Below you will see the text of my original post, which contains serious errors. I will show you first what I originally wrote, and then the substance of the errors. I do stand by my original contention that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s original quote was cherry-picked for the purpose of providing a Democratic “talking point” about the Romney campaign directing the abortion rights planks in the platform, which distorts the facts to a certain degree. Nevertheless, my initial representation of what happened was in error, because I had not counted upon the fact that Anderson Cooper, as well, made a cherry-picked quotation from the article, which dealt neither with abortion rights (as Wasserman Schultz portrayed it) nor with Romney’s delegates resisting direction from Romney (as Anderson Cooper portrayed it). The article itself was about Romney delegates resisting Ron Paul’s proposed additions to the Republican platform.
I was also in error that Mitt Romney had not made any public pronouncements about supporting exceptions to anti-abortion laws (such as those concerning cases of rape, incest or threats to the life of the mother). He made one in 2011 in an article for the National Review, and he went on record in a CBS interview held today as well supporting such exceptions. Of course, in 2002, he supported a woman’s “right to choose” while after 2006, he has presented himself as “pro-life”, so it is difficult to gauge what Romney may actually think on the matter. Nevertheless, as of this moment, he is on record favouring such exceptions (even though the Republican platform proposal does not).
I very much regret these errors, and want to make it clear what I feel I have learned since having the errors brought to my attention.
Here is what I wrote initially, and at the end, I will present what I have learned since posting this.
I would just like to register my irritation about Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the current chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Because of the manufactured, phony quote she used in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, liberals and the Left are now being treated as if they lie with the frequency and abandon that conservatives and the Right have been doing ever since the 2012 campaign began in the US. She is the one indisputable example on “our side” of the kind of thing that is routine on “their side”.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz spoke with CNN regarding the Romney campaign’s public statements about abortion. As this Daily Kos article points out, there are plenty of reasonable places to attack Romney where his stand on abortion are concerned – places where he has gone on the public record to say outrageous things. Romney would outlaw abortion, and he has not made a public statement in favour of rape/incest exceptions being included in such a law. When Rep. Wasserman Schultz appeared on CNN, all she had to do was say that. It establishes that those who are worried about what abortion laws will look like under a Romney presidency have a reason to worry, and on top of that, it’s factual.
Instead, she presented an out-of-context half-quote from the Los Angeles Times. I will present to you the substance of what she said, the substance of what the original article said, and I invite you to be the judge of whether she did the right thing by making her claim.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz: “‘The Los Angeles Times’ reported yesterday that the platform was, and I quote, ‘written at the direction of Romney’s campaign.'”
The original Los Angeles Times article: “Delegates for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney are voting down substantive changes to the platform language that was written at the direction of Romney’s campaign.”
By my reading of the Los Angeles Times quote, there is no way to portray what’s going on with the Republican platform that doesn’t present it as a source of contention in the Romney camp. In other words, there is no unified Romney delegate movement to impose super-conservative right-wing abortion planks.
Even if you want to argue that the Romney campaign has been captured by hard-right conservatives – and there is every reason to present things that way – the sense of this full quote from the Los Angeles Times was that Romney delegates are resisting direction on the subject of abortion from their own candidate. And Rep. Wasserman Schultz could not be bothered to admit this when presented with the full quote on camera – instead she doubled-down on her original talking point. That is shameful. It is _everything_ we are trying to get people to stop when the Republicans do it.
I know by taking such a strong stand on this, I will frustrate some of my fellow lefties. Some will suggest that I am carrying the Right’s water for it by even bothering to repeat these charges against Wasserman Schultz. Others will say that you have to be “ruthless” to win, and that might involve playing with facts the way the Republicans do.
But by cooking this quote, she has managed to take the Obama campaign a step closer towards the bottom-dwelling tactics of the Republicans. By cooking this quote, she has empowered ordinary voters to convince themselves that both sides are “the same” – something that is so mind-bogglingly not true that we should hardly have to say it out loud.
By cooking this quote, she has given the green light to those who are prepared to ignore a Republican campaign that is the biggest organised demonstration of contempt for the intelligence of the voter in American history. When people see “us” do it, they will stop caring that “they” do it.
I will have none of this. This campaign should stick to the facts. If it does, Obama will win. I challenge everyone on the liberal Left to repudiate the tactics of Rep. Wasserman Schultz, so we can finally do something about the fact-free campaigning of the Republicans.
First of all, here is the text of the actual Los Angeles Times article, which obviously, I should have checked in the first place:
As you can see, the article presents both the Wasserman Schultz cherry-picked quotation and the larger Cooper cherry-picked quotation in their proper light:
“Ron Paul delegates are making a diligent effort to wedge the defeated presidential candidate’s libertarian ideas into the party document. Among them: curbing the power of the Federal Reserve, enhancing the constitutional rights of individuals and opposing the overseas role of U.S. military forces.
“There is no doubt about who is in charge, of course. Delegates for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney are voting down substantive changes to the platform language that was written at the direction of Romney’s campaign. The biggest question is whether the tone remains polite, as it was at the outset of two days of deliberations, or whether dissenters spoil the image of harmony that the Romney campaign is working hard to produce.”
If there is one thing we can all learn from this, myself most of all, it is that in order to evaluate a cherry-picked “half-truth”, the widest possible vista on the truth is a prerequisite. That means going back and looking at the full article. I did not do that, having thought that the argument had been laid out before me clearly to begin with. That clearly was a rookie mistake, and I fancy myself no rookie. It’s embarrassing. In any case, I do not intend to repeat this sort of thing. The next time I’m in a situation like this, I will try to get the widest possible view before thinking I know what the relevant context is. I expect to be called on it if I ever fail to do that in the future.
Also, here is a PolitiFact article about the claim that Romney opposes exceptions in anti-abortion legislation for rape, incest and threats to the life of the mother:
As you can see, the proof that Romney does support those measures is very recent in origin (2011 and after), but it is there, and we therefore do need to acknowledge it.