Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Mailbag: Hitting 'a new low' on health care

The latest batch of mail brings both criticism and kudos for our Truth-O-Meter rulings.
The latest batch of mail brings both criticism and kudos for our Truth-O-Meter rulings.

We took some heat for our recent ruling on health care, terrorism, torture and hate crimes. Here's a sampling from our mailbag:

Mitch McConnell and private health insurance

We looked at three statements from Republicans on Democratic plans for health care (" Your guide to distortions on health care "). We heard from several readers who disliked our rating of Sen. Mitch McConnell's statement about a public health care option promoted by some Democrats.  McConnell said those plans would destroy the private insurance business "because the private insurance people will not be able to compete with a government option." We rated his statement Barely True .

• "With regard to your story rating Mitch McConnell's comment that a public health care option would run private insurers out of business, I believe that your writers have hit a new low. In the article, the author cites two 'nonpartisan' institutes who contradict McConnell. The Urban Institute and Commonwealth Fund are well-known in Washington as liberal think tanks, so of course they are going to back the liberal proposals to reform health care and rebut anyone who opposes them. …  Obama himself has said that if he were starting from scratch, he would propose a single-payer system, so that is obviously his preferred health care plan. He's now saying that he wants a private/public mix so that he can use the plan as a Trojan horse to kill the private plans. After the private insurers fold, he'll say, 'Gosh, all the private companies are closing. Well, I didn't want to, but I guess we'll have to go to single-payer.' … If you still disagree, no problem. Just save this e-mail in your archive and in five years I'll ask you to read it again and see who was right. I don't claim to be a prophet, but the only way to miss what Obama is doing is to willfully refuse to look."

• "How can you list McConnell's statement Barely True? The ultimate goal is for a single-payer system; 'the public plan' will be very inexpensive initially, driving many people away from their private insurance. Once they have us, it will be rationing beyond belief. Private insurers can't and won't compete. What makes you think the government can run 17 percent of our GDP when they have been abject fiscal failures with Medicare and Social Security? Please do some homework before you put out such nonsense."

Another reader thought we were too easy on McConnell.

• "McConnell has made a prediction. Predictions, by definition, cannot be measured on a true-false continuum. They can only be measured on a likely-unlikely continuum. You wrote: 'Even though we have limited details on how the plan would be implemented, there is enough in the administration proposal to conclude that McConnell's worst-case scenario is unlikely. That brings us to Barely True.' No, it brings you to Highly Friggin' Unlikely. By calling McConnell's asinine prediction Barely True, you lend credibility to a partisan (hack) .... You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Terrorists vs. terrorist suspects

A reader questioned our take on Dick Cheney's statement that waterboarding "happened to three terrorists." We rated the statement True .

• "Cheney specifically stated that waterboarding happened to 'three terrorists.' He did not state they were terrorist suspects , therefore for his statement to be rated True, I would expect that their involvement in terrorism to have been confirmed. At least one of the three victims of waterboarding, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, has had all of the charges laid against him dropped . This means that he can only be classified as a terrorism suspect. I would therefore request that you change your rating from True to Mostly True, as it is only true if he — and the other two — are found guilty of terrorism charges. Cheney will have known what he was doing by removing the word 'suspects.' To say it only happened to terrorists suggests that these men are clearly evil and deserve anything they get."

Hate crimes and pedophiles

We looked into a statement from Rep. Steve King about a federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act. King said the act could lead to "special protection for pedophiles" and wanted to amend the bill to specifically exclude pedophiles. We found that the bill did not provide protections for pedophiles and rated his statement Pants on Fire . Too harsh, said one reader.

• "First off, I'm confident that your analysis is correct as far as the intentions of the bill's supporters are concerned. I'm sure there is no hidden agenda in the bill. Nobody respectable wants to protect pedophiles and other sex-oriented criminals. However, you are no doubt aware of the 'law of unintended consequences.' I used to carry in my wallet a Social Security card, issued around 1965 or '66, that bore this disclaimer: 'For tax and Social Security purposes only. Not to be used for identification.' Everybody at that time and prior was firm in their commitment that Social Security numbers would never become national ID numbers. But in the end, that is exactly what they became, and that disclaimer is no longer printed on the cards. … So I have no doubt the federal bill is innocent at this time. But could the plain language in it be understood someday in a manner that nobody is presently visualizing? Perhaps not, but I would hesitate to label a liar somebody who is truly concerned about that possibility."

Pelosi and "enhanced interrogation"

Finally, we're still getting e-mail from readers about our rating of a statement on torture from speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a topic we addressed in the previous installment of Mailbag . She said the CIA did not brief the Democratic leadership on "enhanced interrogation" in 2002. We found records and other testimony contradicted her, and we rated her statement False .

• "How long are you going to keep your Truth-O-Meter on False for Nancy Pelosi's assertion about not being briefed on torture use? You have absolutely no PROOF that she's lying! You have only hearsay and CIA memos for which the CIA can't even vouch for accuracy. There have now been four Democrats in Congress who have said that memos contain inaccurate information about them. You have not PROVEN the case for a False on this issue. Why is it still up as False? I'm quickly losing faith in the truth behind your Truth-O-Meter."

• "Your rating of False for Pelosi's statement that they were not briefed on waterboarding should be Pants on Fire. If you are going to base your rating of False on the official documents that you have from the CIA, she's directly lying about this. She's not saying she doesn't remember specifics, she says she was absolutely not briefed on it, while the record clearly shows she and other Democrats were. I generally don't support the Republicans, which tends to put me on the Democrats' side, but call a spade a spade. According to the official record, the 'we' she is speaking for was briefed, and she is lying about it. You can reserve the right to revisit the ruling in light of new evidence if you want, but I expect equal treatment on both side of the aisle. It's not D's or R's who are the problem, it's lying politicians, and they need to be held accountable for the actions that have cast a shadow over our great country. "

• "I just discovered your Web site and am impressed. It is so important to have a credible organization identify truth and falsehoods. I hope you are that kind of organization. If so (and nonpartisan), I am glad to have a source I can trust. The Pelosi article is compelling. Thank you for being brave enough to endure the anger which will be directed your way. Those of us who value honesty above party appreciate it!"

Thanks for the Obameter!

Finally, we received this note from a reader who appreciates our ongoing efforts to track President Barack Obama's campaign promises on the Obameter .

• "As of today, (actually, as of a few days ago, but I just noticed today) President Obama has addressed in some way over 100 of his campaign promises (or over 20 percent of the total). I am impressed. More important, however, is that you have made it possible for me to know that fact. You have made it possible for me to know that my president is actively working for what he promised to work for on the campaign trail. He has not always succeeded, and the majority of those promises he has addressed are still 'in the works' but 100 promises addressed is an important milestone nonetheless. I can hold him accountable, thanks to you."