Evidently, there's been a Rovian disinformation campaign in the past couple of weeks touting Bush as a champion of the poor. This is probably to counter the discussion of poverty sparked when Katrina blew the veneer off society. And Clinton finally came out and criticized the Bush administration for its policies that have not helped the poor.
Anyway, you're right to be suspicious of O'Reilly. I'd add any other "conservative" pundit to the list. All of them get their talking points from the White House's minister of propaganda.
So, they (and I say they because O'Reilly wasn't the only one tooting this horn) took the poverty rate from Clinton's second year in office, when the rate was beginning to decline from the 15.1 percent he inherited the first year of his presidency, and then compared it to the rate in Bush's fourth year, which is higher than the rate Bush inherited from Clinton.
CNN conservative commentator Joe Watkins, a guy I find it impossible not to like, trotted out the same story:
Ol' reptilian Dick Morris repeated this distortion on Hannity and Colmes, and added the whopper that the deficit ain't no problem under Bush.
Last week, we noted that CNN contributor Joe Watkins and Fox News host Bill O'Reilly both made false comparisons of the poverty rates under President Clinton and President Bush. Since then, similar false claims about poverty have appeared in other news outlets.
The Washington Post claimed in an editorial that "Since 1999, the rate has been edging steadily, and disturbingly, upward." After Media Matters pointed out that, in fact, the poverty rate declined from 1999 to 2000 (as it went down every year of the Clinton administration) before increasing from 2000 to 2001 (and every year of the Bush presidency), the Post corrected its error. Media Research Center president L. Brent Bozell III used his nationally syndicated column to dismiss as "comical" Clinton's claim that his administration "moved 100 times as many people out of poverty in eight years as had been moved out in the previous 12 years." In fact, Clinton was understating the disparity, as Media Matters noted: "The presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush actually saw a dramatic net increase in the number of impoverished Americans, whereas Clinton's presidency witnessed an even more dramatic net decrease."
Fox News contributor and former Clinton adviser Dick Morris also got in on the act. On Fox News host Sean Hannity's nationally syndicated radio show, Morris made the highly misleading claim that the U.S. poverty rate is "two points lower than when he [Clinton] took office, and it's lower in the midpoint of Bush's term than it was at the midpoint of his [Clinton's] term." That may be true, but Morris ignored the more important trend that poverty declined every year of Clinton's presidency and has risen every year of Bush's.
So where did this flood of misinformation about the Clinton and Bush records on poverty come from? Is it just an odd coincidence? Or is it a result of the recently revealed daily conference calls and emails through which the Republican National Committee gives marching orders to "about 80 pundits, GOP-leaning radio and TV hosts, and newsmakers"?
Like Twain said, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. And these people are goooood. Here's how it works. Someone finds a way to spin and twist reality to make Bush look good. That "someone" is a PR person who tests the information on focus groups (contrary to Bush's assertion that he scorns them). If it flies, then it is released to Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, any number of "conservative" talk jocks across America, and any number of "conservative" print pundits. They get the message out. It's repeated here and there (hence the term "echo chamber") until people begin to believe it's true simply because they hear it so much.
The Dems don't have such an efficient apparatus and are trying to play catch up. But I've thought it might be interesting to have a "Truth or Propaganda" thread here where we can all test the assertions we hear across the political spectrum.
The old Who song, "We Don't Get Fooled Again" comes to mind.
Edited by Spectacles, 25 September 2005 - 07:36 AM.