Friday, August 31, 2012

PolitiFlub: PolitiFact grades Callista Gingrich by the wrong measure

Words matter -- We pay close attention to the specific wording of a claim. Is it a precise statement? Does it contain mitigating words or phrases?
--Principles of PolitiFact and the "Truth-O-Meter"
It's a testament to PolitiFact's warped self-image that it continues churning out journalistic offal even while enduring a wave of substantive criticism.

Our latest example comes again from the Republican National Convention, where Callista Gingrich claimed that the Obama administration's foreign policy has led to decreased respect for the United States.

A legitimate fact checking enterprise immediately suspects that Gingrich referred to respect from foreign governments in terms of recognizing the U.S. as a power to which deferral yields the most beneficial results.  In other words, other nations fear the United States depending on the degree to which they operate contrary to our policy designs.  Based on that premise, the legitimate fact checker asks Gingrich to clarify the intent and tries to find a verifiable statistic that measures her accuracy.

That's not PolitiFact:
While surveys are currently being undertaken in 20 nations, only 14 of those have been done for long enough to shed light on Callista Gingrich’s claim.

The question asked is, "Please tell me if you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of ... the United States." While favorability isn’t exactly identical to respect, we think it’s very close and a good approximation.

No doubt PolitiFact used the opinions of foreign policy experts to determine that the Pew data were an appropriate measure.

Or maybe not:

Seriously?  No expert sources?  Not one?

That's not a responsible fact check.  The global standing of the United States does not depend on popular view among the world's peoples.  It comes directly from the way the world's leaders view the United States and whether they believe they can flaunt their power contrary to U.S. interests.

PolitiFact chose the wrong measure.

Why does anyone take PolitiFact seriously?

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