Last week the WBOB News appeared to stand in solidarity with a Rhode Island “Politifact” ruling against “the Fung,” regurgitating the Politifact RI ruling awarding of a “Pants on Fire” rating to the Fung Campaign claim that Ken Block supports Obamacare. We all know that “Pants on fire” is trollish for “liar.” We get it, the flames look like hell. But who IS the liar?
All of Politifact’s targets are persons in politics who had the courage to put themselves out there in front of a group of people who are accountable to nobody. Many do so knowing that they will face this fire with no protection. Oh sure, a “public figure” can sue the press if they can prove “malicious falsity,” but do they really have the resources to fight the evil empire in court where the legal standard and the burden is set against them?
So let’s examine the “Pants on fire” rating given the Fung campaign. Let’s keep it simple. Fung’s claim is that Ken Block, supports Obamacare. In awarding the “Pants on Fire” rating, RI Politifact, on its web page offers a summary beneath its “Pants on Fire” ruling: “He [BLOCK] made his opposition clear in November” meaning November 2013.
Oh I get it. If you voted for President Obama not only in 2008, and then voted for President Obama again in 2012, long after the passage of Obamacare, you can claim an automatic redemption because you recently “came to Jesus” so to speak, in November 2013. There is no automatic chronological redemption. Whether you are “redeemed” is up to Republican primary voters, and the Fung Campaign has every right and duty to hammer that the point home especially where there has been no actual act of contrition. Perhaps a run for the General Assembly, the purgatory of Rhode Island politics, where all but leadership are back benchers would be appropriate. Perhaps to run for same as a Republican would demonstrate an appropriate time of suffering to cleanse ones soul.
This is a matter for republican primary voters to decide. The issue is clear. There is no confusion. We know that the Fung are pointing to your long history and saying that this is who you are, and that you are saying “no! I’ve changed!” We get that.
A neutral authority?
But along comes RI Politifact to claim authority, power and jurisdiction, to try to tell us what the “truth” is. Never mind that no Republican in the state thinks RI Politifact is truly a neutral authority or a dealer in truth.
Let’s look at just one of RI Politifact’s past plays. In July 13th, 2010, prior to the November election, when David Cicillini was under attack from Republican challenger John Loughlin about the financial condition of the city of Providence, not to mention a radio host and Former Mayor Buddy Cianci, did the RI politifact examine Cicillini statements on the fiscal condition of the City? No. They gave David Cicillini a “TRUE” on the “ Truth Meter” with and a green light for a statement about the crime rate in the City of Providence. Meanwhile, Loughlin was given three negative ratings, one in February, 2010 one in August, 2010 and one just a few days before the election on October 28th, 2010. David Cicillini was never evaluated for a very salient often aired statement where he stammered that the City of Providence was in excellent physical condition. Only well after his election in 2010, in 2011 and 2012 did Politifact examine any statements relative to David Cicillini’s election season claims about the fiscal condition of the City of Providence, and then, only indirectly. Politifact played with the truth so as to protect David Cicillini in his congressional run. After the election, the new Mayor of Providence described the fiscal condition of the City of Providence as a category four hurricane. John Loughlin did finally get one positive rating, in 2013, after he was essentially out of politics and had become an on air personality. Fairness delayed is fairness denied.
So, it’s all about timing, isn’t it? Republicans aren’t to consider the weight of the evidence, the long continuous support of President Obama and Obamacare? That is to be stricken from the record because the defendant has taken the stand and professed a change of heart? He says he has been reformed? Can a judge compel a jury to accept that? No. Given the evidence of a long and continuing course of conduct preceding the recent conversion, the jury would be warranted in drawing the conclusion that ken Block supports President Obama and is at least soft on Obamacare. Block says no more but the Republican primary voters like a jury shall decide. They may give Ken Block’s positions before becoming a Republican such weight as they choose.
So let’s consider the evidence.
Ken Block after deciding to run for Governor for 2014, first ran as a Moderate where he would have again doomed a Republican nominee. He did some “exploring” and realized he had no chance as a Moderate Party contender and decided to register as a Republican and also to run as a Republican. He did this without regard for the possibility of a strong claim from a sitting Republican Mayor. From a card carrying Republican point of view, some also think John Robitaille, strong in public appearances in 2010, and a party favorite should also been a choice unobstructed by the man some blame for his defeat.
More about timing
Ken Block’s decision to run as a Republican was reported on October 28th, 2013. An undated letter reported as accompanying this announcement fails to mention anything about having opposed Obamacare, although Governor Chafee’s establishment of an “exchange” by executive order made it a state issue and a gubernatorial issue. That which was done by executive order can be undone by Executive order. The letter expressed no common ground with Republicans, except that Ken Block blamed Democrats for back room deals and calls them completely incapable of running the State of Rhode Island. But Republican beliefs do run deeper than dissatisfaction with Democrats on state issues.
