ANYTHING GOES: Everybody agrees!


Part 4—McMorris Rodgers and us: Speaking in one of our most august forums, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers did in fact make a misstatement.

She was delivering the official GOP response to the president’s State of the Union Address. At one point, she said what follows.

What she said was wrong:
MCMORRIS RODGERS (1/28/14): Not long ago, I got a letter from Bette in Spokane, who had hoped the president's health care law would save her money, but found out instead her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month. We've all talked to too many people who've received cancellation notices they didn't expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have.
Out in Spokane, the Spokesman-Review fact-checked her claim, which experts had judged to be unlikely. Here’s what they found:

Bette Grenier of Spokane actually did get a cancellation notice. Her premiums would have gone up.

But they would have gone up only $400 per month. Speaking to the American people in one of our most august forums, McMorris Rodgers embellished the size of the hit by a substantial amount.

Should people be told about such misstatements? As best we can tell via Nexis, the New York Times has never cited McMorris Rodgers’ misstatement as part of its news reporting.

Presumably, many Times readers watched McMorris Rodgers make her high-profile misstatement. Unless they read Paul Krugman’s column on February 3, they have never been told that she stretched the truth by a substantial amount.

Using Nexis, we find no sign that the Washington Post has ever corrected this misstatement, although the paper explicitly reported the claim about Bette in Spokane two days after the address. Beyond that, we find no sign that the Post’s Fact Checker blog has corrected or challenged this statement.

By modern standards, of course, McMorris Rodgers’ stretcher was barely a blip on the screen. For many years, we have lived in a world where pretty much anything goes.

Routinely, politicians make bogus claims. But then again, so do our most famous “journalists.”

Famous journalists invent quotations, then pretend that politicians said them. And not only that! If it weren’t for fanciful paraphrase, would we have any paraphrase at all?

Ridiculous claims are quite widespread about all sorts of policy matters. Meanwhile, a raft of accurate basic facts never get mentioned at all.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet, and Susan Rice said it wasn’t al Qaeda! Mitt Romney said he enjoys firing people. He strapped a dog to the roof of his car!

We live in an age of clowns and buffoons. Many such life forms appear on TV, or somehow manage to struggle along as our most famous columnists.

When major figures make ludicrous claims—If we lower the tax rate, we get extra revenue!—major “journalists” don’t bat an eye. Bogus claims get pimped for decades. Tens of millions of people end up believing them, fervently.

Even after the Spokesman-Review did its work, McMorris Rodger got a pass for her mini-howler. She uttered her misstatement in one of our most august forums. But to the nation’s yawning “press corps,” it was apparently close enough for major health care pronoucement.

McMorris Rodger got a pass. What about Rapmaster Cantor, concerning whom Krugman wrote this?
KRUGMAN (2/7/14): [P]oliticians and, I'm sorry to say, all too many news organizations immediately seized on the 2 million number and utterly misrepresented its meaning. For example, Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, quickly posted this on his Twitter account: ''Under Obamacare, millions of hardworking Americans will lose their jobs and those who keep them will see their hours and wages reduced.''

Not a word of this claim was true...
Using Nexis, we find no sign that Cantor was tweaked for this misstatement in New York Times news reporting. That seems odd because, as Krugman noted, he's House majority leader.

The Times did report on the general issue involved in Cantor’s song. On February 5, it published a front-page report by Lowrey and Weisman—a mealy-mouthed recitation which ought to go straight to The National Museum of What The Two Parties Have Said.

To call this news report “wishy-washy” would be an insult to wishing and washing. This is the best the bold reporters could manage to say about Republican claims:

“The nonpartisan budget office’s analysis, part of a regular update to its budget projections, was far more complicated than the Republican attack lines it generated.”

The analysis was far more complicated than the Republican attack lines it generated! Or, as Krugman later put it:

“Not a word of [their claims] was true.”

Lowrey and Weisberg struggled to avoid such judgments, as you can see if you review their report.

