Educated voting relies on knowing fib from fact

Two weeks ago, the resounding cry from the Republican National Convention was “We Built It!” a reference to a comment President Barack Obama made weeks ago in which he allegedly stated that individuals who built their own businesses had, in fact, not built it on their own. The GOP, with a staunch platform on wealth and ownership, latched onto the statement, inflating it to a campaign slogan.

The issue, however, is that Obama said no such thing. Instead, he said, “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

(He also destroyed the hopes of all English scholars everywhere when he used the singular demonstrative pronoun “that” instead of the plural “those,” when referring to the antecedent “roads and bridges.”)

Apart from this blatant manipulation of context by the Republican party, the RNC was filled with other “factual inaccuracies”:http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/article/2012/aug/30/gop-convention-fact-checking-ryan-speech/, most notably in the speeches given by the candidates on the ticket. Of the major points discussed in Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech (of which there were few), half were false, while the other half were only “mostly true”. He lied when stating, “Household income in America has gone down for families an average of $4,000 in the last four years. When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts, unemployment went down and household incomes went up $5,000.” When taken separately, the statements are partially true; however, Obama’s figure is altered for inflation, while Romney’s is not. (If it had been, he too would have seen an income drop of “almost $600”:http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2012/aug/28/paul-ryan/ryan-says-incomes-went-down-nationally-under-obama/.)

Romney remarked that Obama began his presidency “with an “apology tour”:http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/31/mitt-romney/mitt-romney-said-barack-obama-began-his-presidency/,” traveling the world apologizing for the United States. This earned Romney a “Pants on Fire” rating from Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact, revealing that in reality it was “the tour that never was.” Romney didn’t stop there, with almost half of his “statements being untrue”:http://www.politifact.com/personalities/mitt-romney/, and another 28 percent being only “half true.”

At least the “promise”:http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/08/28/romney-pollster-campaign-wont-be-dictated-by-fact-checkers/ to not let the campaign be “dictated by fact-checkers” is accurate.

Lying, of course, was not a problem contained to the Republican convention. However, in comparing major speakers from the RNC and the Democratic National Convention, a clear division arises. Bill Clinton, who took the spot generally reserved for the vice president, “kept his speech factual”:http://www.politifact.com/personalities/bill-clinton/, with half truths being the least accurate. The worst FactCheck.org could “fault him”:http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/09/06/160656546/clinton-and-other-dems-did-some-cherry-picking-fact-checkers-say?sc=17&f=1001 for was “a suggestion that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was responsible for bringing down the rate of increase in health care spending” as “the fact is that the law’s main provisions have yet to take effect.”

President Obama, who finished the convention on Thursday night, stated, “We reinvented a dying auto industry that’s back on top of the world.” Actually, General Motors is No. 2 — behind Toyota — in world auto sales and expected to “drop into third”:http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/story/2012-09-07/fact-check-obama-biden-dnc/57672532/1 as a result of Volkswagen’s success. Despite those claims, Obama has kept 37 percent of the promises he’s made and remained honest 73 percent of his entire “political career”:http://www.politifact.com/personalities/barack-obama/.

Which isn’t too bad, when reminded that he is a Chicago politician.

While the men of the conventions seemed to stick (sort of) to facts and figures, the women of the conventions played to something different entirely. The best examples come when comparing Michelle Obama’s and Ann Romney’s speeches about their respective husbands. The First Lady appealed to viewers’ empathy, their pathos, their connection to family, to having something to believe in and stand up for. She talked about her personal experience growing up with very little and about Barack’s similar experience. Mrs. Romney looked to discuss the same things. She talked about her boys, about love, about her first dance with Mitt.

They talked about the exact same things: family, hard work, faith, trust, passion, compassion. These women did what the rest of their parties could not. They emphasized our similarities, our values, our vision for a better future for those around us.

If you go to the voting booths this November, and you should, make sure you are educated. That you know what is true, what is half-true and what is an outright lie. Because if the American people deserve anything, they deserve to be treated like adults, to be given the information needed to make their own decisions and trusted to make the right choice.

_Sarah is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]_