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Pants on (three-alarm) Fire

From The Scrapbook

Feb 6, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 20 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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In recent weeks, these pages have contained thousands of words on the laughable bias and general incompetence of the mainstream media’s cherished “fact checking” columns. We’ve gone back to the well so many times we risk becoming the Baby Jessica of media criticism. Alas, it’s hard to ignore these pompous gatekeepers.

Picture of a truth-o-meter on the setting "pants on fire"

In last week’s issue, Mark Hemingway noted that there is a special congressional election in -Oregon’s 1st District being held on January 31, thanks to the resignation of disgraced Democrat David Wu. It’s a surprisingly close race, and Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles have been making rather pointed accusations against each other.

So PolitiFact Oregon—which works in partnership with the state’s most influential media outlet, the -Oregonian—has been trying and failing to play referee in the race by evaluating the candidates’ statements. First, PolitiFact gave Cornilles its “Pants on Fire” rating for an ad claiming that Bonamici, a state legislator, voted to raise taxes 60 times. Now depending on how broadly you define “tax,” the claim is defensible. But if you want to split hairs—and boy, does PolitiFact ever like to do that—then you would say not that Bonamici has raised taxes 60 times, but that she has raised taxes and fees 60 times.

Even if you accept that Cornilles may not have been 100 percent accurate, it’s still hard to argue he deserved a “Pants on Fire” rating—the acme of dishonesty on PolitiFact’s scale. His underlying message that Bonamici has raised taxes and generally made life more expensive for people in a state where the tax rate tops out at a whopping 11 percent strikes us as far from misleading. In any event, Cornilles modified his line of attack in a later campaign ad, claiming that Bonamici “voted for higher taxes and fees on the middle class and small business,” which would be deemed accurate by the criteria PolitiFact had laid out.

But not content that PolitiFact was, as usual, playing fast and loose to make Republican rhetoric appear false, Bonamici doubled down. She responded to Cornilles’s revised advertising with an ad of her own, claiming that “Oregonian’s PolitiFact found this attack to be so FALSE that it was rated ‘Pants on Fire.’ ”

This in turn prompted PolitiFact to give Bonamici’s ad a “Pants on Fire” rating for saying that Cornilles’s second ad had been given a “Pants on Fire” rating, when the truth was Cornilles had been given that unfair rating for a substantively similar claim that was phrased differently in his previous ad.

If you find sorting that all out bewildering, we don’t blame you. We have no idea whether the people writing Bonamici’s ad were themselves confused about which “Pants on Fire” referred to which. Perhaps they were hoping to hide Bonamici’s record on taxes and fees behind the smokescreen PolitiFact created by wantonly incinerating all those trousers. Either way, it’s “Pants on Fire” all the way down.

We’d ask that God have mercy on the souls of Oregon’s needlessly confused voters, but PolitiFact is adamant there is no higher authority to appeal to. We’re not kidding. In its latest declaration that Bonamici’s britches are burning, PolitiFact’s website admonishes the candidate: “Do not take PolitiFact Oregon’s name in campaign vain.”

The Scrapbook is unsure why PolitiFact is so arrogant when it’s obvious to all they’ve (again) eviscerated their credibility by mucking up a pretty simple debate. We can only assume their casual blasphemy was an attempt at humor. But frankly, who cares whether their tongue is in cheek when their head is so far up their own incendiary posterior?

39 Years Too Many

Last week marked the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. One of the most distressing things about observing this annual disgrace is how liberal America uses the occasion to pay obeisance to the court’s reasoning. One may argue abortion should be legal; in that case, the answer is legislation. As many pro-choice scholars have been forced to concede, the Roe majority tortured the Constitution to make it say what they wanted. As a piece of legal reasoning, Roe’s finding of a “right to privacy” in the “emanations” and “penumbras” of the Constitution was an embarrassment.

This latest anniversary The Scrapbook found itself marveling at how inconsistent Roe’s liberal cheerleaders are in celebrating this alleged “right to privacy.” Our ruminations were prompted by the gloved finger of a federal employee inserted in the waistband of our pants. Of course, The Scrapbook had it coming. We were guilty of the crime of being present at an airport with intent to travel. 

The Scrapbook could have opted out of this humiliation had it chosen to enter a scanner and allow the government to view what is essentially a nude rendering of itself. However, contra Ronald Reagan, The Scrapbook believes that the scariest words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to irradiate you.” 

So The Scrapbook was really not in the mood for President Obama’s statement marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It reads:

As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.

In other words, the government should not intrude on private family matters, unless of course it wants to intrude on your family’s privates. Which thanks to the Obama administration’s changes to the Transportation Security Administration, it does with astonishing frequency. Making matters worse, the barely competent and often corrupt TSA has been unionized by the Obama administration. Should a TSA officer fondle your private family matters inappropriately, you can bring charges against him knowing full well that the agent’s right to molestation will be defended tooth and nail by a union lawyer paid for with your tax dollars. 