In the modern age, pretty much everybody agrees that pretty much anything goes. Sadly enough, you can see this playing out as the liberal world emerges from the decades-long slumber it had enjoyed before the war in Iraq.

It’s startling to see the way liberal orgs have patterned themselves on the conservative orgs liberals long derided. As it turns out, we are largely ditto-heads too! We long to see Our Maddows clown and tell us our side is right.

Sometimes, this is achieved through false statements. Perhaps more often, it’s being achieved by omission of accurate fact.

Meanwhile, did Krugman’s column perhaps overstate the size of McMorris Rodgers’ error? Because she spoke in an august forum, McMorris Rodgers should have been corrected. We’d also say that Krugman may given a slightly false impression about the size of her error.

Maddow has been playing the fool, a role to which she brings many skills. In an age when anything goes, that explains why we ditto-heads love her.


  1. For the record, here is the third paragraph of the report that Somerby calls "a mealy-mouthed recitation":

    "The report did say that the law would reduce hours worked and full-time employment, but not because of a crippling impact on private-sector job creation. With the expansion of insurance coverage, the budget office predicted, more people will choose not to work, and others will choose to work fewer hours than they might have otherwise to obtain employer-provided insurance. The cumulative reduction of hours is large: the equivalent of 2.5 million fewer full-time positions by 2024, the budget office said."

  2. If you like your policy, you can keep your policy. Period.

    1. Naturally, you hide the context in which that statement was made. A piece of crap policy that you "like" only because you've never had to use it is not one that anyone following the issue would have supposed could be kept.

    2. Well, it was a misstatement by Obama who should have said, "If you like your crummy policy that doesn't really cover anything, you won't be able to keep it."

      As for me, I liked my policy. And I got to keep it. And my doctors. And my pharmacy.

      That wasn't always possible in the past as a previous employer loved switching insurance carriers and shaving the benefits, such as co-pays and lifetime limits.

  3. Krugman said nothing about the size of the McMorris Rodgers error. He simply described what it was.

  4. OMB ( Zarkon Decides We Too HEART Baroni)

    "The bullroar is quite widespread these days. It's almost like anything goes!

    The bullroar is quite easy to find. Sometimes, information seems hidden."

    So spaketh the OTB in Part 1 of this fine fuzz free series.
    We admired this truth so deeply we quoted it anonymously and without attribution to open the comment thread in Part 2. BOBfans seemed not to notice.

    In Part 2 BOB introduced us to "Bette in Spokane." Bette's story, as told by a pol, evolved with the series. We decided to give Bette's story, as told by BOB over the next few posts, the BOB test. More specifically we decided to give it the BOB "HEARTS" Baroni test.

    BOB introduced Bette's story to us this way:

    "In his previous column, Krugman had described one of those “supposed horror stories about ordinary Americans facing huge rate increases.” That story had “collapsed under scrutiny,” like others before it.

    We have enjoyed the amount of attention BOB has devoted to Bette's story, this "horror story" this "bogus story" that "had come from a high-ranking American pol. ....“the latest falsehoods” in an “ever-mendacious campaign.”"

    Of course the true horror, as any BOBfan knows, is not the tale itself,
    but the way it was covered or not coverd by the press.

    In Part 2 BOB asked:

    "Has the New York Times challenged these high-profile false claims in the course of its news reporting?"

    In Part 3 (Part 2) he demanded to know:

    "Did the Times report this error? Or is it assumed that misstatements will be made, even in our most august forums?

    Did the New York Times report this error? Or do we truly live in a time when pretty much anything goes?"

    Here in Part 4, the payoff to the long tease:

    "Presumably, many Times readers watched McMorris Rodgers make her high-profile misstatement. Unless they read Paul Krugman’s column on February 3, they have never been told that she stretched the truth by a substantial amount."

    You may have noted the oddly worded opening climax to the condemnation of the Times. "Many...readers watched." Yes, Times readers had to watch the misstatements because the Times never reported them in the first place.

