A “Post-Truth” World

In an excellent blog post at Media Matters, Jeremy Holden reviews the incessant lies and disregard for fact-checking by the Romney-Ryan campaign, especially the lies about Obama’s so-called “apology tour” and Obama’s alleged elimination of the welfare work requirement.

Holden offered a tweet from a political reporter for the Boston Phoenix, which pretty much sums up the dilemma facing journalists:

Now what, indeed.

But Holden points out that The Washington Post—which employs Glenn Kessler as its fact checker, a fact checker who has given RomneyFour Pinocchios for months” but “Romney keeps saying this” —has its own problems with the truth, mainly because it continues publishing lies that have been fact checked by, uh, Glenn Kessler!

Among the culprits are Post columnist Marc Thiessen, who started that whole false meme about Obama and the security briefing (which caused John Sununu to call the President “lazy”).  Kessler gave Thiessen three Pinocchios for that one.

But prominent among offenders at the Post, offenders who practice what David Roberts of Grist has called “post-truth politics,” is Charles Krauthammer.

The Post publishes many questionable assertions written by Krauthammer, but perhaps most perplexing is why it continues to publish his columns that include references to that non-existent “apology tour.” Just today Krauthammer wrote:

Four years later, mid-September 2012, the U.S. mission in Benghazi went up in flames, as did Obama’s entire Middle East policy of apology and accommodation.

I don’t know how a reputable newspaper can employ a fact-checker and at the same time publish columns with claims that the fact-checker has repeatedly shot down as false.

But then The Washington Post is not what it used to be.

Meanwhile, another “news” organization, Fox, has been pushing an “Obama lied about Benghazi” meme night and day. And I mean night and day.

With only the flimsiest of evidence (that’s enough for Fox, when it comes to Obama) Fox has featured folks like Rudy Giuliani, who said yesterday on Fox’s Three Stooges and Friends:

I think there is no question that the administration was covering up from day one.

No question. None.

Mike Huckabee compared the whole thing to Watergate today on “America’s News(!)room”:

Let’s just get blunt. No way to sugar coat this — We’ve been lied to. We have flat-out been lied to. They know they’ve lied…Richard Nixon was forced out of office because he lied and because he covered some stuff up. I’m going to be blunt and tell you this — nobody died in Watergate. We have some people who are dead because of this. There are some questions to be answered and Americans ought to demand to get answers and it doesn’t matter what the politics are.

Yeah, it doesn’t matter what the politics are to right-wingers on Fox, right?

This afternoon I heard Fox’s Megyn Kelly ask Andy Card, George Bush’s chief of staff, this breathtaking question:

If George W. Bush had been the president and had sent Ambassador Bolton out to tell the world that these were spontaneous attacks, not pre-planned [sic], all over a video, and then it became clear that the intel community knew something very different all the while, what do you think the reaction would have been by the press?

CARD: I think the press would have been up in arms about President Bush.

Up in arms my ass. After the 9/11 attacks, the press fell into the arms of the Bush administration, as did all Americans. It wasn’t a time to throw rocks at the president (that would come later when it was revealed that a month before the attacks Bush had received a “presidential daily brief” titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” a story that did not get wall-to-wall coverage on Fox of course).

Neither was it the time, immediately after the murders in Benghazi, to do what Mitt Romney did—with the aid of Fox “News”and before the bodies were cold—when he began criticizing Mr. Obama shamelessly. There would be plenty of time to see what, if anything, the Administration did wrong in Libya, but shouldn’t we have an investigation and get the facts first? Huh?

It may well be that someone in the Administration purposely mislead reporters about the nature of the attacks, but what is more likely is that there was, and appears to remain, much confusion about them. Let’s see before we call this a Watergate or an October Surprise.

Meanwhile, a real scandal, but one involving Republicans and voter fraud (isn’t that ironic?) has been revealed and Fox, which pushed night and day the phony story in 2008 about ACORN and voter fraud, is, uh, busy with other things.

From Media Matters today:

In fact this morning, Brian Kilmeade hosted a Fox & Friends panel discussion about voter fraud. In 2008, the allegation that ACORN submitted questionable registration forms was routinely referred to and condemned as “voter fraud” on Fox. (To this day, Fox treats misaddressed voter registration forms as “fraud.”) But this morning, Kilmeade and his guests made no mention of the fact that the Republican Party was just forced to fire a consulting firm for submitting potentially bogus voter registration forms; forms being reviewed by local law enforcement.

