Friday, October 17, 2008

FactCheck.org Lying on Obama’s Second Amendment Record

Unmitigated Garbage from FactCheck.org on Obama’s Second Amendment Record

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:23 am
Xrlq points us to this ridiculous FactCheck.org piece on Obama and gun rights. I am by now completely disenchanted with FactCheck.org and virtually every other “fact checking” site out there, and this piece does nothing to dispel my depression.

The summary version: FactCheck ridicules the NRA in this piece. But the NRA is careful to say: look at Obama’s record and not his rhetoric. And at least two of the NRA claims are backed up by references to Obama’s record. Yet FactCheck.org goes on to minimize or completely ignore Obama’s record on these points, choosing instead to concentrate on citations to Obama’s later campaign rhetoric.

1) FactCheck.org declares “false” the NRA’s claim that Obama plans to ban the possession, manufacture, and sale of handguns. But it emerges that this claim is directly based on Obama’s “yes” answer to a the following question in a questionnaire: “Do you support legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?”

FactCheck.org simply faults the NRA for not noting Obama’s later attempts to explain away this answer. But FactCheck.org doesn’t address the fact that Obama falsely denied even seeing the questionnaire, only to have it later emerge that an amended version had his handwriting on it.

2) FactCheck.org calls “supported” the NRA’s claim that Obama would appoint judges who share his views on the Second Amendment. As part of their evidence, FactCheck.org tells us that Obama didn’t contest the Heller decision, which upheld an individual right to bear arms. But FactCheck.org doesn’t mention that Obama’s campaign had initially said of the D.C.’s total ban on handguns in the home: “Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.” (Obama later tried to back away from that statement, but it is part of his record, just like his answers to the questionnaire that he had claimed he had never seen, but that turned out to bear his handwriting.)

The piece is garbage. Details in the extended entry.


First, some context. The piece criticizes the NRA, which encourages FactCheck.org to look at Obama’s record and not his rhetoric. FactCheck.org says it contacted the NRA’s director of public affairs:

He declined to speak to us except to say that the claims are based on Obama’s voting record and statements he has made in the media. “We’re comfortable with what we put on there,” Arulanandam said. “We believe our facts.”

Sounds like he agreed to make a statement; FactCheck.org just didn’t like it. And no wonder: they go on to do an entire piece on the issue that elevates Obama’s rhetoric over his record. Here are just two examples.

First, FactCheck.org ridicules the NRA’s claim that Obama plans to ban the possession, manufacture, and sale of handguns. Here is FactCheck.org’s “analysis”:

The NRA bases its claim on a disputed 1996 questionnaire that Obama’s Illinois state Senate campaign filled out for the nonprofit voting group, Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. On it, somebody filled in the word “yes” in response to the question, “Do you support legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?”

Hmm. That seems pretty solid.

But the Obama campaign said that the survey was actually filled out by his then-campaign manager who “unintentionally mischaracterized his position,” adding that Obama never saw the survey.

Oh. Well, we should probably take his word for it, then.

As we wrote previously, an amended version of the questionnaire was later submitted to the group, with Obama’s handwritten notes on it providing more detail on some of the answers. Obama clearly saw and handled this version personally and did not alter the question about banning the sale and manufacturing of guns.

Hmm. That seems pretty solid.

FactCheck.org does not mention the fact that Obama was directly questioned in a debate about his answer on the gun rights questionnaire, and denied that his handwriting was on that particular document. In fact, it was. You can learn this if you click through to one of the FactCheck.org links. But if we’re talking about taking his rhetoric at face value, doesn’t it matter that he publicly claiming something directly relevant to the issue that turned out to be false? Shouldn’t this be in the body of the FactCheck.org analysis? Apparently they don’t consider it to be important.

Nevertheless, his aides maintain that the gun-ban answer was a mistake and didn’t reflect Obama’s true position.

Oh. Well, we should probably take their word for it, then.

Imagine, those crazy NRA people, basing their claims on a questionnaire that Obama personally saw, that he knew represented his position! Why didn’t they take at face value the claims made later by his campaign, after his earlier answers came back to haunt him?

I mean: how dare they?

Second, we have FactCheck mocking as “unsupported” the NRA’s claim that Obama would “Appoint Judges to the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Judiciary Who Share His Views on the Second Amendment.” FactCheck.org says:

The NRA’s fact sheet points out that Obama has voted against the two newest members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Obama voted against the confirmations of Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005 and Justice Samuel Alito in 2006. They happen to be two of the five justices that voted in favor of the Court’s decision to overturn the District of Columbia’s longstanding handgun ban this year. The New York Times has reported that Obama “favored Democratic filibusters to block many Republican nominees deemed too conservative.” But the NRA can point to no statement by Obama calling for a Second-Amendment test for his judicial appointees, and we could find none.

So never mind the justices he has opposed, because he hasn’t explicitly called for a litmus test. But what has he said?

What Obama has actually said about selecting judges is that “[w]e need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”

Very sweet. But what has he said about the Second Amendment?

In any case, Obama says he believes the Second Amendment “creates an individual right” to bear arms. That’s at odds with some strong gun-control advocates who had argued that the Second Amendment limited the right to bear arms to a “well-regulated militia.” The Supreme Court rejected that view in its June ruling overturning the D.C. gun ban. But Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Chief Justice John Roberts joined that opinion. To the dismay of gun-control advocates, Obama did not criticize the ruling. Instead, he said it “will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.”

Really? Is that all he has said about the Heller case?

Once again, if you give primacy to what his recent campaign statements have been, then, by golly, he supports the Second Amendment! But if you look at his record — his past statements — then the NRA is right to be concerned.

Here’s what FackCheck.org doesn’t tell you.

The Supreme Court case in Heller says that the D.C. ban “totally bans handgun possession in the home.” That’s about as clear a Second Amendment encroachment as you can imagine.

And what did Obama’s campaign initially say about that total ban on handguns in the home? The campaign once issued a statement to the Chicago Tribune that said:

Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.

This statement proved to be a political loser, of course — and Obama later ended up trying to distance himself from it. That D.C. handgun law is not the D.C. handgun law he thought he knew.

But it’s part of his record. And if the NRA was truly elevating his record over his rhetoric, they had a completely fair point.

FactCheck.org, at this point, is worse than useless. It is positively misleading voters out there.

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