Further compounding the tragic irony, the same day The Scrapbook found itself subject to its fourth “freedom grope” in two months, there was a small brouhaha when Kentucky senator Rand Paul ran afoul of the TSA at the Nashville airport. Paul was en route to speak at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. After he set a scanner off, the TSA wanted to pat him down. Paul then exercised his right to privacy by leaving the airport, and didn’t get the chance to address the hundreds of thousands who attend the annual protest of the Roe decision. 

The TSA issued a blustering response about Paul being uncooperative. But the Tennessean newspaper later reported, “A security video of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul at a Nashville International Airport checkpoint doesn’t show him being ‘irate,’ as police asserted.”

Paul responded calmly to what he viewed as an illegitimate government intrusion on his privacy. Given that the Obama administration’s working definition of a “right to privacy” protects the termination of human life even while allowing the government to regularly inspect the genitals of millions of Americans, perhaps the senator should have been irate.

The Mullahs’ Apologist

In the heat of a negative review, most authors, even running up against the considered advice of their friends or spouse to ignore the criticism, will dash off a letter to the editor of the offending book section. That would be the conventional approach. But let’s say you’re a political activist masquerading as an objective analyst with an interest in defending the Islamic Republic of Iran. The closer you get to your subject, the more sympathetically you make its case. You become ever more likely to adopt its ideological convictions as your own, and even its methods of proxy warfare. Just as Tehran enlists Hezbollah to fight against Israel, you, too, task out retaliation to a hireling.

Meet Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, whose recently published book about U.S.-Iran relations, A Single Roll of the Dice, earned a negative review in the Wall Street Journal. Instead of rolling with the punches, Parsi appears to have gotten NIAC’s research director, Reza Marashi, to do his fighting for him—on Twitter, the social media network that these days seems to be the first recourse of scoundrels.

Marashi attacked the review’s author, Sohrab Ahmari, an Iranian-American author (and occasional contributor to this magazine), who moved to the United States from Tehran as a child in 1998. Marashi referred to Ahmari on Twitter as a “Neocon #MEK terror cult supporter.”

In fact, Ahmari has gone on the record at least twice denouncing the shadowy MEK, or Mujahedin e-Khalq, an underground Iranian group designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization. However, it’s hardly surprising that NIAC employees are undeterred by this fact. Indeed, the thesis of Parsi’s new book is a fantasy that willfully ignores empirical evidence for the sake of an argument that whitewashes the Iranian regime.

During the Bush years, an Iran expert like Parsi had little trouble getting a favorable hearing for his message that the tension between the United States and Iran was the fault of a Republican president who had gone to war in two Muslim countries. It was easy for the mainstream media to embrace Parsi’s advocacy and overlook the number of times Bush administration officials had actually met with Iranian counterparts and sought to come to some sort of accommodation with Tehran. What a relief it was for such apologists when a Democratic president promising to engage the mullahs came to office—after all, Obama believed the same thing they did, that Washington’s difficulties with Tehran were all Bush’s fault.

But in spite of Obama’s desire to meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, there has been no engagement, no accommodation, and no peace. Indeed, in October, U.S. law enforcement officials and the intelligence community announced indictments against two figures related to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps who were plotting to blow up the Saudi ambassador in Washington in an explosion that might have cost the lives of hundreds of bystanders as well. The White House was understandably upset, as well as embarrassed. Why? Because engaging Iran was one of the president’s top priorities from the moment he hit the campaign trail.

The reality of the situation spells big trouble for Parsi. If the Iranian regime truly is incorrigible, then his career is jeopardized. His analysis, such as it is, has been exposed as faulty and worse, and he is going to have trouble raising money from the Iranian expatriate community. Who wants to write checks to advocate on behalf of a state sponsor of terror? Accordingly, the regime must be exculpated. It can’t be Iran’s fault that engagement came up empty. Someone else must be blamed.

In Parsi’s account, the culprits are Congress, America’s Sunni Arab allies in the Middle East, and, of course, the Jews. “Israel and some of its supporters in the United States,” Parsi writes, “have feared that a thaw in U.S. relations with Iran could come at the expense of America’s special friendship with the Jewish state.”

In addition to the unsavory logic at work here—Jewish money runs powerful networks that exert control over U.S. policy—there’s an implicit argument that American officials are ignorant of their nation’s true interests. That is, the United States could not possibly have its own problems with Iran dating back to the 1979 siege of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the kidnapping of our embassy personnel. Washington has no reason to be skeptical of the Iranian regime’s intentions, even as its minions developed improvised explosive devices that killed and wounded thousands of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor does Washington really have cause for concern over the regime’s march toward a nuclear weapons program. There would have been a peace deal between Washington and Tehran, if only the president of the United States could see the truth of the matter, if only he weren’t taking orders from the Zionists.

In effect, these are the same talking points coming out of Tehran, only wrapped in a shroud of objective analysis and published by Yale University Press, which should be ashamed of itself for publishing this trash. As for Parsi, it’s apparent he has no shame.

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