Can you imagine a world without political fact checkers? Without them, Americans might get bamboozled into thinking that totally verifiable, 100 percent accurate statements might actually be true. Thankfully, Politifact spares us this national nightmare by needlessly complicating and casting doubt upon factually correct statements. Behold, our professional truth tellers at work:
In a new campaign ad, Mitt Romney doesn't mince words in boasting about the Massachusetts economy when he was governor. The ad -- which combines stirring music, footage of welders and forklift drivers and images of Romney gladhandling with factory employees -- was released June 8, 2012. "Romney," the ad says, "reduced unemployment to just 4.7 percent." We checked Bureau of Labor Statistics data and found that the statistic was correct. The low point for the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate during Romney’s tenure was 4.7 percent. (It happened during Romney’s final full month in office, December 2006.)
They checked official records and "found that the statistic was correct." Thus, Romney's statement is what most of us would call "true." But not Politifact. No sir:
But the number mirrored the larger national trend. And it's important to note, as we often do, that governors have limited impact on a state's economy. Both Massachusetts and the U.S. saw unemployment rates drop during Romney’s governorship. Unemployment declined during that period because the economy was recovering from a recession...Our ruling: The number is correct, but the ad oversteps in suggesting that Romney did this on his own. The employment situation in Massachusetts was subject to many factors, not just the governor’s policy. On balance, we rate the claim Half True.
Again, Politifact decided to verify the following statement: "Romney says Massachusetts unemployment hit 4.7 percent during his tenure." That is the headline of their post. When the stat checked out, these intrepid fact-checkers decided the assertion was still only "half true," due to some jumbled sense of "context," or whatever. An incredulous Allahpundit makes two important points on this:
If not for PolitiFact, who knows how many people might have watched Romney’s ad and concluded that he personally knocked a point off of unemployment unaided by anyone or anything else? Oh, wait, I know: Zero. Zero people would have concluded that ... Coming soon: The companion piece in which Obama is completely absolved for three-plus years of grinding economic dreariness.
He's right; you know it's coming. So if governing executives' policies have virtually no impact on economic outcomes (I wonder what, say, Scott Walker might have to say about that analysis), then Romney can claim no credit for low unemployment in his state, and Obama can't shoulder almost any blame for our nation's relentless "depression." Wow! You can learn so many new things from fact-checkers. Believe it or not, Politifact's "half true" rating is merely the second dumbest conclusion of the cycle. Top billing in that category still goes to the Washington Post for its conclusion that yet another correct GOP attack on Obama (what a coincidence!) was..."true but false." Hopeless. But at least conservatives' Politifact mockery on Twitter produced a few gems -- I'm happy to say that I played a small role in the genesis of the #PolitifactRatings hashtag, which was great fun. Click through and enjoy. I'm sure the Politifact crew would say that because they occasionally anger both conservatives and liberals, that must mean they're playing it fair. Yeah, maybe. Or maybe they're just not very good at their jobs. I'll leave you with the, um, "half true" ad that started it all:
Politifact's rating: "True, but we'd prefer Romney to lose." Here's FactCheck.org's more even-handed examination of Romney's jobs record in Massachusetts -- the good and the not-so-good.