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Mailbag: 'Seriously twisted logic'

By Angie Drobnic Holan
Published on Friday, July 24th, 2009 at 3:45 p.m.

Our mailbag was overflowing with feedback on our rulings of the last few weeks.

You are so wrong!

One reader quarreled with us for giving the Republican National Committee a Half True for its statement that the Obama administration has ordered FBI agents to " read Miranda Rights to high-value terrorist detainees captured on the battlefield." We found that in a handful of cases, detainees have been read Miranda rights, though it is not standard practice.

"This is a lame and cowardly finding. You base it solely upon (Rep. Mike) Rogers' claims of what he heard in Afghanistan. Sure — there may well be confusion in Afghanistan as to what is supposed to happen, but that confusion can in no way be tracked to any directive from the Obama administration. This is a partisan and opportunistic use of a bad situation to attack Obama despite zero evidence being presented that the problem is either new or caused by the administration. This is akin to me claiming NYC traffic is bad due to a new directive from the Mayor's office. We may all be able to agree that NYC traffic is bad but the onus is upon me to demonstrate that my causal link is accurate. Rogers and the RNC have made no effort to do so in this case. What's more, Rogers' amendment is every bit as irresponsible as he claims the Obama administration is being. Preventing detainees from being Mirandized could jeopardize evidence in future court proceedings and result in those who would attack America going free in the future."

We also gave the Republican National Committee a False for its statement said that the Obama administration offered "$900 million to Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization, to rebuild Gaza." We found the money was actually intended for humanitarian aid in Gaza. There's no difference, said one reader.

"You cannot give a dime in Gaza without giving it to Hamas. What is counted as a benefit in Gaza is a benefit to Hamas. And YOU cannot get out of it. To give $900 million (or even $300 million) in aid to Gaza is the same as giving it to Hamas, the Islamic terrorist thugs that rule in Gaza."

We rated Promise No. 492, Phase out incandescent light bulbs , as Compromise. President Barack Obama didn't ban the bulbs, but he did raise efficiency standards for them.

"Okay, let me see if I have this one right. Obama is not going to phase out incandescent light bulbs so this is a Compromise. Your bias is showing again. You can't substitute other actions for your promise and say he compromised. He just did something else ... that's it. He did not phase out incandescent light bulbs so he broke his promise period. Geeez."

We looked into Promise No. 221, Double the Peace Corps , and rated it Stalled, because money to do that was not included in Obama's first budget for the group. We noted that Corps supporters in Congress still have hope that they can get extra money into the budget.

"You aren't calling it a Promise Broken because other longtime supporters are still fighting the good fight. So!!! He didn't promise to sit back and see what happens. He said he would be in there fighting alongside them. I can't even see where this one is a tough call. So if these longtime supporters actually win a victory, in spite of not getting any help from the President; you going to rate that a Promise Kept???? That is some seriously twisted logic you have going on there."

We still get a small but steady number of e-mails that insist we have not fully checked out allegations that Obama was not born in the United States . We've rated those claims Pants on Fire! several times.

"A certificate of live birth does not equate exactly to a birth certificate, which is produced by a hospital just after the birth of a child IN THAT HOSPITAL. The mother or father can do this after the fact when a birth certificate was not originally produced. They can also announce the birth in a newspaper without any fact-checking being done. Please see attached lawsuit, which was dismissed for 'lack of jurisdiction,' not for factual reasons. This is why this story still has legs. The basics of it have never been properly addressed. "

Finally, we investigated whether the new health care bill would require seniors to attend counseling sessions on how to end their own lives sooner. We rated that statement, made by Betsy McCaughey, Pants on Fire! We found instead that the bill would allow Medicare to pay for doctors to discuss things like living wills and end-of-life counseling, and the appointments would be completely optional. (AARP supports the measure.) A reader sent us this suggestion on the matter:

"Just wondered if they will start the counseling with those over 60 in Congress. I certainly think they should be first."

Oil imports

We received several messages from readers who felt we were too hard on Obama on the issue of oil imports. He said, "We import more oil today than ever before." We rated his statement False , because oil imports have dropped since their 2006 peak.

"It is clear that Obama here is referring to oil consumption 'today' as a broader term, not just this year of 2009. To rate this statement False because oil prices peaked 'in 2005 and 2006' is absolutely ridiculous when this decade is what he is referring too. Even in the quotes you have used to show Obama's point reiterates his position of a broader time frame. This is a PolitiFact fail."

"Are you sure we're looking at the same chart? Even accounting for a slight decline in the last couple of years, the chart seems to prove that oil imports have DOUBLED since 1992, substantiating Obama's claim. I highly encourage you to revise your False judgment, as it would otherwise cast a shadow on the rest of the Pulitizer-winning PolitiFact Web site. At the very least, it should be Half True. I am a graduate school statistician working towards his MBA in economics, so I study charts like this a lot and I find your conclusion a bit egregious."

