Where have they taken the real Glenn Kessler!


Fact Checker speculates, broadly opines: Where have they taken the real Glenn Kessler?

Kessler writes a much-discussed blog at the Washington Post. The name of his blog: “The Fact Checker.”

This morning, though, in the hard-copy Post, The Fact Checker broadly opines.

In Friday morning’s hard-copy Post, Kessler seemed a bit soft on bold honest Paul Ryan’s many convention speech groaners. This morning, though, this version of Kessler really does let himself go.

What have they done with the real Glenn Kessler? Would a “Fact Checker” reason this way?
KESSLER (9/1/12): For all the outrage (on the left) about misrepresentations and misinformation in Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for vice president, my reaction was: par for the course.

We are, of course, talking about a political convention. The whole point is for the party to put its best foot forward to the American people. By its very nature, that means downplaying unpleasant facts, highlighting the positive and knocking down the opposing team.
Say what? Who cares about Ryan’s misrepresentations, this writer almost seems to be saying.

Talk to the hand—or perhaps to the chair! Shit like this is par for the course! This is what our conventions are like!

By the time this writer is done, it almost sounds like Ryan was obligated to issue that long string of groaners. The headline in the hard-copy paper says this:

"Truth be told? That's no way to speak at a convention."

Coming from the Post’s “Fact Checker,” this tone struck us as rather odd. But when Kessler began to give examples of similar convention dissembling, we began to wonder:

What have they done with the real Glenn Kessler? And who put this crap in the Post?
KESSLER: Ryan was so quickly labeled a fibber by the Obama campaign that one suspects it was a deliberate effort to tear down his reputation as a policy expert, similar to using attacks on Romney’s Bain Capital record to undermine his reputation as a skilled business executive.

But worst convention speech ever? Please.

The gold standard for convention speeches filled with misrepresentations remains the speech of then-Sen. Zell Miller (R-Ga.) at the 2004 GOP convention attacking Democratic nominee John Kerry. Miller, who as a Democrat delivered the keynote address at the 1992 convention that nominated Bill Clinton, offered a slashing attack that was breathtaking in its dishonesty.

Miller accused Kerry of voting against a vast array of weapons systems, making it appear as if Kerry had repeatedly voted to kill urgently needed tools for the military—when in reality the charge was based on a single vote nearly 15 years earlier. More important, these were weapons that then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney (and the vice president in 2004) had urged Congress to kill. Miller also suggested that a quote Kerry had given to the Harvard Crimson 35 years earlier, when he had just returned from serving in the Vietnam war, represented his current policy toward the United Nations.

Now, that’s a speech for a fact checker! The Washington Post did not have the Fact Checker column then, but it ran a front-page article detailing how he misled viewers with his language.
Obviously, the real Glenn Kessler couldn’t have written that passage. Instead of checking facts and denouncing misstatements, this author speculated about the motives of those who criticized Ryan’s performance! And how about that counter-example!

Zell Miller’s speech was worse, this author says. But Miller, reprehensible as he was, wasn’t a nominee!

Bold honest courageous truthful Candidate Ryan was.

At this point, the Kessler replacement seemed to know he or she needed better examples. Has any previous nominee been this bad?

Check out this line of reasoning:
KESSLER (continuing directly): Four years ago, our colleagues at FactCheck.org catalogued a series of errors and misstatements by John McCain, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin in their speeches. (Joe Biden got a pass.) All of them airbrushed their past or mischaracterized their opponents.

Palin, for instance, gave a self-serving account of her support for the “Bridge to Nowhere”—claiming she said “thanks but no thanks”— when in fact she had supported it until it was largely killed by Congress. This is a bigger failure to tell the whole story than Ryan criticizing Obama for doing nothing with the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction recommendation, without noting that he himself voted against the commission report.

Obama, meanwhile, knocked McCain for voting 90 percent of the time with his own party; he did not mention that he himself voted 97 percent of the time with Democrats. Obama and McCain also mischaracterized each other’s proposals, using sometimes slippery facts.
Kessler didn't write that. In this substitute writer’s view, Palin’s misstatement about the Bridge was worse than Ryan’s groaner about Bowles-Simpson (which he described as Simpson-Bowles, in contravention of Washington norms).

But even if that judgment is right, that would be one misstatement by Palin. Ryan issued a series of groaning misstatements in which he withheld rather obvious facts about his own role in high-profile affairs.

Has any nominee ever done that before? This author doesn’t attempt to say, although he works to create the illusion that he (or she) has. Did Obama and McCain make misstatements too? That’s a wonderful observation, but it doesn’t speak to the question here:

When it comes to its volume of bald-faced dissembling, was smart truthful Ryan’s convention address in a class by itself?

Kessler’s photo appears in this morning’s Post, but it’s hard to believe that this is his work. Why would a “Fact Checker” speculate about motive so quickly? Why would he opine so brosdly? Why would he craft such lazy comparisons in support of those broad opinions?

On Friday morning, Kessler seemed soft. As of today, it seems fairly clear that the real Glenn Kessler has been deposed.

What have they done with the real Glenn Kessler? More significantly: Why the heck would the Washington Post choose to “check facts” this way?


  1. Sadly, they haven't done anything. This has always been the quality of Kessler's work; he was a big fan of being on the non-Pain Caucus side about what Medicare entails being the LIE OF THE YEAR.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The Post is not alone.
    From the editors of The Arizona Republic, Sep. 1. The last four paragraphs:

    "Ryan, by contrast, used his moment Wednesday to demonstrate why the old political rules about avoiding entitlement reform may be outmoded. He argued for the kind of reforms that politicians heretofore refused to discuss with any sort of candor.

