Tuesday, October 11, 2016

November 11, 2016--Trump's Line In the Sand

Sunday's presidential debate hit an all-time political low. It was as if we were watching an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. How appropriate was that considering what spawned Donald Trump.

At one point I said to Rona that I hope they had security guards nearby because I think Trump and Clinton were about to attack each other. Physically. Forget refusing to shake hands. I was thinking mud wrestling and biting in the neck.

There was a sense of menace with bulky Trump towering over Hillary, looking as if he was stalking her and about to pounce.

But in truth it looked like that largely because of the camera angles and the choice of perspectives and images the director selected to put on the air. There were the foreshortened shots that made it appear that Donald was right on top of her whereas those shots from the side revealed that less menacingly he was a more benign six feet away.

Talk about pictures being worth more than a thousand words and how there are in these choices political consequences that derive from camera angles and control room decisions.

Then post debate on line and in print there was the flood of fact-check results.

Since among other things I try to keep an eye on reporting by the New York Times, here is a little fact-checking of the fact-checking.

Priding itself as the "paper of record," one would think that the Times in the spirit of journalistic integrity--especially when it comes to something objective such as fact-checking--would scrutinize about the same number of facts alleged by each candidate since both did quite a bit of, how shall I put this, fibbing, OK, lying, to use a word they both were comfortable hurling, would check about the same number of facts. Say ten for Trump and eight for Clinton. This would give the appearance of being fair and balanced though with a wink indicating that Donald told more whoppers than Hillary.

It might surprise you then--though not necessarily--that the non-partisan Times fact-checked 22 of Trump's assertions and only five of Hillary's.

To offer a flavor of the accuracy, let's take a look at Trump's charge that Hillary Clinton was still serving as secretary of state when President Obama drew his famous "line in the sand" when it appeared that Bashar al-Assad was about to use chemical weapons against the Syrian rebels.

Here cut-and-pasted from the Times' is their fact-checking--

Mr. Trump accused Mrs. Clinton of being there for President Obama’s “line in the sand” in Syria. She said she wasn’t.
Donald J. Trump appears to be referring to the “red line” (not “line in the sand”) episode in Syria. At a news conference in August 2012, President Obama said if President Bashar al-Assad of Syria moved or used “a whole bunch of chemical weapons,” it would be “a red line” that would change his calculations about not intervening in Syria with armed force. 
A year later — after Hillary Clinton was no longer in government — there was a chemical weapons attack in a rebel-contested suburb of Damascus, killing as many as 1,500 people. The United States government issued a report saying “streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence” as proving that Syrian government forces were behind the attack, meaning Mr. Obama’s red line had been crossed.
So Trump gets a pants-on-fire for mixing up "line in the sand" and "red line." Fair enough--but he got the essential truth right--Clinton was still in office when Obama issued his feckless threat. Presumably, with Clinton's endorsement.

From the Pulitzer-Prize winning website, POLITIFACT, here is what they have to say about the same fact--

Basically, Obama drew the chemical weapons "red line" in August 2012 when Clinton was secretary of state [my italics]. But by the time the White House confirmed that Assad crossed it about a year later, she had been replaced by John Kerry.

The Washington Post came to a similar conclusion.

This is not just academic nitpicking but goes to the heart of any analysis of Hillary Clinton's experience and accomplishments as secretary of state.

Forget Trump--he's on his way next month to a well deserved thrashing. But the fact that Clinton frequently misrepresents her record should be of concern. Especially to those of us who support her. I

And, yes, the New York Times also needs to take a close and honest look at itself. We need it to be at its journalistic best and Hillary Clinton, out next president, needs to be forceful, visionary, and honest.

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