Michele Bachmann: All Fâ€™s on Truth-O-Meter Report Card
Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann has scored an unprecedented “perfect” record of 100% lies on the PolitiFact.com fact-checking Truth-O-Meter, according to results released on Tuesday. The Pulitzer Prize-winning website operated by the St. Petersburg Times named Bachmann as the recipient of five Pants on Fire and six False ratings since the website began tracking her public utterances.
The most recent addition to her collection was a statement made on September 17 that Speaker Nancy Pelosi ran up a $100,000 bar bill on military jets. For this, Bachmann received the flaming Pants on Fire rating for a lie of the highest degree of falsehood attainable under the website’s rating system. In truth, according to PolitiFact, Pelosi's staff ran up a measly tab of just under $7,000 over 12 international trips. This figure was explicitly fact-checked by FactCheck.org, so we have the two leading online watchdogs concurring on the finding of flat-out lies on Bachmann’s part.
In Bachmann’s defense, she was merely parroting outrageous claims first advanced by Judicial Watch, a right-wing chop shop, err, advocacy group. Judicial Watch initially latched on to a financial report reflecting $101,429.14 spent by Speaker Pelosi’s staff on non-reimbursable travel-related items that included, according to FactCheck:
“…non-plane costs of the trip, including baggage fees, meeting room rentals and refreshments, and, frequently, good-will lapel pins — as well as meals, ground transportation and lodging in U.S. territory.”
Judicial Watch—which apparently has no idea how to parse expense account statements—simply took the $101,000 total and created a factoid out of whole cloth. The corrected amount for alcohol as determined by FactCheck, in case you were wondering, was derived by extrapolating a booze bill of $560.28 (that included non-alcoholic drinks) for one trip times the 12 trips referenced. Thus, we arrive at $6,723.36. Pelosi, by the way, doesn't drink.
The Value of Lies
Beyond the details of this pants afire tempest in shot glass lies a larger truth: Lies work. A deliberate strategy of obfuscation, misrepresentation and outright lying hits the media with a larger than life impact that nearly always dwarfs the rebuttal. Big Lies work for big personas, like Bachmann’s—and Palin’s—Palin, of course, spread the whopper about Death Panels killing Down Syndrome babies.
Political operatives counsel candidates—Bachmann is a candidate for reelection to a third term in Minnesota’s 6th district—that if you can make big points with a Big Lie, the rebuttal will never catch up with you as long as you move quickly to your next newsbyte hit. Bachmann, for her part, has been prolific. Here are a few of her latest, greatest hits:
- Social Security is broke. (False)
- 30 percent of doctors will leave the profession under “Obamacare” (False)
- One of President Obama’s key advisors says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled (False)
- ACORN is a paid partner of the Census Bureau (Pants on Fire)
So, we get it. Big Lies eclipse the truth. No one I know can cite a single statement of any kind made by Bachmann’s challenger, Tarryl Clark, whose statement about Bachmann, “Many things she says are just factually wrong. I think she knows it, but it does create headlines; it does give you a certain notoriety,” was reported in the Saint Cloud Times online yesterday. So who wins? $100,000 liquor pigs or “just factually wrong?”
The pattern has become endemic, almost emblematic of the Obama era, if we can call it that yet. The pattern of Republicans behaving badly with the facts trumps carefully messaged retorts from the party in power. Roosevelt faced the same thing, you know. He said of his enemies in an October 1936 speech at Madison Square Garden:
“They are unanimous in their hatred for me - and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second administration that in it these forces met their master.”
Somehow, I don’t think he was worried about alienated the fence-sitters with that one. Lies have legs. Adolph Hitler had three criteria for the success of the lie. It had to be big, simple, and repeated ad nauseum. Wrong as he was about so many things, I don’t think he was wrong about lies.
That this should become an accepted strategy, nay, a dominant strategy, in so many races in this ugly year speaks volumes about cynicism toward democracy in some quarters. While I remember the courage and resignation of Lyndon Johnson’s statement that the Democrats would lose the South for a generation with the passage of the civil rights bill (he was wrong—it’s been far longer than that), I can’t help but find a parallel in the passage of the flawed but groundbreaking health care reform act, portions of which go into effect today. Only now, it appears we have lost the Middle, the anti-tax, increasingly jobless, and normally apathetic Middle, who simply says, “You can’t make me buy health insurance.”
I suppose we could lie and tell them they won’t. But better to tell the Big Truth. “We did not bail out the banks. We bailed out your savings.” And, “We saved your health care system from rationing for lack of cash.”
Why, then is it easier to believe Big Lies? Why FEMA camps? Death panels? Census plots? Foreign born pretenders to the presidency? Muslim travesties?
Why? Because people want simple targets—simple targets upon which to vent the rage of the newly dispossessed, as in out of cash, out of credit, and, often enough, out of work. In this environment, Big Lies, kept simple, and oft-repeated, are guaranteed to score big. Just ask Michele Bachmann. She seems pretty confident.