Nothing is a scandal on Fox unless it is a Democratic scandal, real or imagined. And that is why Republicans spend much time bashing mainstream journalism and don’t give a damn about fact checkers.



  1. ansonburlingame

     /  September 29, 2012

    I wondered when the local democratic campaign machine (this blog) would get around the defending Obama Middle Eastern foreign policy which is the essence of what is happening in the Middle East right now with 22 countries up in arms against us and four dead Americans in one of our embassies.

    I agree that Romney and the GOP jumped the gun to criticize Obama as embassies were under attack and we had no idea just how many Americans were being killed. The should have waited until the “dust had settled”.

    However, that does not make their allegations wrong.

    Given a “heads up”, could we have adequately defended our embassy in Benghazi? Probably not, but we could have evacuated it, a mere consulate, not the seat of American presence in Libya, which was in Tripoli. But that is not really the point, now of the ongoing revelations about just who caused that attack, why, and what did we know about it before and within 24 hours afterwards.

    Evidently we, our intelligence agencies (details yet to be provided), knew within 24 hours that the attack was preplanned by an Al Qaeda related terrorist group of about 100 “crazies” fully armed and ready to blow the building away and anyone in it. So why the “spin”, with Fox calling it a coverup now, for the next 3 weeks. Is not the answer obvious?

    The Democratic Party refuses to acknowledge the failure of Obama’s Middle Eastern foreign policy, just as it refuses to admit the shortcomings of his domestic economic policies over four years.

    I have said it before and repeat it again. In the MIddle East the ties that bind humans in the MIddle East to humans in America are LESS THAN the forces that divide us. And those dividing forces are now self evident in 22 countries. What to do to prevent that becomes the abiding question for America today. Well the President of Egypt has now counseled us to use government force to prevent anyone in America from demeaning “the Prophet”. Are you in agreement with that demand from the Muslim Brotherhood?

    Having said that, the Dem Party refusal to admit grave errors is NOT now a part of the presidential campaign. I also think I understand the reasons why that is the case.

    In tough times, internationally and domestically, tough decisions that go against the grain of populuar opinion are required from good leaders. Obama has not in any way made any tough decisions to set our country on a better path. His decisions are all politically motivated to cater to the demands of insatiable American public for more and more from a bloated government and an absolute fear of any further foreign confrontation, in words alone, much less real deeds.

    Benghazi is a hotbed of Al Qaeda influenced radical Muslims, is it not. 3 weeks after the attack we cannot even put our own investigators on the ground on our own soil, embassy soil. Such is not the way to puursue peaceful means of diplomacy.



  2. Treeske

     /  September 29, 2012

    Anson, Realizing not wanting to miss an opportunity to belittle today’s administration, I would suggest you might find it helpful to read the experiences by TRUE Middle eastern experts s.a. Bill Fiske and Chris Hedges, rather than the usual lopsided Propaganda.


    • Treeske,

      In Anson’s comments, you find the summation of the Fox “News” spin on what happened in Benghazi. That is how the right is shaping this thing, without so much as a fact to support it. All they have is that the Administration, in the opening days of the tragedy, went with the explanation that appeared to be the truth: a weird YouTube video was used by radical elements in the Middle East to stir up animosity against Americans.

      I don’t know anyone, except right-wingers disposed to believe the worst about Obama, who would think he’s dumb enough to send his U.N. representative on the Sunday shows to deliberately tell a lie that could easily be discovered. The Administration perhaps should not have released any information until all the facts were known, but that’s not the way things work these days. The incessant news cycle demands that you tell what you know at the time, which allows bastards on the right-wing to exploit things you may get wrong while the situation is foggy.



  3. The situation in Libya highlights just how difficult foreign policy is to manage. The strident cries from the right, as in Anson’s comments above, demand action and decry the administration’s failure to prevent the unforeseeable. How easy it is to criticize. That hyperbole fails to recognize reality, but then that’s not in their interest.

    For example, the reality is that our embassies and consulates all around the world present many targets for terrorism. For example, the defense of diplomatic missions is by international convention the responsibility of the host government, not the embassy guard. For example, the facility in Benghazi where Ambassador Stevens was murdered was not an embassy but a consulate, which by convention and agreement has even less security than an embassy. For example, the administration had nothing to gain by mis-characterizing the attack at the start because the truth is always revealed in time. For example, demanding immediate action in this brand new country with a fledgling government not fully in control is asking for future trouble, just like a previous administration did in Iraq. The lesson there was, “when you take charge, you own it”. What part of that didn’t some of us learn?


