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Summer Wu Headshot

What Do Obama and Romney Have in Common?

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Summer is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.

Well, their pants are both on fire.

You know there's a problem when media sources are fact-checking the presidential debate before the debate even occurs.

It's less of a surprise, but a pity nonetheless, when the first several articles on your news source of choice the following morning are also on fact-checking the debate.

After each of the three sparring sessions, I recall shaking my head, unsettled with the knowledge that one of these men will inevitably become our nation's president. Although it's been more than a week since their last polemic, I opened up Yahoo! News today to be reminded that the inaccuracies and their respective fact-checks continue. At least during the presidential debates, they had an opponent present to instantaneously denounce their words as malarkey. At rallies full of die-hard supporters (really, who else goes to rallies?), the candidates can say almost anything and still receive roaring cheers from the crowd.

Thus, I arrive at a disconcerting dilemma: Can we trust these men to lead our country and protect our rights when they constantly dissemble the truth?

At times when I was watching the presidential debates, I couldn't help but feel that the candidates inhabited different universes. In the very first presidential debate, the dispute that plagued the entire first half concerned what President Obama alleged was Governor Romney's "$5 trillion tax cut." Although Romney repeatedly denied the accusation, independent analysts say that the businessman's numbers fail to add up, and that the changes he's proposing would indeed total $5 trillion over the next 10 years. On the contrary, in the third debate, Obama tried to withhold credit to Romney for instituting the John and Abigail Adams scholarship program by objecting, "That happened before you came into office." However, Romney was right, as the scholarship began in 2004 while he was governor.

The plethora of blatant falsehoods indicate a need for instantaneous fact-checkers to be present at the debate in order to inform Americans of the truth that we can't seem to glean from our leaders. Yet the resistance from today's political machines is overwhelming. Immediately following the second presidential debate, Candy Crowley came under fire by the right for "siding with the president." The night before, she had corrected the governor by interjecting that the president had indeed admitted that the Benghazi attack was an act of terror. However, she sought to remain neutral by also agreeing that the Obama administration took far too long to address the situation. In a setting rife with fabrication, she ought to be commended for her courage in speaking the truth rather than condemned as she was.

In my quest to discover exactly how much of the political rhetoric we hear everyday can be trusted, I stumbled upon a website called PolitiFact.com. PolitiFact was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 for its "fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters."

Luckily for voters, the website has continued this endeavor with regard to the 2012 election by rating claims to be "true," "mostly true," "half true," "mostly false," "false," or "pants on fire." Twenty-six percent of President Obama's statements were found to be mostly false or false and two percent were pants on fire, while only 22 percent of his statements were true. Governor Romney however, fared worse, with 65 percent of his statements being mostly false or false, and a whopping nine percent setting off the fire alarm. Only 15 percent of his statements were deemed to be entirely true. After reading these statistics, the Liberals are probably celebrating while the Conservatives are claiming bias. Yet, the "lesser of two evils" argument obscures the point. Doesn't it seem like a problem that regardless of who becomes president, less than a quarter of what he says is true?

Dishonesty and politics have become so commonly associated that most Americans expect politicians to lie. Yet does ubiquity make this morally acceptable? Is it okay for the leaders of our country, the people who set an example for American citizens, the ones who our youth strive to emulate, to lie? We, the people, must answer with a resounding NO! Let it be known in Washington that we are tired of excuses, and that we would rather hear the truth than be deceived.

Today's politicians have strayed from the ideals that our founding fathers sought to promote. George Washington turned down a third presidential term because he put the country's interests before his own. Three hundred years later, it's a sacrilege to his name that politicians have resorted to saying whatever it takes in order to get elected. Thus, to restore integrity to present-day rhetoric, I propose a live fact-check for any political debate, speech, or rally. If politicians know that they'll be interrupted and called out for any distortion of the truth, they'll watch what they say more carefully, if only to avoid public embarrassment. Ultimately, the pervasive culture of lying we find in politics needs to be addressed. However, politics will not reform itself; rather, change begins with the American people. If we stand up and tell our leaders that enough is enough, then perhaps they'll step back from the melee of politics and recall their duty to serve the people.

  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Holdover
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
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Seats won 201 234
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