012. In other words, I decided to examine how one year reflected the competing values concerning free speech and blasphemy.

And a sample:

In France, riot police responded when angry Catholic activists targeted a theater featuring a play that they labeled as blasphemous. The theater — and others showing similar plays — experienced death threats, attacks on their security system, eggs thrown at theatergoers, stinkbombs, and protestors rushing the stage.

In Pakistan, three Ahmedis — members of a minority religious sect — were arrested and charged with various forms of blasphemy. A father was accused of registering his son as a Muslim on a school form, the son was accused of making derogatory comments about Mohammed (which carries the death penalty), and a school headmaster was accused of snatching religious books from the hands of students cheating on a test and hurling the books into a pond.

Also in Pakistan, a 23-year-old Christian laborer was charged with blasphemy for desecrating the Quran based on accusations levied by his Muslim landlord, with whom the defendant had just had a dispute about rent. Another Pakistani Christian — who had previously been acquitted of blasphemy charges — was arrested in church at Christmas services for blasphemy. Previously his wife and son were kidnapped by Muslim village elders in an effort to extort him into converting to Islam.

In Turkey, a court cited “the right to respect for one’s religious feelings” in upholding an indictment of a man for “ridiculing Muslim prayer rituals and the Islamic belief that the universe was created by God” in comments on a website.

In Saudi Arabia, an Australian man on a pilgrimage to Mecca was detained, accused of blaspheming the companions of Mohammed, and sentenced to a year in prison and 500 lashes. This sentence was later reduced to 75 lashes over a leather jacket.

That’s December 2011.

Nice job by Ken.

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