Shawn Mitchell

If there were ever a pristine past when “fact checkers” confirmed or rebutted verifiable claims, it’s dead. The fact checkers killed it.

The barrage of attacks on Romney-Ryan expose the truth: “Fact-checking” today is nothing more than the voice of the counter-argument, the scramble for unflattering context, alleged hypocrisy, contradiction, or distraction. Concrete “facts” are often an afterthought, and sometimes even need contradicting in the service of higher “truth.”

That’s how it came to pass that $716 billion that Obamacare cuts from the Medicare line-item is not really a $716 billion cut to Medicare; Waiving work requirements for welfare is not “gutting” the work requirement, because the president--who opposed welfare reform--promises he’ll do something even better; and Paul Ryan is somehow disqualified from criticizing the president for stiffing his own deficit reduction commission’s plan, unless Ryan himself also supported and voted for it.

Ryan drafted and proposed something even bolder? Doesn’t count! Tally up the Pinocchios!

Fact-checking has devolved into the violent art of conjuring anything possible to undermine the speaker’s point, the way he made it, or his credibility as messenger. Those are the rules, anyway, if the speaker is Republican.

But the ferocious fact check gang didn’t quite take their A-game to Charlotte. They must have been exhausted and spent from blowing their wad in Tampa. Otherwise, surely the sincere crew would have landed some zingers. For example:

CLAIM: In her speech, Michelle Obama said Americans she meets every day make her proud. “They remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth."

FACT:  After her husband won the nomination in 2008, Mrs. Obama admitted: “For the first time in my adult lifetime I am proud of my country." Linguists suggest Mrs. Obama’s prior statement raises reasonable doubt about whether her convention statement was sincere. It could have been cynically scripted, nicely delivered manipulation of voters who want to believe their First Family values their national heritage.

Analysts acknowledge it’s possible four years of living in federal housing and jetting the globe on 16 luxury vacations with a large entourage have improved her outlook.

CLAIM: President Obama said: “We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers, who have always been the driving force behind our free-enterprise system — the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known.”

FACT: The president was recently caught on tape mocking successful businesspeople, helpfully informing them, in essence: Lemme tell ya, there are a lot of smart people and hardworking people. You didn’t make it without a hand up. You sure didn’t pave your street, lay the sewer pipe, or rig the electrical lines that your greedy, exploitive sweatshops depend on. 

Many experts believe the president’s unguarded revelation embarrassed him and damaged his standing with moderates and other extremists who value the contribution of free enterprise to our quality of life. These experts suggest he is back-peddling faster than Deion Sanders to intercept the sincere beliefs he inadvertently exposed.

CLAIM: The president said: “[Ours is] a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future. It’s a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known.”

FACT: Barack Obama famously declared he will fundamentally transform this nation. His campaign is promoting “a new vision of America, where prosperity is shared.” Philosophers and linguists are grappling with how it’s possible to both “restore” something and seek its “fundamental transformation.”

Historians cite early systems of socialism in the colonies that were scrapped when hardship, starvation, and death stalked the population. So it’s theoretically possible to propose restoring American collectivism.

Other experts, however, suggest the president’s reference to restoring values is a disingenuous appeal. But they are the distinct minority among elite fact checkers.

Finally, what would happen if the fact check gang even turned their scrutiny on their own?

CLAIM: Effete NBC Anchor Brian Williams said many people aren’t sold on the president, but neither do they like the negative, personal attacks coming from the Romney campaign.

FACT: NASA astronomers are scrambling to determine what alternative universe Mr. Williams inhabits. In the real one, Obama and surrogates have charged that Romney dodged all taxes for ten years, and is a falsifying felon who plundered worker pensions, shipped jobs to China, killed dependents with cancer, and wants to put black people in chains.

With Romney supporters waiting in frustrated agony for Romney to return fire, Williams declares that Romney is the nasty one. Williams is either a liar or too blinded by ideology to see and describe reality.

He is a hero to all of us in the fact checker guild!


Shawn Mitchell

Shawn Mitchell was elected to Senate District 23 in the Colorado General Assembly in November of 2004. Shawn is an attorney at private practice in Denver and Adams County.
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