Most Republicans have strong instincts that would not allow a vote for President Obama. He just strikes Republicans as a big spender big taxing big government aggressive policy addict. Sure, President Bush spent a lot on the Iraq war, and many Republicans realize we probably did kick a hornet’s nest, as Governor Chafee aptly put it. But, Republicans know that wars usually end.. And, defense spending is great for the economy of Southern New England and Rhode Island. Social subsidies don’t end. They grow and spread the demographic trends and commitments we are already extended on argue for less, not more. Not only did Ken Block not share these instincts, he didn’t even vote for John McCain, a “moderate” Republican.
There is more than sufficient evidence to consider the true question. “Is Ken Block really a Republican?” Has he been a Republican long enough to know himself? Does he deserve the party support as much as a sitting Republican Mayor? This is a question that requires a focus on the longer history, not RI Politifact’s imposed limited chronology. Remember how they gave a climate change skeptic Steve Goreham a “half true” for an accurate statement, "Global surface temperatures have been flat for 16 years" and justified the downgrade by claiming Goreham had “cherry picked” the most recent last 16 years? What if he had just done the last 15 years? Politifact also said that 15 of the 16 were the hottest recorded, but Politifact also ignored the fact that at least some scientists agree that earth’s surface temperatures have been roughly equivalent or higher in the relevant human past and before the industrial age such as the medieval warm period, for example and nobody disputes that earth’s comate is ever changing often dramatically, even catastrophically long before humans existed. Politifact complained about a cherry picked timing while itself using a cherry picked time frame. Again with the play on timing!
Indeed, one of the great lies in our Judeo Christian lore is a story of using timing to play with truth. A play on timing, like a play on words, can be a great opportunity to use “truth” in order to mislead and to deceive. This is exactly what Satan, real or legendary has been the undisputed master of prior to the ascendance of RI Politifact.
The story of Adam and Eve, whether you think it a story of the origins of the human condition in this world or a fable with some interesting observations about people, is a very good example of lying and what a liar does. It’s not as obvious as the defensive lies that are told to exculpate one from an undesired commitment, or trouble, or fanciful lies, those told by a child, teens and even adults to speak their dreams because their wish or fantasy is so strong they need to embellish their ordinary lives a bit. Defensive lies are lies that are mainly a shield. Fanciful lies are essentially expressed wishing and dreaming. The real lies, as illustrated in the story of Eve and the serpent, are those designed for the manipulation of truth and that are designed to lead people astray. Such lies are a sword designed to injure. And here, Politifact must examine its conscience.
Remembering the story, Adam and Eve are forbidden to eat from two trees at the center of the Garden of Eden. Satan, I like to call him Lucifer, in the form of a snake tempts Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of Knowledge, pointing out it is equally as appealing as the fruits on other trees and mocking her obedient avoidance. Eve explains she is forbidden by God and that she must obey lest she die:
3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
Lucifer, is only too happy to contradict her:
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.
But of course, this was true for now but not true in the long run. Adam and Eve were cast out from the garden forever to return to the dust from whence Adam came. Lucifer, played a little joke to mislead Eve and taught us how a lie works. Once he got Eve to go along, well, let’s face it, what husband wants his wife to be smarter than he is right? By misleading Eve, Luke, er, Lucifer was able to mislead Adam with a clever manipulation of the truth, a trick about timing. Eve and Adam did not die, not then, not that day. But they would. Lucifer could claim that he told the truth. But the truth was delivered so as to deceive. And God? Satan was all “ how do you like you like the ones created in your image NOW! Burn!” How can one not be reminded of the biblical hurt Politifact put on the Fung Campaign?
No doubt, RI Politifact might defend itself claiming it was the Fung Campaign that played a trick of timing, by not describing Block’s support for Obamacare in the past tense. But this view contains a presumption and a judgment in Ken Blocks favor; it practically compels a face value acceptance of Ken Block’s recent conversion. It obliterates Ken’s long history of support for President Obama and Obamacare. It’s absolutely brilliant. RI Politifact is literally better at this stuff than Satan.
Was the Fung campaign, by not using the “past tense” to describe Ken Block’s long support for President Obama and Obamacare misleading? Were they bound to honor and credit Ken Block’s November 2013 conversion? Or was RI Politifact misleading their readers and voters by calling “liar” on a matter of judgment reserved for the Republican primary voters? What right does Politifact have to declare a “fact” on a matter of opinion and credulity? Maybe political facts are often a matter of point of view. Politifact should know that. So just who is manipulating the truth? Just who is the liar? Methinks the pot calls the kettle black. Maybe the question is, “Who is the greatest most artful deceiver of all?”
Mike Gardiner is an attorney in Providence and host of the Mic Gardiner Show, Tuesdays at 6 PM.