2012/08/06

Factcheckers just need to retire

*Sigh!* Again, the factcheckers disgrace themselves by making an utterly ridiculous awarding of truthfulness scores. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), has made the charge that presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn't pay any taxes for the last 10 years. Was Reid absolutely, positively certain about that? No.


"He didn't pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain," said Reid. "But obviously he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?"

Reid went on to allege that Romney's wealth must be much greater than he has ever specified. The original source, Politico, then made clear that "Reid did not identify his alleged source." The best the Romney camp could muster was a non-denial denial. They alleged that their guy had

"gone above and beyond the disclosure requirements by releasing two years of personal tax returns in addition to the hundreds of pages of personal financial disclosure documents he has provided to the FEC and made public."

No one is saying that for presidential candidate to release their tax returns is a legal requirement, merely that it is a firmly established tradition that they do so (That particular tradition doesn't apply to House or Senate candidates, so to claim that Reid hasn't released his tax returns either is a false equivalence).

Various Republican spokespeople have gotten very heated and excitable about Reid's charge and have made wild charges about Reid being a "dirty liar," but the issue is where it was when Reid first charged Romney with hiding his tax returns because Romney could very quickly and easily clear up the whole issue by following tradition and releasing his returns.

So now Politifact jumps into the fray by charging Reid with making a "pant on fire" lie with his charge. First off, I'm not sure that someone has actually told a lie when they have admitted up front that they're simply passing on what someone else told them. Reid candidly admitted that he didn't have any independent evidence to corroborate what the anonymous source said. Obviously, Romney feels very hurt and insulted, but that's no reason to call Reid a liar.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) backs Reid up and confirms that "a Bain Capital investor" told Reid that Romney hasn't paid taxes for a lengthy period. Can Pelosi prove the underlying charge, that Romney hasn't paid such taxes? No, but she stands behind the story that Reid got this information from a fellow that he found to be credible.

Politifact has absolutely no business whatsoever calling Reid a liar. Reid's charge can't be proven to be true by any evidence in Reid's possession (Romney could very easily disprove the charge by releasing his tax returns), but Reid has not said anything that can be fairly characterized as being untrue. Politifact should STFU and toss their evaluation of Reid's truthfulness into the trash can, where it belongs.

Update:
As the blog Balloon Juice puts it: "Glenn Kessler has following the other fact-checking lemmings off the cliff by assigning 4 Pinnochios to Reid’s claim".

As the post makes clear: 1. It's incredibly, moronically stupid to use the word of tax experts to claim that Reid's claim "might" not be true. Romney has somehow gotten his IRA to hold something in excess of $20 million, meaning he's enormously clever about money matters. So what the average citizen is able to do is beside the point.

2. The McCain campaign remember, DID look at Romney's tax returns and gee, somehow, we're not hearing much from them. Hmm, wonder why that could be? Keep in mind, the original story was that McCain and his people looked at Romney's tax returns and decided that Sarah Palin would be a safer bet. Their story since then has changed to "No, no, no, Sarah was obviously the superior candidate."