Did Obama ‘Approve’ Bridge Work for Chinese Firms?

The following is part of a spammed email forwarded from a reader yesterday that blames Obama for hiring Chinese firms to do American construction projects:

ABC World News

ABC World News (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Diane Sawyer reporting on U.S. bridge projects going to the Chinese…. NOT Americans.  The bridges are right here in the U.S. and yet Obama has approved for Chinese contractors to come in and do the work. What about jobs for Americans???

Watch this video. It doesn’t take long to view.

This one should be tough for the supporters of the current regime to swallow….AND it comes from ABC NEWS”

Well, I watched the video and it was tough to swallow, as Dianne Sawyer began by calling the hiring of Chinese firms “shocking” .    Next there is a  clip of Obama saying he wanted to “put construction workers back to work” in the U. S.  Ha, then why were Chinese firms being hired?   At that point I noticed the video was made Sept 23, 2011, so I Googled the subject and found a Factcheck.org piece exploring the issue.   Here is the short of it according Factcheck:

Q: Is President Obama responsible for Chinese companies building U.S. bridges with stimulus money, as reported by ABC News?

A: No. A viral email distorts an ABC News report. California officials hired a Chinese contractor and rejected federal money to avoid federal “Buy American” laws (*1)

I watched the video again and wondered why I had missed the main point, that state officials made the call and that Obama was only guilty by inferences viewers like me made.  He could not force California officials to abide by “Buy American” laws if they rejected federal money (*2).

Part of the problem here is what often happens in TV news, they mix dramatic effects with a message which is often undermined by the impact of the  dramatic effects.  The beginning and end of a story are the two most memorable parts and a video usually has more impact than words.  Dianne Sawyer began with her “shocking news” about buying Chinese, especially shocking when compared with Obama arguing to buy American in a video.  And then the segment ended with a line about how Buy American laws weren’t going to work if states could so easily ignore them.  If you piece those three elements together, and mix in  some fuzzy mindedness, it adds up to Obama somehow seeming guilty.

For that to be true, he would need to be dictator, not president.  Using that image of Obama promising to create jobs was a poor choice by ABC, as it implied fault on his part regarding the Chinese hiring, which suggests to me ABC valued the dramatic feel of the piece so much they didn’t notice it implied blame where it did not exist.

And that is all the rabid right needed to go nuts over the issue as it did when it mistakenly thought Obama was in France over our 4th of July (noted in a previous post).   Whatever seems to support their animosity towards  him they will run with and, if proven wrong, no matter, they will pick up something else likely to be false and run with that, too.   It is like they keep throwing rancid spagetti on a wall figuring some of it will stick, and of course some of  it does.  The reader who forwarded the accusatory email ended his introductory comment with:  “The truth shall set us free!”   I agree, but in this age of misinformation, you sure have to work like hell to find it.

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(*1) You can decide for yourself by watching the ABC video and then going to  factcheck.org.  The latter’s analysis covers other “hire Chinese” accusations as well.  Also, in response to the explosion of negative ads by Super Pacs, Factcheck.org created another site aimed at prompting radio and TV station directors to pull the most fallacious ones:  Flackcheck.org.  Check  that site out as well, as it reveals a number of whoppers from both sides.

(*2)  Here we have a state exercising its rights to make certain decisions, such as to refuse federal funds so as to evade a federal law.   That’s the kind of states “right” that the right so often argues for, but if they don’t like the decision they ignore that, especially if they can  somehow pin fault on Obama in the process.

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Representative LaTourette: A Man in the Middle Torn Apart

Among the many obstacles we face in saving our ship of state from sinking is our mixed minds about our elected officials.   The more frustrated we get with inaction, the more we want to throw the bums out, but then tend to replace them with others who have such a disdain for compromise that they make matters worse.  Can you spell “Tea Party”?

Tea Party rally to stop the 2010 health care r...

Tea Party rally to stop the 2010 health care reform bill in St. Paul, Minnesota  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, our politics are a mess, with monied interests having more influence than ever, but the idea that the Tea Party has answers to our dilemma is  delusional, even if you are as smart as George Will.

The conservative columnist was positively aglow yesterday at the Texas Senatorial primary victory of Ted Cruz, a Tea Party candidate with uncharacteristically impressive academic credentials, over a fellow conservative Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who had the solid backing of the state’s Republican apparatus.  Actually, part of his problem may have been he had too much backing, “as Tea Partyers and other conservatives look askance at persons who play too well with others,” according to Will.

The columnist used this opportunity to take us back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt and his trying to play fast and loose with our constitution, one indication of how progressives have no, or at least insufficient, respect for the limits of that cherished document.   To Will, electing Cruz to the Senate – to join the likes of Jim DeMint and Marco Rubio, will help ” preserve the Constitution from capricious majorities.”

I wonder whether it ever occurs to Will and other proud protectors of the constitution that they, the Tea Party in this case, would never have been able to come up with a constitution themselves.   Even the sophisticated Will conveniently ignores the complex combination of compromises required to create that hallowed document.  Foremost, as odious as slavery was to many, it was tolerated for the time being in order to come to an agreement.

In short, it was good that our founders could play well with others.

Ohio Republican Representative Steve LaTourette, who has been a nine-term Representative in Congress, has played well with others, including those across the aisle.    However, he has had enough of  the present climate in which “compromise” is a dirty word and resigned a few days ago.

His motivations for quitting may not be as pristine as that, in that he has also been frustrated by not getting a position he wanted.  But despite a Wall Street Journal editorial to the contrary, it seems clear that he is  has been a well respected, well liked centrist who has fought hard for his positions while also open to compromise, mostly supporting Speaker John Boehner,  but also going against him at times.  Of course, WSJ will have none of that, instead calling  him “a spender and earmarker, famed for currying favor with union special interests.”

He also curried favor with his district, receiving 65% of the vote in his last election and, though WSJ suggests his real reason for quitting might be  a redrawn district that could make “reelection more difficult”, that is a stretch.   The present Democratic candidate seems so weak that others in that party would like to replace him now that they have a better chance to win.

As to the resignation, The Cleveland Plain Dealer notes:  “Congress’ repeated failure to pass a long-term transportation bill was Exhibit A to LaTourette, a pragmatic conservative who believes infrastructure is a basic government function and one that might require, yes, higher taxes.”  Apparently not grasping the wisdom of Will, WSJ and the Tea Party, the Plain Dealer editorial called his resignation “bad news for greater Cleveland.”

While WSJ is  happy to see La Tourette go, as it “might be a chance to fill the seat with a more reform-minded member”, one more reformer who disdains compromise is the last thing we need in Congress.   Representative LaTourette is the kind of individual I believe a majority of us would like to see in Washington, someone not so blinded by ideological principles as to be unable to get something accomplished in addition to  protecting our constitution.