Friday, June 8, 2012

Judy Woodruff's disappointing interview with Romney backer Pawlenty

Judy Woodruff last night did a terribly disappointing interview with Tim Pawlenty, who is now national Co-chair of Romney's campaign.

What is terribly disappointing is that Woodruff failed to challenge Pawlenty on lies that have long been labeled as lies by reputable journalists who have looked into them.

A key example is the Romney lie that Obama promised that unemployment would below 8% if the stimulus passed. This has been checked into repeatedly over a period of more than a year by Glenn Kessler, of the Washington Post, with interaction with readers who worked on the issue as well. The claim has been thoroughly vetted and investigated, and Kessler in his Fact Checker gives it two out of four Pinocchios, indicating that it is seriously deceptive and misleading.

The bottom line on the claim is pretty simple. In January before Obama came to office Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein did a report with an estimate on the looming unemployment problem. The estimate they came up with was 8% without a stimulus, but they also said that it was very uncertain and could rise to 11%. This was not a promise, but a preliminary estimate, hedged with uncertainty. Furthermore, it was soon revised as Obama's economic advisers saw the true horrifying depth of the crash which had started under Bush.

Obama simply *never* promised that the stimulus would bring the unemployment level below 8%. And because the truth has been pointed out repeatedly to the Romney campaign, Romney's continually repeating a misleading falsehood has to count as a deliberate lie. As Kessler concludes, "Given that we first outlined the problems with this claim more than a year ago — and given that the facts are clearly known to the Romney campaign — it is distressing that Romney would continue hype it up into such a misleading assertion."

It is not the most bald-faced lie of Romney's campaign, but it is one of the most important, because it is the foundation of a deliberately deceitful core narrative that Romney and his campaign are using to try to win the election. This narrative continues with the assertion that the stimulus did no good. This conflicts with the non-partisan and respected estimates of the Congressional Budget Office, and as the linked article says, in a survey 80% of economic experts agree, and only 4% disagree that the stimulus helped.

Now these estimates are counter-factual ("what would have happened"), not hard facts—like what Obama said—so there is always room for argument. But Woodruff should have challenged Pawlenty on *why* he disagrees with the CBO and 80% of Economic experts. What is the basis for his disagreement?

It is very important, in my view, for the Woodruff and the NewsHour to make these challenges, both on the outright lie and on the view at odds with the overwhelming number of experts, precisely because they are respected fair minded. If the NewsHour will not convey the truth the the public, then they are enabling lies to poison the public debate. Surely, it is the duty of journalists to convey the truth to the public. Here is a case where a deliberate lie is being perpetuated, and not called out by Woodruff and the News Hour.

This is particularly important because Romney is systematically avoiding any tough interviews, only appearing on Fox. Pawlenty was a rare authorized spokesman willing to brave some questioning from more objective journalists. And he didn't get that questioning, which is terribly disappointing.

I am going to contact Woodruff, repeatedly, in order to try to get a response, and to urge her or one of her colleagues to do a story on the insistence of Romney to repeat what he and his campaign must know is false. Can you readers of this blog do so as well? One way is to comment on her article about he interviews of Bill Clinton and Tim Pawlenty, in which again she doesn't mention Pawlenty's perpetuation of the lie. Another way is to comment on their feedback form.

NOTE: Kessler originally gave Romney's claim 3 Pinocchios, but later pulled back to two. This was partly in response to a reader who noted that Obama had said that his stimulus plan would create 3.5 million new jobs by 2011. That indeed did not happen, as the economy continued to plunge sharply during the first three months of Obama, and only slowly has recovered. But Romney does not cite that failure for a good reason: though Obama's job creation record is weak, it is far better than the eight years of George W. Bush and Republican policies of tax cuts for the rich. On the other hand the unemployment rate is worse than under Bush, because of the continued overhang of the worst economic downturn since the depression. Thus the truth about Obama's failures is not as compelling as the lie. That they've chosen to repeatedly lie is a story. When is the NewsHour going to cover it?

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