Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Mailbag: 'Get a spine and call it right'

We check the mail and find a lively mix of praise and criticism.
We check the mail and find a lively mix of praise and criticism.

We love hearing from our readers, regardless of whether you agree with our rulings. In our latest batch of e-mails, we heard from some who think we got the ratings exactly right and others who feel we failed miserably.

A taxing matter


We knew we were dealing with a tricky issue when we added Promise No. 515, "No family making less than $250,000 will see 'any form of tax increase.'" We rated it Compromise.

In that item, we decided that Obama's support of expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program — which is Promise No. 58 , a Promise Kept — would raise cigarette taxes. We heard from readers who said we graded the promise too harshly, too softly and just right.

• "It seems to be that you're deliberately pecking apart his campaign promise on a petty semantic issue. In the context that he delivered it, he was obviously not referring to the excise taxes on lethal addictions, which, unless you smoke carton after carton, is simply not going to have that large of an impact on your ability to get by. Truly, very few will sympathize with the individual whose economic hardship increases because they can't quit smoking. Taking him on his literal word on this incredibly important issue is distorting the Obameter's ability to check Obama's promises."

• "This is clearly an increase on anyone making under $250,000 that smokes. Again as I wrote you before, he should be penalized for making such unbelievable sweeping promises...but you give him a pass again. When does he get held accountable for these outlandish promises meant to sway (BUY) voters????!!!! Otherwise, what's to stop him from making ridiculous promises? ... Your analyses are awful. Get a spine and call it right."

• "In life, there are very few simple answers. Do not let the blind right or the Obama fan club that (New York Times columnist Paul) Krugman once likened to a 'cult' force you into feeding them the comfort food they are fed every day by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann and Bob Herbert, to mention just a few ultra-biased clowns. The compromise verdict is necessary in some cases, including the too-tough-to-call middle-class tax increase promise."

The Armenian genocide

Obama traveled to Turkey and declined to name the Armenian genocide when asked about it by a reporter. Obama instead said his views hadn't changed. We rated that a Promise Broken. We heard from a number of readers who disagreed, and a smaller number who said we got it right. We updated this promise on April 24, a memorial day for the 1915 genocide. It's still rated Promise Broken. But here's what readers had to say immediately after the Turkey visit:

• "His views ARE on the record. Those views are that it IS a genocide. And he point blank said in front of the entire world that he stood by them. That would be the exact OPPOSITE of breaking his promise to recognize it as a genocide. He didn't promise 'I will stand in Turkey and yell "genocide! genocide! genocide!" in their faces.' He said he would recognize it for what it was and he did. I appreciate you guys may be beginning to feel like you need to look extra hard for a few to put in the broken promises column for appearance's sake considering what the totals are so far but come on, be objective."

• "Strategically, it does him no good to bring it up right now. He's trying to get people behind an economic agenda and is having enough trouble getting support from friendlier countries. Why in blazes would he open up this can of worms now? It's like if a friend owes you money, and then a mutual friend of the two of you dies. When you meet up at the funeral, you're not going to mention the money. If you did, that friend would slap you across the face and never speak to you again. If Obama mentioned Armenia now, Turkey would all but physically throw him back on Air Force One and stiff-arm him the rest of his administration. It's just not a good time. I'd be willing to consent to a Stalled ruling, but I think it's too early for Promise Broken."

• "I was about to suggest that you look into the promise related to the Armenian genocide when I suddenly noticed that you already have it covered. Good call. Even if the president recognized the genocide in question tomorrow in say, Mexico, recognizing it in front of Turkey was key. And he didn't dare do it."

Gingrich's half-flip


Another reader complained about our rating of a Half-Flip to Newt Gingrich and his position on torture. The reader said we were comparing apples to oranges:

• "I see no flip-flop here. I see an invalid comparison of a man's views on two completely different topics that just happen to have the term 'torture' in common (though many don't believe the term 'torture' even applies to our treatment of suspected terrorists, and using it is a vast insult to victims of real torture throughout the world). I enjoy most of your rulings, whether I fully agree with them or not. But I seriously hope you rethink this one."

Parting shots

• "How can you rate any promises broken when he's only been in office less than 100 days? Was he expected to act on all 500 campaign promises in that time? You're just another voice who does anything it can to undermine Obama's efforts. Who put up this site… Romney?"

• "I have given PolitiFact the benefit of the doubt until (Promise No.) 515 was rated a Compromise. This confirms you join the 80 percent of the press that is in the tank for Obama."

• "The most useful Web site for tracking how Obama is doing. Really clear to navigate and use. Please keep it up, thanks!"

• "Most other political sites besides yours seem to have clunky layouts and nasty lists, or outright lies. Thank you for providing an actual nonpartisan list and keeping it well-updated."

• "Congratulations on your Pulitzer Prize! Your research and journalism is a great contribution to the War on DISTORTION and FALSEHOOD! I am a lifelong Democrat and an Obama fan but the truth needs to be told!"

In closing, we'd also like to send a special thank you to readers who send us tips for both promises to update and Truth-O-Meter items. Please keep them coming!