Ever since liberal media types felt robbed by the Bush-Quayle campaign's "lies" about Michael Dukakis in 1988, we've been suffering through the media elite's attempts to "police" the facts in advertisements. "Correction" squads are insisting that John McCain can't say Barack Obama will raise taxes, no matter how much that announcing Democrats will raise taxes is like announcing the sun will rise.
In 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle suggested Bill Clinton would raise taxes on the middle class. Quayle said in the vice presidential debate that everyone over $36,000 could face a tax hike. Media "experts" accused the GOP of mangling "facts." President Clinton was elected - and passed the largest tax increase in American history, right down to the middle class.
"It was Quayle who repeatedly twisted and misstated the facts," CNN reporter Brooks Jackson had pronounced after the vice presidential debate. On ABC, Jeff Greenfield proclaimed: "Independent examination of this charge by, for example, press organizations, has found it, to say the least, misleading."
Do you think "independent" was a good adjective to describe the adoring chorus of Clinton correspondents in 1992?
After the fact - which is to say, when Clinton was safely elected - some in the press developed a sudden sense of guilt.
Cut to February 18, 1993, when USA Today admitted: "Looks like Dan Quayle was right. Last year's vice presidential debate....produced an accurate prediction from Quayle about the Clinton budget plan....The final plan, according to Clinton officials, will hit those making $30,000 and above."
This is the sticky thing about campaign proposals. They are simply proposals. When a president is elected, the entire campaign manual can be thrown out the window. Predictions about what a politician will do are predictions, not facts. Obviously, some predictions can be wilder, like the suggestion that Ronald Reagan would start a massive war. (Liberals never tire of that one.) Predicting a massive tax hike under Democrats does not qualify as a wild prediction.
This goes not just for debates, but for commercials. The Bush-Quayle campaign issued a TV ad in the fall of 1992 that used their own numerical estimates of how much Clinton would raise taxes, and all the networks leaped on it like starving men on a crust of bread. NBC's Lisa Myers said "facts" were not on the GOP side: "President Bush's new ad portrays Bill Clinton as a big taxer and a danger to the middle class...That's misleading. In fact [here we go with that nettlesome word again], Clinton has proposed cutting taxes to the sort of people in this ad." In 20-20 hindsight, the fact is that Lisa Myers ended up with egg on her face.
Eric Engberg, the infamous CBS blowhard, was worse, and his producer encouraged Steven Colford of Advertising Age to denounce the ad starkly: "I think it's lying." If anyone was lying about Clinton, it ended up being CBS. Engberg continued: "Clinton's ad squad, aware that the unanswered attacks look true, struck back within 24 hours." He aired a Clinton claim that "George Bush has had the worst economic record of any President in the past 50 years" - but this time, he simply refused to assess the accuracy of that ludicrous groaner (two words: Jimmy Carter) or anything else in the Clinton response.
In 2008, reporters and columnists touting Obama are repeatedly citing numbers by something called the Tax Policy Center - and you'll never hear that this is a project operated by two liberal-Democrat think tanks - to suggest Obama will actually cut middle-class taxes more than John McCain. That, of course, assumes that President Obama will follow his plan to the letter, and that a newly elected liberal House and Senate will rubber-stamp his alleged tax cut for "95 percent" of Americans. That, by the way, is a serious math error. Please explain how it's possible to cut 95 percent of Americans' taxes when the Tax Foundation reports that 40 percent of Americans don't pay any income tax. If you think you can, I'd like to interest you in a sub-prime mortgage. This math apparently is too sophisticated for the guardians of "fact," who are nowhere to be found.
When Democrats claim they'll be more generous in tax-cutting, does anyone believe a liberal-dominated Washington is going to do less taxing and spending than the Bush administration?
There's nothing wrong with the media suggesting that the Republican candidate is refusing to accept the genuineness of the Democratic candidate's proposal. But if they suggest McCain is lying or misleading voters, they're in danger of walking off yet another cliff of credibility if and when President Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi get to cook their own ever-expanding federal budget pie.