    Even before his speech was done, instant "fact-checkers" were flooding the Internet with assertions that Ryan had twisted facts.

    Many of them -- the honest ones, at least -- spent a lot of time and blog space backing away from their accusations once a full accounting of the factual record became clear.

    The candidates had important things to say. Getting lost amid the dubious contentions of uninformed fact-checkers is antithetical to a fair and honest debate.

    No "facts" or fact checkers listed here!

    Poor Ryan, unfairly sandbagged by dishonest fact checking bloggers.
    What should a bold, honest, serious man, who was only engaging in a fair and honest debate, do?

    Maybe he should have engaged in a "Fair and Balanced" debate.


  4. If these people really cared about accuracy and truth and facts, they wouldn't use cutesy devices like "Pinnochios" and "Whoppers" and psuedo-clever shit like that. They'd call lies, lies, and liars, liars. By and large, these "fact checkers" are just more actors in the kabuki theater of our national discourse. They just wear a little less makeup -- all the better to deceive.

  5. Point taken on the cutesy approach. But, TIL, a lie is a lie is a lie. And a liar is a liar is a liar. Does "pants on fire" make Romney or Ryan any less of a liar? And is a lie any less of a lie if it's pointed out by a liberal or a conservative? Either Ryan ran a sub 3 hour marathon or he didn't. He didn't. He lied. That's fact checking. Either Ryan and Romney lied about the Obama's position on welfare to work, or they didn't. The fact checkers observe that they did. It's a lie. The pundits can take it from there. But however they dress them up, they're still lies.

  6. I view Kessler as the worst of the major fact-checkers out there. His pro-Romney bias is evident.

  7. "Simpson-Bowles" is the tell, Bob. This is the result of major pushback by GOP types. There's a strain of them so relentlessly partisan, they insist on "Simpson-Bowles" rather than "Bowles-Simpson." Nobody else calls it that.

    The fact that Kessler uses it says he's so accustomed to hearing/reading it that way, it seems normal to him. And that tells us a great deal about Mr. Kessler. Expect him to start typing "Democrat Party" before the campaign is over.

  8. Even Jon Stewart doesn't wince at "Democrat Party" anymore (if he ever did). He interviewed Herman Cain the other night and Herman was all "Democrat Party...Democrat Party" and Jon just sat there and nodded along with Herman.

    Yes, it does take an extra second to correct your guest every time he says it. But the alternative is having everyone under the age of 35 thinking "Democrat Party" is what it's always been called rather than a partisan slam.

  9. Bob missed the point that Kessler WAS checking facts. He was checking the accuracy of the Democratic attacks on Ryan's speech.

    Kessler found the Democratic attacks on Ryan's speech to be invalid. In effect, he rated Democrats PANTS ON FIRE for their criticisms of Ryan's speech.

    1. D in c, you are becoming delusional. Kessler didn't say the Democratic attacks were lies. He said everyone exaggerates / lies in convention speeches so Ryan's dishonestly deceptive and hypocritical staments aren't worthy of making a big deal out of. You seem to be going over the top in hysterically (not in the humerous sense) defending your candidates. You are losing any remnant of credibility.

      But I do thank you for using the term "Democratic attacks" rather than what would be the politically correct term for conservatives, i.e "Democrat attacks."

      AC in Mass.

    2. D in C-Kessler uses Pinocchios-not Pants On Fire-you really just make stuff up don't you?

    3. Yes.

      Yes, Dic really does "just make stuff up."

  10. Republicans don't care about their leaders being dishonest with them, because they believe that they are in on the deceptions. The republican constituency "word of mouth" the deceptions amongst themselves and to others. When liberals take them seriously it warms the heart of right wingers, because its members feel satisfied that they got over on the liberals. The right feels that the inability to recognize deceit is a weakness of prey not the fault of the mendacious.

  11. Republicans don't care about their leaders being dishonest with them, because they believe that they are in on the deceptions. The republican constituency "word of mouth" the deceptions amongst themselves and to others. When liberals take them seriously it warms the heart of right wingers, because its members feel satisfied that they got over on the liberals. The right feels that the inability to recognize deceit is a weakness of prey not the fault of the mendacious.

  12. "If these people really cared about accuracy and truth and facts...," TIL above.

    I like that array of words, "accuracy, truth, facts." It takes me back to an amazing history course I took in college over 40 years ago, where our professor insisted that a "fact" is "a certain kind of statement." A lot to unpack here, for instance, "statement" as a linguistic or rhetorical term."

    You gather together a causal sequence of "facts" to make an argument. But even "accurate" "facts" may be used to construct a faulty argument, because the causal connections being asserted are either simply not there or are only tenuously there or are there but are only a part of the causal nexus, whose whole might upend much or all of the argument. The latter two situations are the basis of a healthy politics: we learn in our debates with one another from one another, if not personally, in a collective way. I'm concerned that our journalists have become so blase about overlooking simply inaccurate statements (often by reporting them in a he said-he said manner) that they are now trying rescue themselves simply by a kind of "gotcha" "fact-checking." While it's vital to determine the accuracy of isolated facts, it's equally important to report arguments in their larger configuration in relation to competing arguments in their larger configuration. This is work! (It would also be a contribution to the search for "truth.") But it's what journalists are supposed to do. Most know too little about the subjects they report on to begin to do their job well.

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