    Which brought this thought as we sat on our space ship headed home.

    Has BOB ever reported what McMorris Rogers actually said?

    Has BOB ever reported the actual misstatement. Or has he, like a perspiring cable clown in orange shoes, danced around the stage while facts disappeared?

    And last, but not least, has he considired the possibility that McMorris Rogers, like Bill Baroni, has been hung, dunked, or shot down by Tail gunning witch hunters when she was really telling what she thought was the truth?

    Tomorrow. We'll get to the answer. Or maybe never.


    1. Yes, now that you mention it, it is quite interesting how Bob extends the benefit of considerable doubt to Baroni, but none whatsoever to McMorris Rodgers.

      McMorris Rodgers should certainly have looked a bit deeper into Bette in Spokane's story before repeating it on national TV, thereby misinforming all those poor readers of the NY Times, who to this day have no way of finding out the truth.

      Baroni of course had no opportunity between Sept. 13 and Nov. 25 to speak with Foye, Durando, Fulton, or anyone else on the Port Authority professional staff to find out what a real traffic study involved before attempting to sell his story.

      He was probably out of town for those two months and couldn't be reached.

    2. What doubt exists about the cost of an insurance plan? It is what it is. When you are trying to guess what is in another person's mind, there is a great deal of room for doubt.

    3. But here is where I am confused.

      I certainly agree that McMorris Rodgers bears sole and personal responsibility for every word she utters on national TV.

      I also believe that Bill Baroni bears sole and personal responsibility for every word he said to the assembly committee.

      Surely within the six weeks between the lane closures and his testimony, he could have come up with a better story than "fairness" study.

      The only person on earth for whom that passed the stink test was the olfactory-challenged Somerby.

    4. Here is the responsibility -- to tell the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth to the best of one's ability. There is no requirement that something tell absolute truth because any person may not have access to it, and because it is difficult to recognize when one comes across it. Unless you know for sure what was in Baroni's mind, what info he had access to, and what the actual truth of this situation is, it is difficult to assess his performance at this point in time. Those who think they already know what happened have an easier time of it because they just compare what he said to what they believe to be true. Others have higher standards for believing things. They wait for more info and wish to decide later how close Baroni came to truth-telling in his testimony.

    5. Then why the different standard for McMorris Rodgers?

      Based on a single Paul Krugman column, which is based on a single Spokesman-Review story, Somerby has declared that she uttered falsehoods on national TV, and merely as a means of faulting the NY Times for not reporting that on its front page.

      In one instance, we have a guy who spins a tale Somerby wants so much to believe -- that this was some sort of real traffic study -- just so he can beat the targeted Rachel Maddow some more.

      In the other, we have Bob declaring lies without knowing what was in McMorris Rodgers' mind, without knowing what info she had access to, without really knowing what the truth of this situation is -- merely what has been reported in the media, yet it is easy for him to assess her performance at this point in time, because that makes it easy to beat on the targeted NY Times some more.

      So if Bob and his fans want to play this "we don't know yet" game, at least have the intellectual consistency to play it across the board, without first guaging how it best suits the narratives he tries to sell.

    6. McM Rodgers told a story that was untrue, that was relatively easy to demonstrate as untrue, and that was her responsibility to get right.

      Baroni was telling a story of what he knew and when. Which by the way didn't include claiming that there was a "real" traffic study. His story may sound suspicious, and he may be lying. Or stupid. Or both. Perhaps the investigations will tell us.

      Get the difference?

    7. Yes, I do. McMorris Rodgers' bullshit story was told to her by a constituent.

      Baroni, with a lot of help, came up with his own bullshit story.

      Huge difference.

      And we can pretend that Baroni never claimed there was a real traffic study. But Chris Christie sure thought he did.

      Here is what the governor said in a Dec. 23 radio interview:

      “He came into the Assembly and gave testimony and he said there was a traffic study ongoing and showed charts and other things.’’