"I think you missed the overarching point Obama was making, which is tipped by the phrase, 'We have known for decades.' He was making a broader point that for decades we have known the U.S. was too dependent on oil imports, and done little to mitigate it. ... Even if the score doesn’t change, at least acknowledge it in the end-of-week dissents. To not point out the state of oil imports over the past few decades, which is what Obama was addressing, does your readers a major disservice."

The Obameter


We continue to get lots of general disagreement on the Obameter, where we rate the status of Obama's campaign pledges. Readers tell us we are way too easy on him, or far too hard on him.

"You must have a strange list, because you have only seven broken promises, and I have MANY more. How about if we start with transparency, following the rule of law (which means, to me, not letting the previous gang of thugs off the hook). Frankly, I've stopped looking at your page, because you're doing a terrible job."

"For crying out loud, Obama is not God! Give the man some time to at least TRY to fix those things his predecessors screwed-up so royally for so many years. This man had the courage to step into one of the biggest messes this country has ever known and try to unravel the previously rotten way our country has been run forever. Would YOU like his job right now? They couldn't pay ME enough! ... The biggest thing he could do, he has already done. He's given back faith in us as a democratic country to the rest of the world. He has restored our country's 'image' to so many. He gave us all faith that things CAN change if we just quit looking at our pocketbooks and look ahead at the 'big picture.'"

"Hello, in general I like the site and applaud the idea of tracking promises for truthfulness sake. But I do think there are a number of promises you mark as broken that are not. Like No. 24 : It is true that no action has been taken to end income tax for seniors making $50,000 a year or less. But no action in six months is not the same as no action while president. Any promise made with no specific time line can be kept at any time during the presidency."

Liberal, Biased Media

We've rated a lot of attacks from Republicans and other conservatives who are against Obama's agenda. A good number of those attacks have earned False or Pants on Fire! ratings. We get steady e-mail telling us this is evidence of our liberal bias.

"Too bad you guys seem to lean to the left. I notice that claims against Obama are more false than his own claims, and I have noticed that right-affiliated individuals cited make more false claims than false claims against them. In the rule of odds, this isn't possible or even scientific. When is America going to get true unbiased reporting?"

"I find it amusing that you call yourselves PolitiFact.com. Your bias toward the left is blatant evidenced simply by the choice of comments you purport to analyze. You're a joke! You remind me a little of NPR when they say they have no commercials but promote 'underwriting.' Did you ever hear of a 'distinction without a difference'? The sad part is that you can thrive in a world that supports public education. My life is good but my grandchildren are really going to have a tough life thanks to the likes of you."

"Your stories tend to lean to the left. Most stories seem to be aimed at Republicans, and it seems that you don't report on more Democrats that are elected officials, which I am quite sure make outrageous statements. Like Joe Biden."

Compliments

Still, after all that, we do get compliments from time to time.

"After all the biased information on the Internet from both left and right, it is nice to see some straightforward reporting of the Obama administration."

"As a reader in Maine, I appreciate this service more than you may know. In a sea of partisan bickering and lying, it is nice to see journalism such as this and hope it has caused great financial success to keep it going!"

"I wanted to let you know that I appreciate your work, and was reminded of my gratitude in particular by your ruling for the Democratic National Committee's attacks on Sen. Mitch McConnell. [The ad said McConnell opposed unemployment compensation, health care for children and equal pay.] Barely True is the perfect rating for them here: the DNC has some factual basis (McConnell's votes), but the ad sensationalized and distorted McConnell's intent. There's a kernel of legislative truth, but the ad should be taken with a grain of salt, or perhaps the whole shaker. I'm not sure which is more disappointing — that candidates and parties routinely run ads like this that toe the brink of outright falsehood, or that melodramatic oversimplifications like this somehow find their way into the public narrative. Anyway, thanks for doing what you do, and here's hoping you keep doing it."

"It has been my experience that people only write when they have something negative to say so I'm sure you get too many negative e-mails compared to the positive ones. I'll try and help your inbox ratio! I truly appreciate all of the hard work you do! My friends and family all rely on your site as well as Factcheck to help us sort through the ramblings of politicians on both sides of the aisle. There will always be those that will not be convinced you are doing your job if you disagree with them, but I have found you guys to be 95 percent on the money, even if it makes me upset. The only way a voting republic works is if the electorate is educated. Thanks to you and sites like you, we can get a little closer!"

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Sources:

Letters from our readers. You can email us, too! It's truthometer@politifact.com for comments about Truth-O-Meter ratings or obameter@politifact.com for Obameter ratings.

Researchers: Angie Drobnic Holan

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