Some will refuse to believe the truth even when it lands on their heads with irrefutable facts to back it up.
“There’s always a chance,” was my answer. “It may not be a good chance, but I’d still be contributing to his campaign even if his chances were next-to-none.“ It’s time, I thought but didn’t say, for Rick Perry to go, for the gerrymandering in Texas to end, and for moderates and liberals too to have their voices heard again in this representative democracy of ours.
Coincidentally, the next day my wife suggested that I do some research and a blog article on whether Perry’s claim about Texas having a budget surplus this year owing to his conservative management policies (recession notwithstanding) is true. I thought about doing it for a while, but decided the issue is bigger than just one candidate’s single claim. Claims and counter-claims are flying back and forth in these final weeks before election day as fast as tennis balls over the net at a championship match. Truth, after all, is relative, especially among politicians. There are half-truths, exaggerations built upon scant bases, and allegations based on suspicions that exploit people’s fears.
True, to borrow a line from the TV drama, X-Files, the truth is out there. But discerning what is true and what is not true is problematic. Some people don’t want to know the truth; some can’t make up their own minds and allow themselves to swayed by others’ opinions, and; some will refuse to believe the truth even when it lands on their heads with irrefutable facts to back it up.
Recognizing that all politicians are human, susceptible to the temptations of exaggerating and spinning facts to their advantage (which is not quite the same thing as calling all politicians liars – or is it), I decided, instead to tackle the bigger issue: Between the two candidates for governor of Texas this year, which is more prone to making unsubstantiated claims and which is more careful with the facts?
By the way, according to PolitiFact.com, Perry’s claim about Texas having a budget surplus this year is rated as “barley true”. Readers are encouraged to check this out for themselves at http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2010/feb/12/rick-perry/perry-says-texas-has-surplus/.
Why, you might ask, should you believe what PolitiFact.com has to say about anything? My answer to this is that you should visit this Pulitzer Prize winning website and, after reading a few articles, decide for yourself whether the analyses of political rhetoric and facts reviled justify my assessment. I think that it is a truly amazing public service that more people should take the time to visit regularly rather that mindlessly jabbering away with “friends” on FaceBook.
Claims from all quarters (individual politicians, the White House, Congress, PACs, even mass forwarded email claims) are analyzed by PolitiFact.com’s network of journalists all over the country, then they are peer reviewed for accuracy before being published. Claims are rated by consensus of research analysts as being either true, mostly true, half-true, barley true, false or “pants-on-fire,” meaning that the perpetrator of the claim either acted disingenuously or was sincere but should have known better. In other words, truth is measured by PolitiFact.com on a continuum from being absolutely true to being absolutely false. Most claims, it turns out, are rated somewhere in a grey area. Each claim assessment on PolitiFact.com includes an innovative graphic, a truth meter.
Setting my personal biases aside, I decided that I might use this on-line data base to determine whether Bill White or Rick Perry is the more truthful politician by looking at the claims of each in the aggregate. Rick Perry had 40 claims assessed by the site; Bill White had 22. Both politicians had claims rated true. Both had claims rated false too – even claims rated “pants on fire”.
To make some sense of all the numbers involved, I created a spreadsheet entering the number of true claims, mostly true claims, half-true claims, barely true claims, false claims, and pants-on-fire claims for each candidate. Then I assigned the value of one (1) for true ratings, three-fourths (.75) for mostly true ratings, zero (0) for half-true ratings, minus one-fourth (-.25) for barely true ratings, minus one (-1) for false ratings, and minus one and one-half (-1.5) for pants-on-fire ratings. I then multiplied the assigned values by the number of respective claim ratings for each candidate, summed the products, and then divided the sums by the number of claims analyzed for each candidate. The result was percent for each. Multiplying the percents then by 100 produced whole numbers for comparison – what I call Truth Factors.
Had either candidate been completely truthful all the time, his Truth Factor would have been one hundred (100). But neither had a perfect score, of course. Bill White’s score was just 6.82, but Rick Perry’s was -33.75 (notice the minus sign).
Neither score was very reassuring to me, but somebody’s got to be the next governor, right? So, who are you going to vote for, the candidate whose claims trends to the far negative side of the truth continuum, or the one that’s at least on the positive side?
Yeah, I know, some will say that this just validates their suspicion that PolitiFact.com has a liberal bias. But I hasten to point out that, if PolitiFact.com favored the Democratic candidate in this pair-wise comparison, they didn’t do him much of a favor. No, I think the results of my analysis validates what I believe, the fact that it is truth that has a liberal bias.
Please feel free to post a comment, pro or con. Mention that you want it and I’ll send you a file copy of the spreadsheet used to generate my truth factors.