Monday, December 20, 2010

Message received, partly ignored

For the "Piquing PolitiFact" category, I'm reproducing a message I sent to PolitiFacter Angie Drobnic Holan regarding the Howard Dean interview published at PolitiFact:
Dear Angie Drobnic Holan,

I've written a number of times to the effect that it would be nice if PolitiFact would publish its interview material in order to provide a more transparent background for the quotations used in its stories.  For that reason, I was pleased to see the interview with Howard Dean appear on PolitiFact's (Web) pages.

On the other hand, the Dean interview was just one interview.  Why publish that one selectively?  What reasons contributed to that decision, please?

Bryan White

P.S. Dean is not a stupid man, so it can't be assumed for purposes of transcribing an oral interview that he does not know the difference between "you're" and "your" ("First of all, you don't play defense when your doing messaging, you play offense," for example).  But maybe Dean wrote out his comments, for all I know.

P.P.S.:  The PolitiFact story has at least one obvious and unambiguous error in it:

"The memo is about salesmanship, not substance. It doesn't address whether the lines are accurate."

Actually, the memo does address the accuracy of the lines, at least for the line in question:  "Nothing else turns people against the government takeover of healthcare (more) than the realistic expectation that it will result in delayed and potentially even denied treatment, procedures and/or medications.")

Luntz's mention of the "realistic" expectation of denied/delayed care is a judgment about the accuracy of the message Luntz is trying to help Republicans convey.

The wording used in the story creates the (false) impression that Luntz was unconcerned about whether the messaging conveyed an accurate message.  Quite ironic given the thrust of your story.

Of course it's possible to read the line charitably on your behalf and take it to mean that Luntz's emphasis in the memo wasn't the accuracy of the claims but rather the efficacy of the messaging.  On the other hand, I assume that you don't mind being held to the same standard to which you hold others. (pants on fire!  ;-)  )
(yellow highlights added)

Yes, there's a secret message at the end reproduced faithfully from the original.

But the point is that the Dean quotation has been altered since I sent the message:
"The Democrats are atrocious at messaging. They've gotten worse since I left, not better. It's just appalling. First of all, you don't play defense when you're doing messaging, you play offense. The Republicans have learned this well. We did a lot of great things when I was at the (Democratic National Committee) in terms of infrastructure but we never could get people to actually message better. You always play offense when you're messaging, and the Republicans do it and we don't. You don't defend (against a charge that it's) a government takeover, you just say, 'Well, that's ridiculous.'"
Is it certain that Drobnic edited the Dean interview in response to my missive?  No, of course not.  But it's fairly likely.

Almost needless to say, the careless language about Luntz remains intact as of this posting.


  1. Politifact headline today-

    "Former President George W. Bush says that as a senator, Joe Biden recommended partioning Iraq"

    H/T Facebook commenter Levi Adams

  2. "I never recommended partioning Iraq."
    --Sen. Joe Biden


Please remain on topic and keep coarse language to an absolute minimum. Comments in a language other than English will be assumed off topic.