"A lie is halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes."
Like all years, 2011 was chock-full of political lies providing an embarrassment of riches for professional lie-ratings groups on the one hand, but also the terrible burden of choosing the top 10 among them.
Moreover, just as we at PaulitiFact believed we had our list all set and agreed by everyone, new lies continued to spew forth faster than stink on you-know-what. Like Congress, we have had to delay our departure for the holidays because we were knee-deep in that stuff.
Hoping that proximity to Christmas will temper politicians' spirits and reduce their poisonous venom, we take the risk of publishing our list today, fully recognizing that we may miss a real doozy in the last few days of the year.
Here are PaulitiFact's Top 10 Political Lies for 2011:
1. President Obama was not born in the United States. This has been on the list all year, but it shot to number one when, after the president produced his birth certificate, a sizable fraction of Americans still do not believe he is born in the U.S., and it remained at number one when Donald Trump began demanding his mother's hospital records, as well. For PaulitiFact, this was not a close call.
2. George Bush/torture captured Osama bin Laden. Instead of rejoicing in the demise of the leader of al-Qaeda, Bushistas rushed to the verbal barricades claiming credit for the capture (according to Sean Hannity, President Obama had nothing to do with it!), and then used it to justify torture, claiming the key information leading to bin Laden's demise was obtained by Cheney-approved torture. PaulitiFact felt that the obvious racism in #1 trumped the otherwise primary importance of this event.
3. A substantial number of climate scientists doubt man's contribution to climate change. This lie is told in many ways so that it is difficult to know which is the most egregious. Rick Perry claimed that daily emails showed that climate scientists invent the data to get grants for their research. If carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas, and there is more of it, then contending that man's activities that produce more of it do not contribute to climate change require suspending the laws of physics. PaulitiFact knows of only one being that can do that, and he is not shining brightly on Rick's, Rick's, Michele's, or Newt's campaigns after telling each of them that they should run for president.
4. Lowering taxes on the wealthy will increase U.S. jobs. This is a perennial because it has such a well-funded chorus behind it. Well-funded, but not well-founded. Taxes were much higher in the '80s and '90s, and job creators, our latest epic heroes, were adding to payrolls at record speeds. PaulitiFact's founder has called senior Republicans suggesting a deal for corporations: add 10 percent of new U.S. jobs to your payroll (monitored by FICA tax submissions) and you get a reduced corporate rate. No takers. As the late Johnny Cochrane might have said, "If there are no takers, they must be fakers."
5. Fox News. So breathtaking and continuous that it should be a perennial number 1, but that would elevate their importance.
6. Republicans would offer jobs bills and a replacement for health care reform. The silence is deafening.
7. Newt Gingrich's "redemption." Voters were told in 1960 and again in 1968 that there was a "new Nixon," that in the White House he would no longer be paranoid, petulant, and prosecutorial. What did we get? Watergate. An extension of the Vietnam War until after the 1972 elections for political reasons. Rip-roaring inflation and price controls.
Now we are supposed to believe there is a "new" Newt. PaulitiFact isn't buying it. For one thing, redemption requires time, some selfless, good deeds, and a commitment to the truth in all aspects of one's life. But just a few months ago he explained his six-year affair with his then-mistress (now proposed First Lady as a role model to women!) as being due to his worrying about the country so much. That's redemption? He lied to the American people in plain sight on national television about what he advised Freddie Mac for their $1.6-million fee just a few weeks ago. PaulitiFact needs to see some penance, improved behaviors over time, the performance of good, selfless deeds that help only others, charitable contributions commensurate with his wealth, apologies to those he injured, and a speech showing he understands the totality of his past transgressions before it will consider Newt's "redemption" to be any more than a cheap political ploy, designed to fool well-meaning, earnest Christians. If we see that new Newt over the next few years, PaulitiFact is willing to revise these comments.
8. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's assertion that Dodd-Frank has fixed too-big-to-fail. The banks are bigger. No regulatory scheme will withstand their lobbying power. They already own Congress. When they fail again, does anyone seriously believe that we, as citizens and taxpayers, will not -- through our bought elected representatives -- bail them out again? PaulitiFact cannot get its arms around this one.
9. All the big money behind right-wing politics -- big oil, the Kochs, big banks -- and their lackeys in Congress really care about jobs, social security, Medicare, and so forth, honest to goodness they do. Their political ads will proclaim in pious platitudes their deep care and concern for these middle-class values. PaulitiFact recalls Governor Schwarzeneggar's speech when they tried to overturn California's environmental regulations: "Does anyone believe, in their dirty oil hearts, that they are spending all this money in the campaign because they want to preserve your jobs?" His housekeeper was not the only thing Ahnold nailed.
10. PolitiFact's choice of Democrats' characterization of the Ryan budget as "ending Medicare" as the lie of the year. OK, OK, so PaulitiFact is taking a swipe at a competitor. But, truly, calling the truth a lie provides grist for the liars to claim that it is a lie, perpetuating the scam. PaulitiFact cannot grasp how a change from a defined and guaranteed benefit (aka "Medicare") to a defined (and inadequate) contribution is not ending Medicare. Moreover, 10 percent of the Medicare population consumes 67 percent of its costs -- how will seniors in that 10 percent even get coverage? (Although it is of no benefit to us, PaulitiFact offers PolitiFact a little Christmasy advice: be more like Santa; don't just make up a list, make sure you check it twice.)
So, there it is: PaulitiFact's top 10 political lies for 2011. With the elections looming in 2012, we expect to be bombarded with even bigger lies at an even faster pace. So, if unemployment rolls fall dramatically, politicians (mostly right-wing, but others in bed with the banks will contribute, as well) can indeed take credit -- not for sound policies, but for overwhelming PaulitiFact with so much work that it has to hire people to keep pace with their prevarications.
PaulitiFact needs to prepare for the onslaught by taking some R&R next to a warm fireplace. Anyone who suggests that this proves that PaulitiFact is, like Bo Obama, part of the war on Christmas is a liar -- and, do not forget, we determine the list!