    • Exactly, Jim. Just what would Obama gain by telling an easily-discoverable lie?

      And what would a McCain or a Romney have done differently in the Middle East? McCain is full on board with the fledgling democratic movement there, to the point that he would commit even more U.S. resources in, God forbid, Syria! And we don’t know what Romney would do, but we know he has not demonstrated one thing he would have done differently, in terms of the Arab Spring. Would he oppose democracy, for God’s sake? Would he send in troops to support the dictators across the region?

      The truth is, as you point out, what is going on over there involves an almost infinite number of unforeseeable events. About the only thing we can do is to try our best to shape events in a) conformity with out interests, but b) also in conformity with our national values.

      And attempting to do things that way doesn’t always turn out the way we would like, no matter who is president. But sadly, there is a right-wing media machine that quickly pounces on even the smallest misstep, and makes Obama the reason for all the mess in the messiest, and most dangerous, part of the world.



  4. Anson I’m glad to see acknowledges the importance of not criticizing those with the power to act to quickly. Kudos to him for that. He also promotes Duane to being the Democratic machine there in Joplin. It often sounds like the local Democratic machine could hold a convention in a coat closet, so that may be appropriate. My congratulations to Duane.

    Clearly this a tragic situation.

    If he ultimately thinks that it is critical ultimately that we use force against some one in the Mid-East, at the least I think we should be try to make that response surgical and focused on those responsible.

    The previous administration, or at least parts of it, I think basically believed that it was important to ‘show the Muslim world who was boss’ after the 9/11 of 2001. To do so: start and win a war against a Mid-Eastern country. I’m not sure it mattered who, as long as we showed we were strong and not to be trifled with. Hence we attacked a nation nominally to disarm it of weapons it proved not to even have. To lot of those most critical of the Obama administration, I don’t think this mattered, we could still show we were not to be messed with. The Muslims hate us and we need to show them they still have to fear us, and by God we did; or so the Bush administration hoped. I’d characterize that response as blunt with abundant collateral damage to innocent by standers that may have spawned a new generation of terrorists.

    In fact, 9 years later, it isn’t clear to me that we’ve cowed our enemies and potential enemies given this tragic incident. So has Obama’s charm offensive failed or the earlier attempt to intimidate the entire mid-east? I’m inclined to think this is at least partially blow-back from our use of force rather than failure by the Obama administration.

    In the end we likely shouldn’t let this go unanswered, but I hope we at least make the response focused on bringing the actual perpetrators to justice, not just punishing Muslims and the Mid-East in general. Whatever we do, I don’t think it should be an act in the emotions of the moment, or that exaggerates what force can accomplish.


    • Bruce,

      Excellent comments.

      You wrote that Bush’s American testosterone war “may have spawned a new generation of terrorists.” That is exactly right. There was no chance that President Obama could undo the damage done by the Iraq war, but he had to try, if nothing else in order to let the non-radicals in the region know that we would support their democratic and peaceful efforts toward prosperous societies.

      That ain’t nothing, but it wasn’t enough to renew the minds of folks who are culturally inundated with grossly false propaganda about the United States and our values. Pakistan comes to mind in that regard.

      And you are so right that the typical right-wing response is to do something, anything, to show those bastards that we are not to be bleeped with. Which starts the whole cycle over again. I agree with you that the proper response is to actually get the bad guys, without, as you alluded to, all the collateral damage that goes with a larger response.

      That collateral damage is burned into the minds of the survivors of American military action and is not, as we have seen, easy to overcome.



  5. ansonburlingame

     /  September 30, 2012

    Bruce, well said.


    You said, “The situation in Libya highlights just how difficult foreign policy is to manage. The strident cries from the right, as in Anson’s comments above, demand action and decry the administration’s failure to prevent the unforeseeable”

    Unforseeable my hind foot. Reach out in friendship to those kind of people and you can expect to lose a hand!!! And there are MILLIONS like them, a few of which flew airplanes into our cities 11 years ago. Do you think they have “gone away” due to “friendship”. Hilter for sure went away, right into Poland, did he not and then later…….!!!

    You bet, Jim, I call for action, but I do not call for “war” or even military intervention of any sort, anywhere, for the moment at least. The action I call for is a reassessment of the basis of our foreign policy in the Middle East. Simply stated, I believe that “Peace through Accomodation (or Conciliation)” has failed in our responses to the Arab Spring.

