Ever since liberal media types felt robbed by the Bush-Quayle campaign's "lies" about Michael Dukakis in 1988, we've been suffering through the media elite's attempts to "police" the facts in advertisements. "Correction" squads are insisting that John McCain can't say Barack Obama will raise taxes, no matter how much that announcing Democrats will raise taxes is like announcing the sun will rise.
In 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle suggested Bill Clinton would raise taxes on the middle class. Quayle said in the vice-presidential debate that everyone making over $36,000 could face a tax hike. Media "experts" accused the GOP of mangling "facts." President Clinton was elected -- and passed the largest tax increase in American history, right down to the middle class.
"It was Quayle who repeatedly twisted and misstated the facts," CNN reporter Brooks Jackson had pronounced after the vice-presidential debate. On ABC, Jeff Greenfield proclaimed: "Independent examination of this charge by, for example, press organizations, has found it, to say the least, misleading."
Do you think "independent" was a good adjective to describe the adoring chorus of Clinton correspondents in 1992?
After the fact -- which is to say, when Clinton was safely elected -- some in the press developed a sudden sense of guilt.
Cut to Feb. 18, 1993, when USA Today admitted: "Looks like Dan Quayle was right. Last year's vice-presidential debate ... produced an accurate prediction from Quayle about the Clinton budget plan ... The final plan, according to Clinton officials, will hit those making $30,000 and above."
This is the sticky thing about campaign proposals. They are simply proposals. When a president is elected, the entire campaign manual can be thrown out the window. Predictions about what a politician will do are predictions, not facts. Obviously, some predictions can be wilder, like the suggestion that Ronald Reagan would start a massive war. (Liberals never tire of that one.) Predicting a massive tax hike under Democrats does not qualify as a wild prediction.
This goes not just for debates but also for commercials. The Bush-Quayle campaign issued a TV ad in the fall of 1992 that used their own numerical estimates of how much Clinton would raise taxes, and all the networks leaped on it like starving men on a crust of bread. NBC's Lisa Myers said "facts" were not on the GOP side: "President Bush's new ad portrays Bill Clinton as a big taxer and a danger to the middle class ... That's misleading. In fact [here we go with that nettlesome word again], Clinton has proposed cutting taxes to the sort of people in this ad." In 20-20 hindsight, the fact is that Lisa Myers ended up with egg on her face.