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Monday, July 2, 2012

Obama "Truth Team"

At United Features Syndicate, Cokie and Steven V. Roberts reported back in February on a mass email by Stephanie Cutter, deputy manager of the Obama campaign:
Cutter was encouraging recruits to join a "Truth Team" that would promote Obama's record and rebut the charges already being launched by his Republican rivals. As she wrote: "We'll provide resources for you to learn everything you need to know and tools to help you share it with undecided voters in your life." That's three "you's" and one "your" in one sentence.
They point out that the 2008 Obama campaign was a milestone in the political use of social media and communications technology.
Since taking office, Obama has expanded his use of these tools and tactics. Last month, after his State of the Union address, he fielded questions posted on YouTube and Google+. He and his wife, Michelle, have active Twitter accounts. The White House has created a series called "West Wing Week" on Facebook that chronicles the president's travels and statements. Supporters can sign up with Flickr to get a "photo of the day" sent to their inboxes.
Last December, as part of his campaign to extend the payroll tax cut, Obama asked supporters to go online and post descriptions of what they would do with $40 -- the average amount they would lose in each paycheck if the cuts ended. This week he brought several of those storytellers to the White House and urged supporters to bombard Congress again with more Twitter messages using the hashtag ‥40dollars.
At ABC, however, Jake Tapper points out problems with the "truth team" approach, citing a more recent Cutter email:
“Received a robo-call or an email forward full of falsehoods?” the page asks. “Found a misleading leaflet in your mail? Tell us about it, and help fight back against the attacks on President Obama and his record.”
Cutter in her email hammers Mitt Romney for saying “Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history,” which she refutes with a Market Watch blog saying that federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since President Eisenhower.
Here’s the problem: the Market Watch item has been refuted by several fact checkers as severely flawed, notwithstanding its citation by White House press secretary Jay Carney along with the assertion that reporters should “not buy into the BS that you hear about spending and fiscal constraint with regard to this administration. I think doing so is a sign of sloth and laziness.”
The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave Carney three Pinocchios, writing that the “data in the article are flawed, and the analysis lacks context — context that could easily could be found in the budget documents released by the White House.”
Tapper concludes that "voters should generally beware of campaigns claiming that they are fact checking. They have an interest in conflating nonsense — like the bizarre assertion that President Obama was born in Kenya — with legitimate criticisms. They want all attacks to be dismissed as falsehoods — and that is simply not the case."