    The Iranian government, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbolla, and for damn sure Al Qaeda in its various new forms will push us as far as they can push, pause for a moment then pick a time and place of their choosing to push again. Such is the nature of geopolitics between opposing ideas and values which the Islamic World, in total by and large has in comparison to our own ideas and values. ANY nation to choses on its own to be governed under Sharia Law presents such a problem in my view.

    How a country chooses to govern itself is up to that country, in my view. Let the “will of the people” in whatever form decide how Egypt chooses to govern itself. And while a “new country” (Libya is far “older” than we are by and large) sorts itself out, let them do so. They were in the process of doing that when we intervened were they not. Syria is doing the same right now and there is NOTHING we can do about it other than bomb someone, who exactly, is TBD, I suppose.

    For mulitiple decades we let the Soviet Union do as it pleased within its own borders, by and large, neglecting our attempt at armed influence from the West of that country long before WWII. But we drew the line rather clearly as the “Iron Curtain” fell across Europe at the behest of the Soviet Union. Go no farther we said for decades, and they did not attempt such expansion ever after.

    That is called “Peace through Strength”, in that case the kind of strength embedded in nuclear weapons as a force for deterrence. And it worked, did it not?

    Bush II attempted once again to exercise “Peace through Strenght” and we had all the “strength” needed to make it work, at least in Iraq. But as in Vietnam, we failed to use our overwhelming strength, militarily, and became throttled back by the American public. The last time we in fact used our “strength” was WWII with results that were of long term benefit for the world at large.

    Bush’s mistake was similar to that of Johnson when he commited to the use of military power in Vietnam. And the results are now similar though not exactly the same. We have now lost two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, wars that COULD have been “won” with overpowering military strength. And now even a hint of the use of military power by the U.S. draws cries of all sorts of disdain from Americans today. In fact, given its druthers, American popular opinion will reduce our world wide defenses to strictly regional defenses around the U.S. as time goes on.

    I wonder what the world will look like when that comes into reality, a reality driven by our inability to “pay for” the defenses seen by America since the end of WWII.

    Can you even imagine Obama calling Iran an “Evil Empire” today? Yet do you beileve it is “nicer” than the former Soviet Union? Do you believe that an 80 year old organization that espoused terrror for all those years will be “nicer” in Egypt than the former Soviets were to their own people, much less other people (like eastern Europe) near their borders?

    Frankly, I do not believe the American people have the “guts” to endure the sacrifice to influence foreign affairs by “Peace through Strength” today. Even the GOP today will only “bluster” such use of strength today, in my view. Obama stands in Cairo calling for “binding ties” while a year or so later he is sneaking around with drones trying to control matters while his “words” bear a far different message. “Let’s be friends” he says while “droning” other countries.

    When you speak of being friends and “binding ties” why do you then “drone” others. The two don’t match very well do they??? I say pick “strength” or “conciliation” and stick to it come what may. In this case the President (with his “hit list”) cannot seem to decide, can he? But in foreign affairs if you say one thing and then do another, you can bet people will “hate” you for either one!!!

    Two or so years ago Iran and its supporters decided to try to kill a Saudi Ambassador and maybe an Israeli one as well in Washington DC. They failed and we “caught” them. But THEN what did we do??? NOTHING other than “law enforcement”.

    Then about a year after “bombing Libya” to replace the government some people in Libya burn a consulate to the ground and kill four Americans. What have we done as a government so far other than to “blame that action on a video” shown in America.

    Anyone with any sense can dismiss the recent clip of a woman praising Obama for his “phones”, etc. As Juan Williams said, that is an example of ignorance on the part of one person, even though there are probably hundreds of thousand who will agree with her assessment of progressive politics.

    Well we are dealing with equal ignorance in the MIddle East from MILLIONS of people now. Think you can politely talk your way out of that mess.

    If I was running for president (HA!!!) I would publicly respond to that “woman in Cleveland” by saying to her and others like her, “You can bet your bippy that you will get ZERO “phones” from my administration, absolutely ZERO”. I would then tell her and her cohorts what they will “get” from my administration, a hand up to help themselves but nothing else and only for a short period of time!!! After than, it will be up to you (“her”).

    American public opinion will never support such words, domestically or internationally today if recent “polls” are accurate. Well I would rather lose an election with the right ideas instead of winning one by promising more and more that we can in no way deliever.

    Someday such promises go right over the “cliff” of reality.



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