Almost half of GOP 2012 hopefuls are regular liars; lying correlates almost perfectly with radicalism

Nate Silver did something I’d been meaning to do for the last couple of weeks. He looked at the ratings for the top 2012 GOP candidates on Politifact to measure their relative truthiness.

The first and only response I’d expect to the following information from conservatives is to dismiss Politifact as liberally biased, as part of their epistemic closure problem. But that’s plainly false (one might even say PANTS ON FIRE) when you look at how many “true” ratings Politifact has done for Sarah Palin (10) and John Boehner (15), and “false” ratings for President Barack Obama (49). (To be fair to the President, Politifact has rated over 300 statements by him, so they’ve also rated 78 statements true and lot in between.)

Not to mention the fact that Politifact has a Pulitzer Prize for their excellence in journalism during the 2008 presidential campaign. That alone is going to make the right hate these guys.

I wanted to look at the GOP field because I’d noticed that Governor Rick Perry had been running up a lot of lies lately and not a lot of truthful statements, mostly stemming from his campaign and the embarrassing and terrifying GOP death debates where desperation trumps the truth even above and beyond the typical dishonest GOP platform of distortions.

Perry’s most recent six claims fact-checked by Politifact were rated half-true, mostly false, pants on fire, mostly false, false, and mostly false.

Nate’s analysis is worth reading and down the middle, but I’ll pull the highlights and add a few thoughts of my own.

First and foremost, what stands out is that when ratings are condensed into simple true and false categories, Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann’s statements end up being 81% lies. Rick Santorum lies at a 71% clip. Herman Cain at 58%. You have to get down to Rick Perry to find the first Republican 2012 hopeful that wants to be President of the United States that tells the truth more than they lie, and for the Texan, it’s only a two point spread. Perry only tells the truth 51% of the time.

The most truthful GOP candidate is John Huntsman, who is also considered the least extreme Republican of the entire group.

It actually gets worse the closer you look. Bachmann’s 81% liar record isn’t even close to the “half true” center. She’s gotten 9 “pants on fire” ratings, 14 false, and 6 mostly false. Compare that to only 2 true statements and 2 mostly true statements.

Here’s one example of Bachmann’s willingness to say the opposite of reality without remorse:

During the Sept. 22, 2011, Fox News/Google debate in Orlando, Bachmann said, “President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times. He hasn’t gone to the basement yet. It’ll be a lot lower than what it is now.”

We can’t explore her prediction, but we can examine if Obama has the lowest ratings of any modern president. Are they really worse than those of Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon, Jimmy “Malaise” Carter and Lyndon “Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today” Johnson?

Not by a long shot.

John F. Kennedy: 56 percent
Dwight Eisenhower: 48 percent
Barack Obama: 40 percent
Bill Clinton: 37 percent
Gerald Ford: 37 percent
Ronald Reagan: 35 percent
Lyndon B. Johnson: 35 percent
George H.W. Bush: 29 percent
Jimmy Carter: 28 percent
George W. Bush: 25 percent
Richard Nixon: 24 percent
Harry Truman: 22 percent

This wasn’t a hard fact to check and not one a person is likely to get wrong. That means Bachmann never checked to see if this was actually true. She either assumed it was and stated it as a fact at a debate where she’s asking people to hand her the most important job with the most responsibility in the world, or didn’t care if it was true or not and just wanted to get a dig in.

(Note: That list isn’t very predictive. George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton both won reelection, and Bush’s low came when he left office as one of the most reviled President’s in history.)

That’s the type of behavior you’d expect from a child, not someone campaigning for the presidency.

And this:

A reader suggested that we check whether Bachmann is right that Obama “has virtually no one in his Cabinet with private-sector experience.” [..]

If you take what we consider the more common-sense definition — which includes those who have worked for private law or consulting firms — then Obama can count 15 out of 22 with private-sector experience, or 68 percent.

That leaves seven of 22 Cabinet members without private-sector experience, or 32 percent.

Bachmann said that “virtually no one” in Obama’s Cabinet has private-sector experience. But even under the most restrictive definition, 27 percent of Obama’s Cabinet has what we consider pretty clear private-sector experience. And broader definition that includes private-sector law and consulting work — much of which involved representing businesses — kicks the percentage up to two-thirds.

Another statement that Republicans like Bachamnn desperately wish were true, but is in fact a bald faced lie. Yet she said it anyway.

Santorum doesn’t have very many statements rated, but quite a few of them are ugly and false to the point of slander:

Santorum recently spoke at a forum hosted by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, emphasizing that conservatives need to remain committed to social values, even though many expect the economy to be the most pressing issue of the election cycle.

