Sunday, January 6, 2008

Discerning Truth from the Campaigns

Check out this interesting article in defense of negative campaign ads published by the Libertarian magazine Reason. The article argues that negative ads provide useful information about the candidates that voters might not realize based on positive ads alone.
What would we glean about the current candidates from watching only their own positive ads and presentations? ... That Mike Huckabee is unabashedly in favor of Christmas. That Rudy Giuliani will kill terrorists with his bare hands. That Barack Obama's serene wisdom would make Gandhi look like Bill O'Reilly
Consider the valuable information that can be learned from negative ads:
Huckabee has changed his position on illegal immigration. Edwards has changed his position on the Iraq war. Romney has changed his position on everything.
Hee Hee. I liked the statement about Romney (nicely summarizes this post I wrote decrying Romney's rampant flip-flopism).

Of course the article also points out that negative ads often spin the truth and give deceitful information about the candidates, which is ultimately unhelpful to voters. I recommend visiting the fact-checking website PolitiFact.com, a joint service of the Congressional Quarterly and the St. Petersburg Times. The site has pages and pages of statements made by or about the candidates, each paired up with a "Truth-O-Meter" evaluation--the staff of CQ and the Times fact-check each of the claims and determine how accurate the statements really are.

For example, in a December 16, 2007 interview on Meet the Press, Romney said
I just talked about guns. I told you what my position was, and what I did as governor, the fact that I received the endorsement of the NRA.
Truth-O-Meter says that statement is


and points out that even Romney has confessed that statement is untrue.

On the other hand, in a Romney ad attacking Mike Huckabee, "Spike" the dog claims:
Mike Huckabee raised taxes on dog groomers!
Truth-O-Meter says that statement is


As with all Truth-O-Meter verdicts, these conclusions come with details collected by the CQ and Times fact-checkers. Also cool: you can sort the claim evaluations by candidate who spoke them, candidate they are directed at, type of issue involved, even by political party.

Cool website :-)

Hat tips: my boyfriend, NPR

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