Fact-Checker: Four Pinnochios for O'Rourke's Denial That He Tried to Flee the Scene of His DWI

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Posted: Sep 25, 2018 1:45 PM
Fact-Checker: Four Pinnochios for O'Rourke's Denial That He Tried to Flee the Scene of His DWI

No matter which poll you'd prefer to believe, the Texas Senate race is too close for comfort in many Republicans' eyes, with Ted Cruz only leading liberal challenger Robert "Beto" O'Rourke by mid-single digits in the Real Clear Politics average.  Some surveys give Cruz a more comfortable lead; others show a virtual tie.  One controversy that the Cruz campaign has largely steered clear of is O'Rourke's drunk driving incident from his mid-twenties, including allegations that O'Rourke's connected family helped him elude legal consequences.  The issue arose at their debate last week, however, during which the Democrat denied that he attempted to flee the scene, despite a police report that said the opposite.  The Washington Post's fact checker examined this claim and rated it false, awarding O'Rourke 'Four Pinocchios' for his lie:

We place a high value on contemporaneous records. The police reports show not only that O’Rourke was highly intoxicated but that a witness to the crash said he tried to leave the scene. O’Rourke was so drunk that he could barely get out of the car without falling, so perhaps he would not have gotten far — or he was simply confused. Perhaps in his memory, O’Rourke believes he did not try to leave. But, given his blood alcohol content at the time of the crash, O’Rourke’s memory 20 years after the fact is not nearly as credible as the police reports written just hours after the crash. O’Rourke could have dodged the question during the debate or he could have said his memory of the night is not clear. Instead, he chose to dispute the factual record...Four Pinocchios.

I doubt that many Texans will hold a decades-old mistake against a political candidate, even if that mistake put people's lives at risk.  Americans believe in second chances, and an arrest from long ago isn't especially pertinent to an active Senate race.  Dishonesty, however, is a different matter.  Lying about your drunk driving isn't a good look, and it invites newfound scrutiny of an episode O'Rourke would certainly prefer to put behind him.  As for Cruz, it likely remains a wise strategy to focus on O'Rourke's liberalism, which is far out of step with the values of most Lone Star State voters on everything from impeachment to gun rights to abortion.  Beto O'Rourke would be a progressive ally of Chuck Schumer on virtually every major issue, including stonewalling conservative judges.  Training fire on that substance is the way to go.  Meanwhile, a pack of left-wingers hounded Cruz and his wife out of a restaurant in Washington, DC last night -- bragging about it on social media and earning cheers from a number of "blue checkmark" lefties.  This is not okay:


These people may think they're "helping" Beto or fighting for "justice," but besieging public officials as they try to have dinner with their spouse is an ugly and alienating tactic.  So is issuing menacing warnings that Cruz and his allies "are not safe" anywhere they go.  These are bad people, and they should be condemned.  As it happens, the video above plays like a free ad for Cruz, who politely tries to help his wife escape the maelstrom as the agitators hurl insults, saying "God bless you" to the shouters on his way out.  There's also more than a little bit of irony watching an Antifa group calling itself "Smash Racism" harassing...a Latino.  Incidentally, since we mentioned the issue of honesty above, another Senate Democratic candidate is reeling after an in-depth New York Times story has raised serious doubts about the personal narrative she's been peddling to voters.  After examining Kirsten Sinema's 'calculated' political transition from a hardcore leftist into a moderate, the Times notes that elements of the life story she's shared about the hardships of her youth don't add up: 

With few major legislative accomplishments to her record, both Democrats and Republicans said, Ms. Sinema is largely running on a political image that she has shaped and reshaped over the years. And nothing is more central to it now than her childhood homelessness. In speeches and interviews, Ms. Sinema recalls how she spent three years as a child living in a former gas station “without running water or electricity.” She has highlighted that hardship as a way to distinguish herself from “most people in politics,” as she would be the rare senator with personal experience of being homeless. But court documents reviewed by The New York Times raise questions about Ms. Sinema’s descriptions of what she endured in the mid-1980s...Ms. Sinema’s mother and stepfather outlined monthly payments they made for an electric bill, phone bill and gas bill while living in the former gas station, which was owned by her stepfather’s parents, according to the records reviewed by The Times. The stepfather’s parents lived in a farmhouse nearby...Ms. Sinema, in an interview, would not directly address her family’s payments for the electric, phone and gas bills, but talked broadly about her description of homelessness...

In this and other interviews on her homelessness, a pattern emerges: Ms. Sinema often includes vivid details, some that contradict other accounts. In 2013, she told the Washington Post the family had a toilet, but when pressed by the newspaper, she could not explain how it was flushed with no running water. And in a 2016 Arizona Republic story, she challenged the assertion of the previous owner of the gas station, who said that it had a spigot and wood-burning stove...Yet Ms. Sinema’s unreserved statements about being homeless, and the public records pertaining to her upbringing, are noteworthy in part because of Ms. Sinema’s own views about the importance of candor and speaking precisely in public life...She has scolded House Speaker Paul D. Ryan for apparently misstating his marathon time. She turned the importance of honesty into a section, called “Truth,” of her 2009 how-to book on political organizing, and said “sometimes I’m too honest.” She also writes that she is “a big fan of honesty” and adds that “it’s also wrong to tell half-truths and be sneaky about the truth — no doubt about it.”

It sounds like Sinema grew up in difficult circumstances, no doubt.  But serially embellishing her family's situation is a problem, especially if it goes to the issue of hypocrisy (given her paeans to the importance of precise truth-telling in politics, and scoldings of Republicans for falling short of her standard).  A new poll of the contest shows Republican Martha McSally, an ex-combat fighter pilot, within three points of Sinema, slightly worse than the RCP average.  I'll leave you with the latest ad out of another red state Senate race:

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