Opposition to abortion is particularly important, he said. “Any child born prematurely, according to the president, in his own words, can be killed,” Santorum said, according to a column by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post. […]

Part of his comments touched on the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, a federal law he sponsored in the Senate. “It said that if a child was born out of a, quote, botched abortion, then that child is entitled to medical protection, entitled to treatment,” Santorum said.

Several states decided to copy the law. Santorum noted that Barack Obama, then an Illinois state legislator, opposed the state version of the law in Illinois.

Obama “stood up and said that he opposed this bill because it would impinge on a woman’s rights under Roe v. Wade, and said, in fact, that any child prior to nine months of gestation would be able to be killed, otherwise it would impinge on Roe v. Wade,” Santorum said. (See Santorum’s comments on C-SPAN.)

“Any child born prematurely, according to the president, in his own words, can be killed,” Santorum said. “Now who’s the extremist in the abortion debate?”

You are, Rick Santorum:

To reiterate what’s not in dispute: Obama opposed “born alive” legislation in Illinois and gave several reasons for opposing the proposals. But at no time did he make the argument that infants who survived botched abortions should be killed.

Not just an extremist, but a born liar.

Santorum only has two truthful statements (and that includes a “half-true” statement that is also, logically, a “half-life”). He has six others between mostly false, false, and pants on fire.

Herman Cain has no completely true statements at all. The closest he’s come was a statement about his tenure as CEO of Godfather Pizza (half true) and the increase in Americans relying on food stamps (mostly true – Politifact noted that the increase began during the Bush administration and accelerated due to the recession, not because of anything Obama did, otherwise it would have been simply “true”).

Cain’s most populous category is false, where he lied about this being the worst jobs recovery since the Great Depression, lied about his own statements that communities should have the right to ban Muslims because they are Muslims, lied about there being a passage in the Constitution “that talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (particularly amusing since Cain was saying that we don’t have to rewrite the Constitution, just reread it – it was in the Declaration of Independence, a mistake that Republicans seem to make practically every single day), lied about the ratio of CT scanners to people in Canada and the U.S. to put down Canada and attack American health care reform (and then he refused to tell Politifact where he got his numbers from), and lied about how much U.S. debt China owns.

The latter two are interesting in their own ways because they diminish conservative attacks on Democratic policy. The wait time for CT scans is better in Canada even though they have two-thirds fewer scanners per 1,000,000 citizens because every Canadian citizen has health care through the state. Tens of millions of Americans don’t have any access to CT scanners that could save their lives and reduce future medical costs (for them, their insurer, and the government) even though we have substantially more scanners because so many Americans can’t afford health insurance – something that Democratic reform would help, and Republican roll backs would make even worse.

The issue of debt is particularly hilarious. In short, Cain said that China owns 26% of U.S. debt, but that’s only counting foreign debt holders. In reality, China only owns a bit over $1 trillion in U.S. debt (and as everyone knows, we’re carrying $14 trillion), which amounts to just 8.1%. Something like 60% of U.S. debt is owned by its own citizens as investments.

Cain isn’t quite as bad as Bachamnn with those last two lies – they were more intentional distortions while Bachmann just picks facts out of a book and then says the opposite.

But he’s still a proven liar, and so is she. And so is almost half of the GOP field that want to be President of the United States.

When you add the current Democratic President into the mix, from biggest liar to most honest, it shakes out like this:

Michelle Bachmann: 81% liar
Rick Santorum: 71% liar
Herman Cain: 58% liar
Newt Gingrich: 52% liar
Rick Perry: 51% honest
Mitt Romney: 64% honest
Barack Obama: 71% honest
Ron Paul: 76% honest
John Huntsman: 86% honest

With the exception of Rick Perry (who is new to Politifact mostly and like I said, has lied in five out of his most recent six statements so his numbers are fluctuating pretty wildly and trending towards the bullshitter end of the scale), the list is automatically sorted according to extremism as well. Bachmann and Santorum are the most radical far right extremists and also the biggest liars (Rick Perry will join them if he keeps up his lies). The bottom of the list is populated mostly by political moderates. (This serves as iffy evidence for the iffy claim that Barack Obama is actually a moderate Republican, circa 1980).

It’s kind of funny that sorting Republicans by their propensity to lie also sorts them on a scale of ideological intensity. One could go either way with it. The more conservative a Republican is, the more likely they are to lie. Or, the more a Republican lies, the more conservative they are likely to be.

I didn’t see that coming when I began writing this story, and yet it makes perfect sense. Most of what extremely conservative Republicans trade in is so immoral and indefensible that lies are the only way to sell it.

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

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