The latest entry in the media's obsession with picayune and partisan "fact-checking" of the Republican National Convention: New York Times reporter Michael Cooper's Friday "Check Point," "Facts Take a Beating In Acceptance Speeches." The original web headline was ridiculously partisan for a news story: "Ryan's Speech Contained a Litany of Falsehoods."
Representative Paul D. Ryan used his convention speech on Wednesday to fault President Obama for failing to act on a deficit-reduction plan that he himself had helped kill. He chided Democrats for seeking $716 billion in Medicare cuts that he too had sought. And he lamented the nation’s credit rating -- which was downgraded after a debt-ceiling standoff that he and other House Republicans helped instigate.
And Mitt Romney, in his acceptance speech on Thursday night, asserted that President Obama’s policies had “not helped create jobs” and that Mr. Obama had gone on an “apology tour” for America. He also warned that the president’s Medicare cuts would “hurt today’s seniors,” claims that have already been labeled false or misleading.
The two speeches -- peppered with statements that were incorrect or incomplete -- seemed to signal the arrival of a new kind of presidential campaign, one in which concerns about fact-checking have been largely set aside.
In recent weeks, the Romney campaign has broadcast television advertisements leveling the widely debunked assertion that Mr. Obama had gutted the work requirements for welfare recipients. The Obama campaign, for its part, ran a deceptive ad saying that Mitt Romney had “backed a bill that outlaws all abortion, even in case of rape and incest,” although he currently supports exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
Cooper introduced the "misleading" sections of the speeches by Ryan and Romney, particularly Ryan's speech, and became the latest liberal journalist to waste space failing to demolish Paul Ryan's accurate claims on the closing of a General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Mr. Ryan appeared to criticize Mr. Obama for the closing of a General Motors plant in Mr. Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wis. -- a decision made before the president was elected and before his bailout of the auto industry, which was credited with saving a number of other factories. He noted that Mr. Obama had visited the plant in 2008 and said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years.”
“Well, as it turned out,” Mr. Ryan said, “that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”
As a candidate, Mr. Obama did give an economic policy speech at the Janesville plant in February 2008. The decision to close the plant was made several months later -- as can be seen by a June 2008 letter from Mr. Ryan urging G.M. to reconsider.
It took some time for the plant to shut down, and some work continued there after Mr. Obama was sworn in as president.
The Ryan campaign said Thursday that the issue was not when the plant stopped production, but the fact that it has not reopened -- and pointed to accounts of an Obama campaign statement from the fall of 2008 in which he said, “I will lead an effort to retool plants like the G.M. facility in Janesville so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and all across America."
While Mr. Obama bailed out the auto industry, saving jobs, and included money in the stimulus for “green” energy jobs, the Janesville plant did not benefit from his moves.
So what, exactly, did Ryan say that was inaccurate?
Cooper also characterizes as a "widely debunked charge" GOP accusations of Obama going on an "apology tour" of foreign nations. Isn't that more a matter of opinion and interpretation than factual documentation? Departing Public Editor Arthur Brisbane tried to prove the GOP wrong on this, in embarrassingly pedantic fashion. As Times Watch noted then, one can apologize without actually using the word "apology." Example: "I'm sorry."
In his floor speech, Mr. Romney repeated his widely debunked charge that Mr. Obama had gone on an “apology tour” on America’s behalf -- an accusation he feels so strongly about that he laid out his own worldview in a 2010 book he titled “No Apology.”
But independent fact checkers have called the accusation a distortion, and it is hard to find evidence that Mr. Obama ever said he was sorry for the United States. Even in his speeches after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Obama offered a strong defense of American policies, including the war in Afghanistan, which was growing increasingly unpopular in the rest of the world.
The Heritage Foundation begged to differ in a 2009 report, "Barack Obama's Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower."