Thursday, June 7, 2012

Time Now For A Wrap-up

Now that the Wisconsin recall election is over it might be useful to look at the candidates one last time. I’ve used the truthfulness ratings of – perhaps the most unbiased and reliable fact-checking website – to follow the candidates during the long and painful campaign. It has been clear, all along, that absolute truthfulness is rare in a political campaign. And absolute truthfulness – though perhaps an impossible dream – should certainly be the goal of every worthy candidate. It is the wish of every worthy citizen.

Allowance needs to be made for some slippage, however. All people sometimes misspeak. All candidates rely upon aids and other sources for their information and may not always be well served by those sources. So no one deserves to labeled a liar because of an inadvertent slip-up, later acknowledged and corrected, or for passing on incorrect information, later retracted or corrected. tends not to rate statements later retracted or corrected. It is concerned about those claims made and repeated in the face of evidence showing them to be wrong, or those which the candidate resists correcting or makes no effort to correct, as well as those true statements that have become critical to the campaign.

I do not always agree with the manner in which parses its analyses but I think it is impartial and applies the same standard to all candidates.  So let’s look at the final statistics from for the Governor Walker and Tom Barrett.

Walker’s Ratings:

True               6 (11%)
Mostly True    5 (9%)
Half True        10 (19%)
Mostly False   10 (19%)
False              19 (35%)
Pants On Fire 4 (7%)

Barrett’s Ratings:

True               2 (11%)
Mostly True    4 (21%)
Half True        4 (21%)
Mostly False   1 (5%)
False              5 (26%)
Pants On Fire 3 (16%)

I am willing to grant a “Straight Shooter” award for the categories of “True” and “Mostly True”. In those categories Tom Barrett is the clear winner with 33% of his claims achieving that ranking. Walker stands at 20%. Neither 33% or 20% is a very good record of truthfulness but there is a clear difference in the candidates.

In my book, anything less than “Mostly True” smacks of either an attempt to deceive, using just enough truth to mask some untruth, or an outright attempt to purvey false information, or a pathological urge to tell a lie when the truth would serve everyone better.

Once again neither candidate comes out looking very good. What we heard from Scott Walker during the campaign was less than “Mostly True” a whopping 80% of the time. Barrett has nothing to brag about at 68%.

In two lowest categories of truthfulness – “False” and “Pants on Fire” – both candidates scored a 42% ranking.

This pitiful picture does not offer much hope for good government. Both men will continue to serve in offices of high responsibility – Walker as governor, Barrett as mayor of Milwaukee. Even granting the fact that a political campaign is a frantic and desperate scramble in which decisions about what to say and do must be made quickly, little can be said in defense of such pathetic records of truthlessness. Perhaps those who readily lie in the heat of a campaign can be cooler heads when it comes to governing. I would hope so. No, I would like to hope so. I do not, in fact, have any hope that such is the case.

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