  5. It is extremely unlikely that Bette's premium would have increased by $400, or any amount. Even the least expensive policy under Obamacare would provide better coverage than her old policy. The least expensive policy option available to Bette is most likely even less than what she was already paying. I think Bette's real conflict might be whether to purchase a policy or just pay the penalty, which is less than buying a policy.

  6. OMB ( The Third Time Is The Charm)

    Yes! The answer to the question posed in our earlier comment, did BOBreaders ever get a chance to read McMorris Roger's (McM R)actual "false bogus horror story misstatement" is yes. Thank BOB in blogosphere! Praise be to BOB and the bandwidth. In the third post of the fourth in a series! Both sentences appear! Anything goes! Everything's Included! Framed by "What she said was wrong" and another lengthy explanation of "facts" presented by the Spokane Review.

    But let's put these two horror filled bogus sentences to the Christie/Baroni Test: presumed true by virtue of ignorance/misleading underlings/good intentions.

    Let's play BOB!

    "Not long ago, I got a letter from Bette in Spokane" begins the high ranking pol. This seems true. The Review article indicates a woman named Bette communicated with McM R, although not defined specifically by letter. It happened "late last year." McM R spoke in the first month of this year so we think that meets a reasonable standard of recency.

    "who had hoped the president's health care law would save her money" said McM R. Bette could have been better defined than by her hopes for an outcome from legislation, but Obama did run on "Hope." We have no idea what emotions Bette communicated to McM R. The Review reporter should have asked her. McM R could have given Bette's full name, but her staff failed to follow up on a phone call to her so McM R rightly protected her privacy. This sloppy staff work also could have resulted in better information in the speech. McM R's staff may have been trying in good faith to study the details of Bette's situation and just bungled it. We don't know.

    "but found out instead her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month." McM R concludes her first sentence or her contribution to this "ever mendacious campaign." This, of course, is where the scandal vultures, BOB included, dunk, hang, and shoot down the story, causing it to asphixiate, drown, and collapse. The numbers, they conclude, are not accurate. It is hard to tell from the many figures thrown about what is the truth. But giving McM R the Baroni bounce, we must note we have never seen the letter, if it was a letter. Bette may have used the phrase "nearly $700 a month." McM R may have been seeking the answer to the penny when her staff fell down on the job.

    Can we talk? BOB disappeared something. The Review added an Editor's Note to their article. This note indicated Bette got a policy offer with even higher premiums, $1,679 a month. This means McM R could have said Bette's premiums jumped "almost a dozen hundred" or even "over 300%!" We salute the Congresswoman for her modesty. We fault BOB for leaving it out. (In BOB's defense, the Editor's note was 60 words, only one word shorter than the entire portion of the speech devoted to Bette, if you count the second sentence, which really isn't just about Bette. We know BOB can count.)

    "We've all talked to too many people who've received cancellation notices they didn't expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have." This long close to this major embellishment is conceded seemingly even by BOB. "Bette Grenier of Spokane actually did get a cancellation notice", he wrote, implying McM R was right about this. But McM R did not say Bette's policy was cancelled. She may not have known. She did not say Bette could not see her favorite doctor either. She just said we've all talked to too many such people. Clearly McM R never talked to Bette. Bette never even bothered to call her staff back.

    In conclusion, we agree with BOB.

    Maddow has been playing the fool, a role to which she brings many skills in an age when anything goes. We ditto-heads love her.


    1. KZ, the reports investigating Grenier's situation may have found that she received a cancellation notice. That is highly likely because she had a high deductible plan and those were the kind being cancelled because they did not meet standards of the ACA.

    2. KZ is merely applying the standards Somerby applies, though selectively.

      "Received a cancellation notice" is NOT the same thing as "policy was cancelled." Very close, but not the cigar that is the standard when Bob is on the warpath.

    3. What a waste of time, then.

    4. Tell it to Somerby, then. KZ is merely parodying Bob's standards of absolute perfection in both word and nuance applied to his "targets" while Bob gives "additional details" passes to his "good guys" whose can't stick to a story.