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The Presidential Debates and the Merry-go-Round.
Occasionally I sit plastered to the television hoping something will make me laugh and put the labor of a long day behind me. The other night I was delighted to run into The Presidential Debates. I knew inherently, they would satisfy my appetite for humor and wet my palet with the pleasure of awaited laughter. After ninety minutes of diabolical dialog and political jib jabbing I could not distinguish who was the more proficient liar. The see-saw rhetoric of “that just isn't true” left me bewildered, confused and uninformed. I could have elicited more direct answers to the questions from my grandchildren.
In my zeal to be an informed voter, I perused the available websites for some semblance of truth. Here is what I went through to uncover the "so called facts" represented by the candidates. I examined the Huffington post, ABC News, NBC News, The Christian Science Monitor, The BBC News, MSNBC, NPR News, The Drudge Report, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Forbes.com, Fox News, CNN News and The Washington Post. When I finished, I was relieved to discover that they were just as confused as I was and each, without exception, had to refer to some fact checking organization. So, not to be outdone, I examined the following fact checking organizations. Truth or Fiction.com, PolitiFact.com, OpenSecrets.org, FactCheck.org, Snoops.com. and The Fact Checker.
Keep in mind that I am checking to determine the verity of statements made by men running for the highest office in our nation and that I am doing so because they spent half the night refuting the honesty of one another. All of these fact checking organizations are supposedly non partisan and yet, they disagreed in their assessment of the facts. I am 4 hours and thirty three minutes into my effort to be informed and I am still not sure who is telling me the truth. By the way, the media continues to use the phrase, “misrepresented the facts”. I suspect that this is because the word "liar" is disrespectful when directed at such high office. Obviously, men running for such high office have much on their minds and are too busy or simply unaware that they are mistaken or lying. Furthermore, they are obviously under the delusion that I have nothing else to do, but spend my days perusing fact checking organizations, who it turns out, know as little as I do.
On to my research! I read an expository research study by UCLA and The University of Missouri on bias in the media. They have studied all the major news organizations and identified those leaning left, right and center. Obviously, if I know which bias is writing the news, I will stand better equipped to discern the truth.
The shortest list first: The most centrist, Jim Lehrer, CNN’s Aaron Brown and ABC’s Good Morning America. In print news "USA Today" is the most centrist. Of the 20 major media outlets, 18 lean left and 2 lean right. Ready for a surprise? The most left leaning: 1) The Wall Street Journal followed by The NY Times, The L.A. Times, and CBS. Leaning Right; Fox News and The Washington Times. I am now 5 hours and 15 minutes into this absurd hunt and I have to determine the "facts from the bias" in each summation of the news from 20 sources dedicated to the intoxication of their own opinion.
From the left leaning headlines, I concluded that the most important discussion we should be having a day after the debate revolves around “a binder full of women” statement Romney made. From the right leaning headlines, I've discovered that I should be outraged that the left has had more minutes than the right in each debate. From the centrist i have learned that they think both the right and left concerns are news worthy. I am now 6 hours and 20 minutes into the twilight zone and know less than when I started.
Fortunately I have discovered a study which qualifies the verity of fact checking organizations to determine which ones I can trust. I have decided not to go there because this is fast becoming a ridiculous exercise in which I will simply discover that truth is lost on a merry-go-round of linguistic misrepresentations.
I did uncover a few interesting items while laboring in this useless research. Polls influence voting patterns in America more than you might expect and there are numerous polls touting varied outcomes which are, themselves, destined for inevitable misrepresentation. Historically, the most accurate predictor is a toss up between Rasmussen and Pew.( #3 is You gov ( #4 is Harris (#5 is Zogby. Gallup is #20). CBS, Fox, ABC, NBC are out of the top 10 and CNN is #8. Now, Rasmussen who as the reigning authority of accuracy, has predicted the winning ticket twice. What’s that say about the rest? Even worse, their inept failure influences our decisions? We would do better with the weather man.
Presidential ad spending is currently $812 million and on pace to reach a billion. Romney has spent a little over 6 and the remainder was spent by Obama. Half of all that spending was in the states of Fl., Ohio, and Va. Our candidates have a billion dollars for nonsense advertising and I can't get facts which are actually factual. Does this instill any confidence in me that either one of these candidates can balance a budget? How does one do that without knowing where to get facts that are factual?
Well, I've spent the best part of a day trying to be informed and 90 minutes watching the presidential candidates discredit the honesty and integrity of one another. I am not better off than I was 4 years ago, but, given the mess we were in, I didn't expect to be. I just want some truth so that I can cast an informed vote. I will go to the polls soon and I will go as ill informed as they want me to be. I will cast a vote that I will take little pride in because my march toward the facts left me sitting on a merry-go-round. The sadness is, you would expect such men, above all else, to tell the truth. With a billion dollars they can afford to hire a few fact checkers and decrease the unemployment rate simultaneously. For crying out loud, we're talking about the office of The President of the United States, not candidates for student class president. An American citizen shouldn't have to spend a day fact checking what a presidential candidate claims. Nor should we have to peruse every major media outlet in the world to simply learn that misrepresentation isn't really lying. Wait a minute! That's another misrepresentation!
Admittedly, I am an idealist. I actually expect men who run for such office to have character that would prohibit the inclination to stretch, alter, manipulate, distort or misrepresent the truth. Unfortunately, misrepresenting the truth has churned out a host of new businesses. Should the politicians stoop to telling the truth, these new businesses would be out of business, the unemployment rate would certainly rise and more accusations which are unverifiable would emerge to keep the merry-go-round from breaking down. All of which leads me to this frightful conclusion. Our real business today is to keep the merry-go-round, going round and round.
I want to moderate just one debate. Imagine being able to say, "Mr. candidate, I did not ask you what your opponents view was, I asked you what yours was." Maybe when we vote republican we are really voting for a misrepresented democrat. It doesn't really matter. I've got more important fish to fry. Somewhere out there is a "binder full of women" and as a wanna be informed voter, I need to get to the bottom of this unfolding national catastrophe.