I ended my previous post promising to “lighten up” in this post in response to a reader’s suggestion I do so, but lighter will have to wait until later as it now seems appropriate to fact check the Bill Clinton speech, since I referred to the fact checked criticisms of Paul Ryan’s address at the other convention in a previous post. As we used to say in what a friend’s daughter calls “olden times”, what’s “good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Especially because this gander, slick Willie, got mostly rave reviews for his persuasive rebuttal of most things Republican a couple of nights ago. Well, Rush Limbaugh said the speech was boring, what little he watched, and that it wouldn’t help Obama at all. So, there is one vote against (not to mention hours of talk show fodder as Rushbo reveals why he alone sees what others do not).
A persuasive speech, but how much was true? It is too much to cover fully, but having read a handful of fact checkers, I’ll try to give an integrated gist. Glenn Kessler, fact checker at the Washington Post, gave what he called “an initial take”, which was a quick survey of what he found faulty or misleading. The Democrat/Obama plan to cut $4 trillion in the budget over a decade, Kessler described as a “major budget gimmick” and he called the 4.5 million private sector jobs produced during the last 29 months of Obama’s administration a “cherry picked” figure. He had several other criticisms, including one mentioned below, not so much of Clinton but of what others said at the convention, too much to go over here.
In concentrating only on the flaws in the speech Kessler gives no sense of much that was true, more or less. My guess is after carving up Paul Ryan he didn’t want to be seen as soft on Bill Clinton.
One of Kessler’s major criticisms – crediting the ACA with slowing down the growth rate of health care costs – seems most shared by other checkers. As Factcheck.org wrote: “The worst we could fault him (Clinton) for was a suggestion that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was responsible for bringing down the rate of increase in health care spending, when the fact is that the law’s main provisions have yet to take effect.“ The causes of this decrease are somewhat debatable, but there seems general agreement not to credit the ACA for it.
However, it is noteworthy that Factcheck.org viewed that as the worst exaggeration of the speech, calling “other exaggerations and missteps …. minor by comparison.” In fact, they said despite running down Clinton’s many statistics and factual claims, they found little to write about.
CBS checked out seven claims made by Bill Clinton and found most of them more or less correct, while giving the Obama administration more credit than Kessler does in creating that $4.5 million jobs.
From reading these three sources (and a couple others as well), my impression is that, considering all the facts and figures Clinton mentioned over the course of his speech, he remained mostly in the ballpark of truth, implying some things that may not be true and are unlikely, but in this age of misinformation not bad at all. Especially given all that he talked about.
That’s my sense of it all, and I am happy to report that Melanie Mason of the LA Times seems to agree with me. She did her own survey of the fact checkers and concluded: “Bill Clinton courts fact-checkers, earns mostly praise.” Check it out as she offers additional insights.
Obviously, I think highly of Ms. Mason’s ability to analyze and synthesize. Next time I want to check something out, I’ll Google to see if she already has. It could save me a lot of time and energy.